Want to be a commercial writer? Get organised!

You would think, from the interminable supply of feelgood rubbish on the market, that being a commercial writer was some sort of holiday. It isn’t. You need to be alert and you need the stamina to do large amounts of work when it needs to be done.

I’ve said this before- This is business. You can’t afford to get casual about your business. You certainly can’t afford to get casual about other people’s business when they’re paying you to do a job.

You can find yourself with a lot of work. You can also find yourself with multiple clients and with your priorities and their priorities to manage.

Consider this workload:

· 800 pieces to write.

· More work coming up from several existing clients.

· New client to work with, just arrived.

· Several sites to work on with your own stuff.

· Promo work for other materials.

· New projects to do as well.

· The client work can’t wait and has to be done to a schedule.

OK, you’ve got a month or so to get all this done or in process. The short answer to this situation is one word- “Organise!”


You schedule it. No, you do not do a timesheet. That’ll fall over in the first few days at most. You do realistic time frames, not by the second or whatever rubbish you read in the How To fairy tales.

The trouble with by the second work schedule is that you naturally over-schedule. You don’t allow time for new things to happen. Something comes up and the whole thing stops working. You can reschedule, but only until the next unforeseen thing comes up, and it’s back to square one.

The quick way to schedule is ironically by using your deadlines. The client wants it by a certain date. You schedule yourself a couple of days ahead of that date. This allows you some breathing space at the other end of the work and also allows the client time to review, assess, etc. It also allows them time to add the several things they forgot to mention and/or tell you about the whole new approach they’ve discovered since you spoke to them the day before.

If you don’t do things this way, you can find yourself doing rush jobs which inevitably need revising, iffy quality work and your writing quality will take a hit, too.

Productivity- The real issue

The big deal, however, is productivity. How much can you get done in X amount of time? You need to be absolutely sure of what you can or can’t do.

Some points:

This is where your business makes money.

Don’t pretend you can do things you can’t do, because you will pay for it.

In the case above, the entire workload has to be distributed evenly:

1. The 800 jobs must be done on time.

2. Time has to be allowed for the new work.

3. The new client has to be checked out.

4. Site work is a bit more flexible in terms of time, but must be done regularly.

5. Promo work has to be costed and content planned.

6. New project startups need to be staged to get things done step by step.

7. Client schedule must be adhered to.

This may look daunting, but it actually spells out how things have to happen:

a) The client schedule is all required to be done on a regular basis. It can be done in a few hours per day. Just leave the phone off and get on with it.

b) The 800 jobs will therefore be done reliably.

c) The new jobs will have enough time and space to be done.

d) The new client will have time available for their work.

e) Site work can be turned into LEGO and simply assembled during the week as time permits.

f) Promo work can be staged into costing, materials creation and publication. Should take about a week for each promo piece to be done. That also allows some space for monitoring it to see if it’s working or not.

g) Projects can be fitted in according to other needs, when there’s some space.

You’ll notice there’s not a word about actual times. Nor is there any need for it. The work can be done at 7AM or 7PM. The important thing is that it gets done according to your macro-schedule.

Never think of time as a restraint.

Think of it as an asset which is very flexible.

You can stay productive, stay focused on your goals and take on new work without batting an eyelid. Getting organised means getting time on your side.

If you can do that, your commercial writing will thrive.

If you can’t do that, your work will suffocate you.

If you’re having trouble getting organised, you’re doing something which is working against you. Find out what’s causing the holdups and eliminate it.

Note: Sorry about plugging my own book, but it’s the only one I know for sure that can show the realities of freelance writing in context with this article.

Related video: Alliss Hardy Aveda Institute Picture Essay

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