As freelance writers we have all experienced periods when we are feeling unproductive. Sometimes this feeling is in direct contrast with the level of effort we feel we are putting out.
If you feel like you are working your ass off, but getting less done, there is likely a reason.
The post below will show you many of the things that can side track you and lead to decreased or non-existent productivity. Read at your own peril as you may not like everything you read!
Why Freelance Writers Aren’t Productive
Do you know why you don’t get enough done in a day? It isn’t because there’s not enough time, though we’ve all used THAT excuse.
The real reason you don’t get enough done in a day is probably right in front of you, but you just don’t want to admit it.
Here is a list of reasons the cause freelancers to be unproductive:
- You are in over our head. You’ve taken on some task(s) that you really aren’t qualified to do and it is causing you to struggle and procrastinate as you look for a way out.
- Lack of proper tools. You don’t have the software or hardware you need to work efficiently.
- No dedicated workspace. While freelance writers can literally write anywhere, the fact of the matter is that a dedicated workspace is crucial to productive work. Just because you can work from anywhere doesn’t mean you have to move from place to place.
- You are disorganized. You will be amazed what a little bit of organization can do for your productivity.
- Unclear scope of work. You received a client job, but you don’t really know what it is that the client wants. It is amazing the number of freelancers who try to work without a clear scope. No clear scope? Get one!
- You’ve overbooked yourself. Once you become overbooked you also become overwhelmed and this can lead to a type of disorganization and paralysis. It can be tempting to take every job that comes your way, especially when starting out. Resist the temptation though and only take jobs that you can realistically handle.
- You are constantly interrupted. This one can be especially difficult for stay at home parents who are trying to juggle their freelance writing and their kid(s). On the other hand, too many of us just get distracted by the interruptions caused by IM’s, text messages, emails, and social media. Each interruption is disruptive to your productivity, but too many can seriously set you back. Do yourself a favor and turn off anything not directly related to your writing.
- You are sick. Everybody gets sick from time to time, and no one works well when they are sick. Take some time to get healthy before jumping into your work.
- You seem to be unable to focus. Some days it seems as if you are jumping from one task to another every few minutes. If you have a problem focusing, whether once in a while or all the time, sit down and develop a plan to get your work done. Once you have a plan, follow it.
- You dislike what you are doing. Not every job is a wonderful creative opportunity. Sometimes writing is work. Some freelancers have the tendency to procrastinate on the writing jobs they dislike, and consequently all of their writing suffers.
- You don’t schedule time to write. This can be especially troublesome for those who do freelancing in addition to a full time job or while caring for their kids. Writing time needs to be made a priority and given its own spot in your schedule.
- Not enough sleep. I know that staying up late and getting up early can seem like a great way to add hours to your day, but chronic lack of sleep can make your thoughts fuzzy and can even lead to illness.
- You are depressed. Do you find it difficult to find enthusiasm for even the things you once loved? Is getting out of bed each morning an unbearable struggle? If this has been going on in your life for some time you may be depressed. Seeing a psychologist could be the answer to your troubles.
- You have a bad attitude. If you find yourself constantly angry with clients or your personal situation, you may have a case of the bad attitudes. This can affect your work and your relationships.
- You have no accountability. While some freelance writers find the freedom from having a boss as a wonderful change, others struggle with the lack of direction and accountability. As a freelance writer you do have accountability…to yourself. Don’t let yourself down.
- You have no goals. As a freelance writer you can get so caught up in the day to day writing activities necessary to pay the bills that you lose sight of your goals. Having a set of concrete goals is the best way forward if you want to improve your writing and your freelance business.
- You are frightened. Fear can be a powerful motivator, but too much fear can actually paralyze you and keep you from doing what needs to be done. Put aside your fear and just get started.
- You took the wrong job. I don’t mean writing per se, but the type of writing. SEO articles, press releases, white papers…there are any number of writing tasks, but not everyone is suited to each type. If you take on work that is unsuitable you could be sabotaging your productivity.
- You are too pessimistic. Is your glass half full or half empty? A pessimistic attitude could be holding you back from working to your true potential.
- You are a chronic procrastinator. It’s no surprise that procrastination can harm your productivity. Some procrastination is normal, but when taken too far it will hurt your business and your writing.
- Too many mistakes. Checking your work as you write can slow you down, but editing and rewriting can be even more time consuming. If you know about weaknesses in your writing, address them now and stop the mistakes.
- You don’t have a routine. Sure, we all thought that freelance writing meant we could work whenever we wish, but humans are creatures of habit and a set routine can improve your productivity dramatically.
- Too much socialization. While socialization is important to our mental health, the proliferation of ways to connect easily can derail even the most dedicated writer. When you sit down to write, close your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and turn off your phone. Otherwise you could lose hours, or an entire day.
- Too much multi-tasking. Recent research shows that multi-tasking actually hurts productivity. You are far better off focusing on one task at a time.
- Afraid to ask for help. As a freelance writer you are most likely a very self assured and do it yourself type person. While this is admirable, it can lead to situations where you would be better off asking for help, but don’t because it “isn’t your style.” Always try to remember that two heads are better than one.
- You give up too easily. When confronted with adversity, do you plow ahead or simply throw in the towel? Giving up too easily is a sure road to a lack of productivity.
- You work sloppily. You will always save time by doing things right the first time. That doesn’t mean you can skip editing. It does mean you should strive to get as much right the first time around as possible.
- You don’t prioritize your work. When you have a huge pile of writing to do for a variety of purposes, it can be difficult to decide where to start. By prioritizing your work you will know exactly what needs to be done now versus later.
- You are a perfectionist. While it would be nice to have everything perfect, the real world doesn’t work that way. Don’t use this as an excuse to release shoddy work, but sometimes good enough really is good enough. Let go and move on.
- Too much stress in your life. Whether it is from work, relationships, or other personal problems, stress is no fun. It can seriously affect your productivity and can even lead to illness.
- You’ve lost your passion. Let’s face it, passion is one of the key needs for creative folks like writers. If you have lost your passion for what you are doing, it will certainly have a negative impact on your productivity.
- Poor time management skills. You can find many books, websites and seminars devoted entirely to time management. This is because it is a crucial skill for anyone looking to improve their productivity.
- Not finishing projects. Do you have a huge list of unfinished projects? It is much better to focus on one or two projects that you can finish well rather than starting dozens of projects that never get finished.
- You have demanding clients. Often freelance writers find themselves with one or two clients who take up an inordinate amount of their time. Constant rewrites, unproductive meetings, and minor tasks can eat up a good portion of your day before you know it.
What do you think?
It would be ridiculous to say that anyone suffers from all of these productivity killers. Most freelance writers do fall prey to at least one or two of them however. The good news is that once you identify where your productivity is slipping away, you can take steps to fix the problems.
Where are your productivity killers? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.