This past week was a disaster. There was enough success to keep me motivated, but I also had a lot of struggles. Fortunately, most of the issues were problems of my making, and everything ended up okay. If nothing else, I’ve learned that time management is key. Even the best plans can fall apart when something unexpected happens. And in my case, the unexpected seems to happen quite frequently.
I started writing when I couldn’t wait any longer to go back to work. I had been unemployed for about 30 months, and towards the end of that period, I felt desperate. I hated sitting around doing nothing, but I also knew I wouldn’t be able to go to an office at the same time every day. I looked for various office jobs, but every time I decided to submit an application, something happened to remind me that I wasn’t ready.
Freelance writing is the perfect solution for my situation. I love what I do, and I can work the hours that fit my schedule rather than having to work when someone else expects it. If I need an hour or two to nap or to fight off nausea or pain, there’s nobody to stop me. If I want to start writing late in the afternoon and write through the night, I don’t have to check with anyone.
This week, though, I had an enormous workload. I knew how important time management was going to be, so I carefully planned my schedule. My biggest project was due on Friday; I figured I would be ok, and even get a day off on the weekend, if I worked on it for about 6 hours a day, every day. The smaller projects were all due the following Monday, and I left myself enough time to work on them, too, as long as I got the big project done on time
Unfortunately, I didn’t count on life getting in the way. First, my husband wouldn’t leave me alone. He has trouble coping when we are apart, even if we are just in different rooms, and for two days at the beginning of the week, he interrupted me three or four times an hour. Unsurprisingly, that led to a lot of aggravation and a couple of fights, and I ended up a day behind schedule.
Even then, I expected to get my large project done on time. I believed I could push through the last couple of days to catch up. But, then my health gave out me. Thursday, I was exhausted and needed to go back to sleep for three hours in the early afternoon, and the rest of the day went by in a barely-productive fog. Friday, I was gripped with nausea, and the thought of sitting in front of the computer for 12 hours was almost unbearable, although I did manage to do it.
On Thursday morning, my largest client told me it would be ok if I needed to work into the weekend. Even at the beginning of the day, I believed I would finish before the original deadline, but by Thursday afternoon, I knew I was going to need the extra time. I let him know, and of course, he was all right with it, but I was embarrassed and felt I looked unprofessional.
I pushed through all the nausea and lingering exhaustion, and finally finished the big project on Saturday evening, about 24 hours after I originally planned to submit it. My client was happy, and I’ll be entering the next phase of that work soon.
Originally, my plan was to take Saturday off to relax, and to get all my smaller projects done on Sunday. After the delay, I decided instead to rest on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning before getting back to work around noon. But, things changed once again on Sunday when I got out of bed feeling unwell. I spent the morning throwing up and then collapsed in bed until 5:00 P.M.
By Sunday evening, I was feeling better, and I got back to work. I had managed to research during the week and had all the material I needed for the projects due on Monday. By midnight, I had written, edited and submitted everything that was due.
Early last week, I knew my deadlines would be difficult to manage. So, I put all the due dates in my calendar and set up reminders so I would be sure not to overlook anything. However, I pushed all the due dates ahead by five days, so what was due on Friday showed as due on Monday. Then, in the midst of everything else going on, I completely forgot what I had done.
So, when I was submitting my projects on Sunday night, I glanced at the due date, and, of course, realized I had tricked myself. That tactic has never worked for me in the past, but for some reason, it worked nicely this time. Instead of getting things submitted just a few hours before the deadline, I got everything in at least five days early. I am slightly ashamed to admit I forgot, but pleased that I accidentally made myself look responsible.
This week, I am going to relax a bit. I don’t know if stress caused the increase in nausea and vomiting, but I do know I’m not 100% ready to work just yet. I still have a few short articles to finish up, and my big project will soon enter a second, easier phase. Instead of bidding on new gigs, I’m going to focus on the work I already have and give myself time to relax. It’s better to do that than to burn out when I’ve just barely begun.
Some of my hours this week will be spent looking for a few good time management programs. Right now, I’m using Wunderlist and Outlook. The combination works well enough, but I want something more robust. And I know I need to put more effort into planning out each day, so I don’t find out at the last minute that I can’t meet a deadline. While I always knew time management was critical, this past week illustrated it for me in a way I’ve never experienced before.
How do you manage your time as a freelance writer? What do you do when the unexpected happens in the middle of your busiest weeks or months?
My freelancing career started with a bang. I have been busy nonstop since I wrote the first entry here last week. Within hours of creating a profile on Upwork, I landed two high-quality jobs. I’ve been working hard and earning money ever since. More on that later this week.
I took the weekend off, but couldn’t stay away from my laptop. I spent quite a bit of time sorting through gigs on Upwork, and I have to admit my initial experience was skewed. At times, the site almost seems like the seedy underbelly of the freelance world. Cheating abounds, with offers left and right from high school and college students desperate to avoid doing their own work. Bloggers want free sample posts from every freelancer applying to ghost write, and with so many applicants for each gig, they won’t need to pay for writing for a long time. Business owners have ego trips as they describe all they ways they can harass the assistant they plan to hire for $2/hour. I’ve seen people offering $5 for a 2,000-word essay due in 12 hours, and $10 for five articles, each requiring research. It’s definitely not all sunshine and high-paying gigs.
Still, there are an unbelievable number of writing jobs that do pay well. I’ve applied to about ten so far. It takes a lot of time because I write a proposal from scratch for each one. Most people have a template, and I will admit to copying a few boilerplate sentences to provide contact options. But, I have read over and over that business owners can tell when someone has a form, and I don’t want to lose a gig because I couldn’t take a few extra minutes to write something unique. I make sure the extra time I spend is worthwhile by only applying to the jobs I feel I’m suited for, that I could happily do as described and at the rate offered.
My effort paid off this evening, and I got a response from someone looking for two 1,000-word articles. My nerves took over, and my stomach leapt into my throat as I began to go back and forth with this potential client. Soon, though, it became clear that they were… Let’s go with strange. Part of this was a language barrier, but there was also something odd about the way they presented themselves. They were too aggressive for my liking, and I knew I’d end up resenting the way they treated me. I was getting aggravated before I even had the job.
During a lull in the conversation, I searched this person’s name on Google. The results made it seem that they were who they claimed to be. Their Upwork profile, too, showed that they had spent quite a bit of money on freelancers. I was making a good impression and felt if I pushed, I could probably get the work. But instead, I wrote a note saying I was not the right person for the job and I wished them success in the future.
It was hard to walk away from the chance to earn a chunk of money. But all I could see was trouble looming ahead. First, the person was pushy, slightly rude and insulting, and altogether not pleasant even via instant message. Second, the job they described was nothing like the job they posted. Rather than writing a few articles, it looked like I was going to be writing content for an entire website. I knew it would take weeks. And, while the person was probably quite intelligent and capable, I had a hard time understanding their written English. Even worse, they couldn’t quite understand me, and clearly misunderstood two very simple questions.
As a lawyer, I had my share of bad clients. Usually, the money they paid in legal fees made up for all the abuse they dealt. But Upwork is a race to the bottom when it comes to both cost and quality, and I knew this individual wouldn’t be paying me enough to make the trouble worthwhile. The person looking for help comes from a country much-maligned around Upwork for the low cost and low skills of the local freelancers. This is one situation where I think they will be better served by paying the low rates charged by their fellow citizens, simply because they need someone who speaks their native language rather than English.
I am too new to the field to start knowingly taking on nightmares. I don’t want stress and insults on a job that won’t even pay my electric bill for the month but will probably take a significant chunk of my time. I don’t want a job that takes hours of unpaid time to negotiate when I could spend those hours doing so many other things. In fact, while I was going back and forth with the first person, another offer came in: an already-funded contract with no negotiation whatsoever, from a reputable employer based in the USA.
I hit accept and sat back from the computer for the evening.
What makes you want to say yes or no to a gig? How much negotiation will you do for a tiny one-off gig? Let me know what you think in the comment section below.