- A Writer’s Tale
©Paul Callaghan– All Rights Reserved
OK, I admit it. I was suckered by all those promises of being able to ‘work when I wanted’
when I started as a freelance writer. I really thought that if I could just write when the muse struck me I would
make enough money to live well.
The reality of making a living from writing is very different. I probably put in more hours with
my writing business than I ever did as an English teacher. If I’m not strict enough with how I spend those hours
then I don’t get paid. And I like eating. I’m funny like that.
When I was only publishing once or twice a month it was never a problem. These days I have a
great deal more work than that (not that I’m complaining!) and so it has become important to make sure that I spend
my time efficiently.
A Working Writer’s Day
I’m an early riser. I love to get up before the bedlam that is my family life explodes into
action. First job is to scan my emails. I don’t actually read that many of them at this time though, because most
of them will be looked at later during my research time. I subscribe to numerous newsletters about freelance
writing, SEO, social media and about the subjects that I write for other people on.
With an average of 100 emails a day coming into my inboxes I really can’t allow myself to get
bogged down at the beginning of the day.
The emails I read first are from clients. If there any problems or questions I sort those out
immediately. Requests for quotes and notifications of publishing are labelled in my inbox accordingly and left for
later in the day.
I usually have at least one article that I wrote the day before. I spend some time looking at
that, tightening it up and checking for typos. Nothing worse than sending out copy that has obvious errors in
Around now the family are stirring, so I try to get an article or blog post done as a first
draft. I normally have some notes from yesterday’s research and a good night’s sleep has allowed my mind to work
things into some kind of order. By the time I have written 500-800 words it’s time to take the kids to school.
Back home and I start researching for the next articles. A lot of this is going through the
email newsletters to see what other people are saying. Things that spark my interest can be Googled further.
My first ever writing tutor told me that “media will eat itself”. He meant to read newspapers
and magazines for story ideas. I do it online mostly these days, but the principle remains the same. I make notes
and add to my ideas box. Anything I like I can also share with social media connections.
Social media is next. I answer all messages and thank new followers and people who have
mentioned me. I try to follow a few new people every day on at least two platforms. Any publishing from the day
before gets promoted too. I also like to read and comment on a few blogs - although I have to admit that I don’t
get this done as often as I want to.
Then I like to look at least one website which might be a market for my writing. I analyse the
site and have a look at the competition. Then I sum up how I could improve them and write a sales letter. Some
don’t answer, some say no thanks and a few want more details. Cold calling like this isn’t easy but I have gathered
some good clients over time by just putting my name out there.
By now it’s lunch time and I have probably put in about 7-8 hours. If it’s Wednesday I’ll do
some accounts work – billing, logging expenses etc. The rest of the week I’ll sort out pricing for clients or I
might write another article or two to be edited in the morning. Any other writing and/or social media strategising
can be done about this time too.
When I get to the novel (I’m not as disciplined or regular with this bit, I’m afraid) I usually
walk away from the computer and write in longhand. It just seems to work better for me when I do my first drafts by
hand and then rewrite on the screen.
Evenings are for reading. Fiction, non-fiction even some poetry depending on my mood.
I don’t like lists very much so I try to maintain a routine instead. Of course there are always
rush jobs, or kids that come in and ruin my routine. But I have to be organised about writing and marketing myself
or else I fall into the great pit of procrastination.
The bottom line is this: everything I do is to a routine. I know what I’ll be doing at any given
time of the day, and this makes it workable. It makes it predictable as well, and to a large degree I can count on
getting through an expected amount of work per day. This really helps when I am pricing a job for new clients.
Different things work for different people, some prefer to have routines or lists that are
specific to each day, sort of “if it’s Thursday it must be social media”. Find what works for you and stick to it.
The more organised you are, the more work you are able to churn out and the more money you will be able to
About the author: Paul Callaghan is New Zealand based freelance
writer, social media strategist, editor and proof reader. You can contact him through his website at www.freelancewriter.co.nz