6 Sanity-saving Freelance Writing Moves

This week is busy. Aside from actual work, I’m fielding updates on my dad’s condition and updating my kids and my aunt. You don’t think that’s going to take up much time until you’re actually handling it.

Then there’s the workload. For every project I finish, I seem to be getting two more in. I love working, but right now I’m distracted, so I’m just hoping I’m giving my clients my best.

On top of that, it’s the end of the month. Invoices have to go out, but the work has to be finished first, right? So I’m keeping to my to-do list and keeping on top of the assignments. Workwise, that’s the main focus. Invoices will get sent tomorrow at the latest.

If I’ve learned anything lately, it’s not to expect to have ample time to get it all done. Time gets chewed up with personal stuff far too easily. So I’m working ahead and trying to keep everything operating as smoothly as I can.

The goal is to keep the work steady, reduce the stress, and maintain some semblance of sanity.

Whenever your freelance writing career suddenly gets thrown a few curves, here are some ways to save your sanity:

Ask for extensions. It’s in our DNA to please clients, but sometimes that comes at some great emotional cost to us. How about this: ask your client for a few extra days. In rare cases only are the deadlines set in concrete. Most editors work wiggle room into their schedules. Clients often set arbitrary deadlines. Just ask.

Explain briefly. Life does interrupt. It’s okay to let your clients know that your attention is being split between work and life right now. No need to go into a long, involved saga, but do mention when life could interrupt and affect them.

Carve out time to work. I’m too habitual — I work every weekday, 8 am to 4 pm. No evenings, and rarely a weekend. However, if I’ve committed to someone’s project and my personal life is disrupting my work hours, I lose the option to reserve my off hours to myself. It’s okay to spend an hour once spent watching the TV or a few hours on the weekend to catch up. It’s even okay to write as someone else is driving. I’ve done it out of necessity, as has my daughter, my husband… you?

Work ahead. We rarely know when life is going to implode, but in some cases, you might be smart to expect it. My dad’s been in bad health for three years. I’ve been working out my plan for a while. I call often to see how he is, but even so, I was caught off-guard with the latest hospital visit. I had my schedule set and thought I had time to take it easier. It’s never a bad habit to get your projects started or completed long before they need to be.

Start small. Some projects are easier. Do those on those disrupted days. Monday I spent half the day between crying and phone calls. The other half of the day I buckled down. I got two small projects off the list and started a third before 4 pm. That helped keep the stress to a minimum.

Get your rest. The last few days I feel like I’ve been rolled over in traffic. I’m worn out emotionally, which wears me out physically. I exercise to expend the energy that stress gives me, and I sit down because I’d rather not fall down. Give yourself the time you need to recharge. It’s like they say in those flight safety demos: secure your own air mask first before assisting others.

Life isn’t always going to go the way you expect. Just know that being adaptable — and honest with your clients — can help you keep your sanity as you deal with whatever is coming at you.

Writers, how do you adapt to sudden change?

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  • Joy Drohan July 27, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Good tips, Lori. My parents are also in somewhat precarious health and live 7 hours away. Luckily, my sister and brother are near them, and I think being a freelancer it’ll be easier for me to go and help when the sh*t hits the fan than if I were an employee. Thinking of you and your family.

    • lwidmer July 27, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Thanks, Joy. Agreed. I’ve been searching for the right mobile hotspot without a ton of luck, so for now I’ll be using my cell phone plan. I’m looking for one that works here and abroad — we take trips, and I need to take work with me sometimes.

      We’re organized enough to be freelancers, so we should certainly be able to work from another location, right?

      • Devon Ellington July 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm

        I’m going yo invest in Karma mobile hotspot to see if I like it.

        • lwidmer July 27, 2017 at 5:04 pm

          Let me know what you think, Devon. I’ve been trying to find one that’s good everywhere.

  • Cathy Miller July 27, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Keeping you and your family in my thoughts, Lori. My tip? Breathe. Just breathe. Virtual hugs winging your way.

    • lwidmer July 27, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks, Cathy. I’m leaning on my meditation more. It’s helping. Just so draining though, isn’t it?

  • Paula Hendrickson July 27, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Listen to Cathy and breathe.

    Power outages are not uncommon here thanks to summer storms, so I try to get deadlines met a day or so early just in case I lose power (or worse – internet/phone service!). You’d laugh at what my house looks like when there’s a severe thunderstorm watch – I have devices charging all over the place!

    I hope your dad’s doing better today. Your mom, too, for that matter. I’m sure you’ll feel better once you can get out there and see them.

    • lwidmer July 27, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      Good for you, Paula! Having grown up in the sticks, I do the same. I have my car charger handy, too. Never know when you’ll be out of power for longer than a battery charge (happened here — 101 hours is the current record for our house).

      Holding his own and in good hands. He sounds weak, but he’s lost a lot of weight.

  • Mary Schneider July 27, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Good tips!
    I need to work harder on consistent work hours- for my own sanity. I’m a single mom with teens, so consistency is not a real option for me. I’m not just a writer, I’m also the taxi, maid, cook, and chief bottle washer. heh

    It’s getting easier as they get older.

    • lwidmer July 27, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Having been a single mom as well, Mary, I get it. If scheduling between other things fits you right now, that’s okay. Someday, it will get easier to find time. 🙂

  • Devon Ellington July 27, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Yoga. Meditation. Knowing when to say no.

    • lwidmer July 27, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Yes to all of the above, Devon.