One question I hear over and over again from the writing students I coach is, "How do I get focused and stay that way?"
That's a good question. Even seasoned professional freelancers have trouble staying focused from time to time. And they usually find their writing careers start to suffer when that happens.
Here are some tips for getting focused on developing your freelance writing career and staying that way:
1. Brainstorm for a few minutes and make a list of all the things you like to write about. Once you've got several things on your list, narrow the list down to just your top two areas of interest. Stick with these two areas or topics for awhile. Any writing or research activities that don't come within these two areas of focus should be set aside - for now.
2. Every Sunday evening, or Monday morning, sketch out your marketing plan for the week. And remember; keep your two areas of interest in mind when you do this. Only put things on your marketing plan for the week that relate to your two areas of interest. If you've decided you love to write about parenting, for example, but you'd like to finish that novel you started years ago, don't even think about the novel right now. Instead, focus on the kinds of parenting articles you want to write. Start studying the different parenting publications you find at your local bookstore or library to get a feel for the kinds of articles they publish. Then, get busy and write some queries to a few of these markets.
3. Start small. Make just a few simple changes in your life that give your writing priority. For example, if you're trying to develop a freelance career while still holding down a full time job, don't overwork yourself. You'll only end up frustrated and disappointed. However, do plan on structuring your days to give yourself at least 15 to 30 minutes EACH day to write queries or articles, research markets, or study books about writing techniques. Too many people think they have to allocate huge amounts of time in order to get a writing career started. And, since they don't have huge amounts of time available for writing, they don't write at all, so they never develop the freelance writing career of their dreams. However, if you decide you absolutely MUST write for at least 15 minutes, every single day, and you stick to that, soon you'll see some big improvements in your writing and you'll also begin to feel more in control of your life. It doesn't matter when you schedule the 15 to 30 minutes. It could be in the mornings, in the evenings, or on your lunch hour at work. The important thing is, just do it.
4. Part of your weekly marketing plan should include how you will network with other businesses and other writers each week. Don't neglect this part of the marketing plan. Even if the only way you network with other writers is through a listserv or private email with another writer, make sure you do this each and every week. Contact with other writers will keep your passion for writing alive, even when the pressures of work and family threaten to make you lose focus. And networking with other business people just might result in a few writing assignments.
5. Have fun with your writing. Don't turn it into just another chore. If you do, chances are you'll give up on the idea of freelance writing very quickly. And, if that happens, you'll just feel disappointed in yourself again for failing to follow through on your dream. Try all of the above tips for awhile. Then - if you find you can't manage to stay focused, or develop a marketing plan each and every week, or actually write queries or articles to submit to publishers - hire a writing coach. A good coach can keep you focused, will help you improve your writing skills, and will teach you insider tricks to marketing your work.
Suzanne Lieurance, The Working Writer’s Coach, helps people who love to write become part time or full time “working” freelance writers. Find out more about her coaching, and sign up for her mailing list at http://www.the-working-writers-coach.blogspot.com/ and start receiving The Morning Nudge (a few words to inspire and motivate you to get a little writing done) every week day.