Writing for profit is a serious business
I’ve learned by experience that when I’m in writing mode there are certain things that have to be done.
Go to my quiet room;
Turn off the TV and music so there are no distractions;
Have a cup of Earl Grey;
Take a cigarette break every hour for a few minutes and rest my eyes; and
Write for no more than 8 hours a day unless there is an urgent deadline to be met.
These are my little rules and I follow them very closely. Forming a routine will help you become organised and disciplined in your approach to writing for profit. Bear in mind, this is work and you are getting paid for what you produce so a sense of pride and diligence in delivering quality is essential. For some, the creative juices will not start flowing unless you are working at night or you may have your own idiosyncrasies that need to be followed. Whatever you have to do to put yourself into writing mode is fine, but managing your time will be essential no matter where, when and how you write.
There are two things that I recommend any aspiring professional writer to invest in. First, buy a diary and preferably the large A4 kind with a page a day. Use this to plot out your day and your week as well as booking time slots when you are going to be writing. Be specific in allocating a project to each time slot, but also leave time slots for prospecting new business as well as some margin for jobs that come in unexpectedly, or for when a project overruns. This will help you forecast turnaround times to your potential clients when you are bidding for work. The deadline is king in the commercial writing industry and breaking them is taboo, unless you are not concerned about keeping clients who will quickly lose interest in using your services.
The second investment is a Skype headset and download of free Skype software which acts as a free telephone service. The headset will set you back about £10 – £20 from any computer shop, but after that initial cost it will give you the ability to speak to anyone else who uses Skype absolutely free. The ability to talk to your clients, especially when trying to close business, is a great advantage that you will have over prospecting writers who are simply relying upon email and forum message boards to make their sales pitch. Using Skype to verbally communicate is also invaluable when you are dealing with larger projects and need to keep your principal updated or throw queries at them.
When I am preparing a project, the research takes the bulk of my time as a general rule. Writing up the research in the format specified by my client takes rather less time than the research unless it is a topic I am already familiar with. Generally, I try to leave the completed article for a day or so and then return to it for proofreading, unless there is an urgent deadline to be met. If you attempt to proof read your article immediately after you have written it you will tend to focus on the content rather than the grammar and punctuation. Leaving some time between writing and proofing allows your brain to settle down and be able to concentrate on these features of your work which are just as important as the content.
As a father with several young children running around the house, dealing with interruptions is something I have had to come to terms with. Especially now with the summer holidays, dealing with the patter of not so tiny feet and sorting out the sibling squabbles is part and parcel of my working day. My family know that when dad is in his quiet room he is working and that means no disturbance. If like me, you are working from your home computer, then ensuring that your family understand that this is work, and breaking your concentration is not on, the sooner you are going to be able to be productive. A break in your concentration, even for a brief moment, can lose you much valuable time as you have to return to your train of thought and get back into the flow of your work.
To be effective and productive, no matter what you are writing on, you need to manage three things properly; your time, your surroundings and yourself.