Create a productive and inspiring writing environment.
One of the most important things I do is make my space cozy, comfortable and aesthetically beautiful. I try to surround myself with things that make me happy and comfortable so that I don’t feel the need to clean or reorganize or pretty things up. (Writers get distracted easily).
If I’m working from home, I’ll have my tea ready to go, I’ll keep power items near me (like crystals and plants) and I’ll keep the lighting cozy and bright, but not not harsh. I love salt lamps for a magical, glowy touch.
Build ritual into your freelance life.
I spend most of my freelance days writing, pitching ideas to editors, building articles into content systems, researching, working on my own projects, and editing. Because successfully working from home is largely very dependent on your own discipline, ritual is deeply necessary.
I never used to give myself a chance to rest or recalibrate during the word day, so my early writing was sloppy, grammatically imperfect, and my voice was messy. Today, I have a much firmer grasp on both my writing and my freelance habits — and that’s because I integrate ritual and intentionality into my work days.
Some easy ritual ideas include:
Make a morning routine that gets your blood flowing, and your mind settled and clear. Pull a tarot card and meditate on it, do some yoga, light a candle and clear your mind while you drink your coffee, or simply deep breath before heading to your computer. I like to make coffee, watch some ASMR videos on YouTube while I stretch, and then make sure my surrounding are conducive to productivity. I light a candle, put some stones and crystals out, and get myself a tall glass of water.
Take breaks to stretch, breath and recalibrate. Your work — and your health — WILL suffer if you don’t step away sometimes. I often do my best work after a break.
Create peace and joy in your surroundings. Make everything conducive to your needs, both logistically and aesthetically. Neat and tidy areas are better for me, and plants and natural light help me feel good. When I didn’t have this in my earlier years of living in messy houses with loads of loud roommates, I’d find a local cafe with wi-fi and get to work.
Use sound. I use the Calm app (this is a paid version but there are loads of cheap or free ones — as well as YouTube videos) to listen to stories or soundscapes during my break. It helps me delineate my work - brain from my rest - brain.
You can find more rituals at my account for Light Magic here.
Stay organized, and get ahead of your distractions. I use several organizational and productivity tools, and I suggest you either try these or research similar ones that sync up with your needs. Seriously.
Google Docs to save all my work
bill.com to send invoices
The “Reminders” app on my computer to outline my assignments and due dates
Trello is a tool that helps you track your projects, make lists, and monitor your progress.
I use Noisli 2.0, which helps me improve my focus and productivity using ambient noise. I use the white noises to make me focus when noises are distracting. I also use a free app called “Sound,” which has an amazingly soothing “brown noise” that has been helping me focus (and nap) a lot lately.
I use the Pomodoro technique when I really can’t focus. (Some of us have ADD or ADHD). This technique emphasizes bursts of work in 25-minute increments, and I’ve found it super helpful. You can adjust the Pomodoro as per your needs.
And because I’m good at guilt (thanks, former Catholic background), I use Panda Focus, which pops up my to-do list whenever I open a browser. Yeah, I know.
Learn how to research & find accurate information.
It’s so important to learn how to incorporate research into your work. Even if you don’t write research-heavy work, simply knowing where to turn for solid information can help. I use official, expert-approved sites when I need ‘accurate’ information, rather than blogs, for example.
Some great sites include Help A Reporter Out, Journalist’s Toolbox, and this list of credible sources.
Understand the difference between a pitch and an assignment.
When you’re freelancing, you’ll want to be pitching ideas to editors (this might include a cold pitch to an editor you don’t know, or pitching to editors you already work with) in addition to receiving assignments from people who have hired you as a remote writer. Never just assume you’ll ‘get’ as assignment. While many pitches are rejected, it’s an important part of the freelance life.
I pitch out about 5-10 stories a week to a mix of publications I either write for or want to write for. Other times, editors who have brought me on as a regular freelancer will email me throughout the week with assignments. For other clients, I do X articles per month at a set rate. It’s all over the place — so be flexible and make room for all sorts of relationships!
Learn more about pitching here: Wild Words: How To Get Published & Feel Good About Your Work
Although it may seem arduous or complicated or even inauthentic, it really helps to be active on social media. I’m sorry to say it, because I know some people equate it with the social apocalypse (and I don’t blame you!). I was confused when I started using Twitter; what’s the point? Who cares what I say? As I learned to use it over the years, it’s been really rewarding. I use it to engage with other writers and editors, I share my work, and I share others’ work.
Having a landing page — like Instagram or Twitter — full of thoughts and ideas and images, showcases your personality, your aesthetic, and your voice, and it lets editors know what they can expect from you.
In my many years on social media, I’ve gotten dozens of gigs. I even scored a book deal for Light Magic for Dark Times by being on Twitter (yep — my editor discovered my (unpaid) work on Twitter, read it, loved it, and asked if I wanted to write a book). Now, book deals may not happen to everyone, but the lesson here is this: Being visible does wonders for your freelance work.
Confused on where to start? Find some of your favorite writers and editors on Twitter and see how they use the platform. You can always follow me on Instagram, on Twitter, and on Facebook! PS: Luna Luna’s FB group The Luminous is a treasure trove when it comes to connecting with freelancers and bouncing ideas around.
You’ll also want portfolio, which is a place you can store images of print articles or links to digital work. I use Contently, but a lot of people I know also use Muckrack.
Don’t be afraid to reach out.
Never think you’re too green, too unknown, or too inexperienced to reach out to an editor; editors want your pitches. If you have a good idea, send it along. (My only suggestion here: Make sure they haven’t published the piece already!).
The only way to go wrong is to reach out without politeness or with an air of entitlement. A little humility, kindness, and willingness to converse goes a long way. You can start by connecting with me on LinkedIn!
Most people aren’t going to land a 3000-word glossy magazine print piece right off the bat (but who knows, right?). Because of this, it’s smart to think outside the box a little: Go to writing conferences and meet people, design unique business cards that get people excited about you, reach out to your local gym to see if they need bloggers or copywriters, or ask your college alumni magazine if they need writers. I started Luna Luna (which is about as niche as it gets) — and that did wonders for my career! You never know who needs help or who is looking, so never underestimate the opportunities that are out there if you get creative.
Constantly learn and grow your skillset.
In the beginning, I had no clue about a lot of things — SEO, photoshop, certain content management systems. I was green, as they say. And guess what? I totally got by. Gig by gig I was required to learn certain skills — and I did. I’d often rent a book or watch a YouTube tutorial if I needed to learn something, like how to use WordPress or Google Keywords. If I needed to learn how to fill out a w9 on my computer (since I didn’t have a printer or scanner), I’d watch tutorials. The list goes on and on. All the info is at your fingertips — and if it’s not, join a Facebook group for freelancers and ask. Don’t expect anyone to hold your hand, but be ready and willing to ask for help when you need it.