Ahh, Summer…the perfect time to read on a blanket in the shade, work late nights, sleep in, and haul your laptop outside to work in a lawn chair. It sounds relaxing, doesn’t it?
Yeah…but working as a freelance writer during the Summer has its own challenges.
If you haven’t arranged to take time off (which can be a helluva freelance perk, when planned for) the added social engagements: graduation parties, bonfires, weekends at the lake, can distract you from your deadlines.
Oh, and if you have kids, they’re home.
So how are you going to make the most of the season while staying on track? Find balance with these 10 tips:
#1 – Expect Distractions
The first step to a successful Summer is to accept that you’ll be distracted. Meet your deadlines and pay your bills, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re not putting in full days at the computer. Go enjoy the weather, air out your mind, and give yourself something to write about. Even if you’re a self-proclaimed introvert, which I am, it’s tempting to daydream, read in the shade, and take long walks. All of these activities are good for your writing! Give your mind a chance to wander.
Another Summer fact, at least in snowy states: People you haven’t seen all Winter will come out of hibernation and want to get together. That’s okay. Go play with your friends. It’s not like you have to request time off from management. Just be sure to set aside dedicated writing time—and time for solitude, if you need it.
#2 – Review Your Annual Goals
The third quarter of the year begins on July first. Whether you set quarterly goals or annual goals doesn’t matter. It’s the halfway point and necessary to review your progress. Make sure you’re still on track and assess if you’re behind in any one area. If you are, is it because you’re avoiding or procrastinating, or is it because you’ve overbooked yourself? Make a plan to address and correct these challenges.
Also adjust your goals if they’ve changed. It’s perfectly acceptable to scrap a goal if it no longer applies. And don’t forget to take time to review your growth over the past year. Sometimes a reminder of how far you’ve come can remind you of just how capable you are, especially when you feel overwhelmed or stagnant.
#3 – Work On A Big Project
If you have a big project (say an ebook or a course, a blog post series or maybe a video series) either in the works, in the back of your mind, or on the back burner, now is a great time to delve in. In Summer I am drawn to editing and formatting but at this point I’m simply fleshing out chapters and making it pretty.
Do you have an outline for something amazing in a notebook somewhere? Get it out and let yourself get sucked in. Don’t have a big idea yet? Spend the Summer playing with words. Buy a new journal (I do this for everything anyway) and practice writing poetry, vignettes, humor, and different writing styles. Write in a news voice, a teen-magazine tone, academically, in business -PR jargon. Study and practice writing white papers, grant proposals, press releases, reviews or interviews.
Find Extra Writing Time—Even With The Kids Home
This might seem like bad advice if you’re home with (whining, fighting, hungry, crying, yet endearing) children but I dare you to look at your schedule. Can you carve out a few hours while the kids play outside, run through the sprinkler, blow bubbles, hit wiffle balls off a tee, decorate the patio with sidewalk chalk, watch Sprout or nap?
I take my laptop to the pool and write from under an awning (so I can see the screen) while my kids swim, but this option obviously depends the age of your children and the strength of their swimming.
(I love this now that my youngest kids are older but a few years ago there was no effing way.)
I also don’t recommend getting sucked into your work while the kids play in a public place. You can’t be too careful.
Still, there is almost always a way to keep the kids occupied in Summer.
#4 – Get Up Early Or Stay Up Late
An advantage to Summer vacation is the freedom to set your own hours without having to get the kids up in the morning. For night owls this is great for writing late into the night so long as the kids sleep in or make their own breakfast. For morning people, it’s an opportunity to get some extra writing in before the kids get up.
Parent or not, the long days and warm nights of Summer are perfect for rediscovering the freedom of freelancing. Manage your time creatively and go with the flow. Take a breath. Enjoy the sunshine and your work. After all, you’re doing things you only once dreamed about. You’re writing.
#5 – Set Summer Office Hours
Now that you’ve found your natural, Summer rhythm, decide whether you’ll work more, less, or the same amount of hours as you did during Winter. If you’ve been pushing yourself and are flirting with burnout, give yourself a break. Will your work hours shift to different times of the day? How many hours do you have to work to keep up with your paid work? If you’re looking for more work, can you spend more time on marketing? Study and practice writing effective queries and emails if needed.
The ratio of time you spend on paid work vs. personal projects may also shift. If you can afford the time, follow your inspiration and see where it leads.
#6 – Take Your Laptop Along
It can be really hard to sit in the house when the weather outside is so enticing. Compromise by taking your laptop on regular adventures. Visit the backyard patio, a local park’s picnic table, a blanket by the lake. Of course, I’m not recommending use of your laptop during family time or get-togethers. Instead, escape your stale, indoor writing spot once in a while during your dedicated work hours. Pay attention to whether you find it easier to write paid work or personal projects away from your regular desk.
#7 – Carry A Notebook
While I don’t recommend carrying your laptop everywhere, I do recommend you carry the notebook we talked about earlier. This will give you a place to jot down ideas, brainstorm outlines, and note possible guest post topics.
Don’t be afraid to explore your creative writing ideas in here, too. Play with writing prompts, literary devices, and point of view. Or maybe you have plans for a new blog. Use your notebook to organize your tentative menu and pages on paper.
#8 – Enforce Quiet Hours
Want some extra writing time while the kids are on vacation? Enforce a quiet hour or two either in the afternoon, after lunch, or in the evening, before bed. Have your children choose something quiet to do independently. This can be reading a book, writing, drawing, playing with building toys, etc. If you have elementary-age children, you know the activities I’m referring to—all the stuff they try to get away with doing in bed past bedtime.
If it helps to create a relaxing atmosphere, play some calming music. Once quiet time is over, you may want to reward your kids by doing something with them. This can be as simple as making a snack together or playing a few hands of Uno or Go Fish.
#9 – Professional Development
The lazy days of Summer are the perfect time to get in some professional development. Treat yourself to a new writing-related book. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, you can choose from technical or inspirational books. Who says your beach read has to be romantic?
Podcasts are another way to learn more about the writing profession, marketing, and blogging (among countless other topics) while relaxing in the sun. They’re also great for walking, which gets you up and moving. Download a few podcasts to your phone or tablet and you’ll be all set when you’re on the go or relaxing in a hammock.
#10 – Wear Out Your Crockpot
Successful time management requires strategy. So how would you like to trade the time you spend cooking dinner for more writing time? Or a bike ride? Or any other activity that isn’t cooking dinner? Plan a few Crockpot recipes each week and you’ll have hours of extra time to spend however you please. There are 7 easy-prep Crockpot recipes for writers right here on Paid Write.
As an added bonus, you won’t have to worry about heating up the house with the oven.