How to Deal with the Unexpected When You’re a Freelance Writer

There are so many amazing things about being a freelance writer. The freedom of being your own boss, the excitement …

There are so many amazing things about being a freelance writer. The freedom of being your own boss, the excitement of each day bringing new kinds of work and growth, the pride you feel being a business owner, I could go on all day.

While I enjoy many the perks of working from home, there can be some drawbacks. As freelancers, we battle things like lulls in work, distractions, and scheduling snafus.

Scheduling your day as a freelancer is often said to be one of the most critical aspects of being successful. With so many responsibilities to juggle, sticking to a schedule is the only way to get productive work done.

But, as they say; “Even the best plans go awry.”

Ask any work-from-home freelancer, interruptions to your schedule can be a massive headache. I won’t sugar coat it either; those interruptions will happen. Once you get off track, it can be that much harder to get back to speed.

Because in the freelance world, time truly is money, reducing and managing interruptions to your schedule can increase both your productivity and profits.

While you can’t be sure just when schedule disruptors will pop up, you can plan for them. So let’s buckle down organize your first line of defense against some of the most common culprits.

5 Life Interruptions Freelance Writers May Experience

Illness

It’s no secret that freelancers don’t get paid time off. It may seem obvious, but avoiding getting sick in the first place is your best protection from work slowdowns due to illness. Protecting yourself means practicing good self-care, getting regular exercise, and taking care of both your mental health and your body.

Now that we’ve stated the painfully obvious, I have to break it to you. You will likely, at some point or another, have to contend with a rogue immune system fluke or some other bout of illness. When that happens, it really can sideline your ability to work.

Sure, being able to work in your PJs, surrounded by tissues and chicken soup may give you a leg up against those who have actually to get dressed and commute to their 9-5. But sometimes you just can’t work through whatever your body is fighting.

In that case, having a plan is essential.

Start by kicking procrastination to the curb. You’re much less likely to find yourself in a tough time crunch if you haven’t left things to the last minute. If you happen to get sick and need to slow down, you won’t be as behind schedule if you avoid procrastination.

Ok, so maybe you did delay your projects a bit, you’re behind, and now, on top of it all, you’re sick. What should you do? Panic?

Definitely not.

Take inventory of your condition, the amount of work remaining, and your upcoming deadline and be realistic. Like, mega-realistic.

Let’s say you need to take a day or two to recover. Will you be able to devote enough time to finish your project? Before you say “no,” remember that we, as freelancers, are inherently crafty. We often have to find clever ways of finding working hours even when it seems impossible.

Get creative and see if you can squeeze an extra hour or two in somewhere. Take stock of your other assignments, projects, and clients and prioritize in terms of timing.

Then work like the dickens to catch up. I’d wager this will be a one-off occurrence though. After working in a rushed panic once, you’re not likely to procrastinate again. (We hope!)

If you’re really out of commission for a good deal of time, the best thing is to reach out to your clients as soon as possible. It’s plausible that the client may be upset about pushing a deadline, but I promise you, it’s better than missing one entirely.

Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness can be tough. Working with one can be even tougher.

While it can be tricky at times, freelancing can be an excellent option for those living with a chronic illness. With a few adjustments, you can fruitfully work while still prioritizing your health.

Firstly, spacing out your client work can help you stay on track, even when you’re having a flare-up. If you have a project that will typically take you a week to complete, work it out with the client to have it due in two. That way, should you be sidelined, you still have plenty of time to complete the work. For weekly projects like blog posts, consider submitting two weeks worth of work bi-weekly and scheduling posts ahead of time.

Additionally, with more interruptions being a realistic occurrence, consider raising your rates. Due to your condition, you may have less time to market yourself like other writers. Making the most out of client work you have can help you stay afloat.

You may need to hustle a bit harder on your good days to stay ahead, but small changes like scheduling interruptions such as a flare-up and raising your rates, to your game plan can be a practical step in achieving freelancing success.

Family

One of the main reasons parents and caretakers alike opt for freelancing as a career is the flexibility it offer. However, that flexibility can both a blessing and a curse.

The key word in the phrase “work-from-home” is “work.” Juggling work and family responsibilities can be a tough ask, which is why it’s such a common schedule disruptor.

Whether you’re at a “traditional” job or a freelancer working from home, being called out to pick up a sick child from the nurse’s office or school vacations can wreak havoc on your schedule.

It takes a village.

For freelancers, that statement couldn’t be more accurate. Sometimes to get it all done, you’re going to need to call for reinforcements.

For our co-parenting freelancers, it’s important to remember that you have to treat your business as equal to one in a traditional setting. Setting boundaries is so important! Sure, the flexibility of our career allows us to move things around to accommodate our families better, but it’s important to share family responsibilities.

For example, if you have a child that needs to stay home sick from school, perhaps your partner can go into work a little late to help situate your day, allowing you to get some solid work in while still caring for your child.

If you don’t have a partner or family that can lend a hand, it’s time to look into hiring some help, even if just a few hours. You’d be surprised how much you can get done with a handful of distraction-free hours!

“Schools out for summer!”

Ah, school vacation, what every school-aged child looks forward to. Work-from-home parent? Not so much.

Luckily for you, most school breaks and holidays are scheduled a whole year in advance, so you have a chance to get the upper hand. You can adjust your schedule around the school vacations ahead of time.

You may consider activities to keep the kiddos busy, like sports or clubs. Why not look into day-programs often sponsored by organizations like schools, libraries, and churches? Many times you can find a lot of options at a low-cost.

For longer breaks like summer vacation, camp programs can be a fun (and meaningful) experience for your children, while allowing you to schedule some serious writing time. While some may be pricey, local organizations such as the YMCA and churches usually offer affordable options as well.

If programs are out of your price range, consider arranging a play date swap, where you switch off days with other parents.

Vacation

Butt in the sand, toes in the sea, and laptops unplugged! After all, we all could use a break sometimes.

Scheduling a vacation as a freelancer isn’t all too different from your 9-5 counterparts. It starts with good communication.

Making sure you convey your plans and availability to your clients should be your first move after booking a trip. Let them know you’ll be out of town (and possibly unreachable) between said dates and ask if there’s any projects or concerns you should attend to before your departure.

If you have outstanding work, be sure to submit it ahead of the deadline to allow time for re-writes or edits if need be.

Trust me; there’s no greater feeling than leaving for a trip knowing your business is sorted and under control.

Yourself

You read that right. Sometimes you are your biggest interruption.

Freelancers contend with burnout, rejection, and imposter syndrome on a near-daily basis. Working for yourself often means you work harder than most people you know. Taking time for self-care is vital if you’re looking to freelance for the long haul.

It can be easy to say “dust yourself off and try again” after losing a client or a tough rejection. The truth is, we’re human. Sometimes it rattles you. Dealing with feelings of rejection or failure can get you off track. You may find you’re hitting the writers’ block wall or generally feel uninspired. Whatever your reason, sometimes we get into a rut that completely halts our progress.

People that have clock-in, clock-out jobs have a bit of an advantage here. Many times, just the very physical act of arriving at a workplace in the morning and leaving at the end of the day signals your brain to “shut off” other things going on in your personal life.

When your office is your home, and your home is your office, the lines can become blurred.

If this is something you’re struggling with, consider alternatives like a co-working space or even a local coffee shop. Changing your physical surroundings can do wonders in helping change your mindset,

If self-doubt is plaguing you, feel your feelings and remember your why. Your “why” is the reason you started in the first place. If you’re not feeling up to par, try taking a course to boost your skills and confidence.

It may take a little time and a lot of self-love, but you can get through this too.

The long and short of it

OK eagle eyes, I’m sure by now you’ve caught a common theme. Plan, plan, plan. I can’t say it enough; planning is everything. Whether it be an illness, family emergency, or you’re stuck in a rut, having a plan is the best way you navigate those challenges successfully.

In addition to having plans in place, remembering to set (and enforce) boundaries is another ever-important aspect in dealing with interruptions.

Work-from-home freelancers tend to take on a lot of responsibilities, sometimes to the detriment of their business. Remembering to value your time and finding creative ways to be flexible while staying on task are just a few skills (of many) freelancers have to master.

Armed with specific plans and boundaries, you won’t be caught unaware, regardless of the interruption, and will be well on your way to freelancing success.

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