One of my goals for the summer was to land at least one new paid freelance writing gig and to start blogging for small businesses. I accomplished both of these goals and by mid-July and was running through my house singing DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.”

Then the school year started.

Cue the record scratch.

I now had to return to my full-time teaching job and balance all the lesson planning, lecture giving, and paper grading that it brings with these new writing responsibilities.

At first, I panicked. What have I done?! I yelled to the heavens.

After a day or so of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth I decided to put my big girl panties on and make a plan.

I put on Dua Lipa’s song “New Rules” and drafted a list of guidelines for my freelance writer life. I’m sharing them with you in case you need some new rules, too.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

That quote “I’d rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity” sounds cute and all until you literally can’t breathe because you’re having a stress-induced panic attack. Be realistic about how many stories you can handle each month and stick to that!

To determine how many stories you can do each month you need to break down your story production process into steps and figure out how much time you need for each step. My process includes researching, reporting, transcribing and outlining, writing, and editing. For the average reported piece, I can do one step per day which means I can do one reported piece per week.

Blog posts and personal essays take less time. In addition to one reported piece each week I can also write up to three blog posts for myself, one post for my new small business client, and still make time for my monthly B-Metro column.

I will adjust this, however, as needed. For example, if it’s a particularly busy time at work (such as research paper season) I won’t take on any freelance work other than my monthly column and I will cut my posts for my blog down to one per week.

Plan your process.

I usually do interviews for stories at 4 p.m. on weekdays after I get off work. I usually transcribe interviews in the mornings at 4 a.m. before I go to work, though I do some transcription in the evenings if necessary. I try to write and edit before work because I do my best writing first thing in the morning, but I will write in the evenings, too, if needed to meet a deadline.  I work on blog posts for clients on Sundays. The day and time for working on blog posts for myself varies but is always planned in advance. And that’s the key. You don’t need to necessarily follow my plan but you do need a plan.  

Related Reading: How to Develop a Writing Ritual

Live your life.

Sacrificing your social life for your writing life isn’t good for your mental health or even the health of your writing career. I get my best ideas for freelance stories and blog posts when I’m out having fun with friends or going for a run. When I’m scheduling my time to research, report, write, and edit, I also plan time to exercise and attend networking events.

And every Saturday is my day off. On Saturdays, I don’t do any work for school or freelance projects. I clean my house. I have brunch, go shopping, or get a massage. I spend time catching up on my favorite TV shows or I go to the movies or to a concert. I read a book or my favorite magazines.

You can write and have a life.


How do you balance freelance writing with your full-time job?