It’s a new year. That’s a good time to look back and look forward to learn from the past and improve your performance.
This year will be my second in full-time self employment. Last year involved a huge amount of learning as I got the hang of working by myself for myself most of the time. I managed to get and keep a regular contract client but I still needed to keep finding other clients and ensuring that I make the most of my available time. I spent some of the quiet time over Christmas and New Years thinking abut 2011 and what I could do to build on the success.
It’s easy to look back and only think about all the things I didn’t do well. However, I think that it’s easy to look at the negatives and create a list of things to do and improve upon that’s too long to do and that distracts you from your main business. this year, I’m going to focus on two things and two things only.
Managing my time remains my biggest challenge. While there’s an emphasis on the “free” in freelance I need to work harder at creating and maintaining good work habits. That means making better use of my time.
I have a whiteboard on the wall in my office that I use for jotting down notes and reminders. This year, I’m going to draw a five day plan on the board and divide each day into three slots and allocate a specific activity to each slot.
The idea isn’t to totally regiment all my time but to provide some structure. One of my weaknesses is that I can be easily distracted. By creating a regular schedule I can make sure that I make the most of my office time.
Improving my Craft
My main task is writing. I believe (and am told) that I write well but that’s not an excuse to rest on my laurels.
In order to improve my writing I need to do two things more than I have been recently. I need to spend more time reading and more time writing. This ties in nicely with my time management objective as I’ll be setting aside part of my week to write in different styles.
Like all journalists, I’m a slightly frustrated novelist so I’ll put some focus on writing fiction. I don’t know if I’m any good at it but I have some good critics at home and I’m sure they’ll provide honest feedback. My plan is to put at least one three hour block aside each week to write some fiction.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading more than I have in some time. I’ll continue that, endeavoring to read outside my comfort zone. That’s always being a challenge for me as I know what I like.
So, what are you going to do to makem2012 evenbetter than 2011?
Be Ready When Someone Asks, “What Do You Do?” [Freelance Switch] – Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people what it is you really do. Many people hear the word ‘freelancer’ and don’t quite understand what it means, other than you probably work from home in your pajamas.
12 Must-Read Freelancing Predictions for 2012 [Freelance Folder] – Don’t you wish you could see into the future of freelancing? If you could, you’d know what freelancing trends are coming up and what niches to concentrate on. You’d be ahead of the game on social media too.
And, just to finish things off, here are a few of the stories I’ve had published recently.
Hitting deadlines can be challenging when the client doesn’t help.
Some clients expect you to be able hit short deadlines even though they delay sending you important information and are clearly out of their depth when it comes to managing time and organising a project. But time wasting clients cost you money.
Many freelancers complain about the global economy and new media. Guest writer Keeta Nova provides some guidance through the maze.
New media offers new opportunities for journalists and freelance writers. Technology has changed the world, and allows us to think and communicate in different ways. For journalists, this means keeping up with new communication methods and, without compromising your professional integrity, adapting to new and spontaneous media forms, like blogging and social media.
Traditional print media has a history of protocols and expectations that ensures the communication of quality and reliable information, and journalists can easily sink into comfortable patterns that have been proven with time. New media and the Internet can often be overwhelming to established journalists, as it requires them to adapt and forgive some of those well respected practises they took so long to develop.
But new doesn’t mean poor quality. New doesn’t mean transient, and it certainly doesn’t mean a lowering of professional standards or respect. Sure there are countless websites filled with irrelevant dribble, some just to stand attractive to search engines, and some only holding a vague resemblance to the English language. But as a journalist or professional writer, you don’t need to join them. Hold your own standards high, because there are plenty of online outlets who will take you on, and give you opportunities to explore your areas of specialty in new and innovative ways – without sacrificing the quality of your work.
Radio is a time-proven traditional media format that promotes intimate communication, and podcasts take on the same objectives. The only difference is that they are broadcast on the Internet and can target niche audiences. If you have recently worked on a project through traditional media, transfer the same message into audio format. Minimal technical equipment is required, and using basic research skills you can find a podcast publisher that attains both high levels of traffic and a reputation for quality broadcasts.
The debate over a blogger being a journalist won’t die out soon, however what do you call a journalist who blogs? Does a journalist instantly lose their integrity when they publish online and explore the issues that interest them both personally and professionally?
Thousands of high-profile journalists around the world keep their own blogs for a variety of reasons, including self-expression, a break from constrictive corporate rules, or simply to get down and dirty with the raw issues that are of importance to them.
While professional blogging certainly doesn’t pay the high rates of printed media, it often won’t take you as long. You can also keep your own blog and use this as a networking tool to interact with other professionals, and score new and diverse projects online.
Corporate work allows for journalists to transfer their skills into the production of annual reports, internal magazines for clients and colleagues, online web systems and innovative promotional products.
Corporate doesn’t always mean big, ugly and corrupt. You can also check out charities you are passionate about, the publications they produce in print and online, and also work with other professionals in creative areas like graphic design, film and animation.
Small and boutique creative studios are producing impressive and alternative products like wall calendars, coffee table books, and information wall art. These jobs probably weren’t around 40 years ago, but they certainly are now. They just aren’t advertised. You need to open your mind, talk to people outside your industry and work out ways to integrate and expose your skills.
People are still learning how to use social media. There are plenty of public mistakes, and plenty of anti-social profiles that seem to forget the essence of social media, is actually interacting. As a freelancer, you can make your own rules, but just don’t forget the basic factors of communication and publishing. Know your audience, write for them, check your facts and invite a response.
If you are an established journalist you will naturally attract enthusiastic followers who will be eager for some insight and entertainment. Just take some time to work out your own objectives, and what you’d like to achieve through social media. You have the power, because this time you are the publisher, and your publications are instant.
Get creative. Think ahead.
Ultimately, a journalist is responsible for the accurate and timely communication of news, facts and relevant information. Keep these objectives in mind, but also open your mind, to consider the emerging platforms available to your profession.
There’s great advice for freelancers in lots of places. Here are a few of the favourite posts I’ve found in my reading this week.
One of the things I’ve not been very good at in the year since I started this blog has been linking to all of the great advice I’ve picked up through reading from a wide variety of experts. So, every week or so, I’ll be posting links to some the articles I’ve found most valuable.