What I’ve Learned as a Freelance Writer After 13 Years and One Pandemic
Two years ago, I wrote this article about what I’ve learned after 11 years as a freelance writer. Of course, that was written PC (Pre-COVID) and I know I’ve learned a lot more in the 10 months since COVID reared its ugly head in March of 2020.
I’m not going to lie; it hasn’t always been a walk in the park. But I feel blessed knowing that it could have been a whole lot worse. My husband can work from home and has been doing so since March, and both of our kids are doing distance learning remarkably well, despite the many challenges.
As for me, I had to adapt, too. I had worked from home before COVID, so having the entire family join me and Astro (our dog) did take some getting used to. When I look back over the past 10 months, I see areas of growth and areas for improvement, so without further ado, here are 9 additional lessons I’ve learned as a freelance writer DC (During COVID).
1. Be open to new experiences
I remember the date March 16, 2020, very well. It was a Monday, and as I opened my email, the first two in my inbox were from my two biggest clients, and each had a similar subject line: STOP WORK ON ALL PROJECTS
The reality of the coronavirus had finally set in. Professional sports had canceled games. Schools began to close, and states went into lockdown mode. Many businesses didn’t know what was what and what to do. So many stopped their marketing.
As a freelancer, it was sucky and scary. But a few days later, I got an email from someone who was referred to me asking me if I’d be interested in doing a type of copywriting that I hadn’t done before. Even though it wasn’t my bailiwick, I expressed interest and took the work. And 10 months later, I’m still doing it. Had I said no, my capacity would have been a lot more open and my income a lot less.
2. Be flexible
The ability to be flexible won’t just help you in your business; it will also help you in life. Since March, I’ve had my space and time invaded by family members who are all forced to stay home to work and school. Sure, it cuts into my productivity, but there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it, so why not embrace it and be flexible? There’s no alternative.
3. Be selfish with your time
Staying with the point above, while it’s important to be flexible, I learned I also need to be strict with my time management, which can be a challenge for me. Still, I’ve found that my time for productivity has shrunk with my entire family home. Gone are the days when my kids and husband left for school and work, leaving Astro and me with an empty house for hours. And since the kids are doing school from home, I tend to check in on them frequently, and they tend to come to me with questions just as frequently.
That said, I know when I’m the most productive (mornings), so once the kids have eaten breakfast, I devote a good three hours in the morning to kiss the frog and do what I need to get done. I try not to schedule any meetings during that time and try to stay as focused as possible because I know my attention span and productivity level begin to sink in the afternoon.
4. Be present for those who need you
Although it sucks, there are some positives from the pandemic. One for me is that our family is spending a shitload of time together, which I love. With two teenagers in the house, I know my time with them is precious and fleeting. They are growing up fast, and before I know it, they’ll be applying for college and leaving the nest (sniff, sniff). So despite what I just said above about being selfish with my time, I’m also extremely cognizant of being present for my family when they need me. It’s a work in progress at times, but I’m trying. It’s also a delicate balancing act.
5. Reach out to at least one person a day
At the beginning of the pandemic, I made a point of checking in with at least one person I knew every day. As the weeks went on, I admit this practice dwindled. But now, it’s back. Every day, I email, text, or direct message at least one person in my network who I haven’t talked to or seen in a while. There is no ulterior motive other than to check in, say hi, and see how they are doing. It’s a great way to reconnect with those who’ve fallen off your radar, and it’s a really nice way to make someone’s day.
6. Establish routines
I’ve always been a fan of routines, but now even more so now. I start each morning the same, including working out, writing in my gratitude journal, and planning my day. I also take some time in the morning to read the newspaper (yes, it’s still delivered to our house) and do the crossword.
I haven’t abandoned Astro’s routine, either. In the pre-COVID days, I took him on a walk every day after lunch (assuming I was home). Those walks continue with the bonus of my husband joining us (and kids, too, sometimes!).
7. Get up and stretch
Super important. Do it many times throughout the day. Your body and mind will thank you.
8. Get dressed every day
Back in March and April, when the pandemic forced so many people to work from home for the first time, there were plenty of jokes and memes about people working in yoga pants, PJs, or no clothes at all. And, as funny as that may be, I think it’s important to get dressed for your day, every day you’re working. I’m not saying you need to wear trousers and a sweater, but I am saying you need to change into something other than what you slept in.
9. Continue to build your network
I remember the early days of the pandemic. Everyone rushed to LinkedIn to air their views, ask for help, and network. Being an avid LinkedIn user for years, this rush to the platform seemed really chaotic to me. Suddenly, everyone wanted to network and share their views.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Networking is a great habit to get into, and I strongly encourage it, as long as it’s done effectively and with authenticity. I’ve met some excellent people I am happy to say are part of my network. It’s critical to keep meeting, keep connecting and keep working to enhance the professional relationships you already and those you are just cultivating.
I’m sure there are plenty more I’ll stop here and invite you to add what you’ve learned, either as a result of the pandemic or perhaps in spite of it. Drop your thoughts in the comments!
Wendy Jacobson is a freelance content writer living and working in Minneapolis, MN. You can learn more about her on her website, incrediblecontent.net.