How to Set Your Writing Priorities

How to Set Your Writing Priorities

On how to set your writing priorities…

“I have all the time in the world and never worry about meeting my deadlines and personal goals!”

… said no writer ever.

Nope. In this world of schoolwork and bosses, raising kids and making lunches, getting to the gym and consistently failing to get to the gym, it’s increasingly hard to set your writing priorities.

While anyone can benefit from taking the time to learn to set your writing priorities, this post is primarily for people who want to turn writing into their day jobs. Whether you already write for a living and are wondering how to fit in more personal work, or haven’t yet made the jump to copywriting and would like to, here’s a quick look at how you can make more time to get things done.

Before we jump in, I just want to quickly note that the following list won’t necessarily be the best way for you to set your writing priorities. Depending on what you do for a living, how far into the game you are and your personal goals, the picture will likely differ somewhat. So take it with a grain of salt, and get going.

1. Do the Paid Stuff First

This is so obvious it basically needs no explanation. You need money. Work pays money. Do the work that pays money.

Equation complete.

If you don’t have paid stuff, as many of us do not when we’re starting out, do the stuff that will get you paid stuff. Whatever has the highest chance of leading to the greatest payoff soonest, do that.

2. Look at Clients and Overhead to Set Your Writing Priorities

Next up: Check out what’s happening with clients. What do they need, not only right now, but down the pipeline? How can you turn a briefly discussed potential follow-up project into real work for next week, for instance? Make that call, or send that email. If you’re not consistently filling your pipeline, it will dry up.

Don’t forget about overhead. This can catch up to you faster than you think. Whether it’s cleaning up your blog plugins, paying your bills, making estimated payments on your taxes (and yes, taxes are a crucial part of even small side hustles), you must keep up.

3. Next, Concentrate on Your Marketing

Again, full pipeline = successful business. Waning pipeline = bummer.

Marketing can take many forms. Personally, I am active on Pinterest (with the help of a VA), I blog consistently and I pitch clients. It works for me. Find your own system for what works for you, and don’t drop the ball.

4. Make a List of Personal Projects

Please notice that you are not even making a list of your pet projects until Step 4. Trust me on this. I’ve spent much of my writing career hopping from one project to the next, irrationally convinced that the next thing would make me massive amounts of money where the last 20 ideas hadn’t.

The truth is, Thing No. 1 was and is the only thing that has ever made me real money: Copywriting. Luckily, I love it and find it a huge source of creative satisfaction, not to mention financially and geographically liberating.

That said, my personal projects are really important to me. Not only blogging and book writing (which bring in clients and generate income, respectively), but also:

    • Illustration
    • Side guest posting about family, social justice, and local food
    • Freelance writing for publications

I don’t treat these as my main job, though, because they aren’t. They won’t bring home the bacon. Client work will, plain and simple. So I save this list for when/if I actually have time.

5. Set Aside at Least a Half Hour for Non-Paying Writing Projects Per Day

That said, I do make time for all of my non-copywriting pet projects. I’m pretty successful at it, too, usually managing to get in an hour of book writing, an hour of cooking, a few minutes to an hour of spec work and some blogging every day. When I have time – or when I am doing a book publication push – I’ll also spend about an hour or so on social media every day.

My secret is no secret: I don’t watch television. Boom.

That’s not entirely true, of course. I do watch about two movies a week. And I’ve definitely been known to binge-watch Gilmore Girls during that time of the month. However, on the average evening, I am working or reading, never watching television. (Side note: We don’t have a television. That helps.)

Also, to be frank, I save a lot of time by not having a commute and setting my own hours, capping them at 40 a week. Plus, I work mornings on weekends and spend family time in the afternoon/evening.

6. Reassess Continually

If you want to set your writing priorities and actually stick to them, you have to reassess all the time. The problem with a rigid approach is, when something doesn’t work, it will put you in a place of extreme frustration, which in turn leads to procrastination, which in turn leads to The Gruesome and Totally Preventable Death of All Your Dreams.

If something is causing you massive amounts of dread, preventing you from sitting down at your computer and getting started, it’s worth asking: Do I have to? Is this actually necessary to accomplish my dreams? Often, the many “shoulds” that accompany the creative life are actually unnecessary and damaging.

So don’t be afraid to reassess and reject.

Okay, so as I so frequently wrap up my blog posts, I want to end this one by urging you to find out more about copywriting. If you want to be a professional writer, copywriting is far and away the best way to achieve that goal. Need a little help? Totes McGoats, my friends. Go ahead and sign up below for access to the Free Resource Library, and you’ll be well on your way!

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