As a freelance writer, I know that keeping up a consistent writing output is a key factor in my career.
The nature of freelancing makes it very tempting to slack off some days, though I may feel extremely motivated during others.
Over the years, I’ve come up with a tried-and-tested schedule that I stick to pretty much every week. This schedule has not only helped me stay motivated more consistently but has also had the welcomed effect of helping me write 25,000 words each month… and sometimes more.
And, whether you’re a freelancer like me or a full-time copywriter for a company, there are obvious benefits to being able to keep up that kind of output each month.
The benefits of sticking to a writing schedule
Firstly, as I’ve already stated, this schedule helped me stay motivated more consistently, probably because I was no longer writing on a binge-purge cycle. I wasn’t using tons of energy some days and zero energy other days. Instead, my creative energy was evenly distributed throughout the entire month.
Secondly, this schedule did something amazing for me — it allowed me to take weekends off! Because I was forcing myself to be more productive every weekday, I now use every weekend to relax and recharge for the next week. No brainstorming, no outlining and no writing. That’s weekday work.
And, lastly, this schedule helped me do something I should have done long ago: calculate my writing output each month. It’s pretty hard to measure your success as a freelance writer when you don’t get things like performance reviews or annual goals. If you work as a corporate writer, you probably do get those things, and this schedule will go hand-in-hand with those.
From the freelance side of things, sure, you could measure your success by the kinds of sites and publications you add to your portfolio. But it’s hard to figure out if you’re improving in any way over time.
When I started using this schedule and tracking my writing output, I was writing about 20,000 words each month. When I wanted to take on even more writing projects, I tweaked my schedule to help me hit 25,000 words. Because I now have data to verify that I’ve met this goal, I feel a lot more confident that I’m moving in the right direction as a writer.
Now, say you work as a corporate writer. Maybe you write website copy or do content creation for a company blog. Sticking to a schedule like the one I’m going to describe below has just as many, if not more, benefits to you. Why? Because when you work for a company, someone’s usually measuring your performance.
Your boss doesn’t want to pay you if you’re not doing your job, so you probably have meetings and performance reviews to discuss your progress or potential for improvement.
Do you know what would be awesome? Being able to step into those kinds of meetings and say, “Here’s how much I wrote last month, and here’s how much I wrote this month.” You can show how you maintained your schedule, improved your output, or even how other projects and hold-ups negatively affected you.
Having the data to back those claims up and a schedule to hold you accountable can make a big difference to higher-ups.
Ready to give it a try? Keep reading to learn the specific things I do each day to drive my writing career forward, along with some tips that help me stick to the schedule. Here’s my weekly writing schedule:
Monday: Write two 500-word articles & pitch new ideas to publications
To start the week on a strong note, I write two articles at 500 words each. Usually, they end up being more in the 600 to 700-word range if my research and ideas are really flowing. The topics for these pieces have generally already been established with my editors during the previous week, so all I have to do is review the story concepts we discussed and get to it.
As far as pitching goes, I have a goal of spending at least three hours every Monday finding or interacting with new publications. That means I’m either researching new places to pitch, tracking down editors’ contact info or digging through submission guidelines. Once I find new websites or other publications to pitch, I send off some emails and maybe some preliminary story concepts, depending on the publication.
I break the time I spend pitching into three 60-minute blocks. I’ve found that length of time is enough to allow me to perform a super-thorough research process and not rush through a submission.
Tuesday: Write one 1,000-2,000-word article & make edits to articles that need them
As you can see, the second day of my week sees me either matching or doubling my output from the previous day.
Initially, that might seem a bit overwhelming but, if you’re like me, you’ll find it’s not much of a change, especially once you’re writing about a topic that matters to you.
Sometimes, though, you’ll probably find it hard to get in the zone. If the words just aren’t flowing, give yourself permission to take a break and work on some smaller projects, instead.
When the situation calls for it, I spread longer pieces over a couple days (or sometimes weeks, depending on the story length). Remember, we are writers, not machines.
The one thing I make sure I never do though is to stop writing altogether when I become frustrated as my output grinds to a halt. Usually, it’s enough for me to step away from one intensive project and get involved in one that’s not quite so demanding. That simple, but the effective technique seems to make me feel refreshed, recharged and ready to write.
After I’ve done some writing for the day, I split any editing tasks into six 30-minute segments. The only exception I make is potentially spending more time editing one piece if it’s clear that devoting only a half-hour to it at a time would break my concentration. This allows me to make any revisions editors have suggested and get those pieces sent back out for publication.
Wednesday: Repeat Monday’s schedule
On Wednesday, I adhere to my Monday schedule again. My experiences alternating between shorter pieces and longer ones challenges my brain without making me feel swamped. Plus, taking the same, general steps on Monday and Wednesday really solidifies the feeling of having a routine. Many famous writers have adhered to schedules or do repetitive tasks and find it works well for them.
I also like my Monday/Wednesday routine because it makes me prove to myself that I can always alternate shorter and longer pieces back to back.
Thursday: repeat Tuesday’s schedule
By this point of the week, I’m usually at least slightly tired of writing. Out of all the days of the week, Thursday is one of the hardest for me to jump in and get started on my projects for the day.
I find it helps to think about writing as a kind of mental exercise, even if the topic isn’t especially original. Medical professionals find that writing activates multiple areas of the brain, so even if you’re just writing about your company’s latest PR campaign, you’re still doing something good for yourself.
Friday: Write one 500-word article & one 1,000-word article
Think of Fridays as a combination of the other alternating short and long article days. By writing one of each, I walk away from the end of the week feeling like there was some variety to my day, even if I did only write two new stories.
Since it’s the end of the week, I also like to spend half an hour to an hour just getting my thoughts and projects in order for the week ahead. Then it’s time to shut down my computer and get on with the weekend!
So, in case you weren’t counting, here is my writing output using this schedule:
Total words written per week: 7,500 Total words per month: 25,000-30,000
If you follow a similar schedule, you should be able to write a minimum of 25,000 words each month. However, you could easily hit 30,000, especially by sharpening your research process, becoming a more careful editor and being even more dedicated to keeping your motivation levels high.
I’m curious to know if my schedule works as well for you as it does for me. Give it a try and tell me what you think!
I’ve even created an easy-to-use Google Calendar to guide you. You can access it here.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.