If you’re like me, you have about four accessible calendars on your desk and each is filled with your handwriting. You have one calendar for submissions, another for meetings and engagements. You might have one for scheduled tasks or a planner which you use to keep everything together. Whatever the case, a freelance writer’s life is rarely structured and time can become an issue. That is why I’ve implemented a note card system to simplify my freelance writing career.
I chose note cards for two reasons: (1) They’re small and manageable; and (2) If I write something incorrectly or if I need to make a change, I can simply throw the note card in the trash and grab a new one. No messy white-out, no problems.
If you’re looking for a way to simplify your freelance writing career, you might want to adopt this system or customize it to fit your needs. Every writer works a little bit differently and we all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies. The most important thing is finding an organizational system that suits your needs.
First, you’ll need a small note card filing box, which can be found at most office supply stores. They also carry them at Wal-Mart, Target and Sam’s for $4 or $5. You can choose a color that you really like and you can also decorate your box however you want – it’s just for you.
Next, purchase a package of note cards that will fit in the note card filing box you selected. My favorites are the 3.5 X 5-inch note cards, but any size will work just fine. In order to simplify your freelance writing career further, you might also want to buy monthly fillers with tabs. They come with different colors for each month or in one solid color, whichever you prefer. You can also make your own tabs if you’re on a budget.
Since my eyesight isn’t all that great, I also purchased a fine-tipped Sharpie pen with which to write on my note cards. Sometimes, blue or black ballpoint pens don’t show up very well and you’ll have to look closely at each one to see what it says.
Now it’s time to simplify your freelance writing career, just like I promised.
Put 10-15 note cards in each section of your note card box, behind the monthly fillers. The number of note cards you use depends on the complexity of your freelance writing career; if you have lots of projects on your plate, you might want to have more cards.
On each card, you’ll write certain tasks that must be completed. Some tasks will be things that you do every day – such as checking your e-mail or filing paperwork – while others will be more specific, one-time-only tasks, such as sending a query letter or mailing a manuscript. The daily, weekly or monthly tasks that you must complete on a regular basis can be doubled-up (more than one task on a card) while the one-time tasks should each have their own card.
Once you’ve written down all of the tasks you can think of, file them according to the time in which they have to be completed. Tasks that are done every day should be filed under the current month while one-time tasks should go behind the appropriate monthly filler. If you find yourself overloaded, you can further separate each month into specific weeks, but I haven’t gotten to that point, yet.
This will simplify your freelance writing career because you won’t need to look at fifteen calendars to assess the day’s tasks; instead, you can simply go to your file box and look at each of the note cards that apply.
Daily, Weekly & Monthly Tasks
For those cards that contain tasks which must be done on a regular basis, you’ll want to move them to the next applicable time period once they’re completed. For example, let’s say it’s February and one of your monthly tasks is writing a newsletter for a client. Once you have completed February’s newsletter, you’d move that note card to March rather than discarding it. This way, you always know that your regularly scheduled tasks will get completed on time.
Those tasks which need only be done once should not be left in the file once they are completed. When you finish the task, simply discard the note card and you’re finished!
This note card system won’t work for every freelance writer, but if you think it would help you organize your day, let it work for you.