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Because we have a lot of folks here who want to make a living as a writer, I thought I'd share some insights into the real-world day-to-day of a successful writer.
I've been blessed with a very lucrative writing practice (I'm a freelance marketing copywriter, consultant, and digital information product creator).
My way of doing things is not the only way, of course. It's just one way!
I receive many questions about how I work, how I manage my time, and what my “systems” are for working as a writer and consultant.
First, this caveat: There are some significant changes now that we are operating in the “new economy”.
What’s different about the “new economy”? A few key points for freelancers and entrepreneurs – these must be understood and internalized:
The bubble has burst. Easy credit is gone. Houses of cards in the banking industry have come tumbling down. People have lost their jobs, their houses, their credit cards. The spending habits and market behaviors of almost all people have irrevocably changed, altered forever by the economic shift that took place recently. And if you’re waiting for things to get “back to normal”, this is your wake-up call… it’s never going back. This is the new normal. Get used to it. Adapt.
Competition is at an all time high. And thanks to Google it is easier than ever before to find all your competitors in a few seconds.
Nobody needs anything. In the Western World, even though we have experienced an economic shake up, we still have everything we need already. Yes, I know some people are in need and I am not ignoring them nor minimizing their needs – but I am also acknowledging that for most people, their needs are over-supplied. Do you have a roof over your head, clean water, and at least one meal per day? Then you are better off than most of the people in the world. To see how good you have it, check out how wealthy you rank in the world by clicking here.
What does all this mean? It’s time to review and evaluate how you do everything you do within your business or practice. Does it measure up? Is it effective? Does it produce profit? Is it the best possible use of your time?
That’s what I’m doing here – reviewing my current systems an findings. Hopefully it’s helpful.
I offer the following with this caveat: I’m still workin’ on it, and I don’t always follow the system perfectly. But each time I fall “off the wagon”, I get up, dust off my britches, and climb back on. So far it’s worked pretty well.
A “day in the life of Ray” is a busy one. Here are current projects I’m working on:
1. Private Client Copy Project. This was a big project, comprising 3 full video salesletters, email campaigns, affiliate email copy, and text versions of the sales videos. This project was a beast in terms of time invested, but it was fun. And it paid well.
2. Private Consulting Client. This relationship translates to regular phone meetings, a small in-house launch every quarter or so, and reams of copy generated for upsells, ridealongs, retention, phone scripts, etc. This is a retainer + revenue deal, just like all my deals these days.
3. Private Retainer Client. This client retains me strictly for two sales letters per month, for different products each month; again, I have a piece of revenue.
4. Private Client in the business opportunity market; this is only the third time I have been ripped off by a client. I collected the fee and wrote the initial copy. My client has, so far, stiffed me for 6 12+ months worth of royalties. I did have some misgivings about this project in the beginning but suppressed them and took the job anyway. Lesson learned: trust my inner promptings. Just a note to my client, V. If you’re reading this, just know that if you want to make it right, send me the check for what you owe me and all will be forgiven. And if you simply can’t pay for some reason… at least answer my messages and let me know what’s going on. Maybe I can help.
5. Writing Riches Member Site. This is a “coaching club” I run for those who cannot necessarily afford to hire me but who want to learn from my work, get me input, and receive training from me each month.
7. Three books in progress. One is a business book (first draft completed),
one is a book for Christ-followers on the importance and power of forgiveness (first draft about 75% complete) (this book is being folded into the next one), and one is a book about achieving true, lasting success, called Taking Back Tomorrow.
8. Two monthly newsletters. I write one for my clients, and one for paying subscribers.
9. Workshops. I am doing small, high-priced workshops and they are going very well. For instance, next month I am having a Mastermind meeting with 12 people, each of whom is paying $1,000 for this one-day event. We have 30 days til the event, and have sold 8 of the 12 seats.
10. Copywriting Protege Program. My students write for clients who either (a) can’t get on my schedule soon enough or (b) can’t afford my fees. My team writes your copy, I critique the drafts for re-writes, and then I approve the final work that is delivered to you. This means we can deliver affordable copy that still receives my “touch”.
How is it I’m able to juggle so many priorities and projects? Through careful conscious choice, and good systems.
And quite frankly: it’s a work in progress.
In order to deliver the very best work to my clients and partners, and to still leave room in my schedule for rejuvenation (sleep, family time, time with God, and time to just plain relax)… I have to guard my time vigorously. And I have to be on guard against what Dan Kennedy calls “Time Vampires”. Some tactics that work for me in my current system:
My Morning Success Ritual is vital to my most productive days. While I don’t manage to get this in every day, I’m getting better at it. My goal between now and the New Year is to achieve 95%+ compliance with this ritual every day.
The MSR is summed up by the acronym WWW B PREP, which stands for:
The days when I follow this MSR, starting the minute my feet hit the floor out of bed, are invariably my best days (most productive, most joyous, most satisfying). Probably because the most important things were done first – and when I’m still in the “NDZ”: No Distraction Zone (meaning no email, no voicemail, no phone calls, etc.)
The first thing I *must* do each day, after my MSR is complete (and after I have showered, driven to the office, etc.) is WRITING. I am primarily a writer. So this is my #1 Revenue Producing Activity (RPA). At this point my phone is off, I have still not checked email, not checked voicemail, etc. Still in the NDZ. I write for a large block of time at the beginning of the day — often 4 hours. NOTHING gets to interrupt the writing — including (and even especially) the clients for whom I may be writing.
My auto-check feature in Apple Mail is turned OFF. I only get email when I press the “Check Mail” button. I check it
twice once per day, Monday thru Thursday Tuesday thru Friday. Usually around 11am Pacific and 4pm Pacific. This is one of my policies that tends to be unpopular with those who are “urgency addicts”, and who want me to have a constant email discussion about minutia with them. I refuse to sacrifice my highest valued commodity (time) for the sake of what usually amounts to trivia. I suggest you adopt the same policy.
Any meeting that lasts longer than 15 minutes is probably too long. Not always, but most of the time. Any project that requires multiple meetings each week is probably in trouble. Long meetings = inefficiency at best, and postponement of the inevitable at worst. (As a sidebar: frequent short meetings are just a disguised way of having long meetings. HEAR ME: if you have “meeting-itis”, either you just want an excuse to talk about work instead of doing it, or something is wrong with the project … something another meeting won’t solve).
Phone Meetings / Conversations
Same as meetings, only worse. Conversations and phone meetings should be 15 minutes or less. Anything longer and you’re probably wasting time for at least some people in the group.
Just say no. The only time I use it is when I have SCHEDULED events on Skype (usually interviews). Also, I occasionally chat with family or friends — but again, this is SCHEDULED. I am NEVER “just available” to be interrupted. (If I was, that would mean that I was either doing something unimportant, or that I was doing NOTHING. If I’m doing something unimportant… WHY? And if I’m doing NOTHING, it’s a PLANNED nothing and it’s important that this not be interrupted!).
Yes, I have an office outside my home. I lease currently.
I’m considering buying an office building. I keep regular business hours most of the time: Mon – Thurs, Tuesday – Friday, 8am – 5pm Pacific.
Interruptions cost you dearly.
As a writer, I know that allowing myself to be interrupted by a client or vendor (“Hey Ray – got a minute to talk about the new logo?”) can seem harmless… but it isn’t. That interruption costs me (a) the state of “flow” I was in while working, maybe impossible to recover, (b) the time of the interruption itself, and (c) the time it takes me to get back into the “zone” with what I was working on… minimum 20 minutes, maybe longer.
I can’t afford to let that happen. Especially not in the “New Economy”.
My clients and customers can’t afford for me to let that happen.
I once had a client who loved to call me at 11pm at night and talk for two hours. I tried to tell him I worked set hours and was available at those times, but he didn’t seem to understand. When our first project was finished, I fired him. His dysfunction did not automatically become my problem. Be warned – people will WASTE your time if you let them. Will you let them? be polite, be loving… but don’t be a victim.
In the end, if you guard your time, you are being most respectful of other people. Think about it: if you allow yourself to be interrupted, or your time wasted when you should have been doing something else… who suffers? Your clients. Your customers. Your family (“Sorry honey, I have to stay late because I wasted 2 hours today listening to the web team make excuses…”).
You’re not serving anyone by being a poor steward of your time.
I’m currently going through a re-vamping, refining, and re-evaluating phase and I thought it might be useful to you if I shared some ideas I’m trying out. While I’m sold on the stuff I mentioned previously, I’m telling you right now these next items are EXPERIMENTAL. If they prove successful, I’ll have more to say here in the future about them.
Three-Sentence Emails. If you receive a lot of email, you know what it’s like to feel overloaded by it. This is a personal policy that all email responses regardless of recipient or subject will be three sentences or less. Read more at http://three.sentenc.es/
This practice, I have abandoned. I also am not using the ubquitous “I’m so busy I can’t answer your email for at least 2 days” autoresponders. I have come to view these as slightly (at best) obnoxious. I still only check email once per day, and even though I have abandoned the “email policy” signature and autoresponder, I don’t get any complaints.
2. Fifteen Minute Meetings.
Just like the above, only not quite so regimented. *Most* meetings will be 15 minutes or less. That’s my default meeting length. If it needs to be longer, we can negotiate in 15 minute blocks. If it needs to be longer than 45 minutes, we better be working on something like the Middle East Peace Talks.
3. Free Days.
I used to cheat on this. I’m sorry to admit it. But no more. I “fell of the wagon” on this one again. Embarrassing. But, as it says in the Book of Proverbs, “though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again”. So here’s the practice I’m aiming for… a “free day” is one in which there is NO business activity of any kind: no emails, no blogs, no IMs, no phone calls, no reading articles, no business books… NOTHING. Right now, I have at least one scheduled FREE DAY per week (Sundays). The purpose is to allow for real refreshing, rejuvenation, and creativity to arise. My goal is to eventually reach 3 FREE DAYS per week. This does not mean that I’ll be spending 3 days a week doing NOTHING… these days will be filled with family time, spiritual and charitable pursuits, and yes, even recreation. For more on this, see Dan Sullivan’s “The Time Breakthrough”.
This was a long post – I hope it was useful to you. If you have questions or want to add some ideas of your own, please let me know!