How do you organize your day?
As a freelance B2B copywriter, being able to use your limited time effectively is critically important. So, when a copywriter asked me how I organize my day, I thought my answer might be helpful for all of you too.
I organize my day around three principles:
#1. I want to be as productive as possible. I don’t want to be frantic — I prefer to work at a pleasant, enjoyable pace but I do want to be as productive as I can.
The reason is simple, I almost always set my fees by the project. So, the more productive I am, the more money I make. That’s just how the math works. Anything I can do to become a little more productive has an immediate payoff.
#2. I want to be able to serve my clients well. I want to be the gold standard for copywriting in the niche markets that I target. I want to serve those clients better than they’ve been served by any other copywriter.
I do that for a couple of reasons. Number one, there’s nothing more profitable than a happy client. They will give you repeat business and refer you to others who could potentially become happy clients themselves.
And also, frankly, I find it very satisfying when a client is happy and impressed with the services I provide. I love it when a client contacts me and says, “Steve, wow! This is great work. We’re so happy with this website copy. Thank you so much.” When a client tells me that, it just makes my day.
#3. I want to enjoy what I’m doing. I don’t want work on a project where I’m not enjoying the work.
For example, two or three times a week, I pack up my laptop, drive to a favorite coffee shop, and work there for two or three hours. Now, some people may look at that and say, “Steve, that’s not being very productive because you’ve got to pack up your stuff, drive there, grab your coffee, sit down, get settled, and start getting to work.”
Yeah, I know I lose a little bit of time. But you know what? I enjoy working in coffee shops, and it gives me a mental energy boost.
I recommend when you think about how best to organize your day that you come up with your own guiding principles. They may not be the same as mine. Although, I would highly suggest you have at least the first two: serving your clients well and being productive because those two things are the moneymakers. Then, add in your own personal guiding principles. And write them down, so you have them as you plan your workdays.
A Peek Into My Typical Workday
Now, let’s get down to exactly how I organize my day.
First of all, I’m a big believer in simplicity. I know some colleagues of mine who, when they plan their day, are very meticulous and detailed. I know someone who plans his day in 15-minute increments. He not only plans his day that way, but also his weeks, months, and the entire quarter very meticulously.
If you’re the type of person who thrives on a detailed plan like that and it’s motivating to you, by all means, do it.
It doesn’t work for me. I’m very improvisational. I like to have flexibility. I like to be creative in the moment, so I organize my day around those characteristics.
And, I’ve discovered you can create a nice, detailed plan on paper. But as soon as you start implementing it, things change and the day never goes precisely as you had planned.
So, I organize my day in a very simple way. Unless you’re a person that must plan every second of your day in order to feel prepared, I recommend you take a simple approach as well.
So, let me take you on a guided tour of how I organize my day.
First of all, I use a Day-Timer® paper-based system that gives me two pages per day. I don’t use an online app and I don’t use an online calendar for organizing my day. I prefer to use a paper-based system because I like to be able to see my entire day at a glance.
Now, you might be saying, “Steve, do I need to use a paper-based system?” No, that’s just what works for me. I’ve tried other systems, I’ve tried online apps. I’ve tried spreadsheets. But I’ve found using a paper-based system works best for me.
If you want to use an online application or time management software, by all means, do so. Use what works best for you.
Organize Your Day the Night Before
I create a rough plan of my day the evening before because I like getting up in the morning, grabbing my coffee, and sitting down at my desk, ready to go. It usually only takes about 20 minutes to plan the next day and it’s a nice way to wrap up the day.
The first thing I do for each day is block out time for client work projects because they take priority in my day.
So this morning, for example, I had a newsletter project to do for a client. I knew it was going to take about three hours, so I blocked out that three-hour block of time in my Day-Timer system.
One thing I recommend you do is to plan your client project work around your peak energy times during the day. For me, it’s the morning. I do my best writing first thing in the morning. So, any client writing projects I have going on will be scheduled for the morning.
That’s one of the advantages of being a freelancer — you have control over your schedule and when you work best. So take advantage of that flexibility to enjoy your work more and to maximize your productivity.
On my calendar, I also block out non-client projects or other commitments I have. I might have to call my accountant because it’s tax season. I may have to make some phone calls.
I also block out going to the gym every day. That’s not work related, but I put it in my calendar because it’s part of my philosophy of enjoying my day.
Don’t Forget Your Own Business
Now, here’s something I do every day that’s very, very important and I highly recommend you do this as well when you organize your day. Always schedule a minimum of an hour a day on business development.
Now, what is business development? It’s simply anything you need to do to grow your business. It could be updating your website, posting an article on your blog, or making some calls. You want to spend an hour a day on business development.
Someone, a mentor of mine many, many years ago, told me that if I spent an hour a day on business development every day, I would never have to worry about where my next client is coming from again. And for the last 20 years, that’s been true.
So, I recommend you do the same thing. Get in the habit of blocking out at least an hour a day on business development. And by the way, it doesn’t have to be limited to an hour. It can be more. If you’re just starting your copywriting business, your whole day might be business development.
Once your business gets going and you have regular clients, you can spend less time each day on business development, but always spend at least an hour.
I know copywriters who’ve been successful for years but they stopped doing any kind of business development, and suddenly, they lost a couple of clients and they were scrambling to replace them. You don’t want that to happen to you. Spend an hour a day on business development.
My To-Do List
In addition to my calendar, I also create a to-do list. And like my calendar, it’s not that detailed.
In fact, I’m looking at my to-do list right now and it’s simply a list of five words. I have “invoices” because I need to do some invoicing. There’s “podcast” because I’m recording a podcast today. And “Martin,” who is a client I need to talk to today.
I’m not saying you have to only put one word per task, but do keep it simple, so you’re not facing this arduous, long, intimidating to-do list every day. Just jot down the things that must get done that day and make sure they all get done.
My Daily Reality Check
There’s one more thing I want to tell you about. It’s is something I’ve been doing for a while now and it’s been really motivating and helpful to my business.
At the end of every day, I write down how much money I’ve made. If I finish half a project and that project is worth $1,500, then I’ll write down $750. Sometimes the estimate is rough, but I always put down my best guess.
Calculating what you’ve made each day has a number of benefits. First of all, it reminds you that you need to make money. This is a business. You need to make money.
If you go through a whole day and you haven’t made any money, writing that $0 makes you much more focused on making money the next day.
Also, it’s a reality check when you write down how much money you make every day. You may find that you’ve worked and slaved on this project for three days, and you realize you’re only making $100 a day on it.
It’s a reality check of how much money you’re making per project and that’s very important.
You can even make a game out of it. Whatever you made today, try and beat it the next day. Or set goals to reach a certain amount per day by a specific date. Challenge yourself!
So, that gives you some insights into how I organize my day. It’s pretty simple. It only takes about 20 minutes to do all the tracking and recording that I just told you about. But it works for me and it’s very, very effective.
So, what I recommend is that you try it yourself. The most important thing is that you do need to organize your day. If you don’t, then you risk being unproductive and missing out on your success.
Find out what works for you and stick with it. You can use my strategies, or create your own.
Let everyone know what works for you in the comments below!