A Manual For Freelance Writers: Developing Your Management System

Management is not just for professional managers managing people in large corporations. The principles of planning, organising, controlling, and even strategising are just as important to apply to your own career as a freelance writer. But rather than simply taking a one size fits all approach, we believe it’s far better to adopt what is relevant, cost-effective, and most beneficial to you. As such, we’ve highlighted the key elements you should consider when developing your own management system.

Setting strategy

Strategy ultimately is about your broadest objectives and intentions. Those differ for everyone. Strategy is critical as a yardstick for all other decisions you make, because they will either take you closer to your ultimate goals, or not. An example strategy is “to develop a stable base of customers that will allow me to write full time at the same level of income”. But there is a huge range of others. Even “to keep active and have fun” could be a valid strategy.


Once you’ve set your overall intention, you can start planning. Planning lays out the more detailed steps of how to get where you’d like to go. Most people make the mistake, though, of planning only once. The reality is that things change, and plans are not perfect. It’s vital to revisit your plans continually to check progress, and adjust where necessary. Also, make your plans “S.M.A.R.T.”: Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.


When making plans, part of the exercise is to draw up your own “business rules”. If you’re keeping an eye on your cashflow, for example, you may have a rule “to issue invoices no more than three days after completing a job”. Controlling is all about putting the right measures in place to check that you’re following your rules, and scanning the environment for key changes, so that you can adjust your plans if necessary.


To keep on top of everything you need to do, it’s critical that you work in an organised fashion. Thousands of sticky notes around your workspace will lead to chaos, to mistakes, and to disappointed customers! Many people prefer to invest in software tools to help them keep on top of schedules, billing, customer contact details, work-in-progress, and so on. These can help, but be careful: If you can’t be organised with a simple notebook, you may need to revisit your own disciplines!