For new folks just tuning in, this is the second part of a longer advice piece on moonlighting as a freelance game journalist. You can scope out the first installment here.
When you’re working a full-time job and squeezing in freelance assignments on the side, deadlines can be a real bitch. They’re a necessary headache for any freelancer, since they help you stay on track and get things accomplished in a timely manner. But boy do we curse them to the four winds whenever they rear their ugly, plague-ridden heads. Moonlighters have it twice as rough when it comes to deadlines too. You can’t miss them, and it’s not always feasible to drop what you’re doing during the regular work day to wrap-up assignments – yet the editorial deities must be appeased.
Finding the time to get work done even when you don’t have a minute to spare is the hallmark of a good freelancer. We’re wizards like that. We have to be, because Editors hate *hate* HATE it when their writers turn in late work. They froth at the mouth, light things on fire, and emit laser beams from their eye sockets. Or worse: they stop giving you work. Sure, some editors are flexible folks that are willing to bump back a deadline if more time is needed – there are always extenuating circumstances. However, even the kindest, most understanding editors have a limit to their generosity. If turning in late assignments becomes a reoccurring problem, you’ll have a bigger issue to contend with: editors won’t hesitate to pass along work to other writers who don’t have a problem hitting the target.
To make sure you nail your deadlines every time, start by examining your writing habits to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Take a close look at your writing routine. Do you like to sit down and plow through an assignment in a single sitting? Do you chip away at a piece gradually over a few sessions? Perhaps you tend to hold off until the day before something is due before churning it out? Determine which of your writing habits help you get the work done efficiently and stick with them. You’re striving for high productivity and quality writing, so it’s also good to identify and acknowledge your bad writing habits in order to avoid them.
Setting your own internal deadlines is a great way to stay ahead of the game. If you have a piece due in a week, pick a date several days ahead of the real “hard” deadline and have your assignment finished by then. Planning ahead and tackling assignments early gives you extra time to polish your work and some wiggle room in the event of unexpected bottlenecks. While this handy trick is useful for moonlighters who have limited free time to write, it’s also a good practice for full-time freelancers, since implementing a structured work schedule makes it a lot easier to be productive. Having a buffer will save your ass too.
When you write about games for a living, it’s all too easy to put actual writing work off for another day in order to dive into that hot pre-release build that arrived on your doorstep. Procrastination is your enemy. Even if it’s for an assignment, save gaming for non-writing work hours whenever possible. This may be less of an issue when you’re a full-time freelancer with more room in your day to play around with, but it’s crucial for part-timers with a day job to maximize their available writing time any at chance they can get. Bottom line: get rolling on work early whenever possible, and give yourself some “oh shit” room in case things get wonky.
Nothing ramps up the stress like being busy to begin with and then throwing more stuff to do on the pile. It’s a constant concern for moonlighters juggling part-time freelancing with full-time work. You’re always scoping out more gigs in hopes of beefing up your freelancing resume, but you also have to wrap-up pending assignments with a reasonable turnaround time. And that’s on top of your regular daytime workload. Don’t take on more writing work than you can handle all at once. While it’s hard to turn down assignments – particularly since editors like freelancers who say “yes” a lot – it’s best to make sure you’re not drowning yourself with more work than you can swallow. That’s a quick way to burn out.
Want to read more Shop Talk? Why not scope out the archive for past installments!
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