It’s the middle of August. It’s too hot to work and everybody who can go is away on vacation. Even Obama, who’s taken about half the vacation days that GWB did this far into his first term, is skipping town soon to take the Mrs. and the kids to Martha’s Vineyard for 10 days.
So should a freelance writer do when everyone else in the world is on vacation?
If you’ve met all your deadlines, editors aren’t responding to your pitches and you’ve got a few hours, or an afternoon or a couple days to kill, here are some tried and true methods for filling your time:
Go through your clips. Chances are you’ve got a stack of clips either moldering in a closet or piling up in an electronic folder somewhere. Use your free time to separate the clips you want to showcase on your website or blog from others you want to keep but not necessarily display. According to my recent poll on how freelancers keep clips, 57 percent of you save them in either paper or electronic form, 26 percent cent save them in electronic form, 13 percent save them on paper only, and 4 percent follow some other plan. Regardless of how you save them, a regular purge keeps your closets clear and hard drive happy.
Update your website. Speaking of clips, if it’s been a while since you added any new ones to your website, use the summer doldrums to get ‘er done. You could also get a new headshot taken and freshen up your resume and bio.
Update your blog. If you’ve spent the summer meeting deadlines chances are you probably haven’t done a lot of blog housekeeping either. Downtime is a great time to check for broken links, update your resume, bio or clips page if you keep them on your blog, add different social network share buttons or even re-write some evergreen posts for when you’re super busy again.
Write letters of introduction. You might want to wait to send them until after Labor Day, but there’s no reason not to work up a couple – or a couple dozen – letters of introduction to editors who’d love to work for or publishing companies you’ve been dying to break into. If you’ve already updated your clips, resume and bio, you’re halfway there.
Research queries. Had an idea for a query that you’ve been promising yourself you’d research once you got off deadline? Now’s the time.
File papers. Right now I can look around my office and count seven stacks of papers waiting for my attention. Some need filing. Some need shredding. Some need sorting through so I can decide whether to file or shred. I hate filing papers so I put it at the bottom of my to-do list and only tackle it when I run out of things to do – which isn’t often – or if the piles get so big I can’t stand them any more.
Upgrade computer and smartphone hardware and software. I am one of those people who puts off computer or software upgrades until I absolutely, positively have to, because when I’m on a deadline the last thing I want to do is tinker around with upgrades. On the other hand, what better way to spend an otherwise quiet Friday afternoon than upgrading a software program or app you always use. Come to think of it, there’s been new printer sitting in box on the floor next to my desk for the last two weeks – think I’ll finally open it up and plug it in this Friday.
Redo your office. My home office doubles as my den, with a picture window, a wall full of books and a small TV, a perfect place to curl up and watch a movie once the work day’s done. But it’s only the perfect place to hang because it’s recently gotten new paint, carpeting and a comfy couch. All those new things didn’t happen over a weekend, but they could have if I’d had my act together.
If you’re working through the dog days of summer, what are you doing to pass the time?