If you’re like me, fellow freelance writer, you have a few (or more) clients that you have to pay attention to on the regular.
While the ideal schedule might have you batching large chunks of time and only focusing on certain projects or client on certain days, there are times when that to-do list grows and that plan just isn’t possible.
Which might mean that, on any given day, you’re working on web copy for a local startup, telling a story with stats for that leadership firm’s next infographic, or writing clever out-of-office messages for your digital-marketing client.
The variety is exciting. It keeps the days moving, and lets you flex all sort of writing muscles.
Yet despite the energy of your medley of clients and projects, the variety can still provide a sincere challenge: How to quickly and smoothly switch gears as you work on one project to the next, especially when you have a mile-long to-do list and only so much time to do it in.
These three tips can help you transition among your diverse projects.
1. Switch up your environment
Where do you typically work? Our physical surroundings contribute — often more than we realize — to our mindset, productivity, and creativity. I know I work best from my home office in the mornings, when the sun is rising and light floods my eastern-facing windows. The same energy that the space brings in the mornings isn’t there in the afternoon, though, and I can feel, on a visceral level, my productivity and creativity plummeting.
It takes switching up my environment to break my mindset. Once I came to that realization, I also realized how valuable this tactic is for switching mental gears between clients or projects.
While it can’t always mean leaving the house to hit up a coworking space or coffee shop, it can mean switching from your desk to your couch to your kitchen table.
Or, you can focus on the smaller details of your surroundings.
Two things I always have going in my home office are music (thank you, Spotify) and my essential-oil diffuser. Sometimes all it takes to switch gears is putting on a different type of music — low-key house beats over celtic instrumentals, for example — to trigger a mental shift.
Other times, it takes an appeal to our strongest sense: smell. In that case, I might switch from an earthy, balanced blend in the diffuser to a citrusy, energetic blend.
When you switch up your environment, your brain naturally snaps out of the zone it was in when you were chugging away at that one project, and gives it the shock it needs to recognize a change and switch gears.
A bonus: If you only listen to a certain type of music when doing a certain task, your brain will naturally associate one with the other, and your transitions will be even smoother.
2. Use a different font
This is an incredibly simple hack, but it really can be that easy.
I often switch between three or four clients in a day — each of whom requires an entirely different persona. Because of this, I like to think of each font as a voice. (Bear with me here.)
For one of my clients, I write only in Droid Sans. For another, it’s Trebuchet MS. When I’m free writing during I often move over to and choose the typewriter setting.
Much like changing up your physical surroundings, choosing to use a different font per client or project will help your brain get associated with different types of work or voices.
Seeing that font will trigger recognition and help your brain turn over quicker.
3. Break up batches with a mental break
So your day might not be built with those ideal three or four-hour batches, but it doesn’t mean you can’t Pomodoro your way through your projects in smaller chunks.
Even then, though, those hyper-focused periods of work require a mental break in between. It’s good for your productivity. It’s good for your creativity. It’s crucial for preventing burnout.
Whether or not you think you need it, build in mental breaks throughout the day.
Head out the front door and go for a 15-20 minute walk or jog. Find a comfy spot and put on a five-10 minute meditation. Grab that paperback you’ve been ignoring and read for 15 minutes. (Snack while you do this — eating is important, too, believe it or not.) Hit up the couch for a 10-20 minute power nap.
The most important thing? Shut your brain down. Intentionally stay away from screens.
It can feel like you don’t have time to step away, but I promise — you do. And if it feels like you’re slacking, remember this: The best ideas don’t require being in front of a screen. It’s during my “mental breaks” that I’m subconsciously turning over ideas, digging into problems, and coming up with solutions.
Break your patterns to be more productive
Routine is good. It helps us accomplish our non-negotiables. If it weren’t for routine, I wouldn’t exercise regularly, or drink the 75 ounces of water I aim for in a day.
But when it comes to switching gears among the plethora of clients or projects you’re serving as a freelance writer, sometimes it requires breaking that routine, switching up your physical and digital surroundings, and walking away (for a little while) to be able to effectively switch gears and get it all done.
P.S.: Nearly all of the above is best done with coffee. It always helps.
How do you transition among your diverse client projects? Share your tips below!