Picture of hand with five fingers: Friday Five.Where have I been?? It’s been a few weeks since I wrote a Friday 5. Why? Whyyyyy?

Thanks to everyone who emailed me with these very questions, perhaps sans so many question marks. It’s nice to know I’ve been missed.

The short answer to your question is: I attended Content Marketing World in early September. It was a fantastic conference and trade show! I learned a lot about content marketing writing and strategy. Woot! But it also set me back a little bit, in terms of client work. So I’ve been catching up.

And that is why, dear RN2writers, I’ve been away.

But today I’m back! Welcome to your Friday 5, the Productivity Edition.

Tip One (Monday): Systems — Good Habits Start Here

I’ve talked about developing systems and workflows before, but today I want you to really start nailing down the details. Remember how I talked about assigning yourself a ‘freelance shift‘? Well, you’ll be more efficient as a writer if you incorporate some systems into your writer life — just as you do in your nursing life.

When I was working in the PACU, my system went something like:

  • Clock in for my shift
  • Drop my stuff in my locker
  • Greet the charge and my co-workers
  • Enter my recovery bay and test the monitor
  • Wipe down the EKG wires with Cavi-wipes
  • Check supply inventory and stock the bay

…you get the idea.

Of course, I didn’t have all this written down. It came naturally, as I practiced.

Eventually, your writer routine (system) will come naturally, too. But if you’re just starting out, you can benefit from writing a step-by-step list of how you approach your freelance job. Doing this will also instill discipline in you. As a nurse, you already know the benefits of being efficient on the job. Start today to learn efficient habits as a writer by setting up systems.

Tip Two (Tuesday): Forms

Oy, are we nurses used to forms. Sick of them may be a better phrase.

But forms will be crucial to your success as a freelance writer. Much of what we do is routine in nature. We interview prospective clients (intake form); we write project proposals (proposal form); we set clients up in our internal system after they’ve signed the contract (new client document). Yes, as a freelance writer, forms are your friend.

You can find many examples of boilerplate freelancer contracts on the web, but it’s harder to find other documents like creative briefs.

Today’s task is to either find a boilerplate template for common forms like client intake and then tweak them to meet your needs (actually, you’ll be constantly tweaking and revising as you gain experience), or develop at least one form from scratch.

Hint: Sign up for the RN2Writer newsletter and receive my own client intake form FREE with the October issue.

Tip Three (Wednesday): Image Editing Software

Although you’re a writer, you want to be able to fulfill other client needs to the extent it’s reasonable. I can tell you writing for the web now requires many skills beyond merely crafting prose. Creating slideshows or sourcing images can constitute a significant portion of any web writing gig. Plus, you’re going to want to create images for your own use, on your blog or as a Twitter background.

Photoshop still reigns as king of the image editors. I owned a copy of Photoshop about 10 years ago and found the learning curve too steep to make it worthwhile for me. If you possess mad technical skilz, though, you might want to invest in the Cadillac of image editors.

For the rest of us, programs that allow you to perform quick tasks, like adding text to an image, represent a better alternative. Here are a few programs I’ve used and like:

  • Picasa — I use it for quickly adding text to Creative Commons licensed images I download from Flickr
  • Pixlr — This PhotoShop clone is free and allows you to create images from scratch (something Picasa does not do)
  • Canva — I recently discovered this by way of my writer-friend Susan Weiner. Canva not only allows you to create images from scratch, but it comes pre-loaded with useful templates like Kindle ebook covers and more. Best of all, it’s free.

Your assignment today is to tinker with a few image editing programs to find one you like.

Tip Four (Thursday): Productivity Software

I’m not just talking about time management here. Productivity software runs the gamut from programs that literally block you from engaging in time-wasting activities online to systems for getting things done. Here are a few I’m familiar with:

  • RescueTime — Free. You set it up, and it logs your activities. Then it sends you a weekly report that shows you where you can recoup minutes (or, perhaps, hours). Nifty!
  • Stayfocused — Freemium. I haven’t used it, but it comes recommended. Stayfocused incorporates the Pomodoro time management technique and helps you avoid shifting your focus from the task at hand to every ping of your email or buzz of a Facebook status update.
  • FocusMe — Goes one step farther and actually blocks you from surfing the whole web or at least specific sites. If you tend to see the computer as a toy instead of a tool, an app like FocusMe might help you reframe.
  • Nozbe — If you’re a fan of the Getting Things Done system (and if you’ve never read David Allen’s book, properly titled Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity [affiliate link], I highly recommend it), Nozbe is the premier software for GTD productivity. It’s not free, but it’s very powerful.

Remember, software is merely a tool. Nothing will help you be more productive as a freelance writer than the act of putting your backside into a chair and placing your hands on a keyboard.

Tip Five (Friday): Learn the Art of the Cocktail

Now that you’re a supercharged productivity machine, you deserve to relax and unwind a little. Alcohol consumption (and, sadly, alcoholism) is intimately entwined with the writing life. I know very few writers who don’t spend regular evenings with a glass (or two) of wine. Me? I’m a retro girl and believe in bringing back the cocktail hour.

Assuming you do not have issues with alcohol addiction, spend today learning how to make a delicious signature cocktail to wow you friends with. It may be as simple as a classic gin and tonic or as elaborate as a Flaming S’mores Cocktail. This book, The Art of the Cocktail: 100 Classic Cocktail Recipes[affiliate link], will provide some inspiration.

And if you do have alcohol issues, work on concocting a few virgin drinks to refresh your tastebuds and recharge your energy on a Friday evening: Zero Proof Cocktails: Alcohol-Free Beverages for Every Occasion[affiliate link] will get you started.

Personally, I’m a connoisseur of Cosmopolitans.

A few random notes…

Thank you for making RN2Writer such a success in its infancy. Because so many people are now following the blog and subscribing to the newsletter, I’m planning to migrate RN2Writer to its own home on the internet. I’ll let you know when the new place is ready to be unveiled. Apologies in advance to current blog subscribers, who will have to re-subscribe at the new digs when they’re ready. I’ll make it up to you with a freebie. Deal??

You’ll notice I threw a few Amazon affiliate links into today’s post. That’s so you can throw a little love RN2Writer’s way, if you’re inclined to show support.

Wishing you well!