Gamification: Make Freelance Writing More Fun

on February 26, 2013 in Productivity & Organization

In the comments on our recent post about loving your work, Anne Wayman mentioned that she might try to turn some of her marketing into a game. That's something I try to do with my daily work as much as possible too. So I thought it might be fun to look at gamification and how you can gamify your freelance writing work.

Gamification doesn't have to mean literally turning something into a game. But you use game principles in your process -- like racing a clock or incentivizing certain goals or actions. I find it makes work not only more fun, but it also helps me get more done in a day.

Here are four ways you might use gamification to increase your productivity and enjoy your freelance writing work more.

Set Up a Rewards System

This is probably the most basic way you can attach incentives to your freelance writing business. You simply set up a rewards system by creating a list of goals, a to-do list for the week, or some other kind of plan. If you complete things within your deadline, you get a reward.

For small things like getting through everything on a daily to-do list, you would give yourself a small reward -- maybe your favorite dessert. For larger regular things you might have slightly larger rewards -- like ordering a pizza on the weekend if you complete your week's goals. And you can also set grander rewards for much more significant goals -- like a vacation if you reach a yearly income target.

The idea is to give you something to work for besides finishing the work itself.

Implement a Points System


Along those same lines, you can set up a points system. Think of it like a credit card rewards point program where you accumulate points until you can redeem them for a reward. Again, come up with a list of rewards. This time assign them a point value. Then assign point values to different tasks involved in your freelance writing work.

For example, you might get one point for responding to a client email, three points for a cold call, five points for clearing up a client project, 2 points for social media marketing each day, etc.

You accumulate your points on an ongoing basis and redeem them for rewards when you have enough. This could be a better option than tying rewards to regular to-do lists. If the rewards become too common (like that favorite dessert every day of the week), you might lose the incentive.

Use a Timer

Another easy way to gamify your freelance writing work is to use a timer. Personally I use the Pomodoro technique. That's where you work for 25 minutes, and then get a five minute break. Each of those cycles is a Pomodoro. After every four Pomodoros you take a longer break of 15 minutes. I use and the Pomodoro Tracker Android app for this.

You can use a similar system with your own time limits and breaks, or you could just set a timer when you're facing writer's block or feeling unmotivated. It's about challenging yourself to do as much as you can in a short period of time, because no matter how "stuck" you feel, you can muster the energy to get through that short spurt of productivity. And if you're lucky, you'll get un-stuck fairly quickly and keep up the pace.

Challenge yourself by doing this for a full work day and see how much more you can get done. I was shocked how much work I could complete in a mere 25 minutes.

Compete With a Colleague

One more great way to gamify your freelance writing business is to enlist a colleague. There's nothing more like a game than good old fashioned competition. Just keep it friendly.

For example, you and a local colleague might challenge each other on completing certain similar tasks. Whomever gets the most done, or finishes the list the fastest, buys coffee the next time you meet up. If you're a blogger, you might set a weekly blogging goal with a colleague, and whomever reaches their blog post writing goal for the week gets a guest post from the "loser."

Do you use gamification to increase your productivity or enjoy your work more as a freelance writer? If so, how do you do it? Can you think of other ways to do this that aren't mentioned here? I'm always looking for new ways to work more productively and have more fun, so I'd love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment and tell me about them.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.

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  1. Rick L. February 26, 2013 Reply

    That reward system is actually kind of a habit of mine. I’d usually have this certain snack during work, but I’d restrain myself from taking a bite until I’ve made like a few paragraphs or so. I think the best in this list however is #4. Competition is always a great way to jack up one’s performance and productivity. I like the idea of the loser making a guest post. Talk about getting extra blog content for free!
    Rick L. recently posted…Work from Home Jobs for Moms TodayMy Profile

  2. Paula H February 27, 2013 Reply

    Is it weird that simply checking something off my to-do list gives me so much satisfaction that I never thought of “incentivizing” it?

    Maybe I can turn it into a point system, too….
    Paula H recently posted…Turning scrap wool into a basket of Easter eggsMy Profile

    • Jennifer Mattern February 27, 2013 Reply

      I don’t think that sounds weird. Then again, I’m the same way. So much so that I actually keep three to-do lists these days — one in a semi-private forum for colleagues to see, one on my phone, and I still do note card lists by hand most weeks. This way one is always just a glance away, and as I finish things, I get to check it off several times. I love that feeling. :) Without being able to knock out a to-do list I’d probably get nothing done most days.

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