It's awesome. It's evil.
It will make you more productive. It will make you less productive.
It will make you more successful. It will destroy your business.
What's the truth when it comes to multitasking in your freelance writing business? The truth is, it depends.
Should You Multitask?
It depends on what kinds of tasks you're talking about. For example, it would probably be counterproductive to keep an eye on your Twitter feed while you're in the middle of writing a client's article. A better option for multitasking might be to write from a treadmill desk while you walk (or use a voice-to-text app to get notes down while you walk outdoors).
It also depends on you. Some people can multitask effectively while others feel a bit too scattered if they don't focus on just one thing at a time. It's like the difference between writers who work better with background noise playing and those that need silence to finish a project. There is no one-size-fits-all rule.
Pros and Cons of Multitasking
I make it no secret that I'm a big fan of multitasking in my own business. I always have several big projects in the works at the same time. But that doesn't mean I work on all of them every day.
I focus on one major project at a time, and the real multitasking comes down to the little things, like checking my social media accounts while I also search for jobs to post here in our freelance writing job board for you (usually also done while I eat breakfast and enjoy something caffeinated to get me going).
Here are some of the biggest benefits I've received from routine multitasking.
Pros of Multitasking
- You don't get bored as easily (if that's a problem for you; I get bored very easily).
- You can get more done in less time by taking advantage of breaks (like checking email while you wait for a few more social media updates to come through, going back and forth between them; I use two monitors and keep them both open at the same time).
- You can knock out small tasks that you might not have bothered to schedule otherwise (like responding to unexpected queries while you run planned updates to your server or blog instead of waiting until you have a free block of time).
Of course multitasking can also pose its problems if you aren't careful.
Cons of Multitasking
- You can easily become distracted by something you'd rather do (like that social media time suck I keep mentioning rather than tackling a client project with a quickly-approaching deadline).
- You might push yourself to burn out if you try to squeeze too much into any portion of your work day.
- You might make more mistakes, from sending an email to the wrong person to accidentally deleting an important client file.
There are good and bad sides to multitasking. For me, the good usually outweigh the bad. But that doesn't mean it will work the same way for you. You might be far more productive by giving every task on your list an isolated bit of your schedule.
If you do decide to multitask, just make sure you stick to smaller tasks and more importantly related tasks or complementary tasks (like working during a meal or while working out).
Email and social media? You're probably fine. Taking a client call while you draft your next blog post in the background? Probably not so smart.
What about you? Do you multitask? Do you find that it helps or hurts your freelance writing business? Do you have any multitasking tips to share or additional pros and cons of multitasking that other freelancers should consider?
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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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