Big IdeasBusiness Beyond Freelancing

Copywriting productivity: When 4 + 1 > 5

Why scheduling fun will make your copywriting flourish

scheduling fun The beauty of being a freelance copywriter is that you can set your own schedule. That, and the fact that you can work from anywhere in the world are the main reasons I became a copywriter in March 2009.

While the traveling and writing thing has worked out, sticking to a productive daily schedule has often been a struggle.

I mean, on any given day, is anyone telling you what to do? No one is watching you, and no one cares if you decide to work in your pajamas all day (not my thing, as I wrote about here, but you may be different). As long as you hit your deadlines, no one knows the difference.

Stop working so hard!

So let’s say all your deadlines are three weeks out, it’s Wednesday at noon, and you’re completely caught up for the week. What do you do?

If you’re like me, you feel guilty doing anything except sitting at your desk writing, rustling up new business somehow, or studying something that will help you become a better copywriter, right?

The Monday through Friday routine seems to be ingrained in my head, even though it’s ridiculous to follow the masses.

Here’s a weekly plan I used years ago when I was in direct sales. It served me well then, and I’m going to resuscitate it in my business again.

4 + 1 > 5

The idea is to actually schedule fun, and take a day or two off every week. I recommend two.

I call it the “4 + 1 is greater than 5” schedule.

Here’s the way I used to do it: Work all day Monday and Tuesday. Get a good six hours of writing in each day, do some marketing, follow up with clients. Be productive and focus for two days, that’s all.

On Wednesday, you spend the morning evaluating your first two days, catching up on anything you missed, and planning the next two days.

Then you take off Wednesday afternoon and evening. Goof off, go to a movie, go for a bike ride, hang out all afternoon reading a novel at your favorite coffee shop.

You’ll be all rested up for Thursday and Friday, which are a repeat of Monday and Tuesday. Serious discipline. Nothing but business-building related activities.

You can focus, because you know you’re not going to work on the weekend (like a lot of normal people don’t). We writers aren’t exactly normal, so you may still enjoy writing on the weekend, but the thing is, it will be your choice, not because you feel compelled to.

Saturday morning is creative thinking time. No hard core projects, just brainstorming big ideas, mapping out a new business concept, figuring out a marketing funnel. Fun stuff!

That’s it. Four days of focused work (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday). One half-day of planning (Wednesday morning), and one half-day of creativity (Saturday morning). Two half-days of fun (Wednesday and Saturday afternoon and evening), and a day of rest …

… and all will be well with the world, your business, and your life. Simple, right? Give it a try, and I’ll bet that:

  • You’ll be more productive on the four days you work
  • Your down time will yield more creative results
  • You’ll enjoy your days off more
  • You won’t feel guilty taking time off
  • You’ll separate work and play more

I go in spurts, so I won’t necessarily do this schedule year-round. And I certainly don’t do it when I’m in Ecuador. But at least a few months out of the year it works wonders.

Give it a try, and see if it doesn’t for you, too. And let me know if you’ve tried a version of this before.

Steve Roller

Author Steve Roller

I'm a business coach, author, copywriter, world traveler (33 countries on five continents so far), and professional speaker. In addition to helping companies get more customers and make more money, I help other writers create profitable businesses. I offer one-on-one coaching, professional copy critiques, and live, in-person business-building workshops. When I'm not writing, coaching, or speaking, I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with my wife and four kids and planning my next adventure.

More posts by Steve Roller

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Jeff says:

    Great practical advice Steve! I’m a big fan of systems and this is one that anyone can adapt for themselves.

    I printed it out and stuck it on my desk. It will be something I’m looking to incorporate into my own routine as I live this Copywriter’s life.


    • Steve Roller says:

      Thanks, Jeff. I don’t hear freelancers talk much about systems and schedules, because it kind of goes against the whole “laptop on the beach” writer thing. I’m running a hard core business, not dreaming up short stories and article ideas on a park bench … well, okay, maybe I do write a few blog posts and articles from park benches. But most of the time I’m on a tight schedule operating a business, man!

  • Steve, this definitely sounds like something worth trying. I’ve been looking for a way to become more productive, and I like your idea of having a “day off” (during the week!) so you can re-evaluate, plan and recharge the batteries. I’ve had a routine these past few months that’s gotten a little stale.

    I will give it a shot in the next few weeks or so (maybe after I go to the Copyblogger intensive) and let you know how it goes!

    • Steve Roller says:

      Please do, Janice, let me know how it goes. I just find the typical Monday through Friday thing, or Monday through Saturday or Sunday (which I was doing for a while) felt too much like the standard work schedule. I felt obligated to sit in my office all day, or at least write at the coffee shop that I go to every day. I wasn’t giving myself permission to take off for a half a day, or mix it up a bit.

      I’ll let you know how mine goes, too! Have a great time at the Copyblogger conference! Look forward to catching up when you get back.

  • Eric Borger says:

    I tend to begin my week late on Sunday night. First, it helps break my addiction to Game of Thrones. Second, by the time I get up on Monday morning I already know what must be done over the next week and where those pieces fall in place. It’s amazing how this one act of blocking out the big pieces (thank you Stephen Covey!) lowers my stress level on Monday.

    • Steve Roller says:

      I like that idea of starting the week early on Sunday night and planning everything out. I do a modified version of that each night, planning out the next day, and it gives you a sense of purpose and urgency. Thanks, Eric.

  • Katherine says:

    This was a nice post, Steve. Your writing and writing style is really cool. This sounds like a good idea and schedule, especially when we’re sort of spinning our wheels and/or surfing the web too much. No, no, I never do that.

    On the other hand,… sometimes I feel way too busy to take off.

    I read that book years ago called, “The Artist Way.” She talked about giving ourselves artist’s dates – where we schedule fun time, doing special things we enjoy each week, a little longer once a month, etc. I did it. It was fun.

    Do you have a harder time or easier time getting work done in Ecuador? Also, are you productive at coffee shops? Do you get a good wi-fi connection … and are you able to be organized w/ papers and taking breaks (not worrying about leaving your computer etc)? I get tired of my room/office — but think I get more done because logistic changes take time.

    Another blog post perhaps. (;

    • Steve Roller says:


      Thanks for the compliments, and for reading my blog. Good questions.

      I actually have an easier time getting work done in Ecuador. I feel removed from the day-to-day distractions of home. Life is simpler, there’s less running around, fewer things to do, and more of a consistent daily routine. Plus, the location and the scenery inspire me in a big way.

      I’m also quite productive at coffee shops, for a few reasons. One, I need a break from my office every day. I simply can’t sit in one place for 7-10 hours. Two, it’s part of my system of little rewards. For example, if I get two hours of good writing done in the morning, I’ll reward myself by going to the coffee shop. Then, when I get there, since I’m already on a roll I continue cranking away.

      Three, when I’m in a public place where people know me, I don’t want to be seen not writing. So I make sure I’m not doing more than a few minutes of reading the Times or Wall Street Journal (a quick 10-minute scan is all I need).

      Finally, the big reason I get more done at the coffee shop is that I usually leave my laptop at home and write things by hand. I’m not distracted by the Internet, and I find thoughts come quicker when I’m writing long-hand versus on the keyboard. Then when I get home I quickly type up what I’ve written. I know it’s redundant, but I think I get more done overall, and I can type 60-70 words per minute, so it’s pretty quick.

      And yes, I think I’ll write a blog post about this, Katherine. Good idea!

  • Hi Steve!

    Two things:

    1. Instant. Fan. I can’t remember how I stumbled across your site an hour ago but I now have 11 tabs open in my browser of posts I want to read. This one got me started so I came back to comment.

    2. As a freelance copywriter who’s been suddenly thrust into the position of having to make it work full-time, it’s immensely relieving to hear it’s okay to take a break. I’ve been going non-stop the past week just to get a single client (almost there… I think) and I’m getting pretty pooped. This post was a reassuring pat on the back.

    You’ll be hearing from me again! 🙂

    Maximilian Hart

    • Steve Roller says:

      Maximilian, thank you! I love it when writers discover me somehow and we’re able to connect. I look forward to talking to you at some point, and hopefully down the road our paths will cross.

      If there’s anything I can do to help you, let me know.

  • Steve, this is a great idea! You’ve articulated it really well, and it looks like it’s working for you.

    I tend to do the half & half method, as I know I’m more productive in the mornings.

    > M-Th mornings I spend on my “big” projects and other heavy-lifting work. Usually about 3-4 hours.
    > M, Tu & Th afternoons are for follow up, reading, admin, that kind of thing.
    > Tuesday afternoons are for appointments like the dentist, etc.
    > Fridays are special:

    >> in the morning I clean up the week’s work, sending out emails/projects that are due that week, and anything else that’s due that week. I also set up my To Do list for the following week, and generally just make sure I’ve finished off the week nicely.
    >> I try to take Friday afternoons off, every week, no questions. Rarely have I had to break this rule, but if I do, it’s only until about 2pm and then I’m free. =)

    This schedule’s worked for me so far, and I do tweak it as I go, but this is the general framework I keep to each day.

    While I can’t express it with a snazzy math formula like you, I like the half & half name I give it. =)

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