• Advice

The 6 best freelancer hacks for meeting project deadlines

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

As a freelance writer, aside from delivering a stellar project to your clients, your other most significant task is to meet their deadlines. Meeting deadlines is an integral part of developing a successful writing career. Quality and timeliness help to shape your reputation in the industry. But regardless of whether the projects that you work on are of high standards, if you are known as the writer who can’t meet deadlines, it will slowly kill your career.

Deadlines do stress us out, and sometimes, your best laid-out plan may get messy. But not to worry, by just adding a little more effort, you will be on the road to becoming a dependable, respectable professional who meets deadlines on time. So, if you’re planning to become that brilliant freelance writer, follow these six hacks below successfully meet your deadlines:

Don’t over-commit

Over-committing is a common mistake made by freelance writers. It is understandable that there are periods where you will go a long time without projects. It does not then mean that you should accept all the offers that you receive once your schedule is full. When you take on a task, from experience, you should be in a position to gauge how much time it will take. Have a realistic look at how much workload you can take on before accepting.

Besides, when you have too high a workload with short deadlines, you will be sure to deliver mediocre work. Carefully select your projects and do an outstanding job on them to improve your chances of getting rehired as a steady freelancer!

On the same note, learn to say no. A client may demand more than your capacity to handle the project at a particular time. They may also have a long list of demands that you know you will not be able to meet by the set deadline. Air your reasons and be frank about what you can and cannot handle.

Minimize distractions

An excellent freelance writer should have a high level of focus and self-control. There are distractions everywhere, even more so if you’re working from home. The temptation of the internet is the most significant distraction that can befall a writer. How can one break away from blog posts, Twitter, Facebook, gaming sites, and other perils of the internet?

Take the first step by turning off automatic notifications from all of your social media accounts. Close all the chat programs and better still, if you have all the research that you need, just turn off the internet altogether. You should learn how to take back control of your life from the internet.

One trick is to set specific time intervals for working without interruptions–including snacks or phone calls. If you are working from home, establish a work area and inform your family or housemates that this is your time and you should not be interrupted, nor should anyone come in your work area. This way, you will be able to concentrate on your project, and your writing potential will become maximized.

Break down large projects

Avoid tackling the entire project at once and instead, take steps to address the project. Once you’ve broken the project into smaller steps, allocate a set time for each. Some steps may be more complicated than others; make sure to assign more time to them. The breakdown simplifies the work a great deal.

Keep prioritized lists

For every freelance writer, planning is the key to success and will keep you on course in accomplishing your objectives and goals. Prioritization is a skill that every freelance writer should acquire. You will need to take time to develop a system that works for you, since everyone is different. You may choose to have a program, planner, notebook, or a checklist on your desktop.

Keep a running list of your projects in the order of time sensitivity and priority. Specify deadlines for each project that you’re undertaking. Remember that once you take the time to prioritize your checklist, your overall productivity will improve.

Communicate with the client

Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances do occur, and you realize that meeting the deadline will be a challenge. You may fall ill. Maybe you're going to school part-time and you realize your philosophy paper may take up more of your time than you had initially anticipated. This is where some freelance writers usually go wrong by waiting until the last minute to ask for an extension.

Instead, if something comes up, communicate this to the client at the earliest possible time. If you have any questions regarding the project that you’re handling, ask them in advance. Before embarking on the task, get all the necessary clarifications before you agree to take it. Do not assume some details of the project as it may become a colossal blunder. If your deadline is 4.00 p.m., don’t bring up issues at 3.50 p.m.

You should always be ready for roadblocks and setbacks. Try and have a plan B and if possible C. Learn from other freelance writers who have been in the game long enough. Look for such a mentor and take note of their precious advice as it will save you both time and money. Have all the necessary information for you to work efficiently and promptly to meet the deadline.

Build momentum

Another common mistake made by freelance writers is procrastinating projects with far-out deadlines. If you are assigned a project that has a deadline which is one month away, start on it the day that you’ve received it. Don’t forget it for the first week, then think just a little about it on the second week, the third week promise yourself you’ll start–only to delay till a day or two before the deadline.

Starting the project on the first day doesn’t mean you have to finish it. Just do enough to get the wheels going and build your momentum. You can start by having a rough design of the presentation, sending the critical emails out, doing a little research, or by just looking through all the parameters of the given project. This way, you will have enough time to proofread and check all the necessary details to deliver quality work and on deadline. Remember, no deadline is long enough, just get started.

In conclusion

Deadlines can either make or break your career as a freelance writer. To be a successful freelance writer, you will need a high level of commitment and self-discipline. Be sure to set realistic expectations that are reasonable to you. When are you most productive? Is it the mornings, afternoons, or evenings? Make use of this time to get as much of your project done as possible. Learning to meet deadlines on time means that acquiring work in the future from past clients will be effortless.

Christina Battons is a web content expert from LA and a creative writer who is able to connect various thoughts into a single theme. Christina loves to stay up to date on the latest content marketing trends. Her works have been published on Connect with Christina on Twitter.