Want to know the solution to overcoming procrastination?
If you’re feeling unproductive, as a freelance writer, you’re not alone. Writers all seem to suspect other writers are super-productive, while they struggle to write a single paragraph.
We’re all, ‘Stop wasting time, lady! Write more!’
Overcoming procrastination is easily the most popular podcast topic in the 7-year history of Freelance Writers Den.
While I don’t think it’s healthy to constantly compare yourself to other writers…it’s true that many writers have an elaborate set of time-wasting activities that suck up their day.
These are things you do instead of writing or marketing. These could all be cut back or eliminated altogether, in favor of more writing and marketing time.
What should writers stop wasting time doing? Here’s my list:
1. Got tools?
Here’s a question I get daily:
Can you tell me the best time-tracking/proposal/grammar/query-tracking/customer followup software?
No, I can’t. Because everyone has different preferences.
But when you’re sitting around worrying about whether you’ve got the ideal tech tools, instead of focused on questions like ‘How can I get better clients in my niche with less effort?’ it tells me you’re procrastinating. Because which time-tracking app you install isn’t going to meaningfully impact what you earn. Find a list of the top 10 and pick one. Boom. Done.
Tools, shmools — go out and get some clients. Worry about whether you’ve got the absolute best CRM system later, when you’re swamped with great leads.
2. You’re too social
There are a million forms of social media, and new ones are born every week. If you want to make it as a freelance writer, you’re going to want to ignore 99% of this action. Stop wondering if you should join Twoo or Weibo or whatever, or if there are good leads for freelance writers on Thumbtack, Angie’s List, and the like. The answer is no.
Why? Well, the thing is that most of these startup social-media places go bust, after you invest hours building your profile and connections. And the local-job boards are a kingdom of cheapskates.
If you’re using social media, stick with proven platforms with huge memberships, primarily LinkedIn. You don’t need to be the first adopter on some experiment here!
And with the established, popular platform of your choice? Set some time limits, for heaven’s sake. If you’ve got a robust LinkedIn profile and use that platform, you’re really good.
3. Expertise addiction
Recently, I’ve heard from multiple writers whose careers were at a standstill because they were busy learning to be an expert in a major new piece of software, from WordPress to InDesign. Why? “In case clients ask me for this knowledge.”
Bulletin: Being a freelance writer does not mean you need to be an expert in every piece of software out there! I turned in blog posts as Word docs for years. Most clients are not shopping for a writer-designer-photographer-webmaster.
If you’re not a tech type, there are plenty of gigs out there that don’t call for anything but your writing skill. You don’t need more certifications in things ancillary to writing — you need to go out and get hired.
4. Business blunderville
Do you start work for new clients without a signed contract (or in the case of business clients, without an up-front deposit and a signed contract)?
If so, you could be wasting your time writing for a client who’s never going to pay you. I hear heartbreaking stories every week from writers who ripped out 30 blog posts and then the company mysteriously vanished. What a time suck!
Run your business right, and you won’t be chasing unpaid invoices — yet another time-waster.
5. Freebie creation
Are you still creating free samples for prospective clients, written to their specs? That deal is a scam, honey.
Most online ads you respond to like that, the company has no intention of hiring any writers. They’re just going to rip off all the free-sample content and use it.
If you have even a handful of portfolio samples, you are done writing free samples. That is, unless you offer pro bono work to a targeted, high-quality prospect under contract. See how that frees up your time?
6. Not qualifying prospects
If you get an email from a prospect, do you get all excited and take a meeting? After that meeting goes nowhere, do you take another one?
Welcome to the world of wasting your time on loser prospects. It shouldn’t take multiple meetings to figure out if you want me to write a case study for you, or an article.
When you get an inbound lead, or see a job ad you’re thinking about hitting, do a quick exercise: Go to LinkedIn and look up their company page. Do they have any employees? Have they been around longer than 5 minutes? Do they have a street address?
If not, move on — this isn’t a good lead for you.
7. Don’t be a joiner
Along with new social-media platforms, a new website that promises writers job opportunities is born at least every week. Writers want to know what I think of whatever new place they’ve found. Hope springs eternal that it will somehow magically be different than every other content mill or bid site out there.
Here’s the universal answer: They all suck.
There is no mass platform with hundreds of writers on it that’s good for freelance writers. And each requires you to spend time setting up a profile and applying (and applying and applying, mostly in vain) for gigs.
If you ever get a gig, they take a cut of your already tiny pay — and you spend dozens of hours a week applying to jobs you’ll never get. Timewasting doesn’t get any worse.
Overcoming procrastination: You can do this
I think a lot of time-wasting problems arise when we writers say, “Oh, just a little time on Facebook, I promise…” to ourselves. Next thing you know, you’ve gone down a 4-hour sinkhole.
If you eliminate unproductive tasks during your work day, you can free up a ton more time for the only two tasks that really matter in freelance writing: marketing and writing.
Try not to get a complex about how fast you write. Just clear the decks of useless time-wasting activities, and you’ll have plenty of writing time.