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Guide: Handle Writing Deadlines: Tips and Tutorials
This article is part of us Guide to Freelancing series “ – consisting of guides and tips to help you become a better self-employed person. Click here to read more from this series.
For the most part, the writing process is a creative process, and when it comes to having too much freedom to work with, sometimes time isn’t of the essence. Doing this often enough can help you develop the habit of writing when your muse visits you. This, however is not how it works when it comes to meeting a client’s deadline
We all enjoy working with professionals and if you want to become a professional writer, you also need to show the professionalism required of you. Missing deadlines are the best and easiest way to convince them that you may not be taking things as seriously as they would like.
Also keep in mind that your deadline is probably just one of many deadlines our client has to make sure it is on time. If your writing causes delay, the domino effect causes everyone else’s deadlines to be seriously compromised also. Don’t be the bad guy; be the professional writer with these few easy steps.
1. Get and stay organized
Perhaps the biggest secret to meeting deadlines is getting organized. By being organized, projects run smoothly and quicklyThe organized writer is ready to quickly get started and dive into work, without having to stop to find something important to work. Part of being organized is knowing where everything is, for example the calendar, the files, the memos and reminders, the equipment, etc.
The other part is to have a process or system set up to answer your most direct requests eg when I write I have a dictionary and a thesaurus ready and open in tabs. All I need is (even a quick, energizing snack or drink) within reach to avoid being distracted during an unnecessary break (disclaimer: I still have to go to the bathroom).back to menu ↑
2. Eliminate distractions
Aside from answering nature’s call, all other forms of distraction can be detrimental to the writing process. So before you embark on your important project, eliminate all minor distractions that always crop up during a deadline race.
Tell your family that you should only be disturbed when you are in need emergency situations involving spraying blood or raising the dead (count carnivorous zombies). Put your phone on silent, turn off your notifications, hold on to all incoming email, cut yourself off from the rest of the family – you get the idea.back to menu ↑
3. Check your write speed limits
Those who have ever been on a school swim team know that the speed at which you leave the starting block is half the race. Just as the title, opening sentence, first paragraph, and first subtitle are the most important part of a post or article, your first efforts in a writing project will often set the pace from the rest of the project.
However, each writer works at their own pace, and for some content and speed go together as if they were oil and water. If you’re good at sprinting, a good start is half a race won, but if like me you’re a marathoner, not a sprinter, then you need to know when to turn down a project with a ridiculous deadline.back to menu ↑
4. Develop a system that works for you
Every professional freelancer has a system or process that they adhere to because it works for them. This process is a bit different for everyone. Talk to some content writers about their system, do some research, or go the old-fashioned way through trial and error.
My system works something like this, depending on the type of project I’m hiring:
Evaluate the project and write down the customer’s specific needsMark important points in a sketch of the projectResearch each point thoroughly and determine the order Rewrite the title and subtitles Rewrite the fill for each subtitle using bullets and info graphics as needed Edit the pre-write Write the project Inject SEO / CROEdit the write cut at least 20%
If you can find your own process, you can time yourself well and get a good estimate of the kind of time frame you can work in.back to menu ↑
5. Courage under attack
Many a deadline has been missed unnecessarily because a less than professional writer wouldn’t go to the client if they realized the deadline is a certain loss. Honesty is absolutely the best policy in this situation. If you realize that you are going to miss a deadline, get to the customer, advertiser or sponsor as soon as possible.
It’s always better to tell the client before the deadline is missed then worry about losing the accountThe client might have a plan B that could very well save the day and minimize the impact of the missed deadline, and as for you, you might be able to save this relationship.back to menu ↑
6. When all hell breaks loose
If you’ve ever been in the skillet, and every option available is a flame hotter and bigger than the last, you’ve been reduced to three possible options:back to menu ↑
Specify a more feasible date
So we’ve determined that customers with ridiculous deadlines should be avoided like the plague sometimes rejecting a customer is not something you can doWhen faced with this situation, review the project and present the client with a more realistic date; you may be surprised at the kind of extensions that can be done turn suddenly up in the schedule.
In the end, if the client still doesn’t give in (or can’t), politely decline the job offer and clearly state your reasons, then send the client on their way.back to menu ↑
Let’s just say the good news is you have a really cool client who doesn’t let anyone but you handle the project (even after step 5 above), but the bad news is you don’t get an extension. Step 1, negotiate for a higher wage. Step 2, try not to write for 15, 20 consecutive hours, no matter how young you think you are, on heart
Set realistic goals for yourselfJust write so many words sit at once or set the number of hours you want to sit at your computer at the same time. If you met your deadline, you did a great job. If not, you did your best.back to menu ↑
There’s no shame in reaching out for help if you find yourself not meeting an important deadline. Even if you need a fellow writer or editor, you can save precious time and split pay based on workload. The thing is, if you lose credibility in your client’s eyes (more importantly, a a new one that tests you), ask for help to keep that perfect set of jobs delivered.back to menu ↑
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