7 Tips for Meeting Deadlines as a Freelance Writer

Getting organized

Adhering to deadlines is a make-or-break skill in the world of freelance writing. Ensure that you don’t drop the ball with these tips!
Photo by Pete O’Shea (Flickr)

As a freelance writer, you’re your own boss, administrator, assistant, and manager. It takes a certain type of person with a certain work ethic to be a freelance writer. But even for experienced freelancers, meeting deadlines can be rather taxing. Here are some tips and tricks for staying on top of things:

Keep Prioritized Lists
Organization is key to success for every freelancer. Everyone has their own system, and it may take time for you to develop yours. Whether you have a notebook, planner, program, or list on your desktop, you will want to have a running list of your projects in order of priority and time-sensitivity. You may also want to indicate the deadlines of each project on this list.

Minimize Distractions
Unfortunately, the reality is that freelance writers have to use the Internet, which is full of distractions. Compile a small list for yourself of sites that would not be OK for work. Social media sites, gaming sites, video sites, or any other site that you frequent on your free time should be entirely avoided while you’re working from home. The concept of “multitasking,” for most people, is a myth. Reduce distractions by turning off automatic notifications from social media, closing chat programs, and avoiding the sites on your list.

Don’t Commit to Too Much Too Quickly
When you’re taking on many projects at once, you should have a rough idea of how long each one will take. If you’re grabbing 20 projects all at once and they’re all due on the same day, you should be sure that you have enough time to complete each one before the deadline. Everyone wants to maximize their time, but there needs to be a little wiggle room to take a break, proofread, complete extra research, or double-check with staff regarding questions.

Manage Your Time
You should have a rough schedule either on paper or in your mind. I’ve found success with scheduling “soft” deadlines for projects. For instance, if a project is due by 3 p.m., I might aim to complete it by 1 p.m. so that I have two extra hours for problem-solving, proofreading, or taking a break. For larger projects, scheduling small indicator deadlines would be good. Each project should have this breakdown: amount of time needed for research, amount of time required to actually produce the word count, and an allotted amount of time for editing and proofreading.

Communicate Questions/Issues Clearly and Early
If something came up and you’ve realized that you’re not going to have enough time to complete a project, don’t wait until the last minute to ask for an extension. Also, don’t wait to communicate any questions you might have regarding an article’s instructions. Questions need to be asked clearly and concisely well in advance of when the project is due. Communication should happen as soon as there is an issue, not at 2:50 p.m. if the project is due in ten minutes.

Take Breaks and Reward Yourself After Completion
If you have the time before proofreading, it’s best to walk away for a few minutes. Let your brain recharge. You can get up and stretch, have a cup of coffee, or just look at something else. Having this reward system in place helps you maintain your schedule. It will also help you to avoid seeing incorrect words as correct by breezing through it.

Take the Time to Proofread
After a short break, take the time to proofread your project. If proofreading for you is a long process, you should keep that in mind when managing your time. A quick proof can make all of the difference. Once you’ve edited a bit, submit your project, and you should be good!

Do you have your own tips and tricks for staying on schedule? Let us know in the comments below!

Stephanie Nolan, an editor for Online Writing Jobs, is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Since college, she's both edited and written film scripts, press releases, fictional stories, and articles. After gaining professional experience with Public Relations, Human Resources, and Recruitment, she discovered OWJ. With her strong marketing background and love of the written word, she now found a great balance while working with online content.

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Posted in Freelance Writing
6 comments on “7 Tips for Meeting Deadlines as a Freelance Writer
  1. Aleksandra says:

    In addition to second tip: there are many apps out there that can block certain websites that keep you distracted. Luckily most of them are free and easy to use, and they are really helpful too.

  2. Admin says:

    Indeed! That’s a great tip, Aleksandra!

  3. Olena Taran says:

    Great tips! Very helpful!
    To organize everything I use “Trello”. It helps to do the first things first, not to forget anything and manage your schedule. The only problem is to make myself do everything as planned)

  4. Admin says:

    That’s a great tip. A lot of us at Online Writing Jobs use Trello for project management; it’s a great tool!

  5. Berry says:

    Thanks for the great post! I use Wall Planner to manage everything and also I plan in advance.
    if there are translators, Happy Translator’s Day) yes, in Eastern Europe it is today! Wish you more interesting projects and happy clients!

  6. Admin says:

    Thanks very much! We’re happy you enjoyed the post!