The Freelance Writer’s Journey Chapter 5
Before this year, I almost never struggled with procrastination.
I was that annoying kid who would complete his summer homework two weeks after it was assigned, and then forget about it until September. I was that guy who did my assignments ahead of time and then relaxed while others were scrambling. At least, I was that guy before this year.
Now things are a bit different. I’m finding myself waiting until the last minute on school and work deadlines. Most of my school assignments have come down to the final day, which is so not like me.
I think the reason is that the stakes are higher than ever before. I’m doing doctorate-level work, with much higher standards for writing and research. And I’m a professional writer, which means my fortunes literally rise and fall depending on how well I deliver content.
I even procrastinated this very post. I was supposed to write it yesterday. I was technically supposed to write it a week ago, but I did other work instead. So, here we are now with my wins, challenges, and preoccupations for the past two weeks instead of one.
Wins In Weeks 4 and 5:
I’m getting a ton of good work. In the last two weeks, I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’m booked pretty solid. I have even turned away a couple of offers because they weren’t the best fit or required more energy than I was capable of giving. The nicest part about having a full docket is that you can be much more selective on the work you say yes to. You can start to ask for a higher rate without worrying that you’ll go hungry if they say no.
Because I had more work, I was able to make more than my original income goal. I was planning to ramp up to a certain number in gross income per month, with December being the deadline. I hit that income goal in September, which makes me feel like I’m a few months ahead of where I thought I’d be. Which is nice.
This led me to increase my income goal for October by 33%. I got the figure in my head and then did the math to find out how much money I would need to make each week in order to get there. From there, I determined the average amount I would need to bring in each day. Nerdy, I know. But it helps me stay on track and make adjustments when I’m off track.
This week (Week 5), I hit my weekly income goal by the end of Wednesday. This meant that anything I made on Thursday and Friday was really a bonus that went toward lowering the average weekly rate for the following weeks. Unfortunately, this gave my mixed-up head a free pass to be really lazy on Thursday, leading to my main challenge.
Challenges In Weeks 4 and 5:
As I said, the biggest challenge has been with procrastination. It has become incredibly hard to find the cure for distraction; It’s almost like searching for the cure for hiccups. The temptation to procrastinate is especially strong when I realize that I’ve hit a goal. Instead of capitalizing on my momentum, I pump the brakes.
During my moments of procrastinating, I’ve found myself wanting to worry about the future, how I’m going to hit the next goal, shopping for new videogames, or browsing memes. These are fantastic things to do during non-work hours, but really not helpful at the moment.
Thankfully, after trying a few things, I’ve found a couple of remedies.
The biggest one is what I will call “Procrastinating Forward ™,” which is a fancy term for making the most of my laziness. In fact, I’m procrastinating forward right now.
It means that when I want to put off a specific task for whatever reason, I replace that time with something productive. Instead of doing what really should be doing, I’m doing something else that’s still valuable.
There is such a thing as productively putting work off.
I have a couple of blogs to write by the middle of next week, and for whatever reason, I simply cannot get started on them. I will try to start and then hit a huge wall. So, instead of firing up Facebook or Netflix, I will do a different task that is actually productive but a lot less intimidating.
For the last two hours, instead of writing my blog posts, I have read a few educational articles, listened to a couple of podcasts, pitched a job to a potential client, journaled a page, fleshed out the portfolio on my website, and wrote this post.
I was supposed to do all of these tasks later today, after the “hard work,” but man am I glad that I flipped the schedule. I am not sure if I would have had enough motivation left to do them after the hard posts, and they still needed to get done. Plus, they gave me momentum to leverage into doing the harder stuff. As an additional perk, I know now that once the two blogs I need to write are done, I don’t have to do any other work today.
Besides flipping the day by doing small-but-necessary tasks instead of the motivation-sucking ones, I’ve found it helpful to move to a different room of the house whenever I get stuck, and/or take a lap walking around the neighborhood. It essentially feels like hitting the “refresh” button on a webpage that isn’t loading. Sometimes it lets me function again.
Preoccupation In Weeks 4 and 5:
I actually used more words than I thought for the procrastinating forward concept, so I’ll be brief here. I’ve been preoccupied with marketing and the various ways to do it, both for paid work that I can do and for marketing myself.
I’ve also been preoccupied with finding the best daily schedule for me. In the beginning, I felt guilty whenever I didn’t stick to a 9-5 schedule, because that’s what I’m used to. Recently it has been a bit more fluid.
Some writers are better with writing in the morning and better with client interaction in the afternoon. Others are best at writing later at night. I’m still toying around to find my most productive “deep work” window.
I’m in the stage of my business that some people call “Blowing and Going,” or “The Fun Stage.”
Things are starting to happen. Deals are being closed. It seems like every new idea works. I have the freedom to take risks, and by golly, they’re paying off!
It’s easy to get sucked into working 60 hours a week to build on the momentum. It’s also easy to trip over what the future may hold.
It’s time for me to remember my core values and vision, and start taking more risks.