Prioritizing 101: Because Freelancing is F***ing Hard

I’m sitting here neck-deep in work, which is amazing. There’s no universe in which I would be upset about having a ton of work. Work is what makes me able to do things like pay bills and actually, for once in my life, take a vacation this spring. (A working vacation, no doubt, but still!)

That being said, freelancing is fucking hard. There, I said it. In my irreverent, straightforward, no-BS style, freelancing is no joke. Asana is my new best friend, and without it I’m fairly sure I’d be forever on the edge of a nervous breakdown. But even with amazing technology like Asana, it’s still up to me to prioritize (among other things), and prioritizing is not actually that easy.

For instance, I currently have a giant project that is an ongoing, weekly project. There are articles within the project I quite enjoy, and there are others that make me wish I was attempting a fire walk, because at least it would be over sooner. This is common in freelancing. You won’t love everything you do.

But it all has to get done. And that’s the challenge.

What Comes First? 

If you’re staring down a giant list of to-dos, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, I have five simple rules you should follow. They’re the rules I follow, and they’ve helped me immensely when it comes to prioritizing my work.

#1: Do the Shit You Hate First 

Oh, my goodness, is this ever true. If you’re looking at a project that makes you want to cry under a bridge with rum where the Wi-Fi can’t reach you, do that thing first. Why? Because you really want to get it out of the way, and because if you’re dreading it first thing in the morning, you’re certainly not going to be psyched to do it at midnight when you have 20% of the brainpower and far less caffeine in your system. Get it out of the way, breathe a sigh of relief, and move on. It’ll make the rest of your projects go so much more smoothly without having that cloud of doom and bore hanging over your head.

#2 Don’t Prioritize by Deadlines Alone 

This one confuses a lot of people, but I stand by it. Sure, I have this giant multi-article project due tomorrow, but I did the short, easy article with the Saturday deadline first. Why? To get it out of the way. The less you have on your plate, the easier it is to focus on the big stuff without stressing. Now, obviously, don’t do this if for some reason you’ll miss a deadline by mixing up the order. But if you can do it without compromising promptness, I suggest knocking out the stuff you hate and the easy things first. Which leads me to my next point.

#3 The Cake Walk Orders Come Next 

Right after “ish you hate” comes “stuff you could write in your sleep and win a Nobel Prize for”. If you’re looking at a really difficult project and two super easy ones, knock out the easy ones because that’ll open your schedule up to focus on the other stuff. It’ll be out of your hair and you can move on looking at a much cleaner deadline calendar.

#4 Big to Small 

Alright. At this point, you’ve knocked out the crap you really didn’t want to do, the stuff that you could do in your sleep, and now you have to whittle that list down even further. What do you do next? I suggest prioritizing big to small. If you have a project that consists of an 8-article set totaling 8,000 words and a singular 300-word article, knock the 8,000-word article out first. This might seem to go against what I said earlier about doing the cake walk stuff, but small doesn’t necessarily mean easy, and a large project with high word counts make you feel like that cloud of doom is hanging over you again. Easy ones are fast to do, but small doesn’t necessarily mean easy. If they were easy, you’d probably have knocked them out by now. Capiche? Knock those giants out, and the smaller projects will go much faster, and you’ll be able to do them with way less stress hanging over you.

#5 Keep Marketing

Wait, what? Yeah, that’s right. On your list of prioritizing and completing all this great, wonderful work you have, don’t forget to keep pitching, prospecting, bidding on assignments, submitting proposals, and marketing your ass off. Because when you get to the end of a project and you realize you’ve forgotten to do this step, the panic you’ll feel is probably one of the worst feelings in business. It’s the visions of a month of Ramen and wondering if you can get Wi-Fi on the street. It’s confronting the harsh reality that you haven’t done the necessary work to keep your business afloat while rushing around doing all your work. You can skip this feeling by never forgetting to market yourself. Thinking “I don’t have time to craft that proposal” is a death sentence for your business. You make the time. If you’re serious about it, you find the time. Because you’ll need that work to come in when you’re done with what you have.

There you go. It’s my top five tips on prioritizing your business as a freelancer. It’s hard, I won’t lie. Asana is my best friend, and I’ll be writing another post about them. No, I’m not sponsored by them (or anyone else, currently), I just believe in the product and couldn’t do business without it.

How do you prioritize? Do you do it differently? What works for you? Share tips in the comments!

Until next time, happy writing!

Oh, and check out the new e-article on Kindle: 15 Things Nobody Tells You About Freelancing (That You Need to Know).  You might learn something new, but I guarantee you that you’ll laugh if nothing else.

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