Diana Kelly Levey

My Best Tips for Procrastinating Freelance Writers

A woman procrastinating at a computer

July 10, 2021

Any creative person or freelance writer feels the pressure of working on something that shows their talent, intelligence and how utterly original they are.

And while the pressure of simply starting can be daunting, and it’s one you need to push past if you’re going to be a successful freelancer, artist, or paid creative employee. (You also need to know how to write an article pitch, too.)

How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing

Step 1: Let Go of Your Perfectionism

If you’re a writer staring at a blank Word document and blinking clicker, my best writing tip for beginners and experienced writers alike is to do this one thing: Just quickly type a lame headline and a boring intro.

Why would you advise that, Diana? No one wants to click on a dumb headline and read beyond the first paragraph of an article when it’s a dud.

I wholeheartedly agree. (Here are some tips for creating great content.)

But if you’re like me…you just need to begin. You need to take one step toward completing your deadline. You need to get the momentum going in order to complete that freelance article that you’re avoiding working on. (Read these tips if you’re juggling multiple freelance clients.)

If I’m working on an article for a client, I can get tripped up in the process of coming up with a great headline, or the one that’s best for their SEO goals. That’s why simply writing a dull headline just to get something on the page helps me stop procrastinating.

Another reason I procrastinate as a writer is that I struggle to write a creative, fresh introductory paragraph. One that will hook the reader and encourage them to keep reading and scrolling to the bottom of the article.

When I’m stalled by these fears and paused due to perfectionism, I find myself procrastinating. (Writers are the worst procrastinators, or are writers the best at procrastinating? It all depends on perspective.)

I need to just sit my duff in the chair and start writing. Thinking about and putting off writing takes much longer than actually writing. (Check out these article pitch examples for even more inspiration.)

Step 2. Move on to the Not-So-Creative Tasks

I might set a timer for 30 to 45 minutes and start copying and pasting quotes, adding research and links where necessary, and well, I’m not doing a ton of creative writing at first. If I’m working on a long feature article, I might reread my interviews and jot down the crucial points I want to make in certain sections on a legal pad before organizing it on my computer. (Here’s how to be more productive when you work from home.)

Step 3. Put on Your Thinking Cap

Once I see what I have laid out in front of me, and I organize the article into sections or bullet points, I can edit the copy, summarize quotes, and add more personality to the piece so it’s a cohesive, interesting article. It’s only after I’ve edited the article, and often let it sit for a day or two, that I go back and work on my introductory paragraph and a few headline ideas. (Here are fun ways to come up with article ideas.)

All of this is to say: It’s okay if your first draft sucks. Don’t get caught up in the title, or writing the most clever first paragraph the world has ever read. Get words on the page and you’ll probably find that once you’re in the writing groove, you’ll want to keep writing after the timer you set has gone off. (These freelancer FAQs will answer all your other burning questions.)

This freelance writing trick should work if you’re an artist staring at a blank canvas, a songwriter working on the chorus, if you’re a quilter and need to start cutting out and piecing some blocks before establishing the final layout, even if you’re a choreographer and have dance moves for the middle of a song before you’ve figured out how it’s going to start. (Here’s how many hours freelancers work each week.)

Just get something down, started, and accomplish one piece of the project you need to complete. You can improve upon your freelance article draft later. I promise, you’ll feel relieved once you get something done. Try this freelance writing tip this week and let me know how it went in the comments below. (Check out successful freelance writers’ number-one piece of advice for beginner freelancers.)

If you want help with your freelance writing career, I offer one-on-one coaching services for freelancers.  Or, sign up for one of my e-courses on Teachable to take action and start earning money as a freelancer. Only ready to dip your toes into the freelance writing world? Check out my e-Book 100+ Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers.

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