How to Make Steady Progress

Christina Gillick here, guest editor of The Writer's Life this week.

As freelancers, we sometimes get overwhelmed because we’re expected to juggle many different hats – business owner, writer, accountant, marketer, etc.

This causes you to lose momentum and, as a result, your business can suffer.

Today, I want to tell you how I went from being overwhelmed and frustrated to making real headway with my copywriting career.

When I first started my writer’s life, I found it very difficult to build my own business after spending the whole day working at my full-time job.

There was so much to be done, and because I didn’t know where to start, I found it easier to spend the evening procrastinating in front of the TV.

I didn’t know if I should build my website, write and send self-promotion letters, respond to job ads, put together a prospect list, study something, choose a niche …

It just kept building on me, and I seriously considered giving up.

But then I had a moment of clarity. I read somewhere to FOCUS (or Follow One Course Until Successful) and to do something daily to move closer to my goals.

I decided to follow the path of building my expert status in the “web writing for self-help companies” niche. The first thing to do was to create my freelance website.

After all, I could do all the promotion in the world, but if no one could find or hire me, everything else on my list, like sending out self-promotion letters and cold calling potential clients, went below finishing my website.

First, I made a list of only the most essential items.

I knew I would use a WordPress site, so my list looked something like this:

  • Write the copy for my home page
  • Write the copy for the about page
  • Find samples for my samples page
  • Buy a domain
  • Buy website hosting
  • Install WordPress
  • Find and install a theme
  • Add pages with my content

Then I organized my list in order of importance. I basically just went with my gut. If it had to be done to launch the site, it was high on the list. “Writing my copy” and “getting a domain name” were near the top. If it was an enhancement that could be done after launch day, it was lower on the list. Stuff like “tweaking the design” wound up low on the list.

To keep me going, I set a deadline, which was pretty easy considering my goal.

As I said Monday, my goal was to submit it to the “Build Your Freelance Website in 4 Days” Challenge. The challenge had a specific deadline.

Once I had the deadline and the list, I broke it into chunks and added it to my calendar – starting with the deadline and working back. I wanted to do something every day so I didn’t have to cram it all in a small amount of time.

Previous to this new FOCUS plan, I had avoided building my website for months. It just seemed like so much to do. I never did anything because I wasn’t sure where to start.

When you have very limited time, it’s easy to look at a task and think it’s too big. But when you create a plan with bite-sized daily tasks, you know exactly what to work on each day and it makes it easier to jump in.

Since my website experience, I break all my major tasks into daily tasks. When I take on a client project, I schedule the entire thing, starting with the due date and working back. I schedule time for research, writing, revising, brainstorming, etc.

If you’re still struggling to get started, think about where you could be if you did just one tiny thing every day. Breaking down your big tasks will make them much more manageable and it will make you much more likely to take action. Go here to read an article where I explain how you can steadily move your business forward with just 30 minutes a day.

Even Michael Masterson uses tasks lists to structure his day. Check out this article where he explains how to plan your days to maximize progress.

How about you? How do you schedule your time and stay on track? What techniques do you have for moving your business forward every day? Go below to share.

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Published: April 27, 2012

2 Responses to “How to Make Steady Progress”

  1. Thank you for writing such an informative article.

    We appreciate your point of view.

    I agree: move from the complex to the simple. Break things down into tasks that you can manage. That is the secret to success.

    I maintain a note pad in which I jot down my to-do list: that helps me to stay on top of the tasks I need to get done.

    Every once in a while, I return to that list and revise it. That helps me to stay on track. Writing your goals down is key. This can help you to focus.

    Archan MehtaApril 29, 2012 at 7:23 pm

  2. Thanks for this Christina. It was very helpful.

    I went to my local dollar store to see what kind of white board I could find.

    I found a "Job Chart" in the teachers section. It was perfect for what I wanted to do. It had Monday-Friday on top (with space to add Sat) and blank horizontal lines going down. And it was on material that came with a marker and could be erased.

    So my plan is to work on my copywriting business Mon/Tue/Thurs because I can dedicate all day on those days. On the other days, I'm working on other things that need to get done but were competing for time.

    I have another piece of paper where I listed all that needs to be done (like the sample you gave) for each business.

    Before this I felt so overwhelmed but now I feel like a weight has been taken off my shoulders. I know what I'm working on on any particular day.

    Thank you!

    Guest (Sandra A)April 30, 2012 at 11:06 am

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