7 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Getting the Clients You Deserve
Why does procrastinating make it so hard for you to succeed?
It’s easy to put off or postpone doing things that you know are important to freelance success—like marketing. But procrastinating only makes it harder to get the clients you deserve. Once you understand why you procrastinate, it’s easier to stop—so you can start getting the clients you deserve.
Making time for marketing was the #1 challenge of freelancers in my 2023 survey on freelance marketing. But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that most of us procrastinate about doing things that seem too hard.
And for most freelancers, marketing just seems too hard. Because we rarely have a chance to learn about marketing. We focus on building skills and experience in writing or editing (or another freelance field).
Let me tell you why this is a big problem for freelancers. Consistent, ongoing, and client-focused marketing is one of the keys to freelance success.
Procrastinating Leads to Struggle, Not Success
If you don’t do consistent, ongoing, and client-focused marketing, then you’re likely to end up taking whatever work comes along. And you’ll struggle to make a living.
Even if you have lots of great clients and lots of projects with those clients now, you need to be marketing your freelance business. Because freelancers lose clients—often without doing anything wrong—and projects get delayed or cancelled.
You can make time for marketing—once you understand why you procrastinate, and what you can do about this.
Freelancers put off or postpone marketing for many reasons.
Let’s look at each of these reasons for procrastinating and see what you can do to stop procrastinating and start getting the clients you deserve.
The Results Take Too Long
The rewards of marketing—new clients, more money, and a stable, successful freelance business—seem far off. And they are, because it usually takes time to get new clients. Experts say that up to 90% of the time, a client isn’t ready to hire a freelancer when we first market to them. Sometimes it takes a year or more of regular follow up before a client hires us.
So you do the work now but the rewards come later. But our brains don’t like that. Our brains value “immediate rewards more highly than future rewards,” says James Clear in Procrastination: A Scientific Guide on How to Stop Procrastinating.
You’re Overwhelmed and Don’t Know Where to Start
We all get overwhelmed, because most of the time, we have too much to do and too little time to do it in both our professional and personal lives.
If you focus on what’s been proven to work best for freelancers, then you won’t have to try to figure out what to do, or waste your time on things that don’t work.
Start with my free concise, step-by-step guide to getting steady, high-paying clients: The Ultimate Guide to the Freelance Success You Deserve. The guide has links to more content to help you.
You’re Afraid Your Marketing Won’t Work
If you do the right things in the right way, and you market your freelance business consistently, then your marketing will work. My free guide will show you what the right things are. Mighty Marketer blog posts and videos will show you how to do them.
You Dislike or Hate Marketing
Marketing is a key part of running any business. Focusing on what works best for freelancers and breaking marketing down into small, manageable tasks will make it easier.
But the most important thing you can do is change your attitude. You can learn new things—like how to market your freelance business. A growth mindset will help you do this. And you can build a growth mindset.
It’s Not Urgent—Yet!
This is probably the biggest reason for procrastinating about marketing: you don’t absolutely have to do it—yet!
If you have enough great clients and lots of projects with those clients, marketing may not seem important. But clients disappear—sometimes with no warning—and projects end.
This happened to me in 2016, when I lost my biggest client.
But because I had a client-focused LinkedIn profile and website, and knew how to do marketing to attract new clients, I was able to recover quickly. Within a few months, I had 4 new steady, high-paying clients and as much work as I wanted.
If you wait until you really need more work, it’s too late. And when you’re desperate, it shows.
How to Stop Procrastinating Now
Here are 7 ways to stop procrastinating and start marketing—so you can start getting the clients you deserve.
1. Jump into the Marketing Pool
Did you ever stand at the edge of a pool, afraid to jump in because the water would be too cold? Jumping in is much easier than lowering yourself slowly down the ladder.
When you jump in, the worst part is over quickly. You don’t spend time worrying about how cold the water is, or talking yourself out of going in at all.
Procrastination works the same way. “The guilt, shame, and anxiety that you feel while procrastinating are usually worse than the effort and energy you have to put in while you’re working. The problem is not doing the work, it’s starting the work,” says Clear.
Once you get started on your marketing, it’s much easier to keep going.
2. Build the Marketing Habit
A habit is “the small decisions you make and actions you perform every day,” says Clear, who’s also the best-selling author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.
Habits make it much easier for us to do the things we need to do—like marketing a freelance busines.
The more you practice the marketing habit, the easier it gets. It’s like learning how to tie your shoelaces. In the beginning, you had to really think about what you were doing. And it was hard. But the more times you tied your shoelaces, the easier it got—because tying your shoelaces became a habit.
Watch my video Make Marketing as Easy as Tying Your Shoes.
3. Set a Marketing Goal(s)
Researchers have found that setting goals makes it easier to take actions that won’t benefit you until later, says Clear.
Goals help you focus on what you need to do to build a stable, successful freelance business. If you develop a plan to achieve your goals, you’ll be 3 times more likely to achieve them.
Watch my video, Goals for Freelance Success.
Set SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound—and break them down into mini-goals and the actions you’ll take to achieve your mini-goals and ultimately, your bigger goals. As you complete each action, you’ll be motivated to keep going until you reach your goal.
Get your free Simple Plan for Achieving your Freelance Goals.
4. Put Your Simple Plan into Action
Develop a marketing calendar based on your simple plan. For each week or month, depending on how much marketing you’re doing, list:
Continue for each action item for the week or month.
Integrate your marketing calendar with your regular calendar. Use it to stay on track in working on your goals. Each time you fill in the date you completed an action item, you’ll be motivated to keep going.
If you fall behind, it’s okay. But make sure you get back to working on your marketing goals soon.
5. Make Marketing a Priority
Would you miss a deadline on a client project because you didn’t feel like working on it, or because something else came up?
Like meeting client deadlines, marketing must be a priority. Try doing the easiest tasks first and fast. Clear says that doing this gives your day “an attitude of productivity and effectiveness” and helps you avoid procrastinating.
Setting deadlines for your action items and putting them on your calendar will also help you stop procrastinating and make marketing a priority. Treat your marketing action item deadlines like your deadlines for clients—as things that you simply must get done.
Use visual cues to remind yourself about your action items. I put big colorful sticky notes with dates for action items on my paper marketing file. The file is to the right of my desk where I see it every day. The day before it’s time to take action, I move the file on top of my computer, so it’s right in front of me.
You can put stickies on the wall or use a whiteboard. Whatever works best for you is great.
If you’re truly swamped with client work or personal commitments, it’s okay to miss a marketing deadline now and then. Move the deadline to the next week or whenever your crunch time will be over. But don’t extend your deadline for too long or you’re likely to end up desperate for freelance work and money.
6. Find an Accountability Buddy
Need someone to push you to do your marketing? Find another freelancer who’s also procrastinating and hold each other accountable. Share your marketing goals and plan. Check in with each other once a month.
When you know you need to check in with your accountability buddy soon, you’re much more likely to work toward or achieve your marketing goals than if you’re trying to do this on your own.
7. Get Some Expert Help
Even if you find an accountability buddy, marketing your freelance business can be really hard.
But you can get expert help. And it’s much easier to succeed with the help of an expert who cares about your success than to try to figure out and do everything on your own.
Start with my free step-by-step guide to getting steady, high-paying clients:
Scroll through the Freelance Success Blog for more practical advice on freelance marketing tools and how to use them. Read about the challenges other freelancers are facing and what they’re doing to succeed.
If you need more help, check out my book. The Fearless Freelancer: How to Thrive in a Recession or my online course Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve. While I wrote the book during the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, the content will help you build a stable, successful freelance business in good times and in bad.
Watch the video Build Your Freelance Business.
Learn More About Procrastinating
Free guides and tools:
Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve, an online course
Build Your Freelance Business, video about my online course
Blog posts related to procrastinating:
Videos related to procrastinating:
More About Procrastinating from James Clear