9 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and What Happens When You Do

When freelancers stop procrastinating they can start getting the clients they deserveIt’s easy to put off or postpone doing things that you know are important to freelance success. And the more procrastinating you do, the harder it is to get started.

Marketing your freelance business is probably one of things you procrastinate about. Many freelancers do this.

Work Now, Get Rewarded Later

The rewards of freelance marketing—news clients, more money, and a stable, successful freelance business—seem so 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.

Too Little Time for Marketing

Consistent, ongoing marketing is one of the keys to freelance success. Yet, finding time for marketing is a key challenge for most freelancers.

Finding time for marketing isn’t usually the problem. Freelancers put off or postpone marketing for many reasons, including:

  1. You’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start
  2. You’re afraid your marketing won’t work—or it will work too well
  3. You dislike or hate marketing
  4. It’s not urgent—yet!

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.

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.

And when it comes to marketing, there’s way too much advice out there. Much of the advice isn’t applicable to freelancers or is more than we need to do.

If you focus on what’s been proven to work best for freelancers, you won’t have to try to figure out what to do, or waste your time on things that don’t work. My Roadmap to High-Income Freelancing shows you what works best.

Free Roadmap to High-Income Freelancing

Click here for your free roadmap to freelance success.

You’re Afraid Your Marketing Won’t Work—or Will Work Too Well

If you do the right things in the right way, and you market consistently, your marketing will work.

The bigger problem is that your marketing will work too well, that is, you’ll get too many new clients and too many new freelance projects in a short period of time.

Balancing our workload is a common problem. I tell freelancers that if you want to be busy (however you define that) all or most of the time, you’ll have to work more than you want to some of the time. Unless you have exceptionally flexible clients, you won’t be able to do just as much work as you want all of the time.

When you’re really busy, don’t actively look for more work. But continue your more passive marketing, like networking.

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 about freelance marketing.When you like doing something, it’s easier to do.

Attitude isn’t something you’re born with. We all have the power to change what we think and do.

It’s Not Urgent—Yet!

This is probably the biggest reason to procrastinate about marketing: you don’t absolutely have to do it—yet!

If you’ve got lots of great clients and lots of freelance work from 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.

By the time marketing becomes urgent, it’s too late—because it usually takes time to get new clients. And when you’re desperate, it shows.

How to Stop Procrastinating Now

Here are 9 ways to stop procrastinating and start marketing—so you can start getting the clients you deserve. The first 5 are things I highly recommend for everyone. The last 4 are things that help some people.

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. Set Marketing Goals.

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 wind up where you want to be. If you develop a plan to achieve your goals, you’ll be 3 times more likely to achieve them.

3. Make Marketing Easy to Do.

Break your overall marketing goal down into small, easily achievable mini-goals and the actions you’ll take to achieve each mini-goal. As you complete each action, you’ll be motivated to keep going until you reach your goal.

Do 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.

Listing your goals, mini-goals, and actions in a plan will help you stay organized. Use the SMART goal worksheet in my Ultimate Guide to Goals for Freelancers to develop your plan.

Expand your plan in a marketing calendar. For each week or month, depending on how much marketing you’re doing, list:

Action item #1:


Date completed:

Continue for each action item for the week or month.

Your marketing calendar will help you stay on track. And each time you fill in the date you complete an action item, you’ll be motivated to keep going.

4. Make Marketing a Habit.

Keep on marketing until it becomes like brushing your teeth, something you do without thinking about it.

Start small and gradually do more. Breaking your marketing down into small actions you can easily achieve (#3) will help you make marketing a habit.

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? Of course not, because client deadlines are a priority.

Like client deadlines, marketing should be a priority. Set deadlines for your marketing actions and stick to them. Put marketing actions on your calendar and do them.

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.

Here are 4 other ways to make freelance marketing easier.

6. Use Visual Cues.

Visual cues can remind us to do the things we need to do. “It is much easier to stick with good habits when your environment nudges you in the right direction,” says Clear.

I put big colorful sticky notes with dates for action 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.

7. 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 weekly or monthly.

You’re more likely to achieve your marketing goals when you know you need to check in with your accountability buddy soon.

8. Punish Yourself.

Here’s an interesting idea from Clear. “Use a service like Stickk to place a bet. If you don’t do what you say you’ll do, then the money goes to a charity you hate. The idea here is to put some skin in the game and create a new consequence that happens if you don’t do the behavior right now,” he says.

9. Reward Yourself.

If you’re like me, you’d rather be rewarded than punished. So do your marketing and then reward yourself.

Your reward can be anything you enjoy. Here are a few ideas:

  • Go for a walk if you’ve been indoors all day
  • Have a glass of wine
  • Enjoy a meal at a great restaurant.

Whatever it is—do something you enjoy. You deserve it!

Learn More About How to Stop Procrastinating

Free Roadmap to High-Income Freelancing

4 Ways to Become a More Positive Thinker

Surviving a Freelance Disaster: Here’s What Happened to Me

Ultimate Guide to Goals for Freelancers

What You Need to Know About Being a Fully-Booked Freelancer

More About Procrastinating from James Clear

James Clear, Procrastination: A Scientific Guide on How to Stop Procrastinating

James Clear, “How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide”