Freelancers are a self-propelled bunch. We are the small man pedaling furiously to keep his little plane in the air. We wake up every morning and get to the desk or we stay up late writing/editing/stitching couture into the wee hours of the morning. How we deal with deadlines is vital to how we survive. No one likes a freelancer who can’t deliver.
So what do you do when you wake up in the morning of D-day and just want to roll over and go back to sleep? You sit down at your desk to work and spend a half hour on facebook reading about Occupy Wall Street. You write a post on your freelance blog that is read by about fifteen people, one of whom is the person who set the deadline that is looming over your head.
Some people don’t have this problem. They are done by the day before their deadline. They probably keep all the papers on their desk at strict right angles to each other. I assure you that I am not this person. But nor am I the Douglas Adams type who said (and I misquote): I like deadlines, I like the swooshing sound they make as they fly over my head.
I take the middle road. I have missed deadlines before. It was once or twice and each time I contacted the person I was working for a day or two ahead of the deadline and told them that I didn’t think I was going to make it in time and could I have a few more days. Each time he or she said yes. Do you remember asking for extensions for papers in college? Your professor would scoff at you if you asked for an extension the day the paper was due. But if you showed up a few days before and said that you had three papers due and an exam to take all on the same day, the professor was much more likely to grant you an extension.
One of the most important things to learn as a freelancer is to know how long it takes you to do your work. Don’t promise a 200-page book with a 2-day turnaround because you would like to be able to do it that quickly. You still have to eat, breath, sleep, let your dog out, etc. There’s no fucking way you’re going to be able to do a good job on that short of a turnaround. Give yourself enough time.
Give yourself time to fuck up. I got ready to turn in my second proofreading project ever and when looking over an email I noticed that the editor wanted me to change all instances of “American” used as a modifier to “U.S.”. Shit. I hadn’t done that. I had to skim the whole 300-page manuscript one more time before I could turn it in.
The best advice when confronted with a deadline is to suck it up and deal, cupcake. Pace your editing so that you don’t stay up all night editing. There is no way in the fucking universe that you can spot mistakes in a document if you haven’t slept for twenty-four hours. It might have worked when you wrote papers in college, but I guarantee that your paper looked like shit. You were lucky to graduate at all.
Know your faults and plan for them. Cancel your social plans so you can get your shit done. Do your work well and get it in on time. Get the fuck off the internet and get to work.
How do you keep your shit together?