Hey Creative Freelancer: Hustle Smarter, Not Harder

January 31, 2018 Erin Ollila

creative freelancer

Hustle. Hustle. Hustle.

That word is all I hear these days. It’s seeped into sales copy and preached by successful entrepreneurs. If you’re not hustling, there’s no hope for success. End of story. While this theory may thrive in Silicon Valley startup culture, it’s a lot of pressure to put on a solo creative freelancer.

A few weeks ago, I took a call with a friend who was just starting out as an independent worker. She wanted advice on how to work from home and be her own boss. She was willing to do anything to start her career on the right foot, because the jump from being a nine-to-five worker to a solopreneur seemed so scary. Could she make it on her own? Would she be able to bring in the same amount of income as she was making in her last job?

“I’ve been hustling as hard as I can,” she said, “but I’m still worried it won’t be enough.”

So I asked her what she’d done to grow her business. In the span of one week, she had sent 20 letters of introduction, applied for ten freelance positions she found on job boards, wrote one blog post for her own website and two unpaid posts for other websites, and sent out an email to friends, family, and close acquaintances to inform them she was looking for freelance writing work and hoped they’d keep her in mind. Oh, and she was still working part-time and had a toddler at home on the other days.

Yikes. Sounded to me like she was hustling pretty hard. But—it wasn’t working. There were no bites. No potential leads.

What should she do?

My friend didn’t need to hustle harder. She needed to hustle smarter. And chances are you do too.

Invest in Systems

We all have 24 hours in the day, and in my opinion, to be the best creative freelancer you can be, you need to sleep for at least one-fourth of that time. So what happens with the rest of those hours?

If you can automate some of your workload, you’ll free up more time in your day. For example, I use a social media scheduler that not only publishes new content daily on my channels, it repurposes old content I’ve shared, too. The original setup took some time but now runs without a hitch. My accounting software reminds clients of when their bills are coming due and follows up with them immediately if anything becomes late. I also use scheduling software that allows clients to make an appointment based on my availability, without needing to go back and forth planning it with me.

There’s so much to do when running a business that if you can simplify it in any way, you can save time for more important things.

Prioritizing Your To-Do List

I enjoy researching the daily routines of successful entrepreneurs. While there are many approaches to how they start the day, one routine that almost everyone follows is prioritizing what they’ll focus their attention on. These high-level professionals are both strategic and forward-thinking when they assign work for themselves. Oh, and they also don’t overload their days either.

Don’t aimlessly work on tasks as they pop into your head. Follow the lead of multimillionaire CEOs and list the top three items you plan on working on each day. If you feel as if you’re swimming in tasks, keep a running list of things you need to touch or complete. That way, if you finish your three goals early, you can jump into something new. Similarly, you can add to your running list throughout the day if something pops in your head. Add it to the bottom of your list and then forget it temporarily so you can give your entire focus to whatever it is you’ve prioritized. Bullet journaling would be a great exercise for someone who’s looking to organize their tasks.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Break Your Work Into Baby Steps

When you’re clear on what it is you have to work on, you’re often motivated to jump right in. Yet, the bigger the project, the more intimidating. You want to tackle those big goals. You’re just not sure where and how to start.

Have I told you lately how much I love taking big projects and downsizing them into itty bitty little tasks? (I do!) Here’s how I once handled my to-do list: I’d assign huge tasks to my schedule just as I would a little project. So, while Monday may have “Write Content Standard article” as my prioritized task of the day, Tuesday may very well be “Rewrite website.” If you’ve ever written the copy for your own website before, you’ll know it takes a lot longer than one night. Each page is its own task, and those to-dos can even get broken down into smaller items, such as sourcing images, blocking the page, or writing calls to action.

Any big task can be broken down into smaller, easy-to-complete steps on your to-do list. For example, I started this post before I went to dinner with a few close friends. When I got home, I wasn’t feeling motivated to work, but I knew it was my priority for the evening. So instead of staring at a semi-blank page, I focused on one individual section before moving on to the next. Soon enough, I developed a complete first draft just because I worked on one bite-sized chunk at a time.

Hire Out for Help

You might not think it’s possible to hire someone when you’re working on your own, but you’d be missing out on a huge opportunity. Onboarding another creative freelancer into your team allows you to get more work done. Sure, it may cost more, but if you prioritize their workload, there’s a great possibility you’ll earn even more with them helping out. Let your new hire handle what they’re an expert at, and you can focus on what’s really important for you to do.

Not sure who you’d bring into your business? Consider some of these roles:

  • virtual assistants
  • accountants
  • graphic designers
  • website designers
  • writers
  • coaches
  • launch strategists
  • videographers
  • bookkeepers
  • salespeople
  • customer service reps
  • organizers
  • public relations professionals

One more thing. These hires can be contract workers—meaning you aren’t bound to each other forever if you only need them temporarily or if the partnership doesn’t work out.

Be Proactive with Research

Being in the know makes a job easier for any professional, but especially for the creative freelancer. When I’m paying attention to what’s happening in the content marketing industry, it’s easier for me to grow with the changes, versus trying to swim against the current.

Make it a priority to gather information at all times from various sources so you’re always ready to write about new ideas, emerging stories, and current events. I use Feedly to capture all the published content from various sites I enjoy reading. I also set up keywords and phrases that are particular to my niche or clients, so the information comes to me, and I don’t have to spend time searching for it.

Similarly, every time I pitch an idea or am assigned something new, I’ll take five minutes to research it immediately online. All I do is a quick Google search and a scan to see which results come from trustworthy sources, making note of what year the content was published. Then, I’ll copy and paste those links into a note on my computer to read later, when I’m ready to start creating. When I’m ready for research, I’ll have a few links as starting points, so I can jump right in on the reading and less time on a wild goose chase for what I need.

If you’re constantly being advised to hustle, hustle, hustle, take it from me—you don’t have to do more, more, more. You just need to be smart about how you approach the hustle in the first place.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the Content Standard newsletter.

Subscribe to the Content Standard

Featured image attribution: NeONBRAND

The post Hey Creative Freelancer: Hustle Smarter, Not Harder appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.

About the Author

Biography

More Content by Erin Ollila
Previous Article
How Did Trump Win? It’s All Down to Political Branding
How Did Trump Win? It’s All Down to Political Branding

Over a year into Trump's presidency, there are still countless opinions on how such an unlikely candidate w...

Next Article
Why You Need Both Brand Standards and Editorial Guidelines in Your Content Documentation
Why You Need Both Brand Standards and Editorial Guidelines in Your Content Documentation

One quarter of marketers aren't using brand standards or editorial guidelines in their content marketing. I...