Self Imposed Deadlines are an Essential Success Habit...

How to Use Deadlines to Improve All Areas of Your Web-Writing Business

Ours is a simple business. We get clients. We do the work. We get paid. But, even though it’s simple, we still have to stay on top of things to keep our business going.

We’re writers, so we like the writing part. And, it’s all too easy to give the writing priority and procrastinate on the other business stuff. Like self-promotion and marketing, sending and following up on proposals, and keeping up with the bookkeeping and finances.

We know these things need to get done. But, we need the right systems — the right tools — to make sure they do, in fact, get done.

And, one of the best tools to help a writer get things done is a deadline.

Every writer I know understands — and respects — a deadline. So, let’s look at how you can apply deadlines to all areas of your web-writing business and improve your success.

But first, let’s clarify how to effectively set and manage deadlines… so they help, rather than hurt, your efforts.

Setting Deadlines That Help, Rather Than Hurt

Like goals, deadlines that improve your writing business rather than hindering it, follow the SMART guideline. That is, they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Time-bound is what we typically think of when we’re thinking about deadlines. After all, a deadline, according to Merriam-Webster, is simply “a date or time before which something must be done.”

But, the “something” that must be done needs to be specific and measurable. And, the date or time must be realistic and achievable.

Unrealistic deadlines chip away at your confidence and cause undue stress. And, if they’re too vague in scope, that doesn’t help, either.

Imagine a client saying they “need some words about something sometime…”

We’d never leave it at that! We’d insist on defining the project, for example, as a “1,000-word article about deadlines that they’ll get by the end of the month.”

This is specific, measurable, and time-bound. And, it’s also realistic and achievable… as long as we’re agreeing to that deadline that gives us enough time to actually write that 1,000-word article.

Deadlines create clear expectations and keep us motivated to complete tasks and projects in a timely manner.

Properly setting SMART deadlines can even boost productivity by helping us prioritize our most important daily tasks.

But, unrealistic deadlines that are too tight in timing or too broad in scope can stifle creativity and cause stress… which, in turn, can make it hard to focus on getting things done.

And, that’s the opposite of smart.

Deadlines for Non-Writing Business Tasks

So, how do we set SMART deadlines for non-writing business tasks, like marketing, selling, and accounting?

Marketing and Self-Promotion

The strategy that has best served me, when it comes to marketing and self-promotion, is to treat myself like I would a client. “Client” me gives “writer” me a deadline for my weekly newsletter, my pre-written and scheduled social media posts, and my video content.

Without the deadlines, it’s all too easy to give all my time and attention to outside client work. Have you experienced this, too?

In addition, I give myself deadlines for showing up for active networking and interaction with other live human beings. For example, I’ve committed to having at least two coffee meetings each week (in-person or virtual), and my deadline to get them on my calendar is each Monday at 5:00 p.m.

I’ve also committed to making at least 10 personal connections (via phone call, text, direct message, and/or email) with clients, prospects, and/or referral partners each week. My deadline for this is to have them done by 6:00 p.m. each Friday.

I find deadlines make these commitments real and non-negotiable. I didn’t always fulfill these marketing and self-promotion commitments before I developed the deadline habit.

But, now I do.

And, my business is all the better for it.

Yours can be, too.

Selling… AKA Discovery Calls and Proposals

How long after you get an interested prospect do you schedule a discovery call with them? How long do you give yourself after the discovery call to send the proposal? When do you follow up on the proposal, if you haven’t heard back?

Before I knew better, I used to wing it on these critical selling touchpoints. I was good about scheduling the discovery call right away. And, I usually sent the proposal in a timely manner. But, I wasn’t consistent with my follow-up.

Having a system of deadlines has changed that… again, for the better.

Now, my deadline to schedule a discovery call with an interested prospect is one business day. (That’s to schedule the call and get it on my calendar, not to actually have it within one business day.)

My deadline for sending a proposal is two business days after the discovery call, and I tell them that during the call. If the proposal requires more thought and detail, I adjust the deadline accordingly, and I always tell them when they can expect it.

My deadline for following up after the proposal is sent is five business days, unless I’ve heard from them sooner.

This deadline system makes me accountable for scheduling my discovery calls, as well as sending and following up on proposals in a timely manner.

That’s good sales. It’s smart. And, it’s improved my business.

Accounting and Finances

Some money deadlines are easy and familiar. For example, we’re used to due dates for bills, and there are consequences (late fees and other penalties to our credit score) when we miss these deadlines.

But, what if we also set deadlines for paying ourselves? This is something I didn’t do in the early stages of my business, but I wish I would have.

I learned about setting a “deadline” of paying myself from Mike Michalowicz in his book, Profit First. Now I transfer a predetermined amount of money into my “profit” account no more than five minutes after depositing a client payment.

Rather than just being a set date on the calendar, this deadline is triggered by another action. But, it’s still time-bound — five minutes after depositing a client payment. And, it fits all the other SMART criteria, too.

I’ve also committed to a deadline of the 15th of every month to have my bank account reconciled, so I stay on top of my accounting and finances. This is when I check on outstanding invoices and follow up with clients who are behind on their payments.

These money deadlines have improved my business finances. They can improve yours, too.

Creating Your Own System of Deadlines

These deadline examples have been my own. You can tweak them however you need to, so they’ll serve you and improve your web-writing business, too.

Let your first new deadline be the date you’ll commit to for having your system thought out and in place. If you’re ready to publicly commit to that deadline, put it in a comment below. Then put it on your calendar, too.

After all, any good deadline should also go on your calendar to keep you accountable for meeting it.

Start setting SMART deadlines for yourself, and you can improve any and all areas of your web-writing business.


Michele Peterson

I'm a Freelance Direct-Response Copywriter specializing in web content and social media. I help clients attract new prospects, get new customers, and retain existing clients with engaging web content and strategic social media. I'm a Master Networker, having attended 400+ networking events in the past 3 years. AND I'm a proud Baseball Mom, Wine Wife, and BBQ Daughter who loves Christmas, Disneyland, and rescue dogs.

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