How to Meet Deadlines While Avoiding Burnout

There are a lot of things that cause freelancers stress, but deadlines are one of the worst. How do you meet them without getting overloaded?

Illustration by Ramiro Roman.
Illustration by Ramiro Roman.

Would you hire someone to do a job the night before it was due? Of course not. You’re probably thinking, “That would be unreasonable.”

However, as a freelancer, you’re bound to have a client or two who think you have an endless amount of time on your hands.

In my experience, every client thinks they’re your only client.

But, remember, they’re your client, not your boss. YOU are your boss. So YOU get to set the deadlines. Their deadlines are not your deadlines.

No matter how badly you need the money, never feel pressured to take on a “rush job” if you feel you can’t complete it to perfection. Sacrificing quality for speedy delivery can come back and bite you in the butt in the long run. You also don’t want to put yourself in a position with a client where they consider your “rush job” turn-around as your “norm.”

Note: It’s perfectly within your rights as a freelancer to charge an extra “fee” if a client insists on a rushed deadline. Just remember: You do not have to accept the project if you don’t feel right about it.

9 Tips to Meet Deadlines While Avoiding Burnout

Here are nine of the things that I do to meet all of my deadlines without losing my sanity. I have confidence that you can make these tips work for you as well!

1. Write everything down.

Longtime readers know that I’m a huge fan of using a dayplanner. Seriously though: Write everything down.

Take notes of important details, take notes of not-so-important details — just make sure you write it all down.

2. Stay organized.

And by that I mean, stay mega organized. Give each of your clients their own folder. Keep your files in the “real world” organized too.

3. Give yourself a buffer.

Always tell your client that their assignment will be done 3-5 days longer than the project will actually take you to complete. If you fall ill or if an emergency pops up unexpectedly, you’ll be grateful for the extra time.

4. Set two deadlines.

There’s the deadline you tell your client and then there’s the “secret” deadline that you tell yourself.

Try giving yourself a “Try to get this done by…” deadline that lands well before the actual project is due. Getting the work done now means less work you’ll have to do later.

5. Take a day off.

I try to take Saturdays off “no matter what.”

Take a break. Relax. One day off isn’t gonna kill you. In fact, try for two!

6. Work through the weekend, if you have to.

I try to schedule deadlines to land on Mondays or Tuesdays so that, if I have to, I can work through the weekend.

Things happen and sometimes you have to work through the weekend. Just don’t make it a habit! (And try to take a day off during the week to make up for it! Trust me on this one: You need time off in order to avoid burnout).

7. Back up your files.

Nothing causes deadline stress quite like actually finishing the project and then having a computer error wipe everything from existence.


Don’t wait until you “have the time.” Do it now. You never know!

8. Don’t overbook yourself.

Well, well, well! Look at you! You’ve gotten super popular and everyone’s eager to utilize your services. Congratulations! Just remember: don’t overbook yourself.

Never take on more work than you can handle or you’ll risk compromising the quality that got you those primo clients in the first place!

9. Ask for help.

You don’t have to take on the world alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, whether that’s with the work itself – or with little things around the house that are being neglected while you’re meeting your deadlines. You have people in your life who you can turn to.

How do you meet your deadlines while avoiding burnout? Leave me a comment!

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