How to Deal with Information Overload as a New Freelancer
The owner of The Creative Boss, Sarah, has been my rock since starting my business given that she was the one that originally asked me to be her editor.
Was it my dream job? Absolutely!
Did I really have any inkling of an idea how to go about it? Absolutely not!
That’s when Sarah stepped in and started helping me out as I went along. So, as I’ve been planning, drafting, and outlining my website, I’ve also been editing my ass off. It’s the only thing I have under my belt. However, I’d like to offer writing services as well.
Naturally, I went to the one person that’s kept me going from the start. I asked Sarah if I could write a guest blog post for The Creative Boss. She was happy to give me a guest spot on her blog and assigned me a topic on how to deal with information overload when you’re starting out as a freelancer. Giving me a topic that I had recently been going through with my own up-and-coming business would be an excellent way to engage her audience.
I mean this is exactly what I had the most current, personal, hands-on experience with, right?
Well, it’s not exactly wrong, but to say that it was correct would probably have to mean that I had overcome this obstacle and thus obtained all kinds of advice, tips, and epic organizational skills that I could provide her readers with allowing them to entirely bypass the clusterfuck of information overload and go straight to being the badass that they are in their creative niche!
Well, as I gaze around my “office,” which is not so much my office as it is my bedroom, I see the five different colors of scribbles and notes on my ginormous dry-erase board, the chicken scratch scrawled in a couple notebooks, and more than one flash drive cram-packed with files from completed editing jobs, free eBooks, graphics for my website, half-written drafts, and who knows what else.
At this moment, I can’t help but ask myself, “Have I overcome the trials and tribulations of the ‘information overload’ that comes with starting your own online business from scratch with little to no prior business and/or tech knowledge?”
I’m not so sure, but what I can tell you is that I’m well on my way to getting there, and I believe that sharing what I’m going through will be just as, if not more, beneficial considering I’m right in the thick of it.
The first thing Sarah recommended to me has proven to be the most vital organizational platform I have used thus far – Trello.
Before you do anything else, sign up for Trello and unload all your ideas. Unload all your drafts and outlines. Unload all your word vomit. Unload it all – get that spider web of information out of your head and into Trello. Now organize it, assign color-coded labels for quick references, add checklists, and upload the necessary files. Utilize it to its fullest capacity. Then, look over everything and drag and drop your cards into this unknown world of digital organization.
When you’re done be sure to lean back, lock your hands behind your head in a relaxed state, and smile as you revel in all your beautiful, orderly ideas and concepts. You’re now experiencing what was my first moment of clarity. This was the same moment that I told myself I could do this.
For the first time since receiving my first draft to edit, I was comfortable with what I was doing and where I was going; it was all mapped out in front of me in glorious detail. I let out the breath I had been holding since I began this journey into freelancing.
So, now you have Trello, and you’ve unloaded all the information that was cluttering up your brain.
You should be good to go, right? Wrong. Oh, so very wrong.
If you’re anything like I was when I began, aside from your expertise in your niche, you are utterly clueless when it comes to turning that expertise into a stable and profitable business. It will involve so much more work and research; Trello is simply the first piece of the puzzle, or at least it was for me. If you don’t like Trello, there’s several other resources out there to utilize for organizing #allthethings, but it was my first and favorite tool that I have grown to love. If I’m working, Trello is sure to be one of my fifteen tabs open.
I’m sure you’re pondering the question, “Why do you have fifteen tabs open if you’ve already organized #allthethings into Trello?”
Well, all I can say is I’m quickly discovering that after you draft, outline, alter, revise, rearrange, organize, plan, and publish #allthethings, and you start to round that corner of completion… – BAM! – you’re blindsided by #alltheotherthings! They have knocked you flat on your ass; there’s cartoon birds flying above your head as you lie there – a little dazed – wondering what just happened. Everything fell into place, your ego got a little bigger, and you exclaimed, “I make this look good,” as you hit the ground running.
Well, surprise, surprise! It’s not quite that simple.
Otherwise, every Tom, Dick, and Harry would be creative online entrepreneurs, and let’s face it; Tom, Dick, and Harry aren’t very creative, nor are they entrepreneurs. It takes a special breed to do what we do! It takes self-motivation and incredible determination to succeed, but before you get too excited and think you can round those corners blindly, you need to HAVE A PLAN! Cross your T’s and dot your I’s. You need to make sure all your bases are covered before you reach your target audience.
Along with it, unfortunately, comes information overload.
Just when you think you figured out #allthethings, then you’re hit with #alltheotherthings and #allthelegalthings and #alltheoptinthings and #allthethingsyoudidntthinkwerethings… the hashtags go on and on – just like your usernames and passwords and emails.
It floods into your computer and your mind until you’re drowning in information (aka #allthethings).
This is right about where I am in my own freelancing journey, so to say I have all the answers on how to overcome the information overload coming your way would be an overstatement.
I can, however, share with you my plan to conquer #allthethings.
I gained enough XP to level up after mastering my editorial calendar with Trello, purchasing my domain and web hosting plan, and setting up WordPress to begin the process of building my website. After I upgraded my armor and weapons, I felt ready to tackle what lay ahead.
If Level 1 wasn’t enough, Level 2 was here to make up for it.
Information was flying in from all directions.
I had to learn how to use WordPress to create my website, how to use MailChimp for email subscriptions, create business pages across social media platforms, pinpoint what I was offering and what the prices would be, how to organize my emails, decide on an opt-in offer, and research about a million and one things.
Stop. Breathe. Generate a plan and put it into motion.
I began prioritizing my tasks by most important and most time-consuming then got to work knocking those off my list first. I could then quickly move through my list checking things off as I completed them. I logged in all the details on Trello. You can use whatever platform works best for you whether it be Trello, a paper planner, Google calendars, or a restaurant napkin.
At this point, I realize how easy it sounds. Make the plan. Complete the plan.
It sounds relatively simple, but when you have 27 sites to log in to (and remember all the passwords!) and 5 email accounts, ranging from job inquiries to free eCourses you’re trying to squeeze in, it’s not quite that easy to just make a checklist and complete it. However, you must start somewhere.
I am actively trying to create a different checklist for each thing. One is for the eCourses, webinars, eBooks, etc. that I’ve gathered to help me better understand what I’m doing; another one is for anything and everything involved in launching my website. So on and so forth.
Okay, now the question is, “What do I start with?”
I’ve decided to start with what’s generating revenue, so each morning I’ll work on my list of current jobs so I can ensure my best work goes into my service and that I’m allowing adequate time for deadlines. Only after I’m up to speed on my current jobs will I begin working on #alltheotherthings.
One thing I have started doing that helps keep me motivated is to make a list of all my completed tasks. Rather than erasing them from your dry-erase board or archiving them on Trello, never to be seen again, put them in a list of their own, so you can have a visual representation of what you have accomplished.
I set mini-goals for myself such as completing more tasks than I did the day before. Personal goals are a great way to keep you motivated. When you start getting frustrated and want to give up – and believe me, you’ll have those days – look at your list of accomplishments and be proud of yourself.
Dr. Seuss would be proud of the places you’re going!
So, how do you deal with information overload when you’re a total newb?
Grind, level up, and defeat the boss battles.
In other words, put in the effort to learn, tweak, and perfect what you’re doing, and own it by becoming an expert in your field.
When the information began piling up on me, I stopped what I was doing to organize a detailed plan to keep me from losing a life every time I missed a deadline or butchered my content. Every life you lose brings you closer to the dreaded Game Over screen, and you don’t want to destroy your business before it begins.
I wish I could tell you I had all the answers and save you from getting overwhelmed with the wealth of information you’ll encounter, but I’m still figuring it out myself. The best advice I can give you is to set a goal and get to work because only during this process will you develop your own way to accomplish #allthethings.
Founder of The Literary Scene
My name’s Abbi and I’m your typical nerd, pop culture enthusiast, and literary connoisseur. A scatterbrained dream chaser with an open mind that’s always in the clouds, but I manage to stay grounded with 25% perseverance, 25% hard work, and 50% winging it. I’m a freelance writer and editor over at The Literary Scene, so if you’re in need of some quirky yet professionally written copy, holla at ya girl with the mad skillz, mkay?