How to manage tight copywriting deadlines

Every writer’s worst nightmare = tight copywriting deadlines. Here’s how to conquer them.

The clock’s ticking and no, you’re not fine!

There are tight deadlines, say 5 to 7 days of lead time, and then there are urgent deadlines—projects due within 48-72 hours. Frankly, both situations suck – but they’re also part of life.

In other words, at some point, you will encounter a tight deadline.

For example:

  • You snap up a last-minute advertising opportunity and urgently need a landing page to redirect readers to.
  • Work has kept you so busy that you’ve inadvertently run out of pre-written posts for your blog. If you don’t get something online soon, you mess up your posting schedule and the monthly newsletter roundup you send out.
  • An eleventh-hour cancellation opens up a valued slot at a trade show. You’re now rushing to develop sales and marketing materials for the event.
  • Your redesigned website’s launch date is just around the corner. Why not freshen up all your web copy while you’re at it?
  • A colleague went on leave, leaving you with incomplete, unedited work to finalize ASAP.

That it to say, things happen and we can’t always plan for them in advance. So if that’s the case, how do you manage your time and beat that looming deadline?

Here are a few of my productivity tips!

No time to read this whole post? Jump straight to the summary below ↓

These practical tips will help you manage your time and beat tight deadlines!
No one enjoys tight copywriting deadlines but the right approach makes it less stressful

Tips to survive tight copywriting deadlines

While your first reaction might be to freak out (and question why this had to happen to you right now), panic isn’t going to get you anywhere. These tips, on the other hand, will help you get started, stay focused and finish it all on time.

Make note of your deadline—and then bring it forward

Wait, what? Why would you do that when the original due date is stressful enough? I’ll tell you why.

  • Colleagues might have feedback for you. How long will it take you to go through their notes / messages and then rework your text?
  • You’ll need ample time to properly edit your work.
  • You might want a second pair of eyes (or a professional proofreader) to go over your work.
  • Tech can let you down. You suddenly have intermittent internet connection; your laptop crashes; or you foolishly forgot to hit ‘save’ a few paragraphs ago!

A lot of work goes into perfecting copy before you have the confidence to go to print or hit publish. And any of the above scenarios will have you running around like a headless chicken—if you failed to factor them into your tight schedule.

Put pen to paper to help you flesh out your ideas
Good old fashioned pen and paper help you flesh out your ideas

Get all your ideas on paper

There’s no such thing as too many ideas—even when you’re rushed! After all, it’s better to have a ton of ideas to work with than none at all. And what I’ve found really helpful is to get those ideas written on paper.

But I don’t have time for all that brainstorming and note taking, you say.

Yes, you do!

There’s just something about the old-fashioned approach that aids in formulating your copy.

The act of writing it all down – and then seeing it in front of you – helps you visualize what you want even better than a bunch of bullet points on a screen. And that gets your creative juices flowing.

A clean, organized and distraction-free work space works best. Pictured are a clutter-free desk, lamp and plant as well as clock.
A clean, organized and distraction-free environment work best

Put your phone away

Incoming calls, messages and emails will interrupt your train of thought—and ruin your flow. And that’s not what you want when you’re working with tight deadlines.

Before you brainstorm, research, write or edit your work, find a comfortable space where you can work in peace. Clear your work area. Put your phone on mute. Disconnect from the internet. Or move to a different room entirely (and shut the door) for a few hours.

Take a break

You might want to power through, never stepping away from your notebook but guess what? That’s only going to wear down your stamina and leave you less productive.

Instead, take short but frequent breaks to rest your eyes, stretch your muscles and – if possible – get some fresh air.

How frequent? Well, we have our own preferences. Some take mini breaks every 30 minutes, others every hour. Find the right interval that works for you.

Various healthy open face sandwiches are pictured. What you eat and drink influence your energy levels.
What you eat and drink influence your energy levels

Watch what you eat and drink

As tempting as it is to have coffee fuel your day, it’s so much better to stick to something neutral like water. What’s wrong with caffeine? That could just make you extra antsy.

Also, enjoy your sweets in moderation. Heavy meals and too much sugar will make you feel sluggish and even drowsy—not ideal with tight deadlines!

Don’t forget to sleep

While you might not be able to get as much sleep as you would under normal circumstances, make sure you’re still getting sufficient shut-eye. Without it:

  • Your mind won’t be as sharp;
  • Your ideas won’t be as brilliant;
  • Your copywriting won’t be as compelling;
  • And your editing not as precise. In fact, you’ll probably fail to spot the things you should be editing out because you’re so tired.
You need sleep to beat tight copywriting deadlines!
Sleep – you need it!

And if all else fails…

…or you just can’t imagine getting it done on time to begin with, then you need to hire a copywriter.

There are a lot of great reasons to work with one and perhaps the best, if you’re stuck with tight deadlines, is passing on all that hard work to someone else!

Joking aside, a copy- and content writer provides valuable support that can make all the difference to the quality of your last-minute work.

Here’s where you can read more about hiring me for your last-minute copywriting projects.

Summary of tips to help you conquer urgent deadlines

Here’s the TL;DR version of how to manage tight copywriting deadlines.

  • Tip #1: Set an earlier deadline than the assigned due date just in case you’ll need those extra few hours. For example: if your write up is due by noon Friday, a realistic goal might be to have it all done before 10AM Thursday.
  • Tip #2: Every great project begins with ideas and getting them on paper helps you organize your thoughts. The key is to note them all down and then evaluate them before eliminating those that won’t work or that don’t fit with your topic, theme, needs or goals.
  • Tip #3: Get rid of all the things that distract you. And if you can’t work without some white noise, choose the right kind.
  • Tip #4: Sitting stationary and staring at your screen all day can lead to headaches, a sore neck and shoulders as well as other annoying aches and pains that make you want to crawl into bed with a hot pack. Take short but regular breaks to prevent that from happening.
  • Tip #5: Eat and drink healthy. It really makes a difference in keeping your energy levels up and your body feeling good. A bit of chocolate won’t hurt but consume the entire bar and you’re probably going to feel a tad too unwell to produce your best work.
  • Tip # 6: Get some sleep! You need it.
  • Tip #7: Hire a copywriter to help you out. Message me about your project with an urgent deadline.