The Five Key Steps to Finishing a Freelance Project

by Rebecca Hass

Working as freelancers, we often feel that once we have a job the hard part is done. But in the roller coaster emotional ride of our work we often feel insecure about what we have created, overwhelmed by what we have to get done on a deadline and, eventually, burnt out.

How to spell relief? Five ways to show up to get the project done  

In the book The Five Wisdom Energies, Irini Rockwell writes that the world is filled with energy. These energies, she says, “describe different styles of perceiving and interacting with our world”. I’ve been working with these ideas for a year. Drawing from Ms. Rockwell’s sources, I like to translate this ancient wisdom in my work as the five ways of showing up.   

This process offers steps to help you get a new project started, keep it going, and finish it brilliantly. Also be aware that each energy has a way of showing up that has a positive impact on your work but also, as Ms. Rockwell calls it, a ‘neurotic or confused’ manifestation. Think of it as over-indulging. If you start a new exercise program you can research and create a well-balanced plan or you can overdo it and injure yourself. By being aware of where the middle ground is and how you show up for each step of your project will help you avoid these negative pitfalls.  

The Mistake We Make

We get a job and we want to jump in and get it done before we even have a real sense of what we want to create. We are driven to get busy. We are in action usually before we have our vision in place. This makes for false starts and wasted time. Instead of jumping into action, we need to take a different first step. It changes everything that follows.      

Step One: Don’t Do Anything

The first thing you need to do before you start that exciting new project is nothing.

Start by letting go of what you think the editor wants, or what you think is your weakness in this pitch, or even jumping in with that great idea you thought of at 3 am. These only breed more anxiety.  Once that demon is released you’ll be stuck in fear-induced procrastination.

Instead, before you open your laptop and start typing, create a feeling of space for yourself. Do something simple like sit and breathe and look out the window.  Clear your head.  Go for a run or a slow walk to your favourite coffee shop.  If you don’t fixate on figuring everything out at once, you leave space for more ideas and inspirations to find you.

How Do I create the feeling of Space?

Activity: Put your phone on airplane mode set the timer for however long you can spare for the walk or run. Don’t check the clock. Wander without purpose until the alarm goes off.   

Screensaver: Try images that give the feeling of space. The sky or the prairies.

The Dark Side of Space

If you have too much spaciousness around your project you will start ignoring deadlines. This is procrastination and leads to long nights of panicked work.

Step Two: The Big Picture

Now that you are open to all possibilities, this is the time to stand on the mountaintop and see the big picture. Get out your paper and brainstorm the timeline for each leg of the work — the big themes you think you will explore, and the key people you want to contact. Taking the time to see this big picture will give you a feeling of clarity. From there comes the confidence you need to move forward.  

How do I help my mind get into the Big Picture view?

Music: Goldberg variations by Bach

Screensaver: The view from the skyscraper or a mountain.  

Activity: Organize your desk in a way that would make Martha Stewart proud.

Can I Have too Much of this?

If you get too busy in the Big Picture you may find yourself stuck in over-analyzing. You doubt the plan you are making and you fundamentally worry that your choices aren’t the right ones. If you hear yourself saying, “What if I did it this way?” yet again, you might be stuck in the Big Picture.  

Step Three: Research

With a plan in place, you begin to dig into the nuts and bolts of your project. You research, explore, interview and collect what you need. This is often where freelancers are happiest because of their insatiable curiosity. In this stage you feel abundance and believe you will find everything you need to tell your story.   

How do I foster this mindset?

Music: Go for lush production values.

Food: A buffet with lots of choices.

Screensaver: Images of a tropical jungle

The Negative Aspect?

The neurotic manifestation is poverty mentality.  You might feel like you can’t ever get enough research done. You fear your work will never measure up.   

Step Four: Expression  

This is the moment when you assemble all your research and finally put your unique voice in. The work starts to bear your stamp, your style. This is the moment your artist shows up clearly and becomes the lens that all the information passes through.  

How do I encourage this creative energy?

Your Desk: Fresh flowers

Activity: Write a letter to an old friend 

Read: Romantic poetry  

When does this become a bad thing?

Our passionate natures can tip over into clinging and possessiveness. Think of the moment when your editor sends you their changes and you refuse to consider them because your piece is your pride and joy and you couldn’t possibly think of changing it.  

Step Five: Get’r Done

This final stage is the energy that gets it done. It comes with an attitude that whatever happens, it’s all-workable. You know what has to be done, and you do it, without complaining or wasting time.

How to I feed this powerful energy?

Music: Think club dance tracks

Action: Get moving and don’t stop.

Desk: To Do lists rule the day.  

The Trouble with action is?

If you are always on the go, then you will find yourself burnt out and exhausted. Once you are cranked up and going, you might find you can’t give yourself a break to sit down, and nothing of importance is even getting done.

What does it all mean?

There is the opportunity through these steps to move toward positive work habits and away from the places we get frustrated and stuck.

If you want to learn more about these practical ancient teachings, check out Irini Rockwell’s books The Five Wisdom Energies and Natural Brilliance. Or go back to an original source with Spectrum of Ecstasy by Ngakpa Chogyam and Khandro Dechen.


Rebecca Hass is a writer, broadcaster and Certified Life coach living in Victoria BC. She is a regular columnist on NXNW on CBC Radio One where she offers advice on how to get unstuck and get what you want from your life. Her radio documentaries have been heard on CBC Radio One’s The Sunday Edition, Tapestry and The Doc Project.  Learn more at

Posted on November 25, 2016 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: ,

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