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The Solo Marketer’s Guide to Not Burning Out

You don’t have time to read this. Ironically, that’s why you should.

Busy? I don’t think I’ve ever met a solo marketer (or any marketer, for that matter) who hasn’t been under it every single day.

It’s exhausting, but it’s also part of the job. You picked this industry, right?

Let’s not ramble on here. Here are a bunch of tips and tools I’ve used throughout my career to keep myself organised (and sane).

1. Email folders.

It doesn’t matter which email platform you’re using. They all allow the creation of folders.

If you aren’t already using email folders, you’re in for a world of titillating excitement. Please try to contain yourself as you read the next few lines.

In Gmail, they care call “Labels” and look like this in your sidebar:

Exciting stuff.

Click the plus and make yourself a brand new label/folder.

You can now drag emails from your inbox to its folder.

Because you can’t trust anybody. 🧐

Ok, that sounds a bit paranoid. There is an element of truth to it though.

If you have all your emails squirrelled away in easily-referenced folders, you will never again get caught out if you need to refer to something that’s been said in the past.

This can be really helpful if a client suddenly starts demanding results which were never agreed on, or someone tries to suggest you didn’t do something you were asked.

It’s also a great way to just keep track of stuff without having to remember specific details about emails to search about.

For example, you might have a separate folder for each freelancer you work with. That way, it’s an easy job to refer to the full email history about a specific topic.

For emails which likely won’t ever need referring to again, stick them in a hidden “completed” folder. At least then there’s a record that you actually did whatever was required of you.

Equally, you could temporarily stick task emails in a “to do” folder, so you have a makeshift to-do list right in your inbox.

The best bit about this? Your main inbox can stay empty. Of course, it’s not real, but it’s feel good, man.

2. Deadlines aren’t real.

Uh oh, that’s gonna anger people.

It’s true though. Most deadlines are made up on the spot.

Yes, sometimes there are real deadlines. For example, publishing deadlines with media groups, or payment deadlines. We can’t avoid those, and we accept that they are tangible.

However, if your boss pops in and says “I need you to have that strategy done by Friday”, 99% of the time, it’s because they want it done by then. They don’t need it done by then.

Why am I saying this? Because most of the time, if you have a deadline you can’t hit without hustling your ass off with overtime, just push back.

If you say, “I appreciate you need this quickly, but I have some competing priorities which might mean I can’t meet that date”, they will likely ask you what is taking up your time.

You can then give them a list of the stuff you’re working on and ask them which bit of it they want you to achieve this week.

The implication is that something will get pushed back to make room for the new priority.

This works for a lot of situations.

With deadlines, prevention is the cure.

If you’re doing a good job of explaining to stakeholders how long things take, you’ll find they give you more reasonable deadlines.

If you’re asked to estimate the length of a task, give yourself some buffer time to allow for unexpected delays.

Also, at the end of the day, nobody is gonna die if you hand in some ad copy a day late. Unless you are consistently dropping deadlines, you aren’t going to get in trouble for pushing stuff back.

Take control of your workload. Your mental health will thank you for it.

3. Learn to say no.

You’ve heard this one before, no doubt.

I’m not going to elaborate here.

Say no. Push back. Don’t accept more work than you can actually do in a week.

If you don’t agree with the strategy, don’t agree to work on it until the strategy is correct.

If you haven’t had a good brief, don’t start work until you’ve had a proper brief.

There aren’t many thing you can control in your job, but your own voice is one of them.

I’m not asking you to be super negative all the time. Try not to burn bridges with this by offering alternative, smaller tasks, or different timescales. Maybe suggest someone else who could help with their task.

Guess what happens to the people who say “yes” to everything?

They do all the work of the people who say “no”.

4. Tool up.

If I had a penny for every time I used a new productivity software, I’d have at least 10 pence. 🤑

Jokes aside, there are hundreds of software tools out there to help you manage your time.

Go and have a poke around my Tools list for a few of my recommendations.

In general, I recommend having a “project” level tool to keep track of the big picture (like Asana, Monday) and a “task list” level tool for your day-to-day planning (like Trello or Sunsama).

By “big picture”, I mean stuff like planning out a multi-channel campaign with lots of moving parts. These will often look like big, project-based to-do lists.

Your “task list” can be where the moving parts live. For example, designing an individual ad creative asset.

There are other ways to make your life easier.

For example, using analytical tools can help you to make decisions backed by data.

Using spreadsheets could automate number-crunching.

Try using AI to speed up tasks like content planning/structuring, or campaign brainstorming.

There are tools for all of these in my Tool list.

5. Batch work.

Eurgh, that’s a boring headline.

In essence, try grouping tasks together to save you time.

For example, if you have to edit an image for a campaign, why not whip up the images for the next 5 campaigns while you’ve got Canva booted up? You’ll already be in the right mental flow and have the right tools at your fingertips.

Writing a blog? Make it a sesh and crack out a few at once.

The downtime between tasks is a killer. According to Meyer, Evans and Rubinstein, even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time. Ouch!

By grouping and batching, you are cutting down that productivity hit.

6. Stop.

Just stop. Go on. Take 30 minutes and touch some grass.

No, not that grass 🙄. We’re trying to help your productivity, not kill it.

Staring at the Windows XP default wallpaper doesn’t count, sorry.

If you can grab even 2 minutes to stare out the window at some nature, you’ll find your productivity increases. Likewise, your stress decreases.

Set a timer for every 30 mins if you are liable to getting stuck in the flow. When it goes off, get up and take a walk for a few minutes. Even if it’s just around the office or your garden.

Working flat out all day is actually terrible for your productivity. Taking short breaks is a proven way to reset.

Off you go, now. 👋

7. Switch off.

I’m guilty of having my emails open all the time.

Every time it pings, I dutifully tab over and read the new email.

Terrible habit.

Don’t be me. Fight the urge. Try to check your emails in a batch a few times a day.

Equally, don’t have your social media accounts loudly squawking every time Aunt Mabel posts a new picture of one of her 17 cats.

Notifications are a mental drain. They are a subtle reminder that “you are needed” 24/7.

Take a digital detox and only check in a few times a day. Once work ends, turn off your notifications and stick your phone on silent.

Let’s be honest. If something is actually important, they’ll call you.

Then you can ignore the call, since we all hate speaking to everyone. 👍

Enjoy your mental bliss.

Become a better marketer, one email at a time.

Empowering new & solo marketers with straight-talking, practical (and sometimes funny 🤷) advice.

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Written By

Founder of Latent Clarity and author of the Clarity newsletter.

I help new and solo marketers be the best they can with practical, actionable, (and sometimes funny) advice.

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