Freelancing is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding ways to become your own boss. Working for yourself, you can pick up jobs as you like and work as and when you choose. Well, that’s the dream anyway. But it’s not always that simple. Once you become an established freelancer in your chosen field, you may find yourself juggling multiple different clients – switching and swapping all day between different projects and applications. All of this chopping and changing can take a big hit on your productivity. So, if you’re looking for ways to stay productive and focused amid the chaos of many spinning plates, you’re in the right place. This article will give you some well-needed productivity tips to get you working efficiently while managing multiple clients.
Build-in buffer time to your project plans
We’ve all been there when we’ve had a tight deadline to hit and then another client comes to us with an emergency they need you to respond to immediately. While it’s not ideal, it usually comes with the territory to be flexible to your client’s needs, especially if they’re a valued client you want to continue working with. To help overcome bottlenecks such as this, always try to build in some buffer time for your deadlines. For example, if you know you can likely get artwork over to a client by Thursday, to be safe say Friday, so you have time to respond should life through any curveballs in the meantime. It’s always good to delight a client by hitting a deadline earlier than they expected than asking for extra time.
Use your calendar to maximum effect
Busy days can go head-spinningly fast when you’re trying to keep lots of balls in the air at once. Keeping your calendar updated, including any deadlines, client meetings, personal appointments, important reminders, etc, will help orient you in those moments when everything seems to be going at 100 miles per hour. A well-organised calendar can be the anchor point in a hectic day if you use it to its full capacity. With effective colour-coding and labelling, it can be a great way to get an instant update on what your day will look like, or even what your week and month has in store for you. For example, if a client says, ‘Let’s pick up on that next month,’ you can add a reminder to your calendar to prompt a conversation with your client.
Split your day into chunks
Anyone who works with multiple clients or who works across multiple projects at once will likely experience competing demands. One way to manage this is to allocate time to projects at the beginning of the day. If you decide Client A has two hours, Client B three hours, and so on, you’ll have a plan upfront of where you need to spend time. Spending this time planning your day will give you the headspace you need to prioritise your workload effectively, rather than prioritising working on the projects that are easiest or give you the greatest satisfaction, while letting the things you don’t want to do slide, for example.
Set expectations with your clients at the outset
Setting a precedent is everything when it comes to managing multiple client projects. If you don’t establish in the initial kick-off meeting what you can and can’t do, how you like to work and what you need in order to achieve your job, you will likely find you have big problems down the road. A couple of areas you could cover and agree with your clients upfront are:
- What times you’re available to be contacted
- How much notice you need to complete a task (if there is a standard/average)
- What information you need in briefs
- If/how you can respond to last-minute requests
- What your rate is and if you have a different rate for urgent/expedited requests
- How often you can commit to regular catch-ups (for ongoing work)
Setting these expectations at the start will help to make sure there are no surprises and no misunderstandings down the line.
Use tools that streamline your work
There are so many tools available nowadays to help us do our jobs better. From grammar-checking tools like Grammarly for writers to project tracking tools, like Asana, for project management, there is plenty out there to assist our work lives. Work smarter by investing in tools that will help you get from A to B quicker than ever before.
With some thought and planning, there is a lot you can do to work better when working across multiple client projects. Putting strategies and boundaries in place when you have the time will mean on the frantic days when your head is spinning, you’ll have the structure in place that you need to support you in your freelance work.