“When we start in business, we seem to have a huge FOMO that if we don’t make ourselves available at all times to clients, we will lose business,” Sonal Bhaskaran states. As the Founder of 5S Projects, and a business process consultant, Bhaskaran understands how valuable af reelancer’s time is, and how hard it is to manage around multiple clients. She’s also experienced it in her own work.
For many freelancers, having just one clientis not enough to cover all of the expenses. So, most are forced to work on simultaneous projects to make a profit. Others take on overlapping projects toensure that when one ends, another will fill in the gap. However, as normal as a sitatuion like this is, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in these situations.
“For me, diary management is key,” Bhaskaran says. “If you don’t control your time, others will control it for you and you’ll just run yourself down.” Other freelancers agree with her and offer a variety of ways to best manage your time. These ensure you stick to your deadlines, don’t let anything fall through the cracks, while you also can maintain your sanity in the process.
Time blocking for the win
When you decide to take on more than one client at a time, it’s important to understand how to prioritise. You don’t want to reach the end of the day only to realise you’ve missed a task due tomorrow, and now you have to pull an all-nighter.
“I start the day with a block of time for my biggest client,” says Anne Rogers, a freelance photographer and writer. “I then have other blocks throughout the day for other clients.” She explains that this is not a hard and fast rule, as she will occasionally shift the blocks around to accommodate deadlines and events. “I also run a timesheet with a certain amount of time allocated to specific clients, so I can easily see if one client is over-dominating.”
Bhaskaran takes this task management approach a step further, as she works back from an outcome. “The client and I look at the end goal and ask what steps we need to take to achieve that goal. That gives a starting point with a timeframe working up to the end date.” She then blocks those smaller steps into her calendar, leading up to the end goal.
You can block in your communications as well, so it doesn’t interrupt you during deep work. Before you start a project, let your clients know that you’d be available to take their calls and answer their emails on one or two specific days of the week. That way, there is a clear division between clients, which helps you stay on top of everything. You can also ask them to be more available for you during those days, to make sure you get quick answers and avoid bottlenecks.
Automation at the beginning will pay up down the line
Once you become more established in your field, you’ll start to notice that some tasks become repetitive. These could be tasks that you perform for a single client, similar services that you offer forall clients, or even the way that you operate your business – from quotes to onboarding, and up to invoicing. By automating these tasks using software like UnderPinned, you can free up your time and as well as your mental load.
You can create a client kick-off form, requesting all of the information you need to start a project, eliminating the need for a long call. You can set automatic email reminders through UnderPinned so you don’t have to chase up invoices. Write up a template for quotes with your most common prices and services. Use a scheduling tool that syncs up with your calendar to avoid a back-and-forth over email.
Don’t forget about outsourcing
Having multiple clients often means that your business is growing. At this point, why not consider outsource your most time-consuming (and let’s face it, boring) tasks?
Anything from transcribing interviews, to managing social media accounts, or creating presentations – if that’s not your main job, why not let someone else handle it? You can easily find these type sof professionals on the UnderPinned network, even if it’s just a one-off assignment.
And if it’s a task that you keep coming across, but don’t want to do, you can hire a virtual assistant. Their skills range from customer service, up to getting your inbox back to zero.
Better understand your workflow
After you’ve applied all of these practical tips, maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper. Bruce Stanley, Founderof Day Crafting, helps people understand how “to improve and perfect their days around their strengths, energy and scheduling preferences so that they can enjoy satisfying productivity, greater resilience, balance, and wellbeing.”
This principle is similar to time blocking. But instead of blocking certain clients and deadlines, you’d block time around your strengths. “An hour of deep work during someone’s cognitive peak is worth two or more at any other time,” Stanley explains. “This is a very predictable time to protect. In my freelance work this is an hour somewhere between 10 and 11 am and my regular freelance clients expect me to drop off coms for a bit.”
Even if you’re not ready to jump into a deep exploration of the mind, you can start by noticing when you breeze through certain tasks and when you get completely stuck, and note it down. Then you can tweak your days according to your findings.
But the most important thing to remember, especially when you juggle multiple clients, is to always give yourself breaks. Breaks for eating, exercising, doing hobbies, and simply relaxing; all of which will re-energize you and better prepare you for the work ahead.