As you become more successful and start to accumulate work, the more overlap you have between jobs. So you have to learn how to prioritize projects, to make sure work gets into your clients as scheduled. As a freelancer, reliability is king.
So how do you do it? We can’t stress it enough: organization. Yes, a scary word, so mundane and uncreative. But tracking and organizing everything from your projects, to your clients, to your time—hour by hour—is the key to a professional independent workflow. Get creative with how you track your work, and it’ll help you be more successful in the long run.
This is a huge deal, and is always your first step. It’s easy to hear about an interesting job and want to just jump in. But that can get you stuck in a crazy mix of requirements and expectations, projects growing in scope before your eyes—without the accompanying compensation!
Before you even accept a job, make sure you and the client are on the same page. Know what you’re going to produce and for how much, how long it is going to take, and how flexible both sides can to be if things don’t go as planned. Make sure you hash this out and write it down in your contract.
Keep in mind that this isn’t relegated to the start of the project, either. Things are going to go differently than expected, so have a plan for that. Establish from the beginning how often you are going to update the client and make sure you keep consistent with that.
Best tools for the job: 1-to-1 projects and e-mail. Make sure you get everything down in writing somewhere, as memories can be fickle things. You and a client may not remember things the same way after a couple of months, so make sure there’s a place you can both refer to for those details.
The most important metrics to include are:
Best tools for the job: A spreadsheet—a simple Google or Excel document is perfectly suited to this task. It allows you to compartmentalize and modify information, sort it by varying factors, and is easily shared between teams.
Once you have this document sleek and ready to go, check it every single day. That way, you will have a holistic view of what needs to get done when you’re creating your day-to-day schedules.
Best tools for the job: Our choice here is Trello. We’ve talked about it in this blog before, it’s how we get a lot of our work done in the 99designs office. But with its ability to create larger projects with individual tasks, color categorize them, and its built-in calendar capabilities, it’s a one-stop shop to set your schedule.
For example, if you know that you’re spending too much time on a project as you’re in the middle it, you can scale it down to a more reasonable workload or negotiate more time with a client. Additionally, having this data for your past projects can help you keep track of what kinds of clients and tasks give you the best ROI—return on investment.
Best tools for the job: There are a lot of apps available these days for time tracking. For example, take Toggl, which allows you to track and report projects by client.
How do you manage your freelance workload? Share your secrets in the comments!
This post was written by Kaitlyn Ellison and comes to you from our friends at the 99designs Blog. 99designs is the world's largest online marketplace for design.