Hey you, freelancer: you’re doing it! Even if it was an inconsistent start, you now have a steady stream of client work. There are even clients in the queue! With consistent work comes the feeling of accomplishment, pride, and knowing you have a successful freelance business.
But with all this work comes new problems: how do you manage multiple projects? Each project has specific requirements, deliverables, and timelines. As a freelancer, you are in charge of project management. It’s up to you to find systems that will track and deliver results to clients. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the long list of important tasks. Instead of allowing chaos to set in, check out these essential elements that every successful freelancer incorporates to stay ahead of their workload.
Get your files and your schedules organized
It might seem obvious, but getting organized is essential for managing multiple projects. Map out timelines for each project due date. Then, make a more detailed timeline of each project with action items and estimates for how long each milestone will take. Create due dates for yourself so each milestone is getting completed. From there, prioritize which freelance projects need attention now and which can wait.
Create folders in your inbox so you can track client emails and make sure to respond in a reasonable amount of time. When attempting to accomplish everything at once, you could quickly get overwhelmed. No one can do their best work in that state. Batch your work and focus on one project at a time.
Keep a regular schedule and a set routine
With freelancers often working from home and juggling more than one project at a time, it can feel like you don’t have much of a life outside of work. Designating work hours throughout your day can fix that to help you get organized at work and keeping you in control, happy, and productive.
Try to develop a daily routine and stick to it, whether you’re a morning person or a night person. Giving yourself structure will ensure a better work-life balance to keep you motivated as you work toward your daily goals.
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Track your time
Your time is your most valuable resource. As a freelancer, it’s up to you to track the time for each project. For some people, this is a major upside. For those who are procrastinators, this is a nightmare. Depending on how each project is structured, it's important to track the time.
If client work is paid hourly, you will definitely need to track your hours. It’s still worth tracking your time for a set project to know how long it took. From there, measure the hourly rate. If a client project is $1200 and it takes 12 hours to complete, the rate is about $100 per hour. If it takes longer, the hourly rate decreases. Either way, knowing how much time is being invested helps determine if ongoing work for this specific client is worth it.
Minimize distractions around your workspace
Just like keeping a regular schedule while working from home is paramount to your success, minimizing distractions near your workspace is essential to getting organized. Preferably, your workstation should be far away from sources of distraction like the TV or your bed. Creating clear boundaries between your working zone and your relaxation zone is key to operating in the right headspace when it’s time for work.
If you’re working from home, it’s important to understand that those boundaries extend to anyone you may share your space with as well. Set clear ground rules for other people in the household by letting them know what your working hours are to help you stay organized at work and promote stress-free productivity.
Don’t procrastinate, especially when it comes to emails
Staying organized ultimately means that you’re in total control of your tasks and responsibilities, but without a boss telling you what to do it can be difficult to feel like you’re staying organized at work. By tackling assignments and crucial emails head-on, you don’t have to worry about the unnecessary stress and anxiety that come along with a full inbox.
Creating separate folders to deal with various client emails can be a great strategy to manage your current assignments, but only if you’re checking them regularly. Regardless, no matter how you organize your inbox, always make sure to reply to your bosses and clients as soon as possible, since they are your source of income. You may also consider using workflow software which can help you organize better.
Communicate with clients
As a business owner, the relationships you build with freelance clients are everything. Those relationships create ongoing work as well as solid referrals from happy clients. Unhappy clients leaving bad reviews can really damage your reputation. Without your freelance clients, you don’t have a business.
It might seem obvious, but having strong communication with clients is key in keeping them informed on their project and confident in your professionalism. Communicate where you are in a project, explain your process as you go, and continue educating them about why something is done in a certain way.
If a project is going over budget or past the deadline, communicate that to the client as early as possible. They will be grateful for your open and honest communication, even if they don’t like the message. They will receive the information so much better when they aren’t left in the dark.
Don’t take on more work than you can handle
Not always knowing where your next paycheck is coming from can be one of the drawbacks and stressful elements of freelancing, but taking on too much work only makes that worse. Jumping at every opportunity that makes its way to your inbox can prevent you from taking on more lucrative or enjoyable assignments because your workload is already full.
Learning to say no to projects takes time but will help you stay organized as you can better manage your workload. Try to find a few solid clients you enjoy working with in order to turn out quality work that you’re not rushing through rather than getting buried by too many jobs.
Keep a detailed ledger to track your finances
Most freelancers won’t have the luxury of an administrative team tracking their finances for them, so it’s critical you stay on top of your professional finances. Keep a detailed Excel spreadsheet to track your assignments and finances in order to calculate how much you owe in quarterly self-employment taxes.
If you’re not an accounting whiz, there are a number of bookkeeping services available one Google search away. These programs can help you stay organized at work by keeping track of your income and expenditures: valuable metrics when tax season comes around.
Prioritize personal time to stay mentally fresh
Freelancing offers incredible flexibility and it can be tempting to take on a lot of work to make more money, but a healthy work-life balance must be maintained, especially if you’re working from home. Working all the time can cause you to lose your motivation, become distracted, and feel like it’s impossible to stay organized.
Take time out of each day to do things that you enjoy. Practicing mindfulness and deep breathing can alleviate stress and get you centered in order to be a successful, organized freelancer. The work will always be there, so spend time with the people that are important to you and take vacations when you can.
Getting organized and staying that way
Being organized truly is one of the most critical skills any freelancer can have. It allows you to juggle multiple profitable projects to get that money flowing without missing deadlines or losing important files. Most of all, though, it allows you to feel in control no matter how much work is on your plate, and that’s why it’s such a beautiful thing. Use this guide to boost your organizational skills and your future self will thank you.