As a freelancer, you can choose to take on as many – or as few – clients as you want. Since more clients generally translate to more income and greater financial security, it makes good business sense for you to have at least two clients at a time.
However, if you decide to take on more clients than you can handle in the name of making money (which, by itself, is not a bad goal to have), you may risk fatigue and burnout in the future. It’s okay to feel tired once in a while, but considering how your income is heavily dependent on your output, you can’t afford to get bogged down one time too many.
If you’re having trouble with work but dropping any of your multiple clients isn’t an option, or you’re thinking about adding one more project to your plate, you can try these tips on for size.
Recommended Reading: Freelancers: How To Create Your Ideal Client Profiles
Before we get right down to the tools and methods that will help you become a better “juggler”, so to speak, let’s talk about that one important – albeit oft-neglected – factor that determines the effectiveness of those tools and methods: you, the freelancer.
As a unique individual, you have a set of strengths and weaknesses that are unlike anyone else’s. Your understanding of these strengths and weaknesses, therefore, will determine your success or failure in handling multiple clients.
For example, if you’re a fast worker or multitasker, you may not have a problem taking on, say, 10 clients at once. If you work slowly, are a sickly person, or are someone who has a tendency to crack under pressure, taking on fewer, lighter and/or well-paying projects may be your best option.
Read Also: Freelancers: How To Deal With Insecurities
Be Clear On The Project Details Per Client
Now that you know yourself, it’s time to get to know your clients and what they expect from you. You can do this by asking questions related to the project, such as:
What Is My Expected Output?
Often, your expected output may not be the same as that of your client’s. If you’re a writer, for instance, you may think that filling your client’s website with five 1,000-word blog posts is better than your client’s proposal of 10 500-word posts. Discuss and iron out these concerns before anything else.
What Are My Responsibilities?
Make sure you know exactly what tasks you’re expected to perform, and to what extent. Otherwise, you’ll easily fall victim to “scope creep”, or a situation where you end up taking on more work than you signed up for – and not getting commensurate compensation for it!
How Long Is The Project Going To Take?
Some freelance projects take a few months to wrap up. Others may turn into ongoing relationships that last for years. Ask your client whether s/he has an estimated project timeframe, and if there’s a possibility that the project may be extended.
How Often Are You Expected To Communicate With/Update The Client?
If you’re lucky, your client will trust you enough to leave you to your own devices. Otherwise, set a regular schedule for meetings and updates (e.g. 30 minutes every Friday at 8 AM in your client’s timezone).
What’s The Payment System?
PayPal may be the most convenient payment option if you and your client are literally continents apart, but your client may prefer other services. Also, discuss with your client whether you prefer to be paid upfront or by the end of the project. (Hint: For your protection, it’s best if you receive at least partial payment upfront.)
Once you’ve covered all bases, decide whether you want to accept the project, given your current workload, financial needs, career goals, values, and personality. If it’s a “Yes”, create a contract tailored to each client. A contract ensures that the project’s terms and conditions are clear to all parties, and will save you plenty of headaches should any problems arise in the future.
After considering the details mentioned above, it should be easier to create a schedule. Keep in mind that each of your clients expects you to do your work to the best of your ability, so make sure you give enough time for each project – with reasonable allowance for emergencies.
In case emergencies do happen (e.g. sickness, accidents, hardware failure), inform your affected clients as soon as possible. As long as you’ve already proven to them that you are a trustworthy, reliable, and skilled professional who’s serious about overcoming a temporary setback, they should understand. (If they don’t, wrap up the project as soon and as well as you can, and let them go – nicely! – without giving them any indication that you want to work with them again.)
If one project begins to conflict with another for any reason (e.g. one client springs last-minute revisions on you, forcing you to abandon a project with another client), decide which project you will do first, and which one will be temporarily left in the back burner. For the latter, you may be forced to ask for deadline extensions, as the case may be. (Don’t overdo it, though!)
Use Project/Time Management Apps
This one is debatable, as pointed out here, since the tools are only as good as the people who use them. However, if you’re the type of person who prefers to concentrate on your multiple projects rather than think too much about details like the number of work hours logged, these sort of tools can be handy.
There’s no groundbreaking secret to juggling multiple clients, really. It’s a matter of knowing what you can and can’t do, having and sticking to clear-cut goals, being prepared for the worst, and thinking about things as thoroughly as you can.