Knowing that your skills are valued and your knowledge wanted by many clients is a great feeling; in addition, when you’re self-employed, working with several clients at the same time is key to ensure consistent cash flow into the business.
However, it can be challenging to manage several clients and projects at once, especially when there are only so many hours in the day. As contractor accountants, we understand that when you have your hands full being self-employed becomes a juggling act.
So, in this article, Gorilla Accounting are taking a look at how contractors and freelancers can manage their workload without getting overwhelmed.
Get Organised with a Calendar
A great way to stay organised is to get a calendar or diary, whether digital or physical, or both. By using it to write down all of your work, as well as colour-coding for different clients and projects, it becomes easier to manage it all. Colours can also be a fantastic way to differentiate between different stages in each project, as well as keep an eye on completion dates.
It will also give you an idea of where you are at every stage of the process and what you still need to do, and it will help you to manage your time better as well. when your calendar or diary are filled out, you also have a better idea of the amount of work over the upcoming weeks and months. This will help you to know whether you can take up new gigs or if you’ll be too busy for new work.
You can also assign projects to specific days or hours, so you have time to work on all of your clients during the week.
Make Use of Project Management Tools
Having piles of paperwork lying around, excel sheets with your clients’ information or handwritten notes spread through several notebooks are not the best way to manage several projects in one go. You need something that will help you to keep track of every single task and project.
So, when working with several clients at once, a good way to stay organised is to use a task management system that keeps everything in one place. These tools will generally allow you to create different projects and assign them to specific clients, as well as to manage all the tasks you need to accomplish for each one – this ensures you stay organised no matter what.
Have a Buffer in Place
By prioritising and scheduling your work, you can more easily give yourself the necessary time to finish a project without having to hurry. This means that, even if you encounter any setbacks, you won’t be pressed for time. So, before you accept a new gig, figure out how much time you need to complete it and add on a few days as a buffer. By doing this, you can account for potential emergencies and won’t feel pressured to finish a task or project.
When you’re self-employed, you’re your own boss, so you need to be able to motivate yourself and be disciplined. If you’re working with several clients, you can’t afford to procrastinate or slack off, since there is always work to do. By working efficiently, you can maintain your productivity levels and complete your projects on time.
It’s easy to feel like you’ve been productive when you’ve sat at your desk for hours on end; however, if you’ve been surfing the internet, you’ve been procrastinating instead of working. This can result in a last-minute dash to complete your clients’ projects which, in turn, can result in quality issues.
Focus on One Thing at a Time
Many people believe they can multitask; in reality, this is impossible. The brain can’t focus on two things at once. What happens is that we rapidly switch between tasks, sometimes without even realising so, if you want to work on two projects at the same time, you’ll find it’s a lot more difficult. In addition, you may be doing two things adequately, instead of one thing excellently.
Sacrificing quality will only harm your business and reputation, so ensure that you’re choosing one thing at a time to focus on. If this means scheduling one morning to work on one project and an afternoon on another, then consider doing it.
Discuss Everything with Your Clients
When managing several clients, it’s important to ensure you communicate openly with them and that all expectations are laid out on the table. Make your clients aware of your availability, your deadlines and what you can deliver. This way, they know when they’ll receive the work and you’ll have a concrete timeline to work with – if you believe you won’t be able to complete a project by the requested deadline, make sure to let them know.
Frequent communication can not only help your clients to know what to expect from you, but it can also help you to keep on top of everything.
Don’t Be Afraid to Reject Requests (or Gigs)
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your business is to reject gigs and new projects. Maybe you already have too much on or maybe you’re unsure whether you could actually complete the tasks the project would require – whatever the reason is, be realistic about what you can achieve and say ‘no’ if you have to.
The same goes for client requests. What if your client requests you to do urgent work but you don’t have time to accommodate them? What if someone brings forward their deadline when you’re still busy with another project? If you’re trying to please everyone and taking on your client’s urgent work to the detriment of your other projects, then the best option may be to not accommodate any last-minute work.
Of course, be sure to explain to your clients why it wouldn’t work for you to adjust your schedule for them – you may also help them to find another freelancer if you believe someone might be able to do the job. Your clients will likely understand your position.
If you decide to take on the extra work, it’s crucial that you still keep in mind that you need time to rest and unwind as well – no point in overloading your schedule temporarily if your work will suffer in the long run.
Make Time for Yourself
We’ve previously talked about how freelancers and contractors can take time off work. After all, making time for yourself can offer you a world of benefits, such as improving your productivity and motivation. If you’re overworked and have no time to switch off, your drive can plummet, alongside your mental health.
Many self-employed individuals end up taking on too much work and feel overwhelmed at the sheer number of commitments they signed themselves up for. Figure out how many hours you can work every day or week (be honest with yourself) and dedicate them to each client.
Having a flexible schedule is, probably, a major reason why you’ve become a freelancer or a contractor, so make sure you have some downtime where you take your mind off your projects. Whether you go for a run or walk, watch some television, or simply spend time with your loved ones, make sure you’re giving the same importance to your personal life as you are to your professional one.
A good balance between the two can help you to feel happier and more fulfilled.
Have a Good Mix of Projects
If you only take on big projects that require hours upon hours of work, you may find that you don’t have time for all of them. Instead, if you already have one client that requires more labour or work than others, don’t let all of your clients take up the same amount of time.
There are only so many hours in a day, so have a mix of ‘small’ and ‘big’ clients (in terms of labour-intensive projects) in order to keep on top of all your work. This way, managing your workload and keeping on top of client communication, marketing, and other essential business tasks is easier than ever.
What if You Lose a Big Client?
Working with several clients is key to diversify your income, so most freelancers and contractors will make sure to have multiple revenue sources coming in – this can also help you if you lose a client, be it due to budget cuts or lack of proper communication, for instance.
Losing an important client can have a serious impact on your livelihood, not to mention your mental health and self-confidence. But what should you do if you lose a big client – or even your main one?
First of all, you want to start by taking stock of the situation. Can you repair the professional relationship? Is there something you can do to get the project back? If you’ve worked together with someone for some time, it’s worth to see if you can win them back, even if it feels impossible at the moment.
If you are unable to get them back, evaluate your contract for any potential breaches and make sure that all the work you set out to do has been completed. It’s also important to end it on a good note, as you need to uphold your reputation. It pays to stay professional, especially since the client you’re losing now may come back in the future.
Once this is all sorted, you’ll want to make yourself available for work as soon as possible. While contractors and freelancers never really stop marketing their services, this is the time to really focus your efforts on promoting yourself. From LinkedIn to industry events, make the most of every opportunity.
Don’t Try to Do Everything
When you’re managing several clients at once, the last thing you want to do is having to manage your accounts as well. Not only can it be a time-consuming process but it’s also easy to make mistakes. So, why not leave it to the professionals?
We provide accounting for contractors and have helped many self-employed individuals to grow their business, so we’re aware of just how much work you already have to do, especially when managing several clients at once. We can handle the financial side of your business, leaving you time to focus on finishing your projects and on building relationships.
Talk to us today to learn more about how we can help, whether you’re a sole trader, limited company owner or want to operate through an umbrella company. Alternatively, check out our contractor tax calculator to figure out your take-home pay.