This post originally appeared on the Sound Wisdom blog here.
Successful freelancers often juggle multiple clients and projects simultaneously. Without an effective organizational system, freelancers risk falling behind on work, missing deadlines, and working at less-than-desirable times to compensate for poor planning. Below are some tips inspired by chapter 6 of Rachael Doyle’s Organize Your Business—Organize Your Life (2017) to help you better manage your freelance projects.
1. Project plan for maximum effectiveness.
Answer the following questions:
What are the objectives and goals of this project?
What is the deadline?
What is the priority level? Should this take precedence over other projects I currently have, either because of the client, the due date, or the client’s explicit directions?
Do I have a budget (or an expected maximum numbers of hours the project should take, as specified on a purchase order)?
What are the components of the project? Write a list of steps that must be executed to complete the project. Consider using a free project management software like Trello or some sort of visualization tool like a flowchart, a mind map, a Gantt chart, etc.
2. Schedule work time in blocks.
Ask yourself: “How many hours do I need to work each day to complete this project on time?” Then schedule your work time in blocks on your calendar. Consider using an hourly agenda, an electronic calendar, or a whiteboard with Post-it notes that are color coded for each client or project. That way, you’ll make sure to dedicate enough time to each project every day so that you complete your projects on or before their deadlines.
Make sure to check in with yourself about the status of each active project at the beginning of every work day.
3. Determine how you will store all the information about your project.
Will you create a project folder on your computer’s desktop so that all associated files can be easily accessed? Or will you have a folder for each client on your desktop and then individual project files within those larger folders? Alternatively, do you want to avoid clutter on your desktop and place project folders in your “Documents” section?
4. Use a time-tracking software.
Toggl is one great (and free) option. You can assign projects to specific clients, use a stopwatch to track your exact work time on each project, and then produce a report that charts the amount of time you dedicated to that particular assignment. This is particularly helpful if you are switching between tasks throughout the day and want to make sure you’re noting the time spent on each.
5. Organize your finances.
Give your invoices file names that enable them to be easily located and that cause them to be arranged in a logical order (e.g., by client name and date submitted) on your computer’s hard drive. Consider also printing your invoices and storing them in a physical filing system organized by client for quick reference. You might also create a spreadsheet with individual pages for each client that documents the dates of invoices, project title (if limited to a specific project), amount billed, date received, and amount received. This will greatly help when it comes time to estimate quarterly or yearly taxes.
For more helpful tips on project management and organizational strategies, pick up a copy of Rachael Doyle’s Organize Your Business—Organize Your Life, available at Amazon and other retailers worldwide.