No freelancer is EVER going to turn down a job…
At least, not unless they have established themselves well enough that they truly have the freedom to pick and choose the projects they want and the clients they want to work with. One of the hard truths about freelancing, especially in the early years, is that you might run out of work. This means you want to take every scrap of it you can get, even if it means having multiple jobs going on at the same time.
Now, I can honestly say that in the 13+ years I have been working as a freelance writer, I have NEVER been without work. That’s awesome, right? But the worry that I would be without work was still always there. These days, it’s rare that I ever have that worry plague me, but the reality is that, as freelancers, we are always going to be juggling multiple clients and jobs.
After all, we have to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.
I have blogged before about creating a freelance schedule. But what I want to talk about here is a little bit different. Here I want to talk about prioritizing the projects and deadlines you have. I want to get down to the nitty gritty of what job you get done first, second, and so on.
Yes, I realize this might seem self-explanatory, but it’s not really. You see, I don’t necessarily get projects done in the order in which clients hire me to do them. There are a number of factors that play into how I organize what work gets done when.
With that in mind, here are five factors that play into how I prioritize and organize the projects I’m working on…
The absolute first and most important factor in prioritizing client work is and always must be client deadlines. Your job is to deliver what the client wants when the client wants it. The order in which your clients have hired you is not the deciding factor — it’s when they need to work done.
For example, if a client hires me on Monday for a white paper they need by the following Monday, then another client hires me to write a blog post they need by Thursday, I will do the blog post first. This is assuming I have time to do both.
It’s all about prioritizing the jobs you have to do. So, take your active jobs and a calendar and schedule out the hard deadline for each job. This is the first view into what you need to complete and when.
Size of the Job
Now that you have all your deadlines mapped out on a calendar, map out any major milestones you have set up with your clients. Because if it’s a bigger project, you will probably have milestone deadlines along the way. Make sure you factor these in.
If the job is big, you won’t want to leave it all to the end. Finishing the three other, smaller jobs with tighter deadlines first is great. But if you have’t touched the research or started writing on the big job that had a longer deadline, you have a recipe for stress and potential disaster.
What will Give Me a Win
Once I know what is due and when, what has multiple milestones or is a big enough project that I need to get on it earlier in my schedule, it’s time to let psychology into the picture.
Sometimes, I find I just need a win.
When no one project is particularly pressing, I can dive into one that I can get done and cross off the list quickly. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment and lightens the load. And this is particularly important when I am feeling overwhelmed by all the work I have to do.
Yes, money factors into the prioritization process. Working on a bigger project and making milestones is important, but you also can’t wait five weeks to bring in some money. So, sometimes, particularly when things are tight, you might have to schedule a project that will bring in some cash quickly.
This often goes hand-in-hand with getting a win, but it can also stand on it’s own. When you have those final deadlines and milestones mapped out and you see that you won’t be getting paid for a few days or weeks, it’s time to find one or two smaller projects that will improve the cash flow quickly.
Finally, it’s important to look at downtime. As a freelancer, you will have times when you are busier than others. But you always need some downtime.
I fully admit, I am not great at balancing work and life sometimes. While I try to take weekends off, it doesn’t always work out. And there are times I run into a wall. I simply can’t stare at my screen anymore and I have to slide in a day off to recharge.
Of course, this is the last consideration. If I have a deadline looming, I can’t take that breather until the work is done. If I need cash yesterday, I can’t take that breather until I know there is money coming in. But when all is relatively calm and running smoothly and I need a day or two, I take it — no matter where I am in the week and what needs to be done.
Handling multiple clients and projects can be challenging, but when you use these factors to prioritize the work, it will ease the pressure and help keep you on track and sane.
If you have any tips or tricks to add with regards to prioritizing client work, give us a shout in the comments section below!