A Guest Post by David Sumner
Freelancers are typically over-worked and yet despite our best efforts in keeping on top of everything, those deadlines advance relentlessly. Deadlines can spur us onto bigger and better things or they can become our worst nightmares and cause a burnout. There are many things that can waylay your project timetable, some pleasant, some not so pleasant, such as distractions at home to handling the legitimate concerns of your customers.
In this economic climate you won’t have the luxury to work on one project at a time, so how can you ensure you will maintain productivity, cut down on these distractions and bring all projects to a successful conclusion? Here are my favorite tactics of mine that can help minimize distractions and ensure that your working relationship with the client runs as smoothly as possible.
Tip 1: Prioritize
If you are struggling to juggle enquiries from clients then you need to prioritize the concerns of some projects over others. Does one project require more technical skills or does another project come from a long-term valued customer with whom you have worked many times? These are the questions you will have to ask yourself.
Tip 2: Learn to say no
Sometimes a client will demand the impossible from you at the drop of a hat and expect you to carry out extra tasks simply because they are footing the bill. This is lethal to your deadlines. All aspects of the job need to be agreed on in advance in order for you to prepare the right materials and allocate the necessary work time. Thus, extra caveats and wishes from the client must mean either a rise in payment or a lengthening of the deadline; otherwise they must be diplomatically refused.
Tip 3: Communicate
To avoid misunderstandings and issues that will inevitably arise on a project, you must maintain open and fluid channels of communication with your clients. Creating milestones for the project means that the customer can follow your progress at every step and create ample opportunities to review the status of the project. This will reduce the number of anxious yet distractive phone calls and emails from clients.
Tip 4: Create an effective working schedule
Notify your clients that they must relay their questions and concerns to you via email or twitter. You can therefore assign a window in your daily schedule to check these messages, filter, prioritize and resolve them. This is preferable to simply leaving your Skype account open to face questions from clients all throughout the working day. This also simplifies the communication process for clients living in different time zones.
Tip 5: Maintain creativity and efficiency
We all experience a block in our creativity sometimes and for freelancers who are working to a tight deadline this could be potentially fatal to your projects. To avoid this happening you need to identify the problem as soon as it starts, because when you are stressed and overworked your work will suffer. When a block occurs, switch off and reconnect with your passion for the work. Plus, freelancing allows you to work flexible hours therefore if working in the afternoon or on weekends is your preference, you’re the boss.
These are just a few tips to help you meet your deadlines. Be careful of the projects you take for whilst there may be sense in opting for the long-term and extensive projects that pay more, the financial advantages need to be calculated against your own working sanity. After all you opted for the freelancing life to ensure that you could enjoy more of your down-time, not work the same 9-5 working schedule as before.
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