This post was originally for my column, “Freelance by Lauren,” on the now defunct DIY Writing: A Writer’s Bucket List.
As freelancers, and presumably people who have had at least one nagging (caring) parent, we’ve all heard the warning about putting all our eggs in one basket. It’s too risky! Especially when it comes to clients.
But having multiple clients has its own set of risks!
Think about the last time you had a good friend over to visit. You both had a great time, right? Good conversations, plenty of food to go around…? Now think about the last time you had, oh, three friends visit. It was a little harder to keep everyone entertained, right? Perhaps one, or more, of your buddies was left out of the conversation?
That same imbalance of focus can occur when trying to “entertain” your freelance writing clients. That’s why “master juggler” is one of the many hats you’ll need to don to truly be successful.
But don’t worry: It’s easier than it sounds.
Start by Prioritizing Your Schedule
Create a list of your clients. Write down each client’s writing needs, along with who needs what when. Mark your calendars and create to-do lists accordingly.
If you have more than one client with deadlines on or around the same day, you’ll need to prioritize them. Which client provides the work that pays the most? Or is the most rewarding? Who, if any, is the most lenient should you need an extension?
Of course, ideally, you’ll have given yourself a buffer when you accepted your current gigs – allowing you plenty of time to complete them without having to consider the questions I listed above.
Be Realistic: Know Your Limits!
While taking on multiple clients is highly recommended both as a way to substantially increase your income and keep you relatively safe from the terrors of the Feast or Famine Cycle, you have to know your limits. Never take on more work than you can realistically handle.
Knowing your personal limits doesn’t make you a failure and it doesn’t mean that you can’t improve yourself. As you continue to take on multiple clients, you’ll find ways to work faster and more efficiently, allowing you to increase your workload (if you want/need to) down the line.
Assess who you are as a freelance writer right now. Don’t judge yourself – or fill your schedule – based on the writer you want to be. That will only lead to heartache. And probably burnout.
Focus on One Gig at a Time
This is the area I personally struggle with, and I know there’s a good chance you do too. We want to write ALL the things!! But attempting to do so can be a crazy bad idea.
For one thing, we, as humans, don’t multi-task as well as we like to think. Even if we don’t notice, it takes our brain time to switch gears. According to neuroscientist Earl Miller:
“People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves. The brain is very good at deluding itself.”
By focusing on one gig at a time, you increase your chances of accomplishing that project with excellence. The more tasks you try to focus on at once, the more likely the resulting work will dip in quality. And you don’t want to become known as a “low quality” freelancer!
Oscar Wilde used to say :
“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.”
And that’s fine and dandy for him, but very few freelance writers can pull that off. (We also can’t pull off looking that fabulous in a fur-trimmed coat!)
Sometimes you have to forcibly plant your Boss Hat on your head and give the employee you a stern talking to. “Fire” the you who spends all that time surfing the web for cat gifs and “hire” the you who knows how to stay organized and keep his/her nose to the grindstone.
Taking a break isn’t the same as procrastinating – unless the break lasts forever.
Taking breaks while working is essential. Especially when you’re juggling multiple clients who each have their own set of needs. With several different people each sapping your energy (and sometimes your sanity), you risk burning out more quickly than you would with a single client.
Again, this is about knowing your limits. If you’re like me, it can be hard to pull yourself away from your work – even when you need to – unless you’re given permission. And, as a highly-esteemed columnist on this fine blog, I’m giving you that permission. Take care of yourself!
Collect a Variety of Clients
In this case, I mean “variety” more in the terms of the size of the clients you take on, not the topics they assign you. Though deviating from your niche every once in a while can be a fun way to beat boredom!
Don’t only take on huge clients. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and if each of your clients has dumped a gigantic workload on you, you’re going to be spending far too many of those hours trying to fight back tears of self-loathing.
Gather yourself a nice mix of clients. Some with large workloads, some with itty-bitty gigs. The variety will help you manage your schedule more easily. And small clients don’t necessarily pay less! I had a wonderful client last year who wanted very little from me time-wise, but insisted on paying top dollar for the writing I provided.
Are you already juggling too many client balls? (Wait. Argh! That didn’t come out right. You know what I mean though, right?)
If you’re trying to juggle too many different clients, there’s a chance you’ll either drop one or one will thwack you in the head. I say drop one. On purpose.
It’s better to drop a client than to drop the quality of your writing.
Don’t be afraid to say “goodbye” to a client. Not only will it free up your time to find betterclients, if you want (or need) them; it will allow you to spend more time pleasing the clients you already have.
Juggling multiple clients ultimately comes down to “juggling” your work and your life. Your clients may be the balls you’re juggling in the air, but your life is the giant ball you’re standing on to make your act truly impressive. Find the right balance and you’ll be the star of the show!
Have you ever fumbled when trying to juggle multiple clients? Tell us in the comments!
Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of bylined posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers. Thousands if you count all the articles she’s ghostwritten (but she’s not allowed to talk about most of those).