If you’ve recently started working as a freelancer, chances are you feel a little frantic right now. You may feel there aren’t enough hours in the day, or that you’re always on the brink of forgetting something. How do you keep up with all the different components of your various projects and keep your clients happy? Developing good project management skills is critical if you want to succeed as a freelancer.

Read on to discover project management tips that will help you rock your business.

1. Keep Everything In One Place

To improve your freelancing business, one of the first things you should do is learn to keep everything in one place. Juggling client projects can get hectic, so an organised process is crucial.

You’ll have multiple different project files, different versions of each document, as well as other resource files from your clients.

Do This: Set up folders for each client so you can easily see everything you have for them in one place. It’s also a good idea to set up a document or journal where you can keep notes about your clients all in one place. This will help you ensure nothing falls through the cracks and you don’t wind up with an irate client on your hands.

Suggested Resource: ClickUp is our favourite tool for this. You still need to create your folders in Google Drive (or similar) for document storage. Then use ClickUp to manage tasks, keep track of where documents and passwords are located, make notes about your clients and projects, and more.

2. Set Up Standardised Documents

Although each project will be a little different, you’re likely to find that you’re using some of the same documents over and over again. This should include at minimum:

  • Your freelance contract – which will protect you from clients who don’t want to pay their bills and delineate the terms of your project. Always make sure you have legals in place before work begins.
  • Scope of work document – that outlines what you’ll be doing for this job. This may be an attachment to your proposal or contract, or it may be its own separate document. However you do it, make sure you have a clear and specific scope to keep your project from growing out of control.

Rather than drawing up these documents from scratch every time you get a new client, set up standardised documents you can send out at the beginning of a project. These can be fixed (as your contract will be) or adjustable templates (as your scope of work documents will be).

Do This: Carefully read through your project documents carefully you send them to each new client. Ensure they don’t have old client information left in them or other irrelevant details.
Suggested Resource: Save time, impress your clients, and start every project on the right foot with an effective client onboarding process.

Suggested Resource: Save time, impress your clients, and start every project on the right foot with an effective client onboarding process.

3. Track Your Time

Whether you set a fixed price for projects or bill hourly, it’s important to track your time. If you’re billing hourly, you need to be able to send accurate invoices to your clients.

Even if you’re working with fixed rates, you need to know how much time each project takes so you can better manage your schedule and adjust rates as needed.

Do This: There are many apps you can use to track your time on various projects. Some have features that allow you not only to track the time spent on the project, but also to keep up with which tasks you spent that time doing. You can also track this manually, but you’ll need a very strong note-taking system and discipline to do so.

Suggested Resource: Time tracking is another way ClickUp can help you out. Track time by task or subtask and even create a report to send to your client.

4. Set a Schedule

One of the great things about working as a freelancer is managing your own schedule. This can be amazing, but it’s also easy to get caught in a loop of not waking up until late in the day, lounging around for a long time before you get started, and then frantically trying to finish all your work on time. To avoid this, make a point to set a work schedule and stick to it.

Do This: Decide what time you’ll begin work. And if needed, set alarms so you get up on time. Schedule out what you’ll work on throughout the day, using your time estimates for each project as a guide.

Include a lunch break and small breaks throughout the day. Many freelancers find using the Pomodoro technique helpful.

Suggested Resource: Organise your work schedule like THIS for optimal productivity.

5. Organise Tasks

When scheduling your day, you need to prioritise which tasks happen when. One great way to do that is to sort your to-dos into categories of important, not important, urgent, and not urgent.

A task that’s important must happen in order for your business to continue to succeed. A task that’s urgent has a deadline that must be met. You can have tasks that are urgent and not important, important and not urgent, important and urgent, or not important and not urgent.

Do This: Try the Eisenhower Matrix. Set the tasks that are both important and urgent at the top of your to do list for the day. Follow those with the tasks that are urgent, but not important, such as responding to a new potential client. Next, schedule the tasks that are important, but not urgent, and save the tasks that are not important or urgent for your breaks.

Suggested Resource: Learn more about the Eisenhower Matrix here.

6. Communicate With Clients

Communication with your clients is one of the most important parts of project management as a freelancer. Although you know the exact status of the project you’re working on, your clients don’t, and they don’t like being left in the dark.

Not only do you need to communicate with them about any questions about the project, but you also need to follow up with updates on your progress.

Do This: Make a point to communicate with your clients on a regular basis, especially if their project is taking a while. Send them samples to review, give them updates on the project, and check if they have any questions or concerns.

It’s also a good idea to make sure you never let a client’s email sit unanswered for more than one business day, even if you have to send a message saying, “I’m swamped right now, but I’ll get back to you on this in two days.”

Suggested Resource: Six best practices for effective client communication

7. Use Organisation Tools

Keeping up with all of the things we’ve discussed can seem daunting, especially if you’re working on your own and managing multiple clients.

How do you keep track of when you last replied to everyone, what needs to happen next on each project, and so on?

Action Tip: There are many good organisation tools on the market that can help you easily keep up with your needs for each client.

Suggested Resource: Not to sound like a broken record, but ClickUp is our favourite organisation tool. Here’s why: ClickUp makes it easy to create a top-level task list for each project complete with due dates and checklists. Then break those top-level tasks down into all the necessary subtasks. You can easily see what you have on your plate for each day, check in on your individual clients, and schedule one-off tasks all in one convenient platform.

8. Focus on One Client At A Time

Of course, one of the best ways to make sure nothing slips through the cracks with different clients is to keep your focus narrowed to one client at a time.

When you work with just one client, you can ensure they get your full attention, dedication, and time. This can lead to better client experiences and a better work-life balance for you.

Action Tip: Figure out how much time each client’s project will take, and arrange to spend that amount of time dedicated only to that project. If a project will take ten hours, spend one full workday and two hours of the next workday handling that project.

This may require some additional up-front organisation and scheduling, but it can make your freelancing life a lot less hectic.

9. Don’t Be Afraid To Say No

When you’re first becoming a freelancer, you may feel you have to take every job that comes your way.

You’re trying to grow your business and bring in new clients, so every opportunity seems too good to refuse. But if you keep going this way, you’re going to wind up overbooked and overwhelmed.

Action Tip: Don’t be afraid to turn down projects that aren’t a good fit for your skills or your needs. Depending on your network, you may be able to refer the client to another freelancer who has the time or skills to manage their project.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to take every opportunity that comes along just for the extra money. Unless you’re really desperate, hold out for those best-fit clients that will help you grow the kind of business you want to have.

Suggested Resource: How to get clients and market your freelance business.

10. Wrap Up Each Day

One of the best ways you can stay organised as a freelancer is to set a wrap-up time for yourself each day. This will be the time when you review your projects, figure out your to-do list for the next day, and make sure everything got handled that day.

Not only will this help you to stay on top of your projects, but it can also make you feel more in control of your freelance life.

Action Tip: About fifteen minutes before you stop work for the day, wrap up whatever project you’re working on and go back to your project management platform. Take a look at what you did that day and set any follow-up tasks that need to happen.

Figure out the things that have to happen first the next day, and make sure all urgent and important tasks for the day have been handled before you sign off for the night.

Learn New Project Management Skills

When you work as a freelancer, you’re in charge of handling all your own work. Developing good project management skills can help you to keep your business productive and your clients happy.

Use organisation and time tracking tools, communicate with clients, schedule your day, and wrap up at the end of each day before you leave your workspace.

If you’d like to learn more about developing project management skills, check out the rest of our site at Optimise + Grow Online. We work with you to strategise for impact, simplify to amplify, automate to leverage, and connect for conversion.

Book a consultation with us to start optimising and growing your business online today.