Remember when you were in college and your professor would tell you that you had to read five chapters and turn in an assignment two days later, while you were juggling full class schedule, part-time job, and an internship? You probably thought, You’re not my only class! How will I get this done?
You didn’t know it then, but your college professors were preparing you for a freelance career. Unless you have one amazing freelance client who pays all of your bills, when you’re a freelancer, you’ll probably be working for a few clients at once. And that’s a good thing!
That means multiple deadlines, different project scopes, learning each client’s preferred voice and style guide, as well as dealing with various accounting departments.
Each client will also want to feel like they are your number-one and only priority. So factor that into how you juggle multiple assignments as a freelance writer.
Successful freelancers are fantastic at juggling deadlines, staying organized, and focusing on the task at hand.
(Here are some time management tips from busy, organized teen athletes.)
I’m usually working on assignments for about six to eight clients each week, and that’s not including cold pitches I’ve sent out that I’m waiting to hear back about.
Here are my strategic tips for juggling multiple freelance clients as a freelance writer:
I have a Google freelance writing sheet with one tab called “Freelance Assignments.” That’s for articles I’m currently working on, with the editor’s name, the article title, due date and rate. I sort the “Freelance Assignments” sheet according to the date the article is due (first due on top) so I know what I have to work on. Another tab has an “Invoices Out” section where I’ve moved the assignment once I sent it to the editor and note the day I sent the invoice. If I remember to add it, I try to add the “Net Pay” cycle since some clients pay me within one week, others Net 30, some pay Net 45. (Here are the skills you need to make six figures as a freelance writer.)
When my mind wanders off and I find myself going down a social media black hole, it helps me to look up from my computer and see what I have due that week on a color-coded whiteboard. This helps me see what I have due that week and beyond so I can write my daily to-do list.
I jot down what has to get done that day—like an article deadline, as well as interviews scheduled, and I estimate times for each. I’ll draw a line under the must-do’s and note anything else I wanted to try to get done, like posting a freelance writing blog, building my weekly email newsletter, or writing questions for an upcoming interview, researching story ideas, or tackling my starred emails that need follow up.
When I get an assignment that’s due about 10 days to two weeks from now, I research sources and reach out to media departments or experts right away. This way, I can set up interview times around both of our schedules. Once the interview is done, the rest of the assignment work is up to me. So, if I get the interview done early, write up the piece, clarify any questions with the sources, I’m ahead of the game. That way, if another client comes to me with a quick-turnaround assignment, I can say ‘Yes’ because I feel like I’m doing well on other assignments—which leads to me making more money.
This one is easier said than done for freelancers. Many freelancer writers—especially new writers—feel inclined to say ‘Yes’ to every assignment and opportunity that comes their way. I’ve gotten better at saying ‘No’ to lower-paying assignments when I don’t need the money as much, or asking a client for more money for a challenging assignment, or requesting more time to complete an article. Know your limits and look ahead to what’s going on in your life. For example: It’s the end of the year, you might have five holiday parties to attend, still have holiday shopping and wrapping to do, and are traveling away from home for a week. This is probably not the time to add low-paying freelance assignments to your plate or a huge project with a quick-turnaround deadline.
Read about Weekend Habits of Successful Freelance Writers.
You’ve just interviewed a nutritionist for a weight loss article for one client, but they said something you found interesting in the interview (that you didn’t use in the article) that you think your health insurance client would find useful for a future diabetes article. Ask your source if they’d mind if you shared this information with another client. Then, take that information, see if there’s a newsy hook you can use, and pitch an existing client (who isn’t a competitor) with this tidbit you learned.
Bestselling author and podcaster Gretchen Rubin has a great tip from her first book about how much we underestimate what we can get done in a short amount of time. She has a blog post on 10 tips to beat clutter in 5 minutes but I recommend freelancers try to do a few tasks in 15-minute bursts. Once I’ve turned in an article or finished an interview, I usually don’t feel like writing right away. I’ll set my e.ggtimer.com for 15 minutes and post an article on my site, schedule social media posts, skim my Facebook writing groups or post on my Facebook page, check my Twitter feed, or follow up on accounting. This way, I feel like I’m taking a brief break, but I’m accomplishing something for my business.
How do you juggle multiple clients at a time?
Diana can help with:
Email Diana about opportunities: Diana(at)DianaKelly.com.
Get Diana Kelly's weekly e-newsletter with freelance writing tips. When you sign up for her weekly email newsletter, she'll send you her "15 Best Freelance Writing Tips" PDF as a thank you gift. See a recent example. Like it? Sign up.