How to manage multiple clients without losing your head

Busy calendar

Table of contents

    Having a few different clients on the go is a common occurrence for any successful business owner. However, while it means more money, experience and work for your portfolio, if you can’t handle the extra work – and manage to juggle your commitments to each client – then everything you do will suffer.

    Organisation is obviously the key thing here. If you fail to keep on top of everything, work will pile up, deadlines will be missed and angry emails will begin to flow. If you don’t ensure you know what work is needed by who, and when, then you might find yourself with no clients rather than a bunch of them.

    Before we get going, don’t forget to check out our ultimate productivity tips for the self-employed article for a whole roster of ways to keep yourself organised and productive.

    Get a calendar

    The first thing you need to get is a calendar – an electronic and physical one. Google Calendar can be great for this, as it syncs across lots of devices, meaning it’s always accessible. It’s also worth keeping a physical one on hand as well for when you can’t get online.

    Use colour-coding to block out time for different clients or different projects, and make sure you stick to it. When juggling different work planning is important, but making sure you stick to that plan is vital.

    Get some structure

    The next thing you need to sort out is how you structure your working. It’s not always so simple to just work on the project that has the nearest deadline. You need to be considering how long and how much effort each individual job will take and balance that up against each deadline. Balance is going to be key to ensuring you’re getting everything done on time.

    This is something you should continuously reassess as well. Sometimes a project will throw up more problems than you expect, or maybe personal issues or illness will disrupt your workflow. Either way, you need to be taking these things into account as they happen. You should give yourself a weekly plan that should take the previous week’s events into account. This will give you the flexibility to adapt and ensure you don’t start to fall behind.

    You should get your hands on a good project management app (Freedcamp, Solo and Azendoo are good places to start), or even just a simple to-do list one (Forbes have a good list here). This means you won’t mentally make a note to do something and forget it. Again, even a piece of paper next to your desk that lists to-be-completed tasks will come in handy.

    Don’t be afraid to say no

    Of course, all this planning and project management can go out the window if something unexpected happens. What do you do when a client suddenly brings forward their deadline and all your time is booked up with someone else? Or what if one client ups your hours, meaning you don’t have as much time for another? There’s no hard and fast rule here, but in the end someone is going to lose out. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time available. Taking on one client’s emergency and then failing to complete another project is clearly no good. If you can’t accommodate a client’s last minute request, then you’re going to have to say no.

    All you need to do is simply explain your situation and the negative repercussions of their suggestion. Hopefully, they will be understanding and not try to punish you for your choice, or you could offer to find another freelancer who might be able to complete the job for them.

    In the end, it’s about weighing up the pros and cons of your specific situation. If you think you can handle the extra workload, then go for it, but consider your risks. Remember that making yourself rush or cutting down on your sleep means your work will suffer. Always consider requests, but be sensible. Don’t make your life harder than it needs to be.

    Thinking of hiring? Read this first!