How To Manage Freelancing Projects Like A Pro
Freelancing can be exciting and incredibly draining at the same time. Unlike monotonous 9-to-5 jobs, freelancers tackle different kinds of projects each day and this makes it challenging. But the fact that you work on new projects requires a fair bit of learning and unlearning each time and this can be a drain on productivity. In addition to this, freelancers are their own boss which makes them responsible for marketing, accounting, and other time-consuming activities that they may not be responsible for in a regular job.
Picking the Right Price Point
Freelancers crossing over from a regular day job often make the mistake of calculating their hourly rates based on their salary from the previous job. For instance, if you were earning $6000 a month at your previous job, then assuming you worked 8 hours a day for 22 days in a month, you could be calculating your hourly price as $6000/(22*8). That’s just under $35/hour.
This could be a terrible mistake for a freelancer to commit. Firstly, it needs to be pointed out that your billable hours are only a fraction of your total work time. Freelancers also spend time handling administrative stuff and to execute other tasks like client support, marketing and so on. Secondly, unlike a regular job where the employer pays for your computer, office space, and electricity, freelancers need to pay for all of this from their own pocket.
The right hourly price for your projects thus needs to account for all of this. Assuming you spend five hours a day working on client projects (22 days in a month), and you have an overhead of $2000 a month for office space, electricity, and other expenses, your right hourly price would be ($6000+$2000)/(22*5) which comes down to around $72/hour.
Handling multiple projects simultaneously can be extremely chaotic. Smart freelancers quickly learn to delegate parts of their own work to other contractors and freelancers. This way, you can continue to cater to the needs of all your clients even when you may not be able to manage everything on your own. But delegation only adds to the mess since you now have to deal with external contractors too in addition to engaging with your clients.[Tweet “3 #projectmanagement tips for #freelancing and early #entrepreneurship.”]
It is important to invest in a good project management or workplace collaboration tool. This allows freelancers to seamlessly handle multiple projects at once, collaborate with other freelancers and access the latest status of all your various projects in one place. Some of the market leaders in this space are Basecamp, Wrike, and Asana. But if you are bootstrapped and do not want to pay for a tool, you may check out Hubbion, a free tool that lets you collaborate with an unlimited number of users on an unlimited number of projects.
In addition to managing multiple projects from one place, such online tools also help inculcate discipline. Freelancers who work from home can get distracted easily. A project management tool enables you to establish your tasks for the day and this pushes freelancers towards higher productivity.
Businesses love freelance contractors who are available at all times to handle their support queries. The problem, however, is that handling support this way can bring down productivity drastically. Taking on a client call while working on another project would mean unplugging yourself from what you were doing to look into what your client wants, and then getting back to where you were to begin with.
A simple way to resolve this is to handle all your support queries through a helpdesk tool. Getting clients to raise support requests allows freelancers to look into all these queries in one go. This also helps the client keep track of all their support queries over time which may be accessed in future if required. This may, however, seem unfeasible if you work with only a handful of large ticket clients. In such cases, it is a good idea to use a public calendar tool like Google Calendar to schedule calls. Blocking out the time you spend on client projects in advance reminds the clients not to call you during these hours.
Freelancing is not easy and involves a lot of uncertainty and variables. But by keeping your schedule organized and pricing your project right, you can be a master freelancer with the right work-life balance.
Anand Srinivasan is a marketing consultant and the founder of Hubbion, an online collaboration tool that is targeted at freelancers and marketers. He is a regular contributor to Writerzone.net and a number of popular online media outlets.