By Jiji Lee

How Successful Freelancers Make It All Work


Smart strategies for managing your time, projects, and clients.

If you’re a freelancer, you probably love the flexibility and freedom that the role entails. 

No longer beholden to a strict 9-to-5 or taking on work that furthers someone else’s goal or vision, freelancers can create their own schedules and accept work that aligns with their interests, expertise, and goals. 

But on the other hand, freelancers are a one person team, serving multiple clients.

Some days you’re serving as your own admin assistant, scheduling meetings and submitting invoices. Other days you’re a project manager overseeing multiple assignments and deadlines. And let’s not forget that we’re often our own accountants and marketing teams and career coaches.

Freelancers wear multiple hats--and often on the same day! 

So when it comes to managing work for our clients, we need to keep track of everything from emails to deadlines to events, while ensuring our own health and well-being are still intact.

But don’t worry, if you’re looking for tips and tricks on client management, we’ve got you covered. After learning these techniques, you’ll be managing clients and your own schedule, with ease, and regaining the freedom that drew you to the freelancing life in the first place.  

Managing projects as a freelancer

First things first, you’ll want a centralized hub to help you manage your workflow along with all the moving parts in your freelancing projects. 

Here are some of the tools that can help you manage your workload from clients.

Dashboard desk pad

If you love the tactile feeling of writing things down or have an easier time remembering information after putting pen to paper, a paper tool like a Dashboard Pad is your best bet. 

The new Ink+Volt Dashboard Pad has all your favorite features of a notepad but with the efficiency of a digital project management tool. Our pad has four separate columns to help you keep track of projects, goals, or priorities. This is ideal if you want a visual way to monitor all your projects and tasks, but also want the convenience of having a portable notepad. You can keep this on your desk or bring it along with you to meetings or business trips.

Digital project management tool

Digital project management tools like Asana or Trello are great if you don’t want to toggle between multiple tools, and prefer having all of your project details in one location. With a digital project management tool, you can also share your project with multiple team members, so that everyone can be apprised of a project’s status and know what their roles and tasks are. 

Whiteboard

If you’re the type of person who loves mind maps and you love to capture your various projects and notes in a visual way, then opt for the good old fashioned white board. You can customize it as often as you like and change it up for different clients. 

Online calendar

This is a great way to keep track of all your different deadlines: from meetings to assignments to invoices. If you’re juggling multiple assignments, you can color code your entries by task. For instance, use green for anything that’s financially relevant like invoicing or quarterly taxes. Or blue for tasks that are related to writing assignments. You can also try color coding by client. 

A lot of freelancers like to mix and match these tools and customize them to serve their unique needs.  Maybe you’ll want to keep track of your priorities on a Dashboard Pad while recording your deadlines on a Google Calendar. Use these tools in lockstep to ensure that you never miss a deadline or request from a client. 

Project management as a freelancer

A big challenge that freelancers face is trying to identify which project or client to prioritize. What do you do if you have multiple clients who all have deadlines falling on the same week--or even on the same day?

A simple way to stay on top of your deadlines is to assess your priorities at the beginning of the month as well as at the beginning of the week. 

Monthly check-in: A monthly check-in gives you an overview of what lies ahead for the rest of the month. As soon as you get an assignment or deadline, make sure to add it to your paper planner or Google Calendar so that you can properly assess what needs to be done that month.

For projects that involve lots of moving parts and responsibility, schedule time to work on it throughout the week or month, so that you’re not attempting to finish it all the night before it’s due.

Weekly check-in: Conduct a weekly planning session on Sunday or Monday. Refer to your planner or calendar and see what needs to be done that week. It always helps to capture everything and put it down on paper. Go through your emails and calendar entries, and write down all the tasks and assignments you have to do that week. Afterwards, prioritize by deadline. So if you have a deadline on Thursday or Friday, you’ll want to schedule in time to start working on it Monday/Tuesday. Use your Dashboard Pad to help you get your ducks in a row and see what tasks need to be done, for each project that week.

If you struggle with multiple deadlines, try assessing your tasks by importance and urgency. Is the task truly urgent or can it wait until the next day? For instance, if you’re getting emails that are time sensitive, but could be answered by someone else, you can delegate it to a different colleague or resource. 

Time management for freelancers 

As a freelancer, you have the freedom to customize your own schedule. But this can be a challenge if you’re working with multiple clients who require work throughout the week.

If you’re struggling to manage your time, try organizing your week by “theme.” 

For example, Mondays can be devoted to work for Client X. Tuesdays can be dedicated to Client Y. Wednesdays can be for research or meetings. Thursdays can be admin days. Fridays can be for networking/learning or giving weekly reports to clients. 

You can also further break down your day by blocking off time to do specific tasks. For example, maybe you’ll want to time block mornings for your most important work while reserving afternoons for client communications. 

If you find that client emails are consuming a big chunk of your day, try alleviating the problem by sending weekly status reports or scheduling weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings. You can circulate a Monday report to kick off the week and let your client know what you’ll be working on the next few days. Or send a Friday report that summarizes your work and key action steps you’ll be taking the upcoming week. If necessary, you can combine your reports with regular one-on-one meetings to ensure that you and your client are on the same page.