7 Top Tips for Balancing Multiple Web Design Clients
Being a freelance web designer can be a bit like being a juggler. By that I mean that most of the time you have more than one web design project you are working on. You have to keep all of your projects going and on schedule. The juggling act can be a real challenge.
If you come from traditional employment background, balancing multiple clients is probably new for you and it will probably require you to change your attitude and your work habits.
In traditional employment, the employer assigns projects to you based on your current project. They also tell you which projects are most critical and which are not. If they’re a good employer, they’ll also make sure that you’re not too overloaded and provide you with constructive feedback.
As a freelance web designer, things are completely different. You’re responsible for finding projects to work on. It’s very easy to accidentally overload yourself. In addition, many clients do not provide feedback. And not only do you have to keep one organization happy–it’s likely that you will deal with multiple clients, often at the same time.
If you’re having trouble balancing multiple clients, this post can help. In it I provide seven tips to help you work more effectively with multiple clients.
If you liked this post, you may also like 7 Tips for Prioritizing Tasks Effectively.
Tip 1: Manage Client Interruptions
If you’re juggling multiple clients, you can’t be constantly fielding unexpected phone calls and still get any work done. Studies show that even short interruptions can have a disastrous effect on productivity.
Interruptions can cause you to lose your train of thought, which can cause you to spend more time on your project than you intended to. In extreme cases, too many interruptions could result in missed deadlines.
Here are three ideas for minimizing phone interruptions:
- Schedule calls. Let your clients know that you only take calls by appointment. Ask them to send you an email when they need schedule a conference call with you. Let them know that you will answer short questions through email.
- Office hours. Some freelancers dedicate an hour or two every day for client calls. If you decide to schedule open office hours, let your clients know when you are available. You can work on non-critical tasks while you wait to see if any clients will call.
- Hire a call screener. Another solution is to hire a virtual assistant to screen calls. If your clients are used to you being “on call,” this may be the best solution. They get to speak to a live person right away and the assistant can make you aware of any true emergencies quickly.
When all else fails if a client absolutely must have you on call, be sure to charge extra for that service.
Tip 2: Answer Email Promptly
It’s good practice to answer emails from clients and prospects quickly, even if your answer is only to request more information. It’s especially important to answer quickly if your clients are used to you being available by phone. Schedule some time each day to answer emails.
In most cases, you should respond to an email sent during business hours within the same day. Which brings us to the question of how often you should check your email.
Checking your email constantly can be just as distracting as receiving unexpected phone calls. While some productivity experts recommend only checking email once a day, I find that in a freelancing environment it is better to check it three times a day–morning, noon, and before I finish work.
Tip 3: Always Negotiate for Extra Time
The fact is that, despite their best efforts, most freelancers underestimate how long a project will take. That’s because estimating is tough and there are lots of variables.
It’s easy for an estimate to go off track. But keep in mind that you’re probably dealing with several clients at any given time. Now, imagine that all of the estimates go off track. Do you see the disaster waiting to happen?
The best way to keep from missing a deadline due to estimating error or unexpected circumstances is to ask for a little more time to complete the project than you think the project will take. This gives you a buffer in case something goes wrong. And if nothing does go wrong, you can always deliver the project early.
Tip 4: Pay Close Attention to the Instructions
One of the biggest causes of client dissatisfaction is freelancers who don’t follow instructions. Now, if you’re new to freelancing you may be thinking to yourself, “I’d never do that.”
But the truth is that misreading or misunderstanding a client’s instruction is very easy to do when you’re in a hurry. It’s also easy to mix up instructions between clients.
To make sure you are on track, review all of your communications with the clients several times before you start work and during the course of the project. You should also review your work agreement. If there is anything that seems unclear to you, ask about it.
Tip 5: Prioritize Your Tasks
This is the tricky part. You need to figure out how to stay on schedule so that nothing falls behind. To do this you need to decide which tasks are very important and which are not so important.
I highly recommend scheduling what you plan to do each day. Use your agreed-upon deadlines and project estimates as a guide. By creating a schedule and sticking to it, you will know quickly when you fall behind on any one of your projects.
I also recommend either writing your scheduled tasks down or using an app to keep track of them. Some examples of apps that can help you prioritize and track tasks include:
- Eisenhower. Works with your iPhone. ($2.99)
- Prioritize Me. Works with Android devices. (Free)
- Trello. Works with your desktop machine, Android, or IOS device. (Free).
(Prices current as of the time the post was written.)
Tip 6: Communicate Regularly
Another important tip for juggling multiple clients is to keep in touch with each client regularly. That doesn’t mean that you need to overwhelm them with emails. But you should check in regularly on longer projects, especially when you reach milestones.
It’s also really important to communicate any problems or questions that you have. And be sure to let your client know as soon as possible if you won’t be able to deliver on time.
Tip 7: Over Deliver for Repeat Business
The final tip for dealing with multiple clients has to do with retaining them. Unlike in a traditional job where your employer typically gives you severance pay when the relationship ends, your clients could choose to end the relationship at any time. So naturally it’s important to keep them happy.
One way to ensure that your clients come back to you for future projects is to over deliver. You can do this by:
- Delivering the project early.
- Calling the client’s attention to information that could help them.
- Share their site through your social media contacts.
- Thank them for the work.
- Check with them a month or so after delivery.
Do you juggle multiple web design clients at the same time? How do you do it? What are your best tips?
Published February 4th, 2014 by Laura Spencer