When you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur (and often, solopreneur), you can find yourself accepting every client, project and job offer that comes your way. After all, this #laptoplifestyle also came with a lot of uncertainty and lack of a safety net that a normal 9-5 would offer. I know you wouldn’t change it for the world, but there’s no need to sugar-coat it either.
It’s easy to then find yourself in a real labyrinth of timelines, emails and miss important information, which then causes even more stress and delays. It’s like this never-ending cycle of projects, one after another: it’s the feast part of the cycle, and you’re already dreading the famine. Even if you’re a seasoned business owner, and you aim at working with only one client at a time, you know just how easy it is for projects to drag past their timelines, clients to not hold their end of the timeline and for things to get really messy, really fast.
Okay, so should I only work with one client at a time?
As with most things in life… It depends (sorry for being that person). As a brand designer, I’m trying to slowly change my systems to allow each client to have my undivided attention. Because I have a longer process & timeline, I want my clients to feel a true VIP in my world and to bring that red-carpet experience their way, I can’t be working on two brands at the same time; I need to live & breath their brand & business and immerse myself into it. But if you have a shorter process, or if you are that type of creative who needs multiple projects to bounce off of to keep your juices flowing, no worries at all! Take the next few tips as guidelines to not put yourself in the backburner.
But… how do I know if I’m overbooking myself?
- Your projects constantly overlap each other, so it feels like one never-ending sprint;
- You spend way too much time searching for that one particular email;
- You get overwhelmed every time a new client comes through;
- You hate putting proposals together;
- You find yourself always thinking about work, and your mind jumps off to 10 different topics at a time;
- You have a habit of working late nights & weekends;
- Your last holiday was… You have no idea.
Let’s be honest, juggling all of this is no fun at all. Even worse, the time spent handling all of this could be put to use for doing what you actually love. Do you even remember the last time you didn’t work on weekends? Yeah, it’s time to change that.
1. Track your time
If your projects are constantly going over the timeline you initially set, then it’s time to review it, because maybe your process isn’t made to take 6-8 weeks, but rather 10-12. And there’s no shame in that! Experiment and track the number of hours it takes you to complete a whole project from start to finish. You can later use it as a guideline for the future!
2. Allow for a buffer
Unexpected things happen, it’s a part of life. Always add an extra week to the whole timeline so that you know that even if there are slight delays or missteps, the whole project is still on track. Yes, it is a “just in case” measure, but if it ends up not being needed, you get to surprise the client with an ahead-of-time launch. Double-whammy, hey?
3. Check your contract
Now that you’ve checked everything is up and running on your end, you need to keep your clients in check too. This is, after all, a two-way street and both parts should be equally invested in the outcome! Do you have a clause in your contract in case clients miss their deadlines for feedback, for example? What if the project gets out of scope? Is there a fee for extra revisions?
4. Don’t keep everything in the e-mails
Use an online app or system to keep everything in one place. There’s a lot of moving pieces to project: invoices, contracts, amendments, presentations, slides, files… By keeping everything in your email, there’s no system to keep everything in its right place. It’s hard to keep track of feedback, the round of revisions you’re in and you end up having to spend hours looking for *that* specific file version. I use the free version of Asana for everything around a project (including client communication) and I love it!
5. Raise your rates
Sorry to break it to you, but if you’re constantly drowning in client work, with no free time or even space for personal projects and business development then you, my friend, need to raise your rates. Why? Because you’re in high demand! Instead of squeezing everything to fit in your already booked schedule, you can continue to fill your pipeline without all the added stress of having not-so-aligned clients. Now, THAT’S the dream!
Keep in mind that your systems & processes are not a static thing. As you grow, they have to grow and change with you, because your business is a living and breathing being. Every moving part of your business needs to be taken care of to function and fulfil its purpose.
Just remember: everything you’re experiencing is normal & valid. Make sure you surround yourself with people a few steps ahead of yourself to keep improving and bettering your brand, business, offers and processes!