If you know any freelancers in digital media, you’ve probably heard a lot on how to get started, how to land that first client, and how to manage your business.
A freelancer’s career trajectory is never traditional, but mine was different still. I was lucky to have connections from a past job that helped me land regular contract roles after only a few months as a freelance writer, back in 2014.
Working with successful small businesses early on kept me from the dramatic “feast or famine” rollercoaster that many writers navigate, for most of the time. It also kept me so busy that I spent all my time elevating other businesses, not necessarily my own. I’d worked on several of my own projects throughout the years, but never felt like I had the chance to truly dive in and embrace their potential.
Almost five years later, things shifted—I could finally prioritize aspects of my business that fell to the wayside the years past. I was working backwards, in a way.
So, I was faced with the window of opportunity that is vital to small business owners: that rare season where I’m teeming with ideas and have time to dedicate to them. Besides the obvious (and terrifying) hurdle of needing to work quickly—having time also meant having less money—I knew this was an opportunity to embrace.
I dove into a handful of major projects all at once and I’ll share how I’ve been managing to juggle all of the separate work that falls under this umbrella of my business as a writer, editor, and creative freelancer…
Over the last several months I’ve been at work on different stages of each:
– My website rebrand and portfolio updates, that I’ve just finished. This was a two month-long project that would’ve never been done in this time if I had a full-time client list.
– Re-launching The Blog Market, a community that my friend Jennifer and I manage together. We updated our website and shifted our strategy to be less time consuming and more helpful to us and our readers. She worked on the redesign while I dove into the content this fall.
– Creative writing classes. It’s important to me to be a lifelong learner when it comes to writing, and creative writing (creative nonfiction specifically) is a huge passion of mine. Having a fulfilling “just for me” commitment like taking an online class has really motivated me in my professional work. Now that it’s ended, I’m in a writing group and we share and critique essays via biweekly emails.
– There’s also freelance work, and copywriting and social media is often made up of many small, short term projects. So this varies week-to-week and what I was doing five months ago is incredibly different from what I was doing two months ago and even now as we head into the end of the year.
– Lastly, the most complex project I’m working on is implementing an entirely new facet of my business—a new web and in-person community. It’s still in its pre-launch phase so I’ve been working on a business plan, branding, and content strategy.
As an aside, I recommend that all freelancers and business owners write out the projects they’re working every now and then. Just listing out the above to be able to describe my process helped me realize and organize all that I do each week. It’s so easy to forget all that we do when we’re self-employed, even if we’re not overflowing with client work at that moment.
So, how do I manage such an array of different projects?
Implement a project management system
I don’t use Asana or Trello, though they may work for you. How you do your project management isn’t as important as making sure you do it. Create a system to plan out each project in your business as well as each phase of each, how long they’ll take to complete, and each of the deadlines. This is helpful when you have tons of competing deadlines.
Plan your weeks, plan your days
Every Sunday, I take a look at each of my projects and highlight the most urgent deadlines. Since I have them all written out, it’s as easy as scrolling through and finding the next closest due date. I highlight all of those and that’s essentially my weekly plan. From there, I write a to-do list each morning (or the night before, if I’m on top of it!) that includes more specifics. Make sure to go back through at the end of the week and plan for anything you’ve missed!
Practice mindfulness and focus on the present task
My biggest issue in freelancing has always been focus. Sometimes there’s just SO many different deadlines, tasks, or goals that need to be done now. Practicing mindfulness has helped me focus on the task at hand and push the others aside. The first time I took a writing class I had trouble focusing on client work because I felt like I was neglecting this new commitment. Once I made the conscious decision to focus on one thing at a time—and know that I’d get to the other later—I didn’t feel pulled in two directions. Sometimes the hardest things are the simplest, like a shift in mindset.
Take a step back and consider the why… and cut what’s not working for you
As a multi-passionate business owner, I’m always going to have tons of ideas and pursuits pulling me in different directions. Yes, it’s overwhelming, but as a creative person, I am always looking for the next way I can make an impact. It’s just how I’m wired. But that doesn’t mean I have to do it all—it helps to take a step back when I’m overwhelmed, and make the sometimes hard decision to cut some projects or clients that aren’t working for me. Sometimes it helps to list it all out on paper and circle the non-negotiables, then go from there.
Talk to people!
Lastly, freelancing, especially when all of your work is done online, can be isolating. If you don’t have an in-person community or at least a few friends to bounce ideas off of every now and then, you’ll lose steam. There is nothing more helpful than talking through your ideas and goals and having someone offer support, ask questions, and make you look at things differently.
Your turn… How do you plan your week when you have multiple projects going on?