#1. Decline New Clients for a While.
As your business grows, there is a tendency to take on too much work or not be able to service current clients adequately. This is an excellent time to pause and reflect on your workload to cut down extra work you are taking on and creating space for proper attention to existing clients without being overwhelmed by it all. Consider placing an ad stating that you’re accepting new clients only at this point on a limited basis until you’ve got some breathing room in your schedule again: “Limited availability now through September 30th”.
I’ve seen this strategy come into play in times when I was getting busier than I could manage. I would put a note in my email signature that said, “My schedule is currently full. I will consider taking on work only from new clients for a few months.” It was easy to decline requests for new projects and it helped me manage my workload. When the time period was up, people who had come in contact with me during that period knew they could request my services again because I would be open to working with them at that point.
#2. Prioritize Your To-Do List.
Talk about essential time management start crossing off your top priorities first instead of jumping into what’s easiest or most fun first. As you begin a project on your calendar, cross off an item on your to-do list before moving onto another item from the same client or project.
#3. Stick to a Schedule.
To avoid getting trampled by clients, regular schedule time for tasks that feed your regular daily work, such as marketing and administration. I do this with my “Social Media Monday” hour, in which I make notes of things I want to post on social media during the week (images, videos, etc). It’s easy to forget about these little items when you’re juggling other client projects or have other pressing deadlines. This allows me to get everything taken care of in a timely manner so I don’t feel behind when it comes to posting content on various social media platforms throughout the week: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all at two times per day each (one business-related item at 9 am, then another personal thing at 5 pm).
#4. Tell the Truth (But Don’t Be Brutal).
There may come a time when you cannot fulfill your responsibilities for a project in line with your client’s expectations. When this happens, take as much responsibility as possible and do not point fingers or shift blame. The most straightforward course of action is to say that you’re too busy and let them know they might want to discuss the situation further with another designer if it’s necessary. They’ll appreciate you being honest about your workload instead of taking on their work and doing a less than satisfactory job because you were overextended when taking it on.
#5. Have an Outline for Tasks You Have to Do.
If you can handle your current workload but just want to stay on top of things, keep a schedule for tasks requiring regular attention, such as marketing and administrative work. I make notes in my calendar for the following week: what posts will go up when and how they’ll be promoted, what articles I have to write, which podcasts or videos need recording etc. But don’t overdo it. Give yourself some space so you can take care of last-minute client needs when need be.
#6. Reduce Clients Who Take Up Too Much of Your Time.
Allocate time for each client in your schedule, but if they consistently make demands that take up more than 40% of a week or two (or even several days), it may be time to set some boundaries and say no. If you feel bad about doing this, tell yourself that they’ll respect you more later on for putting your foot down when something is outside of the scope of what was discussed during contract negotiations.
#7. Raise Your Rates
As your workload continues to grow, you’ll want to find some way to offset the cost of all this extra time spent on projects. Maybe you’re not billing hourly, so don’t fret about that, but consider raising your rates if they currently haven’t raised in over a year.
Some professionals or freelancers have an annual increase schedule (usually between 5-10 percent) determined at the beginning of every year based on economic growth trends. Others do it at certain times when their workload increases due to seasonal factors (holidays, for example). Take a close look at how much work you are doing and ask yourself if it’s worth what you’re earning right now. If not… raise those rates!
#8. Look for Ways to Reduce Time Spent on Certain Tasks.
A great way to save time is by doing a little research and finding ways other people have accomplished the same kind of work you’re doing but in less time. Look for apps, tools, tips, or methods that will help you achieve your tasks faster. A good example I’ve found is a writing app called TextExpander. This allows me to type my most frequently used long phrases (such as “lmk” for “let me know”) and saves me tons of time when sending emails back to clients about revisions.
#9. Use Technology to Automate Your Workflow.
One thing that can help you reduce your workload is automating repetitive tasks with programs you can find online. Tools like Trello, Asana and Slack are great ways to organize your workflow. Streamline your process by getting rid of unnecessary tools and choose tools that can easily be integrated with each other. Learn how to use keyboard shortcuts instead of using the mouse so that you save time each day from not having to move your hand off the keyboard.
#10. Learn When You Are Most Productive.
Everyone has their version of “productive time” — mine is late at night and early in the morning. So when I’m working on a tight deadline, I’ll schedule my more critical tasks to start during these times to get them done first while I have that magic focus going on. Then, if it’s possible, schedule your less crucial tasks to be worked on during the afternoon or evening hours when you are most likely to get distracted (and may not be as attentive) AND when you are likely to procrastinate the most!
The result: You get tons of stuff done and meet those deadlines and have enough time left over for other things like hanging out with friends and family.