Samar Owais’s piece on how to schedule freelance projects to avoid burn out is short but sweet.
Samar points out a few very important facts. First, burnout is painful and unfortunately common in the freelancing community. Second, approximating timelines and scheduling appropriately is key. Finally, scheduling is not as simple as lining up client work back-to-back.
Samar focuses on 5 ways to minimize extraneous variables to help yourself schedule client work more accurately:
- Give yourself more than you think you need
- Make reasonable promises you can keep
- Be consistent in your style of work
- Avoid scope creep
- Automate and/or delegate
Giving yourself more time than you think you need (#1) and being consistent in your self-scheduling (#3) fall into the category of how you manage yourself. As a freelancer, you are your own boss, so making timelines and requiring yourself to show up in the morning to complete those timelines is completely on you. There are many ways to “life-hack” yourself to get yourself out of bed, or to always add 20% to every timeline estimate, but at the end of the day, it’s all about you planning yourself.
However, making reasonable promises to clients that you can keep (#2) and avoiding scope creep (#4) are about communication and transparency with your client. Many freelancers find themselves stuck is one client relationship after another where they can’t avoid projects growing beyond their budgets and client demanding more out of them than they can deliver. These two items aren’t about managing yourself, they’re about managing your client. In fact, they’re about managing your client’s experience.
The hardest part about freelancing isn’t usually your specialty (writing, coding, designing, etc.); the challenge of freelancing is managing client expectations for the project as a whole, as well as the many moving pieces of projects. Communicating to your client clearly and consistently about project’s goals, timeline, deliverables, and progress are the first steps towards combating scope creep and unreasonable client demands. If you’re truly in control of the project and its bounds, then there’s no space for your client to force scope creep, nor make unrealistic demands.
Finally, on the note of automating and/or delegating tasks: consistent processes is your secret weapon. Whether you’re the person who runs the projects or completes tasks or you’ve hired someone else, having a consistent process for each task allows you to more accurately approximate task and project timelines and then communicate those timelines to your clients.
In conclusion, if you experience consistent scope creep and miss deadlines, yet your process from project to project is inconsistent, it’s certainly the case that you’re suffering from project scheduling efficiencies. This is a common issue that you can improve on. Start fixing these issues immediately by immediately orienting your goals around taking your promises, deadlines, and scope seriously while communicating clearly about them to clients.