Tips for Managing Multiple Projects Effectively
If you find yourself managing multiple projects at the same time, and it has started to take a toll on you, then you need to read on.
As a freelancer who wants income stability, you tend to accept several projects at the same time, right? And without a team to delegate work to, you will agree that managing multiple projects can be challenging. Now that you are running your own gig business, while it may feel right that you take on several clients simultaneously, you must maintain the standards of your practice for all your clients. If you fail to manage multiple projects at one time successfully, it may permanently affect your reputation. Luckily, there are tips for managing multiple projects that can help you run your business effectively.
Tips for Managing Multiple Projects
Gone are the days when you have a secretary or team to help you in your day-to-day activities. Now that you are in the freelance workforce, you will be juggling multiple tasks singlehandedly. Completing a project while handling admin duties is demanding enough. Imagine having to balance your time doing multiple projects! But do not despair; it can be done—if you do it the smart way.
Have a Plan. Strategize.
In every business and life, a good workable plan is always a best practice. Never go in the battle blind, so they say.
1. Design your workflow
One good thing about being a freelancer is that you are not bound by company-dictated workflows and processes. Now, you have the freedom to design your own system based on how you believe you can complete a project best.
Before starting your freelance business, or any project, make sure you have a clear layout of your process from start to finish. Include the small tasks like buying materials, or waiting for approval or request for revision from the client. Have a good estimate of how much time each task will take. This will determine how long it will take you to finish a single project. Then, you will have an insight into how many projects you can reasonably accept.
In designing your workflow, decide on the most efficient option for each process. For instance, take note of stores that offer deliveries and online purchases for your materials. This way, you can do other tasks while waiting for your order instead of going to the store yourself. It will save you a lot of time.
Do not underestimate the importance of a consistent and wisely designed workflow. First, it will help you speed up your work because you have a streamlined process that can be a model for all your projects. Second, you will not forget to do a task when you have a workflow in place. The project will go on like clockwork, with fewer mistakes and errors. And last, your workflow will help you see potential risks and obstacles, giving you time to set up a plan for contingencies.
2. Good office setup
One thing you should understand in knowing how to manage multiple projects is that your workspace is as important as your process. Do you have enough table space? Is everything you need within reach or at least in the same room with you? It would be pretty frustrating if you couldn’t find a document because it got mixed up with the other project file because there is not enough table space. Or if you need to run to a different room because the printer is there.
Set up your workspace in a less distracting place and is purely dedicated to your work. Avoid clutter as much as possible. See to it that each project will also have its own safe space. This will reduce the stress of having projects mixed up. If your project is purely digital, the same goes for having separate file folders for each project. It will be easier to manage multiple projects if they are efficiently sorted.
Make sure that all your resources are on hand. Things like office supplies or art materials should be sufficiently stocked so you do not have to stop what you are doing to run to the store to buy, let’s say, red paint. So before starting on a project, make sure you already have everything you need so you can run through the project’s completion smoothly.
3. Possible people support
Finding people to support you is okay, especially when you are so worked up in managing multiple projects. It is definitely not a bad idea to see family and friends who can help you out. A simple request to help you, say, pick up your pre-ordered item from the store, goes a long way. Or asking a family member to be your assistant on your photoshoot day in exchange for a free dinner is not a bad idea, right?
Do not bite off more than you can chew. Yes, that expression is very applicable in this situation. You should set expectations for yourself on what you can manage and for your clients when it comes to deliverables.
1. To yourself
Once you have designed your process flow, you will know your limits. Be realistic and practical. Accept what you can adequately handle. Do not overwork yourself. Sometimes, when you work so much, you may experience creative blocks. This will cause delays and errors in your project. Plus, imagine the stress! So, yes, set expectations for yourself. Especially when you are just starting and still establishing the best system for your business.
Pro tip: Do not forget to take breaks during the day to recharge your body and mind.
2. To your client
Again, this is where your workflow will come in handy. Before accepting succeeding projects, check your timelines and current workload. Then, analyze it with your workflow so you can tell your client how long the project will take. Setting their expectations will put less pressure on you to complete a project because you have already allotted a suitable timeframe for each project.
Pro tip: Do not over-commit! It’s better to set a later delivery date and deliver earlier than miss a deadline.
Be organized and stay focused.
It is easy to say to be organized and stay focused. Every trick in the book will tell you that. But what is the best way to be organized and keep your focus? Check these out:
1. Have a project abstract.
Have an overview of each project. Know the projects’ demands, timelines, and end goals. Managing multiple projects will be less challenging if you know each project’s requirements. In doing so, you get to see the resources you need to allocate, the unique and similar tasks each project demands from you, and which ones will take the most time to complete.
If you are a photographer and you see that two of your projects need to be done in a studio, then you can schedule one photoshoot in the morning and one in the afternoon. This will save you transportation time and cost. And maybe get a discount from the studio rental for renting it the whole day. This is one example of the benefits of having a clear overview of your projects.
So, you have a workflow and project overview, and now you can prioritize tasks accordingly. You already know which tasks need to be done first. It wouldn’t be wise to start on a task that you cannot finish because it needs another step that you still have not done. Now that’s a waste of your valuable time! In the same way, determine the more flexible tasks. Make it a habit to do time blocking to help you manage your priorities.
3. Establish your database.
Whether in hard copies or on your computer, make sure you keep a record of your projects’ documentation. These are easy references for future projects. If you have accepted a project almost identical to a previous one, you can now have a model you can use. And if you have been in the practice for some time now, having a record of your suppliers will come in handy, for you will know where to get your materials and compare prices as well. You don’t need to spend hours browsing through the internet anymore.
4. You need your tools.
And, of course, the most important tip of all: have the right tools for managing projects. Freelance project management software and apps offer everything you would need to run your business effectively. Yes, there are must-have software freelancers should consider investing in.
Imagine this: managing multiple projects with just one software. Convenient, isn’t it? A freelance project management software like Kosmo has features like a client directory and file folder per project. In each project folder, you can integrate all your tasks like creating and sending proposals and contracts, time-tracking per task, invoice generation, income tracker, and saving other documents. Using a project management platform will absolutely help you manage your multiple projects.
Track and review
With the help of tools like project management software, you can track and review your processes and see where you will need adjustments. Your workflow can be adjusted, especially if you observe that one task is taking longer to finish than expected. Having multiple projects mean handling different kinds of clients. Expect that one system may not work as successfully as others.
The advantage of freelancing is that your systems and processes can constantly be amended based on how you can efficiently manage your business. Do not be trapped in a system that is not fit for you just because it is the norm. You are the boss; remember that. And whatever works best for you, go on and do it. So, always track and review your projects, even weekly, if you have to. Modify your workflow if a change is really needed. Or stick to it if it has been working wonders for your business.
You can do it
While some may say that accepting several projects simultaneously is not a good practice, it will all depend on you. Some people can handle pressure better than others. Some people are more productive if they conduct business with one client at a time. But if you have decided to take on the challenge, take these tips on managing multiple projects to heart. Yes, you can do it.
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