Managing Multiple Projects: Problems and Solutions
March 16, 2011
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Freelancers often work on several projects at once, and working as a freelancer can bring some unique challenges. But just how do you keep all the balls in the air?
Problem #1: Project updates are taking over your life
Problem: You have three clients who all phone you constantly to get project updates. They all want assurance that their project is getting top priority but you are spending so much time giving updates you are falling behind.
Solution: You need to put a Communications Plan in place so that they know when to expect progress reports. Good communication doesn’t necessarily mean frequent communication, it is about making the client feel reassured that the project is on track.
Problem #2: Unbalanced workload
Problem: One of your projects is taking over. You never seem to have any time to deal with the others and the work is piling up whilst deadlines are looming.
Solution: Time management is key here. Breaking projects down into tasks and scheduling them in a calendar can help you see what time you have for each project. If it looks like you really aren’t going to meet your deadlines you need to talk to your clients to decide how to prioritise you time, quality and costs. Discussing problems early on means that you can start creating solutions – don’t wait until after the deadline when it is too late.
Problem #3: Work overload
Problem: You’ve bitten off more than you can chew: you have more work than hours in the day, but you just don’t feel you can turn projects down.
Solution: You need to introduce some project planning to estimate your capacity before you take on more work. Create project plans for each of your projects and put them together to make a master-plan. You can use a low-tech approach with a simple wall planner or else try one of the many free or low-cost project planning software packages available.
Now when a client comes to you with a project you can look at your master-plan and see if you have any spare capacity.
N/B Clients are generally much happier to be told that you can’t take on a project outright rather than dealing with missed deadlines or sloppy work later.
Photo by Flickr user Helico