How to manage clients as a freelancer

When completing freelance work, you will ideally have more than one client at a time. Check out this guide on how to manage clients as a freelancer.
How to manage clients as a freelancer

Hero image by Good Faces

One of the undeniable perks of freelancing is the ability to hand-select the clients you want to work with. This level of autonomy is one that many full-time employees only dream of, though it's important to manage it carefully.

Without a proper strategy in place, you might find it difficult to balance a growing workload. In time, this can impede that coveted work/life balance you worked so hard to establish.

The good news? It's easy to manage clients when you follow the right steps. Today, we're sharing a guide to help you make the most of your time in (and out of) the office.

Invest in a business management system

As a freelancer, you will need a solution that helps you consolidate all of your various work efforts under one roof.

Enter, Moxie.

Our business management platform was built with the busy freelancer in mind. We want to help you think about and grow your business holistically so you'll find software that gives you a personalized space to manage your projects, track your time, send reminders, and get paid — plus much more. And education and workshops with tips and tricks to keep honing your skills.

Keep communication separate

Any time you add a new client, clearly define their preferred method of communication. While email will most likely be the top answer, there will be some clients that would rather speak on the phone to discuss project details. Then, there are some that will utilize chat apps, like Slack, instead.

Keep notes of each one, so you know the best way to get in touch with that client. This simple step can prevent waiting by your computer for an email that will never come, or leaving endless voicemails that never get returned. 

Once you've established how you'll communicate, remember to track and organize those messages. 

If email is the chosen medium, set up a new email folder each time you add a client to your workload. This way, you can make sure that every piece of digital correspondence you have with that client will end up in the same place. Or use Moxie's Communicator to keep all your client communication alongside all of your other client information.

Research shows that the average office employee receives around 120 emails per day, and sends out 40. If you're a freelancer, you know that your own communications can rival these statistics! It's all too easy to let your inbox flood, which makes it challenging to find that critical update or change request you need.

Want to eliminate all the confusion and establish one, single platform for all client communications? When you work within our client portal, you can send invoices, scope changes, and final work to each client, without the cumbersome email threads. 

Set realistic deadlines

In your quest to keep clients happy, you might feel pressured to deliver a massive amount of work in a very short timeframe. While a prompt turnaround time is impressive, you don't want to risk project performance for a pat on the back.

Be sure to set realistic, healthy deadlines before accepting any work. Doing so won't make you appear unproductive. Rather, the opposite will hold true.

An honest, practical timeline shows both professionalism, reliability, and experience. If you're unsure how much time a new task will take, record yourself performing a similar job and use that as a gauge to help you determine what to quote next time. 

Clearly define project terms

In the freelance realm, scope creep is an all-too-frequent occurrence. Put simply, this occurs when a project starts out at one level, but requirements and modifications get added that snowball it into a much bigger, more labor-intensive effort than expected.

You thought you had one deliverable at first. Before long, that's expanded to five, and there's still not a clear end in sight. Especially if you charged a flat rate for your work, this could mean putting in tons of extra hours without additional compensation. 

In some cases, scope creep can be a welcome opportunity to make more money and expand your working relationship with a client. For instance, they might love the initial blog you sent over and request that you create more content on that same topic. As long as there are clear parameters around how you'll be paid for the extra work, this can be an unexpected perk. 

This is where contract agreements are essential. Our guided contract builder and proposal generator tool allows you to create detailed bids that clearly define the work you intend to do, from word counts to file types. If a client requests work beyond that initial agreement, contract modifications can be made to reflect those changes. 

You don't want to work for free, so take the time to define your project terms and timeline before you get started. We've laid out a few more ways to avoid this issue here.

Create a weekly schedule

Yes, being your own boss is incredibly freeing. However, there are some tenets from the corporate world that can help you succeed in your freelancer role.

One of those is keeping a detailed calendar and work schedule. 

Without a written plan in place, you could sit down to work on one project and become so engrossed in it that you miss another deliverable for a different client. 

To help organize your efforts, consider assigning each client a specific day (or days) per week. Divide your workload based on the amount of time you'll need to devote to each effort. For instance, if you know that one client has an especially demanding project, you can devote Monday and Tuesday for those tasks alone. 

Then, you can divide Wednesday through Friday up for your other, smaller projects. 

Our app allows you to schedule your time hour-by-hour, with a convenient color-coding scheme to organize different requirements. Built directly into your delivery workflow, it also enables you to quickly visualize how and where you're spending your time. 

While you're setting your schedule, remember to leave extra time in each day for those unexpected tasks that will inevitably come up. Filling each hour to capacity could leave you scrambling if you need to make a last-minute change or a work call runs long. 

Know your limit

When you're still building your client base, you might be tempted to work around the clock. After all, you're living the dream and finally making money from home! Why wouldn't you take every opportunity that comes your way?

While this might seem like the ideal route at first, remember that quality and focus go hand-in-hand. When you're fully rested, restored and ready to tackle a project, you're bound to put your best effort into it.

Unfortunately, the opposite also holds true. Running yourself ragged will deplete your energy, burn your retinas, and frustrate your clients. As such, one of the pillars of freelance client management is knowing when to cap your workload.

Honestly decide how many hours per week you want to invest in your business. Then, measure this capacity against the projects you've already accepted. If those tasks are enough to fill your quota, then consider not taking any new work until they're complete. 

Learn how to prioritize

If you ask your clients, each one will tell you that their project should take precedence in your day. For this reason, it can be difficult to prioritize one project over another.

When this happens, a phenomenon known as "analysis paralysis" can kick in! With so many choices and places to start, it might feel easier to just push your tasks off for a while. This is especially true if one project feels particularly daunting and you're not sure where to begin. 

Start by organizing your to-do list in order of timeline and importance. While it might seem obvious to put the biggest deliverables at the top of the list, this isn't always the best strategy. Instead, try following these simple steps.

List your tasks

First, simply list out all of your tasks. Getting the work down on paper helps make sense of the deadlines and expectations swirling around in your head. 

Define important and urgent deliverables

Then, separate the tasks into two categories: important and urgent. Urgent tasks are those that you must get done immediately to avoid negative, serious consequences. This might include a client who needs your article in 24 hours to meet a printing deadline.

Sort by business value

Once you've taken care of the urgent tasks, you can move on to the important ones. To prioritize these effectively, determine the ones that hold the highest value to your freelance business. 

With that list in place, you can organize the remainder of your efforts based on estimated time value. Start working on the efforts that you estimate will take the longest time to complete. While it might feel counterproductive to start on the more time-consuming tasks first, doing so can help you chip away at a project that feels overly complicated.

At the same time, other productivity experts recommend knocking out your smaller projects before beginning on your bigger ones. If you feel that you can do so successfully while still reserving enough time for those more intensive tasks, feel free to try this option. It can feel especially rewarding and motivating to check a task off your to-do list!

Provide frequent project updates

Your clients want to know where their projects stand. However, they shouldn't have to track you down to get a new status update. 

To help manage expectations and stay on top of your workflow, stay in close communication with each client and schedule specific times to discuss how the project is going. If you're working on a long-term project, this might mean setting a weekly conference call to share the project status.

Use this time to ask or answer any lingering questions that could be slowing your progress. You can also clarify project details, suggest new changes, or solicit feedback on any work you've done so far. Without a dedicated discussion time, it's easy to play phone or email tag with a client, which can leave both of you in the dark.

Create expert invoices

At the end of a project, you want to make sure that you get paid for all of the time you put into it. A key part of managing your client relationships is providing them with timely, accurate invoices.

With Moxie, you can easily create professional, branded invoices with just a few clicks. This on-demand tool quickly pulls in all of your project descriptions, including the hours you spent on each task and your associated rate. Once you review and approve the invoice, you can send the final document straight to your client's inbox, where they can pay online in one click.

Manage clients the smart way

Learning how to manage clients can be one of the most daunting parts of establishing your own freelance business. You want to keep each one happy and do a great job, but you also need to understand your own boundaries and personal commitments, too.

By following the steps above, you can create a healthy and realistic balance. In time, you'll find that your work quality will improve, your productivity will skyrocket and your client satisfaction rates will increase. 

Along the way, we'd love to make life a lot easier.

Our platform allows you to manage the day-to-day operations of your freelance hustle. From project management and time tracking to client invoicing and communication, we provide a central spot for you to do it all.

Sign up today to get started!

Share it!
Our team of career freelancers writes about best invoice practices, what makes a great client, and repeats the mantra, "never work without a contract." We're opinionated about the future of work and will always be on the side of freelancers.
More By This Contributor
Getting everything from your brain in one place
Moxie makes all your systems work together seamlessly with better software, education, and community.
hectic app logo