Have you considered the impact of over-booking in freelancing and what it does the perception of your ability to perform as a client manager?
One of the stigmas in self-employment (especially with freelancers) is the unreliability factor.
I’ve freelanced for almost 10 years. I also spent 15 years before that making use of freelance services. So, I’m no slouch when I say I often find the label unjust.
But I can see where clients and even other freelancers who manage contractors are coming from. There’s less focus on client management or customer service than there is in winning jobs or doing the work.
Our clients want to feel looked after. The main problem is we don’t leave enough time to do that. Overbooking in freelancing is rife. And it’s impacting the way we service clients.
There are a few things you can do to avoid overbooking in freelancing and giving clients the neglected vibes. Check them out
Be consistent in your service level
You have to allow time to give customer service. If you overbook yourself, it’s customer service and added extras that tend to go to the chopping block first.
It’s not necessarily high touch customer service that wins a client over. It’s that you are consistent. The problem is many freelancers are excited to hear from a client during initial engagement and contract signing and then disappear during production. That doesn’t imply you have to be joined at the hip the entire time, though.
Make sure the experience is even. If you’re constantly overbooking in freelancing, your project management will suck because you don’t have the head space to communicate the way you should. If you don’t communicate, the client will get nervous.
Think about your processes and look for ways to be consistent. Remove the mystery by:
- Set the tone from the start- Don’t encourage a high touch client by bending over backwards in the sales cycle. Don’t make it feel like once the money is secured, you are a phantom
- Pick a way to communicate and stick to it – Guide your client to the phone, email, Slack or communication management system that works for you
- Providing a transparent timeline- People that don’t know what and when to expect get scared. Regular updates lower the opportunity for panic
- Don’t surprise clients – if they are under stress, all you do when you surprise someone with a demand or a need is give them someone to resent
If your weak spot is client management, you allow clients to call the shots in terms of scheduling and create bottlenecks. The more you implement boundaries and are consistent in your dealings, the easier the client expectations are to manage.
Anticipate the communication gaps
The hard and fast rule with communication is that if it’s got the opportunity to fail, it usually will. That’s why anticipating where communication may breakdown can be a lifesaver for your freelance business.
If you’ve done a few projects, you’ll start to see patterns. You’ll notice that clients often run later than anticipated with feedback. Or that your ability to estimate time may need some work. You’ll likely get insight into how your client’s business works and start to see when the pressure is on them to know what’s going on with you.
This is where pre-planning can help keep you both honest and accountable. By noticing when projects tend to become unstuck, you can avoid overbooking in freelancing by avoiding those moments where the time dominoes fall.
A couple of communication gaps you need to be aware of include:
- Onboarding clients- automate the proposal process and move it off paper, remove the emails and replace them with automated checklists such as Trello boards or on Slack channels, automate and batch what the client needs to provide you and enjoy the difference
- Timely turnarounds – you and your project are 501 on a list of 500 things they need to do. Get used to it. Make sure your timeline can cope with client delays. Allow for days to run late before it becomes mission critical. It’s better to be early than run late
- Repetition isn’t clarity- sending someone the same email you sent last time, asking the question the same way you did before or linking the last article won’t improve the communication. Get in there and ask questions. Find out what is causing them issue
If you are prone to overbooking in freelancing, you don’t allow time to circle back and get the answers you need. Or you can leak out your frustrations and shut the communication down.
Allow space and time for the communication breakdowns and enjoy the difference.
Get your finances in order
Your relationship with money directly influences whether or not you are overbooking in freelancing. In fact, money is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to booking appropriately there is.
If you are not charging enough for your services, you book more jobs to make money. This means you risk your health and mental health through overwork. It also means you aren’t allowing time to provide proper customer service. Plus, being tired and under obligation also makes us more likely to be stressed, unable to think creatively and stuck.
Money also empowers you to make better decisions when it comes to how you produce the work. If you suck at debt collection, you don’t have the buffers needed to be able to halt production because you probably live on deposits. Or you will put up with terrible client behaviour because you will have no option. Or at least, think you do.
Looking after the financial side of your freelance business means:
- Setting the financial tone- That means asking for upfront payments, deposits or purchase orders so you can enforce payment
- Managing the relationship – Notify your client you are not starting the work until you receive payment. Then adding it to your schedule once payment has cleared
- Owning your financial situation- Stop avoiding tough conversations about money and have them
Nothing quite creates issues like money issues. When stress and self-doubt set in, so we’re less able to set boundaries and therefore weakened when it comes to batting back out of scope requests, resetting timelines, collecting money and saying no.
If you’re not worried about how to keep the lights on, it’s easier to negotiate.
Plans don’t go to plan
In addition to communication failing, life is messy. You have to accommodate illness, injury, children issues, life impacts and all sorts of stuff into your business.
Even if you are not planning for catastrophe, you shouldn’t be trusting your ability to estimate time as much as you think you should.
Humans suck at estimating how long things will take. Squeezing jobs into your calendar like clowns into a clown car is setting yourself to fail.
Instead, book yourself to 80% capacity. That way, you can herd the over-spilling projects, life impacts, extra customer service and time spent chasing issues into vacant space in your calendar.
If you do ever happen to have that spare time, you’ve got a moment to work on your business, take a break to recoup other time poured into it or really wow the client with some extra customer service love.
What’s to lose?