Wednesday 10 July, 2013

How to Manage Jobs – The Freelancer’s Juggling Act

If you’re lucky as a freelancer, you’ll hook up with one client that gives you plenty of work for years to come. But for most of us, this is a dream and not reality. The reality is that you’ll probably have to juggle multiple jobs, and doing this can be challenging. It can also be overwhelming. But if you have a system in place for managing your many jobs, you’ll get them all done and not feel harried in the process.

One at a Time

The obvious way to manage multiple jobs is to just take them one at a time. Start with the first ordered, work through it until it’s done, and then get to the next. In order to do this, you need to have a good idea of how long each job will take.

For example, your first job will take about five hours, and thus you’ll finish it Tuesday afternoon. It requires an ability to realistically estimate the amount of work for each job and to schedule accordingly.

This approach is best when you have an irregular schedule or little time to work. If you’re working in the evenings after your day job, for example, this is idea. It’s also good if you have a part-time job that has you working different times of the day.

The downside to this method is that not all jobs are wonderful, interesting, or easy. You may get stuck doing something dry and boring, and you’ve got to do it all day. A particular job may be more difficult than you thought and require more time, pushing all of the other jobs back as well.

Daily Schedules

Another approach is to create a daily schedule. For example, in the morning you work on this job; in the early afternoon, job number two; the last few hours of work, you’re on the third job.

This approach gives you variety within each day, which keeps you from getting bored or burning out. You also have some flexibility. If one job takes longer than the others, it won’t push the others’ deadlines back. This is a good approach when you’re a full-timer and you have the entire day to work with.

The only downside is that this takes continual planning. When one job finishes, you have to shift things around to accommodate new jobs coming in.

Time Boxing

Time boxing is a very efficient way to juggle jobs. You put each job into a ‘box’ of allocated time each day. For example, each day each job gets an hour. At the end of that hour, you get up and take a break. When you sit back down, you start on the next job.

This is an especially good approach for when you have many jobs that are different sizes. For example, one job will take ten hours while another takes only two. The two-hour job gets finished sooner and you have a happy client who doesn’t have to wait two weeks for a small job to get done.

Time boxing gives you a great deal of variety but this can also be its main disadvantage. It means a lot of starting and stopping on jobs. Depending on the type of work you do, this may not be idea. However, it’s flexible. You can devote 3 hours a day to one job and 30 minutes to another.

Some freelancers mix up all of the above. They work straight through one project until it’s finished, and then time box three small ones. The flexible approach is the best. Try out different methods and see which allows you to get the most work done with the least stress possible.

Bob Steele

Bob Steele is an entrepreneur, software developer, marketer, and author living in the Denver metropolitan area. He’s an avid outdoorsman who loves skiing, hiking, fishing, boating, and just plain having fun. His interests include games, space, technology, physics, cooking (well eating actually), economics, business, internationalism, and team sports. With over thirty years of professional consulting experience, Bob has been exposed to many diverse business models and has gained a sensible approach to life. Bob’s company, WaveCentric is focused on commerce, marketing, and entertainment related products.

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