How to manage your time as a contractor with multiple clients
One of the intriguing revelations of our recent IR35 survey was that almost half of contractors who responded (44%) said that they worked for more than one client at once at any given time. That got the Kingsbridge team thinking: how do you manage your time when juggling multiple clients? After all, it can be hard enough managing your workload for just one client at times, never mind for multiple clients with different requirements, levels of demand and personalities to deal with. If you’re not strict with yourself, it can be very easy to become overwhelmed and stressed.
With this in mind, we’ve pulled together some of the best tips for managing your time when working for more than one client at a time so you don’t end up tearing your hair out.
Set clear expectations with clients
It’s fine to let clients know that they’re not your only client and to set expectations based on this. Outline with your client exactly when you will be available to them for calls, meetings, emails, etc. If you’ll be allocating certain days or timeslots to their project, let them know what they are so they know when they can expect responses from you.
You should also give realistic deadlines that don’t clash with your other client work. When agreeing schedules and deadlines with a client, have a planner or diary with your other projects and deadlines to hand so that you don’t inadvertently double book yourself.
Allocate time each week to each project
Dividing up your working week is essential to ensuring you meet targets with clients and have enough time to do everything you need to do. Ultimately, this will depend on what timings work for you, but when allocating time, look at the size of projects and their associated costs.
For instance, say you have two clients: Client A is paying £9,000 and Client B £3,000. You (since you’re your own boss) choose to only work four days a week so a fair way to divide the time would be to devote three days to Client A and one to Client B. Of course, it may not always divide this neatly on a weekly basis. You may have a week of the month where you have nothing to do for Client B as you’re awaiting feedback, so you spend the whole week on Client A… Or give yourself an extra day off.
Try to focus on one thing at a time
We’ve all done it: planned to spend a day working on one particular project or task but then someone emails us and before we know it, half the day has gone resolving that email. This is where you need to be strict with yourself. If you’re working on Client B today but you get an email from Client A that doesn’t seem urgent, just leave it marked unread for now and then pick it up when you’re next back on Client A’s project.
If you don’t feel entirely comfortable leaving an email unanswered – it does, after all, go against our usual instinct to reply straight away to emails and messages – send a short, polite reply to acknowledge their message and let them know you’ll pick it up tomorrow or whichever day it is that you’re back on their project.
Consider using a time tracking tool
Time tracking tools are fantastic for helping you get a rounded view of exactly what is taking up your time each week. You can assign tasks to specific projects and clients and time how long you spend on each particular thing. It allows you to see if you’re over or underdelivering for a client in terms of project hours, and see what tasks are eating into your time.
Some great suggestions are Toggl Track, ATracker, TrackingTime, and RescueTime. They offer a variety of features and different pricing levels ranging from free to US $9. They are usable on a wide selection of platforms as well, including desktop, Android, iOS and within web browsers. You’ll never wonder where all your time went to again.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
There’s a general feeling among the self-employed that it’s either famine or feast and, for that reason, many contractors find it difficult to say no to new offers of work. After all, it may be a while before you next get a new contract. The problem with this line of thinking is it can leave you with burnout, stress and missed deadlines.
Instead, if potential clients are contacting you with offers of work when you are already fully booked, politely turn them down. You can let them know when you will be available, if they’re happy to wait for you, or if they need the work carrying out immediately, you could recommend a trusted fellow contractor for them to approach instead. The idea of turning down work may not be a completely comfortable one, but it’s important to ensure your workload remains manageable so that you can give your clients your best work and look after yourself at the same time.