Strategies for Task Management Working with Clients

By / Jun 14, 2011 / Tips
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Work as a freelancer can be challenging, there’s no doubt about that. Not just physically, but spending so much of your day coding projects and writing e-mail conversations can take its toll on your mental capabilities. Task management is a huge part of running a successful freelance business.

In previous articles we have discussed freelance management tools to help you even out workflow. Although there are many tools openly available to designers, they can be slightly cryptic and won’t work as full solutions for everybody. Below I’ve outlined some basic strategies for task management and handling client project work. If you can loosely fit a schedule around your daily lifestyle then time will seem to fall neatly into place.

Recognizing your Work Times

As quoted from the infamous Benjamin Franklin in 1746 “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of”. Although a lot easier said than done, time is not going to wait for you to get yourself in gear.

Time is always flowing and follows the same rules as any stream of water. Therefore, strategies involving task management heavily depend on how well you can manage time. And time management is simply the recognition of time itself. You cannot complete all of your work in one sitting. It’s crucial not to work against time, recognize that you are limited and work in unison. Don’t beat yourself up for not completing tasks; instead reward yourself with each new goal.

A strong approach is to consider your daily schedule objectively. Begin from the moment you wake up and study how you go about working on each task throughout the day. Even catalog your habits if you need to. Then at the end of the day take a step back and see what isn’t working for you.

Rearranging Priorities

Everybody has their own tools to help them manage tasks. I personally enjoy using Google’s Task App which comes default with any Google Mail account. Directly in the bottom-right of the screen you can add new tasks, set completion dates, rearrange priorities, and so much more.

I’m not suggesting you hop onto using Google’s task management, flow with whatever works for you. But I am suggesting you check out a few alternatives and see if anything is up to par with your needs. Remember the Milk and Flow App are currently my two favorite web apps for task management.

Flow isn’t completely free as RTM, but they do offer a 14 day trial account just for signing up. If you have the budget I highly recommend joining if you need a detailed, intricate task management solution. Of course some freelancers would be more comfortable with a simple pad of paper. There’s nothing wrong with this option, either!

If you can find a system that works well for your needs then stick to it. Our end goal is to balance work and personal time in an elegant equation to reduce stress on your end. Ultimately you’ll reach this nirvanic state by keeping some form of to-do list and sticking by it! If you’re a mobile iPhone or Android user check on their app stores for any popular time management apps as well.

Keep Meetings Strict and Brief

If you’ve worked freelance for any given time then you’ll know clients can either become a chore or wonderful blessing. For repeat clients it’s only proper to offer them extra care and attention – after all, they are choosing to continually offer you money for their projects.

But when you’re contacting any new clients try to keep the meeting agenda strict. reduce idle chit-chat and dillydallying to a minimum. Spend a few minutes writing up a quick meeting summary beforehand, including the major talking points you wish to address. This technique works best in meeting spaces or phone conversations, but web chats tend to veer off course.

Free Up your Planner

Contrary to what many believe, calculating your tasks for every minute of every day for the whole week/month/year isn’t going to help you get much done. Minimalist time management is a newer concept that holds a lot of power behind its ideas. If you can structure your days loosely on a schedule then small interruptions won’t throw you off so much.

These do occur a lot more often than we would like to admit. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do to stop them aside from acceptance and flowing with your daily agenda. The work and e-mails will still be waiting for you later on. I promise!

This type of task management also leaves you open for appointment scheduling. Whether you’re living alone or with your spouse and kids, odds are you’ll need to set appointment dates some time. With the freelancer’s lifestyle you’re able to work any time from morning until evening. Keep yourself prepared and on-task at all times! In this way you won’t fall behind in work, and you won’t stress over missing a few hours to run out midday.

Focus on the End Results

When you are going to sit down and work on a task, make sure you are working and don’t lose sight of the end game! It’s very simple to grab a 5 minute detour onto Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, or any of the countless distractions via constant Internet connection. This just comes part of the freelancer’s job code.

Try pacing yourself when building on newer tasks. Take out big tasks in the early hours of your day so you’ll feel accomplished come the afternoon and later evening. This also gives you the satisfaction of crossing off and rearranging your list for tomorrow’s priority tasks.

While working you’ll often have spurts of creative ideas and look to jump over to them immediately. Instead try writing these ideas down or adding them onto your daily tasks list. If you’d rather separate these, create a new list or document where you note ideas for later. It’s important to keep yourself focused on project work, but you will eventually become angry at yourself forgetting an idea later on. Thus if you can generate such a brilliant stroke of genius I recommend jotting down clear notes for later and jumping right back into your work.

Conclusion

If you’ve come this far you’re probably a very dedicated and passionate freelancer. The job comes with many benefits and degrees of control over your lifestyle akin to owning a personal business. Yet with this control it’s easy to veer off course and damage yourself with heavy procrastination.

I find holding your tasks list sacred and keeping your work time focused are the two over-arching key points. If you can manage to complete even one(1) priority task daily then you’ll do just fine in the long run. If you’ve got similar task management tips or questions, please share them in the comments section below.

About the Author

Jake Rocheleau is a social media enthusiast and Internet entrepreneur. He can be followed on twitter - @jakerocheleau His presence on the web can be found at JakeRocheleau.com.

10 Comments

  1. Pragmatic Design
    June 14, 2011

    Thanks for this post. Really, all of the points boil down to “Time Management”. Every second has a monetary value and there are a finite number of them in a working day. They have to be made to count.

    It’s also worth reiterating that you cannot do everything at once, and need to leave lots of free time to have a life / eat / sleep etc. Try to do too much and you’ll burn out and get nothing done/

    Reply
    • Mathew Porter
      May 29, 2013

      The biggest piece of advice i can give any other startup is to plan your time effectively and knuckle down, getting the paid work done, then use any free type to progress your company and client base. Time management is key.

      Reply
  2. inspirationfeed
    June 14, 2011

    Great article, I most agree with everything stated. You always have to be on top of stuff like this.

    Reply
  3. Charles Coleman
    June 14, 2011

    Thanks for the tips. We are using Salesforce to manage our workflow. It’s not the most intuitive, but covers such a broad scope it can work for nearly all business models including web design & development (that’s us).

    Reply
  4. Graklin
    June 14, 2011

    Great article. I completely agree. I haven’t used Flow, but I use a similar app called TaskWagon. Its been great to coordinate MY time along with the other members of my team.

    Reply
  5. Nick
    June 14, 2011

    Nice, concise article. Time and attention management are getting more and more important as we take more on, especially working in the web industry where we have so many interesting distractions!

    David Allen’s Getting Things Done and the “Things” app on the Mac are helping me out at the moment, although I get all excited when reading GTD and end up doing stuff instead of reading it :)

    Nick

    Reply
  6. Toronto Web Design Company
    June 14, 2011

    I would rate ‘Focusing on End Result’ as the key. That is one of the toughest things to keep on track. All small and medium sized companies usually struggle to overcome this one particular aspect.

    Reply
  7. Karin – Daily Mastery
    June 21, 2011

    Very nice article. I would add that the tasks should not only be done and be focused on, but they should be in alignment with priorities and goals. One of the problems I find with my freelancer clients is that they are very very busy, but not always productively, and they often put on the back burner tasks that are important, but not necessarily urgent (marketing, anyone?). Keeping track of the big picture as well as the daily tasks is what makes the difference.

    Reply
  8. Vortex
    December 29, 2011

    Thank you Jake Rocheleau for this great post filled with a treasure of your personal experience,

    The things you explain in this article are very true, after all the employer should coordinate his own planning efforts with interests of his freelancers (I mean you need to respect their time and provide enough possibilities for self-organization without your ruling input).

    We are a small web-design company, and once we used to employ a great number of freelancers from all over the world (we just attempted to complete our projects faster, also to reduce our HR costs), but this collaboration was quite poorly managed after all(we used Google means to coordinate these efforts, and many other programs without any unification) – so in a result all our business things went really wrong that time – we obtained a great mess – the integrity of our projects and consistency of delivery schedules have been totally collapsed – I assume this happened because we tried to rule the whole team autocratically.

    Now we decided to use special collaborative software (if you are interested it is VIP Task Manager http://www.taskmanagementsoft.com/) – it is quite simple in use and low-cost yet, we install it in our office and also use it via Internet (for contact with our long-term freelancers) – its advantage that we value most of all is its two-way planning capability – we can delegate tasks to our workers (under frameworks of our projects) and then they are free to manage their individual working time and to-do lists in a manner they consider to be the best.

    Reply
  9. Markeez
    February 28, 2012

    Please try http://www.comindware.com/task-management/ it is totally free task management software.

    Reply

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