How to manage projects, clients and still find time for your creative work

By Justine Clay 



Why did you decide to become a freelancer in the first place?  I’m willing to bet that having creative freedom ranked pretty high on the list of pros.  Am I right?  But managing projects, and dealing with client requests often means you end up doing everything but the creative work.

Getting bogged down with managing multiple projects can leave you frustrated and tapped-out. So how do you carve out the time do your own creative work, while keeping your project and team on track?  You know by now that I’m going to have a few suggestions!


Have a network of great collaborators

Do you put together a team of people depending upon your project?  If you do, you’ll know that having the right team can make all the difference between a smooth running project and a nightmare.  Start by defining your role (based upon your strengths) and recruiting team members that compliment your skill set, work style and personality.  For example if you’re more of a big-picture creative, consider bringing a detail oriented designer or assistant on board.

2) Write a detailed proposal

The proposal that you create for your client will also function as your roadmap.  Agreeing to these terms at start of the project will go a long way to ensuring it runs smoothly.

It should contain the following:

• Creative objective

• Deliverables

• Project scope

• Assigned roles and responsibilities

• Outline of phases

• Timeline

• Fees

• Terms

3) Get organized

Tools that help you manage projects run the gamut from a note book to software systems that allow you to share/assign tasks, share work internally and with the client etc. There are lots of really good options out there and what you choose depends on upon how many projects you’re running at once, how complex they are and how good your organizations skills are. But the project management must haves are:

• a proposal

• a written timeline, including client due dates for feedback

• a list of tasks

• transcribed notes from meetings and calls

• reference/research materials

4) Plan your day before it starts

When you’ve got lots of plates spinning at the same time, it’s very easy to slip into a reactionary work mode.  When we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of the never-ending stream of requests, we get

off-track, our productivity takes a nose-dive and we end up feeling frustrated. I break my day into blocks of time, group similar tasks (e.g. book keeping/admin) into each block and crank them out.

5) Carve out time to do your creative work

Are you a morning person or a night person?  Carve out ‘creative time’ to coincide with your peak hours.  For me it’s morning, so I try my best not to look at email until 11 a.m.  Instead I use that time to write newsletters, develop new programs or to work on a proposal.  Never waste your peak time answering emails!

We’re all hardwired differently, so your system will be unique to you and will probably evolve through trial and error.  The most important this is that you have a system.

I’d love to hear how you get it all done.