A Balancing Act

Look at a typical business, and you will see that they have multiple clients active at any point in time. This is nothing unusual – few jobs allow you the dedication to focus completely on a single client or project for any length of time. When you’re working for yourself, though, you need to be careful that all your clients are getting your attention, while at the same time, ensuring that none of your clients feel they are not getting your undivided attention when you work on another project.

The reality is that if you have 10 clients running simultaneously, (and we’ll assume that the amount of work for each is equal,) then you’ll be spending about 8% of your time on each client. (The balance of 20% is for your overhead of administrative work and locating new clients.) You can’t give any one client more than that percentage.

To handle that, I suggest you adopt some of the following strategies. If you have other ideas, please share in the comments.

  1. Keep a list of what needs doing for each client, so that the time you spend on that client isn’t wasted figuring out what to do next. Just select something from that list and do that. This will help you be better organized with your time, which may end up freeing up more of your time.
  2. Don’t answer the phone if you can’t give it 100% of your attention. Let the client leave a message, and use that to determine if you should call back immediately, or if it can wait a bit. Book some time in your daily calendar to make that call, when you don’t have something else to keep you busy.
  3. With e-mails, split your incoming messages into 2 groups (if you feel it necessary to constantly watch your mail) – one that can be answered in a sentence or two, and the other to be dealt with later. Sending off an e-mail that doesn’t address the questions the client was asking properly can generate negative feedback, which you can easily avoid by taking the time to read the questions slowly.
  4. Publish your calendar online so your clients can see when it’s best to get in touch with you. Sure, emergencies crop up, but if you allocate specific times each day for phone calls, you should see the number of calls at other times go down significantly. (I didn’t say your calendar has to be accurate, or even fully published – just a list of times that you have booked for meetings/phone calls and a list of available times would suffice.
  5. Block off time to work on each client’s projects to the exclusion of all others. Treat that time as if you were in a meeting, that is, only be disrupted if it really is urgent.

Do you have other suggestions for balancing multiple clients and projects? Please let me know of your ideas in the comments below.