The Way We Work
February 14, 2012 by Stephanie Gonzaga

Freelancers often busy themselves with finding enough work to last them for at least six months. However, they often do not stop to consider the consequences of having too much work to handle.

Simply put, committing to five to seven projects on your own can be as difficult and stress-inducing as running out of work. What is the best solution to avoid being stretched too thin?

Strategy #1: Team up

Hiring a freelancer to support a specific project or building a regular team of freelancers opens you to all sorts of opportunities.

With another freelancer, you can distribute tasks and finish projects faster, giving you more time and power to take on bigger projects. Likewise, hiring a freelancer to take care of your business-related administrative tasks can help you focus on work that needs your personal care and attention.

Building a remote team is a big decision to make, so it is important that you are ready to lead and manage your team for success. For guidance on doing so, review these valuable tips for successful remote team management from guest oDesk blogger Andrea Bailey.

Strategy #2: Learn to accept and turn down projects

Because freelancers are often wired to accept any project that comes their way, they can forget to consider their existing time commitments, strengths and personal interests.

Take a moment to consider your priorities as a freelancer. Ask yourself, “What projects am I most suited for and interested in? What projects do I want to avoid or hand over to other freelancers?”

It may seem ideal to be available for any opportunity that presents itself, but the reality is that accepting too many projects can cause your work to spiral out of control if you are unable to set limits.

Always consider your priorities, interests, strengths and specialties before adding a new project to the queue. If a job does not fit your interests, skills or schedule, decline the offer.

Strategy #3: Keep track of all your ongoing projects

It is crucial that you keep track of all your ongoing projects and complete them on time. Letting things slide will impact your current clients and the good reputation you have worked hard to build.

If you work on your own, review your existing contracts before deciding to set aside time for another. If you are working with a remote team, monitor each member’s progress, keep tabs on high-priority tasks, and check with your team to see whether they are interested and ready to take on a brand new project.

Finding freelance work may be more of a problem for full-time freelancers than being overwhelmed with work, but failing to meet expectations and missing deadlines — along with the reputation damage these can cause — can be detrimental to any business. Keeping these strategies in mind will help you make smart decisions and sustain a thriving freelance business.

What are your thoughts on the problem of stretching yourself too thin? Have you experienced this situation in the past? How did you solve the problem? Share your stories in the comments below!

Stephanie Gonzaga

Freelancer, Blogger, and Creative Writer

Stephanie Gonzaga is a freelancer on oDesk and blogger of The Freelance Pinoy, a freelancing blog for the Pinoy solo professional.

  • Norma Jean Lutz

    I’ve worked as a freelancer (and ghostwriter) for many years. It has given me an incredibly wide variety of work experience, and has introduced me to scores of wonderful people. However, it’s the “feast or famine” part that is the sticky wicket in the whole freelancing scene.

    I usually take on more work after a dry spell. The dry spell is a little unsettling, and that’s when I tend to grab whatever comes along. (Read that “overload.”) I’m still working on that!

    I have learned through the years though, how to be selective with certain clients. And how to let the ones go who are too “high maintenance.” Those types of clients can drain my energy and add stress to the job.

    Additionally, I find when I value my own worth, and charge correctly (higher wages) I don’t need to overload in order to make it financially.

    Freelancing has supported me and allowed me to continue working on my novels and still work at home. To me, it’s the best of both worlds!

    • Amy

      Great observations, Norma! Dealing with dry spells and learning to be selective with clients can be challenging — thank you for sharing your experiences.

  • Tarun

    This post came on day when my eyes are burning coz of overwork.
    Followed, I am going to take sleep now and re-energize me :)

    • Stephanie

      Haha! That’s good to hear. Thanks, Tarun!

  • hugh ghouleh

    Very good pointers and simple strategies, but can also open the door to more stress from having to revise and maybe ‘redo’ the work :-) and sometimes consuming time on communications rather the actual task…

    Otherwise, I do believe that having more guidelines in obtaining skills that can increase your pay or speed up your performance or multitask them should have better effects and promising development results instead of increasing a network too soon, for instance, if I have a great idea for a new online concept, I would rather obtain more web skills before committing with a programmer…

    Thanks a lot for the inspiring posts.

    • Stephanie

      You have a point there, Hugh. Improving the way one works by building skills or multitasking can certainly help when dealing with a full plate. But there’s always a chance for stress and distractions to get in the way, which is where networking or simply saying “no” to the client comes in.

  • Andre

    I’ve definitely felt the burn from taking on too many projects. And I’ve also accepted projects which, in retrospect, I should have declined. Good pointers. Thanks!

    • Stephanie

      No problem, Andre. I’ve had my share of that burn and made sure not to repeat the same mistake again.

  • Sajib

    Thanks Stephanie for this helpful post. I’m sure a lot of freelancers out there will find it very useful. We often tend to accept every jobs that come through without thinking that we might be putting too much pressure on ourselves which ultimately results in hampering the quality of our work. This post will help us get rid of the problem and straighten things out.

    • Stephanie

      Well-said, Sajib. Thank you!

      • Rishi Asthana

        I have also done the same. Taken loads of work. I also have taken the initiative to hire contractors who can help me.
        Point number 3 is the toughest thing to do. Please throw some light on managing contractors and getting optimal from them.

      • Steve Abin

        good thoughts, and it will be worked in every individual when they do exercise any thoughts coming from other writer, as a freelancer I would do so…