I have a friend who recently joined the freelancing ranks after a successful career as an employee. One of his biggest surprises has been how much juggling is required—which makes me realize how much I take that juggling for granted.
I do remember how luxurious it seemed to focus on only one “client” during my three years as an official employee. No more trying to remember numerous names, style guide details, or office layouts… I could focus on a single marketing plan, one voice, one set of office politics. A real time-savings.
(Of course this savings was more than offset by the time wasted in meetings, but I digress.)
Freelancing means constantly watching over your own shoulder. Am I billing enough, too much, just right? What job needs to be completed today, and do I need to let another client know I won’t complete their job until the end of the week? Should I spend a half hour trying to answer this question myself, or ask for help? I don’t want to make anyone feel I’m taking up more time than I’m saving.
Longer term clients will sometimes provide feedback on what works best for them, but there’s no ongoing perspective or annual review. We have to be our own judges of what time is valuable enough to bill for and what should be tossed into the wastebin of overhead; when to follow our creative noses, and when to press those noses to the grindstone and get the client’s request done without embellishment. Whether to lighten the moment with a personal story, or stick to the task at hand.
As one memorable fortune cookie declared: “Your instincts are excellent, but another opinion could be helpful.” When in doubt, I find the courage to ask a client (or a friendly fellow freelancer) for feedback, understanding that the right answer may be completely wrong for a similar situation in the future. And I always, always try to make my fumbles look like part of the act.