Big freelance projects: 10 ways to tackle them successfully

Posted on: June 2nd, 2010

There’s nothing to beat the feeling when you’ve just landed yourself a big, juicy – and lucrative – project. It means you can pay off your overdraft, or go on holiday, or meet your tax bill.

Then, after you’ve patted yourself on the back, the reality sinks in. How are you going to DO ALL THIS WORK? You feel like a small insect about to scale a skyscraper.

Here’s my advice:

  • Break the project down into a number of manageable chuncks so that you’ve now got several mini projects rather than one colossal one.
  • Create a timetable on a spreadsheet and set yourself a deadline to complete each separate mini project.
  • For each mini project, list out all the key tasks involved and assign a date by each one so you’re clear on exactly what you have to do when.
  • If you are working on other stuff for your other clients you will need to fit this big project in around existing work commitments. So don’t overestimate how much you can achieve in a single day. Be realistic about your productivity. If necessary, try and spend an hour or so working at weekends to catch up – it’s amazing how much more productive you can be on a Saturday or Sunday when there are no phone calls or emails to distract you.
  • I’ve included a photo of an elephant in this post. That’s to remind you that your can’t eat an elephant all at once but you can eat it a bit at a time. I find it useful to visualise how much of my ‘elephant’ I’ve eaten at the end of each day. What originally felt like an insurmountable task doesn’t appear quite so daunting when you know that you’ve already eaten the tail, a tusk and two big ears.
  • Keep to your schedule. Because if you fall behind you’ll start to get stressed out.
  • If there really IS too much to do all by yourself within the timescale, consider enlisting the help of another freelancer whose work you trust. Some years ago I was asked to write a big website for a building society and I knew I couldn’t achieve it all by myself within the deadline I was given. The client agreed to my bringing on another web writer and we split the writing (and the fee) 50/50. We proved to the client that we could both write in the same style and voice and the end result was it looked as if one person had written it.
  • Don’t neglect your other clients. It’s very easy to be consumed by a monstrous project but your other clients are still important.
  • By their very nature, big projects take longer than normal projects so, to ease your cashflow, don’t wait until the project is finished before you send in your invoice. Ask if you can bill 1/3 at the outset, 1/3 half way through and 1/3 at the end.
  • And, when you’ve completed the project, treat yourself to something special. You deserve it.

What were the main problems you encountered last time you were faced with a big project that you had to undertake by yourself?

3 Responses to “Big freelance projects: 10 ways to tackle them successfully”

  1. Autism Symptoms
    June 14th, 2010

    found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

  2. Carole
    June 14th, 2010

    Thanks – I’m glad you like it!

  3. [...] provide the same level of service as you do. Just as you would call on them to help you out with a big project, so you can turn to them to cover for you when you’re sick. Of course, you can’t plan [...]

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