When I still worked in the corporate world, I thought a lot about agency life. I figured working with a variety of different clients would be really exciting and challenging. Friends, I had no idea how true that would actually be.
It is both more exciting, fun, and amazing than I thought, and also more challenging than I could have realized before I jumped into the agency side of the business.
While I love that every day can bring something new and exciting, juggling several clients at once who all expect their project be first priority can be tough! And why shouldn’t they expect to be a top priority? They are paying for our services and want to be treated as such.
So as consultants, freelancers, strategists, and project managers, we need to figure out the best way to treat all of our clients equally while also determining how to prioritize our work to get everything completed at top quality and on time.
Easier said than done, right?
Here’s a few tips and tricks that I’ve picked up in my past two years of client work. I hope these will help you deliver great work for your clients while maintaining your sanity!
When I say everything, I MEAN IT. That small task that only takes 5 minutes but must be done every day? PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR. The weekly report that you sometimes do on Fridays, but sometimes wait until Monday to complete? Pick the best time to complete the task (preferably the same time each week) and PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR.
Scheduling as many tasks as I can has helped my daily workload feel less like a burden and more like a predictable rhythm of work. A few items that I put on my calendar include:
- Daily follower growth and engagement for social media clients
- Logging client hours every day (and reviewing them every Friday)
- Writing weekly social media editorial calendars
- Sending emails for content approvals
I use Todoist to put these items on my task list with dates and times. Here’s an example of what that looks like:
As you can see, I have a task that repeats every day for “Follower engagement & growth.” This pops up every day at noon and is an awesome daily reminder for me to stay on track with both my small and large projects.
When in Doubt, OVER-COMMUNICATE
I don’t know about you, but there is something totally different about sending and receiving emails when you are a client or customer vs. when you’re representing a brand or organization.
When I am on the customer/client end of communications, I expect relatively quick responses and I don’t mind multiple emails to get something done. When I’m on the organization’s side, I worry that sending too many emails will just clog up my client’s inbox.
The best thing you can do when dealing with client communications is to put yourself in their shoes. Even if your only response to an email is, “Got it — thank you!,” it can go a long way to forming the trusting relationships that make for great client work.
At Don’t Panic, we have a policy of sending weekly updates to ALL clients (shout out to our amazing Client Happiness Manager, Becca!) regardless of how often we may have communicated throughout the week. Some clients have weekly calls, some bi-weekly or monthly… but those weekly emails still get sent to make sure we’re all on the same page and to help deliver extra value to our clients.
Take Your Client Relationships to the Next Level
Maintaining professionalism is definitely an important part of working with clients. I am representing both myself and Don’t Panic Mgmt when working with our clients and it’s vital they feel we are a reputable and upstanding organization.
However, I’ve also found that getting a little personal can go a long way towards showing clients that you care about them and their work. We’re all just people at the end of the day, so don’t underestimate the value of being friendly!
I love getting to know my clients. We work with so many different kinds of people from all across the country, and it’s really fun when you can chat about your weekend instead of just the next item on your task list.
Understand Your Commitments and Priorities
The best way to ensure that you are treating all of your clients well, showing them enough love and attention, and getting all your work done is by first having a really strong grasp on what is being asked of you for each client.
Before I start work for a new client, I like to take time and review the contract line by line. I want to make sure I know exactly what the client expects, and when. Having a kick off call to review the project is a great way to start any project off on the right foot and with all parties on the same page.
Knowing what’s on your plate from various clients can also help prioritize how you’ll get the work done each day. For example, if you know that a client likes to know when individual tasks have been completed, you can schedule those check-ins into your workload.
Be Honest and Ask For Help
(aka Teamwork Makes the Dream Work)
Even when we’ve done everything possible to set ourselves up for success, things can still go off the rails from time to time. If you are a freelancer or self-employed solopreneur, your line of defense is to be as honest as you can with your client about any trouble you’re having with your workload. They may not be thrilled to hear that you are behind or struggling, but you will be much better off having been up front and honest than trying to hide the reality of the situation. I’ve found that clients are usually much more flexible than I would have imagined, as long as you keep deadline extension requests to a minimum.
At Don’t Panic, though, my best line of defense if I find myself overwhelmed with project work, behind on deadlines, or feeling like I’m not giving proper attention to my clients is to ASK FOR HELP! I love knowing that I have an amazing team of super smart rockstars who are always willing to step in and lend a hand if I’m underwater with a client. Fortunately, with the systems I have in place, this doesn’t have to happen often. But when it does, I know my team has my back!
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A lover of to-do lists and itineraries who sees every tightly-packed schedule as an exciting game of calendar Tetris, Shannon loves all things organizing. If it can be color-coded, alphabetized, or formatted in a pleasing design, all the better. With a background running the gamut from office management to marketing to media management and talent representation, she's not afraid of deadlines or seemingly impossible tasks. A self-confessed workaholic, Shannon thrives on learning new technology, programs, and skills. When not making her clients' lives more efficient, you can normally find her enjoying time with her son, buried in a book, writing her own, trying to keep up with crazy pets, baking, or dreaming of moving her home office to an ocean view.
Work superpower: Proofreading. If there's a typo or formatting error to be found, I'll find it.
Favorite cheese: Smoked cheddar
Go-to karaoke song: I don't do karaoke, and the world thanks me
Beverage of choice: Fiji water or caffeine-free Diet Dr. Pepper
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