A Simple Strategy for your Freelance Business to Avoid a "Feast or Famine" Workload & Burnout

Running a design business, or any service-based business, can feel like navigating a rollercoaster ride of busy periods and slow stretches. Despite our best efforts to plan for smooth sailing, surprises inevitably arise in the ebb and flow of client work. But what if there was a way to peer into the future, anticipate what's coming, and balance out your workload? Allow me to share one simple strategy that has revolutionized how we manage our workload at times2studio.

Like many businesses, we've weathered the common feast-or-famine cycle more times than we can count. Tired of feeling burnt out and overworked one moment and then twiddling our thumbs the next, we decided to regain control of our schedule (and reclaim our evenings and weekends).

Imagine, as a designer, having the ability to glimpse into the future and foresee the projects heading your way. It's not a fantasy—it's a reality we've embraced with open arms.

Here's the crux of our strategy: at the outset of each year, we compile a comprehensive list or calendar detailing ALL the projects we handled during the previous year. With this insight, we proactively reach out to clients who may require recurring projects, allowing us to plan further in advance and manage our workload more effectively.

The process is simple, and I want to share it with you today!

  1. Project Review: We kickstart a new year by reviewing all the projects we completed in the previous year and making a list. (I like to do this in a spreadsheet with tabs for each month.)
  2. Client Outreach: Armed with our project list, we craft personalized emails to each client, gently reminding them of potential upcoming projects based on our work the previous year. For instance, if we designed an annual newsletter for a client last June, we'll touch base with them to discuss this year's edition.
  3. Lead Time: We make sure to contact clients well in advance, typically once per quarter, allowing ample time for them to consider their needs, gather content, and secure funding. Simultaneously, this gives us the breathing space to plan projects meticulously and sidestep any last-minute rushes.
  4. Service-Oriented Approach: Our emails are written from a place of service—no pushy sales pitches. They're merely a friendly nudge, inviting the client to discuss potential projects. Whether they opt to engage our services again or not, it's still an invaluable opportunity to reconnect with our clients and gauge their current needs.

In our experience, clients appreciate these proactive check-ins, as they alleviate the burden of project planning and prevent last-minute scrambles (for us both). For us as designers, the benefits are twofold: a more predictably booked schedule and a smoother, more balanced workload, eliminating the typical peaks and valleys.

When you can foresee what lies ahead on your schedule, it becomes infinitely easier to manage your workload, decline projects that don't align with your current bandwidth, or schedule them strategically around existing commitments. This practice has transformed our workflow, making projects more enjoyable and our workload more manageable. It also amps up our professionalism for clients.

So, why not give it a try? A smoother workload awaits!

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