Overwhelmed? 5 Expert Tips to Lighten Your Workload as a Freelancer

5 Expert Tips to Lighten Your Workload as a Freelancer twine thumbnail

How do you lighten your workload when you’re feeling overwhelmed? It’s a question I’m here to address. Let’s start with the five top pain points we hear over and over again from freelancers:

  • Locking in new clients with professional proposals and contracts
  • Invoicing clients and getting paid
  • Scoping work accurately and protecting our time
  • Staying organized and meeting deadlines
  • Creating sustainable processes that work long-term

We’re going to walk you through each of these pain points and share some tips and tricks to help lighten your workload. 

Ready? Let’s dive in.

For more Business Management Tools, check out the Freelancer Toolkit…

Nailing the proposal

Your proposal can be a competitive advantage, and you should view it that way. It’s an opportunity to sell value, align expectations, detail the scope of work, and outline your pricing structure. If your proposal shines, your client is much more likely to sign on the dotted line.

But if you’re starting from scratch and need to lighten your workload, it can be overwhelming to put together. I’ve been there, Googling “best freelance proposal” and trying to piece something together with little guidance.

Let me break down what a great proposal actually includes:

  • An About section (Who are you? Why are you the right person for the job? And what highlights do they need to know about your experience?)
  • An Executive Summary (What is the client bringing you on to help with? What are their main pain points?)
  • Proposed Solution (How are you going to help the client? What outcome will you produce?)
  • Pricing (How much will you charge? How are you charging? When will you be billing? And how do you want to get paid?)
  • Social Proof (What do other clients say about you? How have you helped others?)
  • Call to Action (What are the next steps? Is there a start date? A date when the proposal needs to be signed?)

Okay, great. You know what to include now. So you ship a proposal off, and, *boom* it gets signed.

But what now? Save it!

Don’t recreate the wheel every time. Once you nail the formula, you can save yourself some time and energy by templatizing it.

Nailing the proposal lighten your workload

Pro tip: Create a template proposal that houses all of these sections, and then simply tweak each section to fit each new client you’re pitching. Harlow has six pre-built templates that are easy to customize to fit your needs, so you can build a new proposal in minutes.

Ease the pain of invoicing

Invoicing can be anxiety-inducing. Asking for money is awkward for most of us, but the last thing you want to do is put it off. The later you send an invoice, the later you get paid. So how do we streamline invoicing and reduce some of that anxiety?

Let’s start by making it as easy as possible for clients to pay you. Nail down their process up-front by asking questions like:

  • Who should the invoice be sent to?
  • Will it need a PO number? 
  • Is there a best time of the month for me to send?
  • Do you need me to attach time sheets or additional detail?

Once you understand what you need to include on an invoice and when to send it, it’ll be easier for your clients to pay you. 

Here are a few other simple ways to get clients to pay you faster:

  1. Use payment integrations. Signing up for a business Stripe or PayPal account allows clients to pay you with the click of a button. No lost checks, no long transfer times. You get your money when you need it. 
  2. Automate recurring invoices. If you’re billing the same amount each month, you can schedule your invoices in advance so you never miss the date..
  3. Set up automated invoice reminders so you don’t have to chase down clients.

Pro tip: Doing all of this is nearly impossible without an invoicing tool. With a set of tools made for freelancers (by freelancers), Harlow makes invoicing easy, automated, and organized. Through our easy integrations with Stripe and PayPal, you can make and send invoices automatically, set up reminders, and accept payments. 

Say goodbye to scope creep

Shifting client expectations can be super frustrating as a freelancer. When the scope expands before your eyes, it can have an effect on your overall earning potential. During the first couple of years that Andrea and I worked as freelancers together, we were always undercharging and feeling undervalued.

Here are a few things that we did to alleviate this:

  1. We spent time getting to know our clients’ needs early on. During the onboarding process, we’d ask questions like:
  • What does success look like?
  • Are there any other team members who will be involved?
  • How will you provide feedback on our work?
  • What are your expectations around communication and meetings?
  1. We’d set expectations with our clients around how we worked. We’d let them know that:
  • While we’re okay with being added to Slack, we do reserve the right to not respond for 24-48 hours. 
  • Ad-hoc meetings typically can’t be scheduled same day or sometimes even same week, depending on availability.
  1. We spent time truly understanding how long things took us. Even though we didn’t charge an hourly rate, we’d:
  • Track our time on every task, and figure out the average hourly range. A content plan might take two hours on the low side and six hours on the high side, it’s important to understand the range. 
  • Try to understand how much time we spent in meetings with most clients. If we averaged 1.5 meetings per week, we’d bake that into our pricing. 

Say goodbye to scope creep lighten your workload

Pro tip: You can track your time using Harlow and view detailed reporting to understand how long each task is taking you, so you can get better and better at scoping your work with each new project.

Learn how to build accountability

Accountability really comes down to two things: staying organized and staying motivated. Both can be extremely difficult when you’re working alone and looking to lighten your workload. A few tips from my time freelancing:

How to stay organized:

  • Keep your tasks and to-dos tidy so deadlines and priorities are clear.
  • Keep all of your client work and details in one place, not scattered across multiple apps and notebooks.

Staying motivated:

  • Lean on your community for support and encouragement.
  • Test out accountability groups like Groove, or try calendar-blocking to find focused time for productivity. I actually participated in a Groove session with the Harlow team, so I was accountable to write this very article!

Pro tip: Harlow gives you a full view of all of your client information—tasks, invoices, projects, time spent, etc.—so you have a simple snapshot of what’s happening each time you log in. We are also building community in a number of ways to help our freelance colleagues keep working. You can join us in our Slack community for monthly AMAs, subscribe to our newsletter, or follow us on social media

Streamline your tools to become more efficient

When I first started freelancing, I was using 5-7 different freelance tools to manage my business.

It felt overwhelming and inefficient. As I talked to other solopreneurs and small agency friends, I heard the same story over and over again. “Here are all of the tools I’m using and my process, but I don’t like it and it’s not efficient.” 

Andrea and I were shocked that no one had a go-to client management tool that they loved. Coming from marketing backgrounds, there was always a fan favorite CRM, social scheduling, and email marketing tool. But there was no winning solution in the freelance software bucket that promised to lighten your workload.

That’s why we created Harlow

We wanted to help freelancers run and grow thriving freelance businesses, giving them seamless software and a strong support system. We’re passionate about helping freelancers create the long-term, sustainable businesses of their dreams, and that starts with simplifying the daily, laborious processes that get in the way of creativity.

When you can automate away the tasks that suck up your time and energy, you can free yourself for the work that actually inspires you (and gets you paid). And we all want more of that! 

Streamline your tools to become more efficient lighten your workload

It takes dedication to get past the overwhelming nature of running a freelance business. But if you put in the effort to:

  1. Find the right tool to manage your business
  2. Templatize everything you can
  3. Automate your invoicing and outreach
  4. Understand your time and effort spent

… you’ll be on your way to running a streamlined, thriving business in no time. 

If you’re ready to lighten your workload by bringing on an all-in-one freelance tool, you can use code HARLOW50 for 50% off your first six months.

Want to be recognized as an expert in your field? At Twine, we have dozens of top-quality jobs being posted each and every day. There is a job waiting for your skills in everything from design to marketing, development, and copywriting. Join the marketplace of diverse creative talent here.

Samantha Anderl

Samantha Anderl is co-founder of Harlow, an all-in-one freelance tool. From pitch to paid, Harlow helps you knock out the little tasks so you can focus on the big picture. As former marketing execs and freelancers themselves, she and her co-founder, Andrea Wildt, created Harlow because they value balance, autonomy, and efficiency and want to help others find it.