It can be difficult sometimes/most of the times to accurately estimate how long a project will take you. But, it is absolutely crucial to make sure your client and you are on the same page about timelines and deadlines. Check out our recommend process for project completion.

Every project will have a different timeline or number of steps before completion. Everybody’s process for getting a job done is different, but if you’re having trouble sticking to a schedule or to a productive system, then we’ve got you covered:

  • Finding the job. Make sure you’ve signed up for sites like Upwork which help you easily apply for freelance jobs. If you’re not having much success on one site, check out others! Do a little research on different freelancing sites that might be more specifically tailored to the kind of work you do and find the ones that suit you. If you go to a site (like, say, Craigslist) where contracts are not immediately produced or protected by the website, make sure you know how to create a contract, an invoice, and what your legal rights are.
  • Writing the proposal. Give yourself 10-20 minutes to write a solid proposal or application. Check out our post here for our advice on crafting a strong application. Consider the job details and estimate how much time you’ll need. How long does research normally take you? How quickly can you edit something on Photoshop? Know thyself.
  • Getting started. Ask the client questions. Make sure you understand every aspect of the project.
  • Research. Do whatever research you need to do. Brainstorm ideas. Talk with your client about initial ideas you might have for the project—this can save you time if the client likes one of your ideas and wants you to move forward with it, or if they dislike all of them. You don’t want to spend a week designing a poster only for them to hate it entirely.
  • Break the project up into smaller tasks. Make a to-do list and use a project management application. Do the easier tasks first. If you have a week to do a project, aim to get a first draft or mock-up to the client at least five days before your deadline so you have plenty of time to revise and change it.
  • Communicate with your client. Give them updates. Establish upfront how often they want to hear where you’re at, whether it’s once a day, once an hour, or only when the project is done.
  • Revisions. Almost every product will need to be edited in some way before being a complete deliverable; aim for 3-4 revisions. Tell your client your thoughts and opinions on each revision. Ask them questions on things you’re not sure of, like the font or color scheme.
  • Final deliverable. Turn your product in and finalize payment. Submit invoices if necessary, and sign-off on the contract. Ask for feedback from the client. What did they like about your work? What areas do they think you could improve in? Do they have any other job opportunities for you, or know of someone who might hire you?
  • Update your portfolio. If you have signed a non-disclosure agreement, then more than likely only the client will know about your involvement with the product. If you did not sign one, and if the client did not explicitly tell you not to showcase your work, then you should add your final deliverable to your portfolio immediately. Update your CV with any new skills you gained.
  • Update your financial records. No matter where or how you keep track of it, be sure to immediately log the time you spent and the amount of money you received. Come tax season, you don’t want to look through your bank account for all the deposits to determine what your total income was, nor do you want to submit inaccurate information just because you can’t remember every job you’ve done. 5 minutes of bookkeeping right after a project can save you hours later on.
  • Reflect. Take a step back and ask yourself whether or not you enjoyed the work you did. Do you think you worked too much for a low sum? Change your rate for the next similar job. Jot down a few things that you learned from the project, either that this or that kind of work takes a week, or that you need more experience working with Javascript, or that you hope to develop data mining skills.

If you found things like designing a newsletter to be excruciatingly dull (not this one of course!), then avoid those jobs in the future. If you loved one aspect of the project—like the research portion—then look for more of those jobs. Listen to your heart and your mind and your billable hours, and pursue opportunities that will fulfill you. You’ll feel better, you’ll be more excited about getting to work on it, and the finished product will ultimately be much better.

Got anything to add to this? Let us know in the comments below!

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