So, you’ve bitten off a little more than you can chew.
It happens. Even the most experienced agency professionals have made the mistake of being too enamored with the thought of new business to consider their capacity to deliver. And now, you’re staring at a mountain of work with no way to provide the quality work promised. How can you push back without angering the client -- or worse yet -- lose their business altogether?
7 Ways to Handle Client Overload
1) Say “No” to Anything New
If you’re already overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work already promised, don’t fear saying “no” to any new jobs. As potential projects roll in, evaluate each one to determine whether or not the added stress is worth the benefit of taking on a new client.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this: You might want to keep one of your larger clients happy, or you might have a new client who could prove lucrative in the future and turning them down will be costly to your agency's future. If this is the case, you should …
2) Warn Your Clients
Everyone appreciates transparency, so if you’re a little overbooked at the moment and a client brings a new project, explain the situation. A simple “Hey, I’m excited about working with you, but I’m temporarily overbooked, and I may not be able to turn this out as quickly as I’d like” email goes a long way.
This will probably garner one of two responses: The client will be obliging and a little more flexible with their deadlines or they may continue push back. Either way, moving forward, you’ll have a better idea of how to …
After receiving responses from all your agency’s clients, prioritize work based on both a willingness to work with your schedule and how valuable the client is to your agency’s health. Top priority goes to large clients with strict deadlines, while lesser priority is designated to smaller clients with flexible delivery dates.
Just doing this has a great chance of lightening your workload, but if not, it’s time to …
4) Start Small
So you’ve talked to your clients, prioritized everything that could be prioritized, and it still feels like you’ll never sleep again. Start small.
By accomplishing the smaller tasks that come with higher-priority projects, you’re more likely to stay motivated throughout the project, as checking off each little bucket on your to-do list earns a sense of accomplishment. Not to mention, a larger project subdivided into smaller parts can make the whole thing seems less daunting.
5) Reduce Your Extraneous Workload
Is administrative, non-project related work getting in the way? For example, are you spending your time meeting with/emailing/talking on the phone with clients when you could be more productive elsewhere?
Cut it out.
For starters, don’t be so quick to answer email. Though we're always connected, it’s fine to be “off the grid” every once in awhile. Not every email warrants an immediate response. Additionally, if you keep receiving the same questions over and over again, consider implementing a FAQ section of your website, in which clients can be directed for answers to their more common questions. You can even set an automatic email response that states you are only checking your email twice per day due to a high volume of projects and includes a link to your FAQ page.
6) Stick to Your Availability
While it won’t help with already agreed-upon projects, in the future make your availability, well, available to your clients. Answering clients emails and phone calls at all hours of the night only serves to reinforce that behavior. Set boundaries -- and stick to them.
7) If All Else Fails, Outsource
If you’ve done as much as you can, and you still feel as though you won’t possibly be able to do all of the work, outsource lower priority projects to freelancers. Find freelancers you trust. Just remember, you’re now the client -- so make sure they stick to their deadlines and don’t get too overwhelmed.