How many projects should I take on at once as a freelance web developer?

The number of projects taken on at a time will certainly vary amongst freelancers. There is no ‘best’ answer or winning solution. Here are our thoughts.

One of the most important factors in building a successful web development career is time management. And as we all know, that problem only grows when you’re working solo as a freelancer.

Managing your time effectively is also closely related to how much work you take on at any single time as a developer. The number of projects you are working on simultaneously will seriously impact your performance, either positively or negatively.

This is a common concern for many freelancers in the web development space, so let’s explore the best techniques to determine how much work you should be taking on at once.

Working on Multiple Projects at Once

The number of projects taken on at a time will certainly vary amongst freelancers. There is no ‘best’ answer or winning solution.

A lot of it depends on your work style, and that’s something which can only be changed to a limited degree. In this situation, you’ll have to learn to work with what you’ve got.

One important thing to note is that the number of projects you find yourself able to work on simultaneously has very little relation to your skill or coding prowess.

In fact, the decision of how many concurrent clients you’re working with should be based more on the level of difficulty.

Other factors, such as how much you are charging, also have an impact on how many clients you can feasibly take on at any one time.

Don’t forget, there is additionally the consideration of whether you do indeed need to take on additional projects, or whether you should practice some restraint. If you have the luxury of a successful, profitable income as a freelance web developer, you may not need to take on any more. And in fact, this could prove to be a wise move, particularly in terms of avoiding stress, burnout, and improving your work-life balance.

If, for instance, you find yourself earning a substantial income whilst working on a mere 2 new projects per month, you owe yourself an honest, solid reason for wanting to take on more. Freelancing is a delicate balancing act of ambition and common sense. It’s imperative to know your limits and to remain aware of them when working for yourself.

Common reasons that freelancers push themselves to take on more projects are:

  • Personal, such as to increase knowledge so as to avoid stunting learning and growth
  • Financial, borne from a desire to increase personal or business income for other aspirations in life

These are reasonable considerations to make when assessing your optimal number of concurrent clients, but as I mentioned above, take care not to make a blind decision. Work within your limits.

Freelancers should also consider the differences between taking on new projects, versus working with continuous or ongoing clients. Both of these work modalities can facilitate growth and an increase in income, but there is a stark difference between which method might be most suitable for you.

If, for example, you have a solid base of long-term clients, the number of new relationships you are forging each month can remain limited. This allows you to continue to provide a level of service that is high in quality, particularly because you know the goals of these clients already. This familiarity will also make your job exponentially easier.

You should consider whether taking on further clients is the best thing for you if you already have a stable base of long-term, ongoing clients.

Multitasking as a Freelance Web Developer

If you maintain a longer-term relationship with the majority of your clients, you’ll also have to consider whether you can indeed manage an even larger pool of clients on a monthly basis with your current resources. Remember, these clients can be demanding (which is a good thing, it means they love your work!), but there is potential for this to become overwhelming (or worse, impossible) if you find yourself with too many clients and overstretched personal resources.

Ask yourself a very simple question: Do you have the resources and availability to support a growing long-term client base as a freelance web developer?

If not, consider scaling up your resources or partnering with a colleague to continue to grow your webdev business, or practicing patience and restraint until you can.

With all that said, it’s always a possibility to take on new clients in the short term, if your long-term client base is starting to make you feel slightly overstretched. Skip the long-term relationship with any new clients (for now), while ensuring that this is an agreement that both the client and yourself agree on (of course).

Maintaining Long Term Clients While Freelancing

Remember, the nature and scale of the project is also a factor to consider.

For instance, if you’re managing domain names and simple websites for 40 ongoing clients, regular input may not be so challenging.

On the flip side, maintaining complex websites and integrated applications for the same number of clients is bound to demand a much greater investment from you. Your time, the potential for challenging troubleshooting, and the ongoing development of these kinds of solutions is, at the very least, more demanding.

If you are a freelancer working alone, you need to figure out your personal boundaries.

Determining what a reasonable limit for the concurrent number of clients you are supporting could quite possibly make or break your career.

The primary aim of building your career in freelance web development is to foster personal growth and reduce your feelings of stress.

Figuring out your personal limit will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed, and reduce the feelings of pressure to outsource work that has been entrusted by your clients to you.

Clients really do hate the process of outsourcing, particularly when they believe that they are paying for your skills and expertise. Don’t overstretch yourself to a point where you could potentially compromise the relationship with your client — it’s your responsibility to work within your limits.

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