How to Handle 10+ Video Projects at Once
Before you can scale up your operations as a freelancer, there are a number of things that need to happen. If you want to successfully manage larger or more complex projects building a bigger team to help you deliver is only the beginning.
In order to make this transition, you will need to completely overhaul the way you communicate and organize your business. You’re graduating from your solo act and taking on the responsibilities of a full-fledged project manager.
In order to scale up your operations as a freelancer, you will need to completely overhaul the way you communicate and organize your business.
I found myself in this position during 2015. After years of freelancing live action and animation videos, I decided to recruit my own staff which increased the number of projects I was balancing at a time.
With more bandwidth came more projects and the pressure to deliver was on. It’s a rewarding role but making the jump to a project manager can be extremely tricky. Here are a few strategies that will help you be prepared.
Schedule Project Overview Meetings
The first order of business is to set a weekly overview meeting with your team. Managing 6-10 projects at once is only sustainable if you have a clear sense of all the moving pieces. As a freelancer, you developed a knack for managing things on your own but when dealing with such a large number of projects it will help to have several sets of organized eyes. Connect with your team regularly to discuss the details, goals, and roadblocks of all ongoing projects.
When managing several video projects at once, the first order of business is to set a weekly overview meeting with your team.
Here are a few points to consider for each assignment:
- What is the current status of the project?
- When did the client last hear from us?
- Is there anything keeping us blocked?
- When is the deadline?
- What are the action items?
Taking the time to comb through projects will keep your team on the mark and prevent mistakes. Make sure you’re consistent with these operations meetings every week. Being this detail oriented will save you a ton of unnecessary headaches.
It also encourages your company to maintain constant communication with respect to the projects you’re juggling. It’s a time-consuming process but scheduling effective meetings are the foundation of a functional team.
Understand Your Costs
Freelancers generally charge at a rate that will offset their cost of living. Once a project is sold clients will pay a fee of $30-$70 an hour for work. That is a healthy source of income but you’re limited by what you have the time to accomplish. If you want to increase your annual salary and delegate a portion of the work you will need to map out a well-founded revenue & cost model.
There are five numbers that must be estimated out to move forward:
- Total Revenue: How many total projects and at what budget will you sell this year?
- Cost to Create Videos: Of the total revenue, if you didn’t do any part of the work, how much would it cost you to pay others to do the work?
- Other Expenses (Workspace, software, tools)
- Your Salary
- Net Profit
Knowing this will allow you to earn respectable wages without handling all of the video work on your own.
Here’s an example cost model you could follow if you were able to sell $250,000 annually.
The “Cost to Create Videos” is the most important part of the breakdown. In this model, you would pay your freelancers 40% of the total project revenue to complete the work. On a $10,000 job, they would get $4000. Trusting this finance model is the cornerstone to being able to grow a team.
In order to make this work, you want to find groups of people who can do the work well but don’t need to be billed at a premium. Find a group of freelancers who are happy working at $25 – $45 dollars an hour.
The idea is to hire someone who enjoys working at a standard hourly rate and isn’t trying to fill your shoes. Don’t let this price point set low expectations for talent. People who fit this criterion simply subscribe to a different work-life philosophy than you.
Hire someone who enjoys working at a standard hourly rate and isn’t trying to fill your shoes.
Building a network of people who are charging $30 an hour will allow you to pay them 40% of the total without them feeling compromised.
If you’re moving in the direction of selling $20,000 a month in projects, start to build your quotes around the model of paying a freelance 40% of the project do the work, while you manage the project. Try it a few times, and prove to yourself that it works, you enjoy it, and the client loves the final product.
Build a Calendar
All projects must be sold with appropriate deadlines in mind. If you oversell a freelancer, you might risk being able to deliver on your cost model of 40%. This puts you at a huge financial risk if you have to overpay.
Keep a resource calendar that shows what projects your freelancers are already working on in order to prevent double booking them. Doing so will allow you to know when you need to bring on more video resources. It’s a helpful approach when several clients are asking for videos around the same dates.
Keep a resource calendar that shows what projects your freelancers are already working on. This will help you prevent double booking them.
Try to give yourself breathing room when selling and scheduling. If the client is requesting a deadline that is too close to another project, provide them an incentive to move it up a week, or sneakily buy an extra day or two on a milestone or delivery date.
Another great perk of a resource calendar is getting a sense of what each team member is working on. You want to avoid handing a big task off to someone who already has their hands full with multiple projects. You are better off finding another resource than burning out members of your team who are critical to the progress of your business.
Start Mastering Email
Email communication is the base of operations for a project manager. Taking on more clients will require you to handle a higher volume of email than you’re likely accustomed to and managing this increase is critical. If you’re failing to get back to people or losing track of conversations, it will start to interfere with your ability to successfully meet demand. I’ve found that the key to mastering email is to treat your inbox like a daily to-do list.
Every email you receive prompts a course of action. The next step is to complete that action and sort the email into one of three folders made using Gmail’s folder function. Dragging completed conversations into the appropriate folder will help you stay organized and clear the inbox.
Make the following folders:
- Open Projects
- New Opportunities
Threads related to on-going projects should be dragged into Open Projects. Click that folder to view all current communications. New or unfinalized projects should be placed in New Opportunities. Completed threads or trash should be placed in Done. Make it your goal each day to complete all email action items and get them sorted into folders. When you’re finished, use that time to work on moving things along in other areas of your business.
Using this email strategy simplifies communication with clients and allows you to quickly determine whether or not you have completed all required action items for the day.
Pick up the Phone
Encourage timely and effective communication through constant phone touch points. Freelancers are often far removed from the professional urgency of the corporate world. Countering this with regular phone calls will help keep them more accountable.
Talking on the phone doesn’t allow people to wait an hour before answering a question the way email does. Maintaining a line of direct communication is vital when you’re trying to meet deadlines.
Talking on the phone doesn’t allow people to wait an hour before answering a question the way email does.
You want a team of people who are great at answering the phone. People you can get in touch with quickly will make a huge difference as you’re trying to meet the demands of clients. Email alone will not be enough to manage a large number of projects. Use the phone to check-in daily.
One Touch a Day
Having one touch point a day is a project management strategy you can execute right now for instant results. Take the time to check in on every single project you manage and complete at least one action per day that will push it forward. It’s a simple practice but this small detail can make a big difference when you’re trying to keep track of multiple projects.
An organized system, consistent meetings, and realistic cost estimates will all work together to make your scale upward possible. As you learn how to effectively lead a team and manage a high volume, you will develop a strong sense of what you can commit to and how to endure it.
Finding your inner project manager will require you to be organized and fast on your feet. With the right game plan, you can achieve your profit goals and the mindset required to sustain them.
About the author: Mike Clum is the CEO of Clum Creative, a video production company located in Cleveland, OH serving marketers and entrepreneurs around the world.