How to manage having 10 bosses

OK, it’s not as bad as it sounds, because if you’re a freelancer you don’t just have multiple bosses, you are your own boss, the head honcho, the person upstairs. You set your own hours, pick your own work, and select your own clients.

And you get perks like being able to see your kids, never commuting again and being thanked by the Prime Minister. In case you missed it David Cameron used National Freelancers’ Day to thank those who’ve turned their backs on PAYE, crediting them as “the engine of our economy and economic revival”. If you’re already a freelance engine, give yourself a pat on the back.

SMEs in particular are more and more reliant on temps and remote workers to fill gaps in their teams. Virtual workforces are less risky and expensive to grow than a team of permanent, full-timers and you dont have to accommodate their various needs, like computers, or whims and fancies, like fresh fruit deliveries and a beer fridges.

So I picked the brains of the Time Etc freelance army to ask them exactly how they manage ten bosses, and I’m passing on the top five pearls of wisdom to you

1. One of the best things about being a freelancer is choosing your own hours 

You’ll find that working afternoons and evenings suits start-up owners who tend to work round the clock, or those with clients in other time zones. But just because you don’t work a typical nine to five office day, that doesn’t mean you have to be on call when you clock off. Make sure your clients know what your ‘office’ hours are, and when you’ll be able to deal with requests. Ground rules are important – and the nice thing about being paid by the hour is that you never become a slave to a company or a CEO!

2. There are times in every freelancer’s life when work is scarce but, equally, there’s also a saturation point when taking on too much means you can’t do as good a job as you’d like

Prioritise the time-sensitive tasks but don’t be afraid to push back if you find clients are setting unreasonable deadlines. And learn to recognise when you reach tipping point – it’s usually when you find yourself taking your laptop to bed.

3. Get your systems in order

If you’re juggling multiple clients, it goes without saying that organisation is king. Use cloud-based filing systems like Dropbox to store documents and a colour-coded calendar to plan your week and help you differentiate between clients at a glance.

4. Chances are youll have multiple email accounts – one for each client

Install a secure email system like Mozilla Thunderbird so can access all your accounts from one place. Get a smartphone so you can pick up important urgent requests on the go.

5. Miss the buzz of working in an office

There are plenty of co-working spaces, and shared offices that let you hot-desk by the hour or day. You can also join some of the many online freelance networks and forums where you can pick up and share tips and tricks of the trade.

Barnaby Lashbrooke is founder of the virtual workforce platform Time Etc.

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