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Re: What if an opportunity comes up but you already have a full workload?

Valeria K Moderator Member Since: Mar 6, 2014
1 of 13

Several freelancers have mentioned, they frequently send out proposals for new jobs despite being completely booked with their current ones. Dry spells can often follow busy periods, and most freelancers want to make sure they don’t sit idle for long waiting for the next contract.

Although this may be a good practice to keep a continuous flow of income, what happens when your proposals are accepted and you have too much on your plate?


At some point you may find yourself in a situation where you are already logging 45 hours a week (in addition to a couple of fixed-price contracts), and all of a sudden a returning client pings you needing some last minute revisions done, while three of your proposals get accepted on the same day. What do you do?

Do you turn down the new offers, or do you reshuffle your schedule, sacrifice some sleep and accommodate these opportunities?


Or perhaps a client reaches out to you directly with a new contract and you don’t want to lose out on the opportunity but are already overbooked? Do you set yourself as unavailable, or make your profile private to avoid such situations?

This may sound like a great problem to have, a surplus of work, but to some it could be pretty stressful. Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this?

~ Valeria
Ace Contributor
André B Member Since: Aug 20, 2009
2 of 13

Yes, I have found myself in this situation a few times. It's stressful trying to juggle more work than I can comfortably handle. To avoid getting overwhelmed, here are a few things I now do:

  1. Don't go job hunting when I  have enough work. There are always so many interesting projects. However, if I don't look then I won't get tempted to try to squeeze something in.
  2. Decline invitations to apply when I know I won't be available within a week.
  3. Set my availability to unavailable, with an expiry date so that I don't forget to re-evaluate.
  4. For clients who I've worked with before, if they approach me with more work I tell them that I'm busy and tell when when I expect to be available. I recently had two clients agree to wait over a month for me.

TL;DR: learn to say no to new projects, or ask clients if they can wait.

Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect
Community Guru
Stephen B Member Since: Dec 4, 2012
3 of 13

Of course it's a problm that goes with the nature of the job. The comon analogy is with city buses (wherever you are...) You wait ages for one, then three come along together.


So yes, I agree with some of the above. certainly, when the inbox is full, the easiest way (and thankfully the best situation to be in) is to stop looking at the job feed for a while. There is still a regular trickle of repeat clients, and they are usually all appreciative of my erratic workload; and that the possible delay is proportional to the size of their job, and they will usually be happy to wait a few days for a bigger job.


Last year an academic client came to me urgently when I was full of work. I apologised, but pointed him towards two other freelancer profiles who I though suited him exactly.


One thing I will NOT do though (sorry Valeria, you know there had to be a downer...) is change my availability, because I don't trust the robots to change it back again. Already in the last week when I've accepted two small repeat-client jobs for just $20 each (my minimum), and I've been reminded by a robot that I might want to reset my availability. And if I turn down an interview invitation with the reason "too busy" the system automatically resets the availability for me. These are the kind of unwarranted interferences I really do not want. I run my business well. If I mess it up, Upwork has plenty of ways, good and bad, of reflecting that. But they have no need to keep reminding me what I might want to be thinking of doing, or to automatically interefere with my business process in any way.

Community Guru
Vesna M Member Since: May 15, 2012
4 of 13

Yes, earlier I would work all night long if someone needed files immediately. Unfortunately, I can't afford sleepless nights at this period.


When I'll be able to work again 30+ hours per week I will. 

Don't correct my grammar!
Community Guru
Jennifer M Member Since: May 17, 2015
5 of 13

If it's something that pays well and I think I can do between other gigs (which is usually the case), I take it. I'll figure it out. My goal is to bill 4-5 hours a day but if I gotta work more just to slow down the next month, I'm cool with that.

Ace Contributor
Tabinda H Member Since: Jun 22, 2015
6 of 13

 In such a case, what I do is 'Prefer the old clients' and decline the new ones gently because 'Old is gold'

Ace Contributor
Vitalij R Member Since: Nov 11, 2014
7 of 13

Whole this question is not problem for me.

Designer just need update own time management skills, speed and effectiveness.

Alternative is delegate some work to other team members or freelancers.


Really in last month as I see amount of suitable projects on Upwork is not enough for make me overloaded by design projects.


So if any client tries to overload me, a lot of work, I am always ready. Smiley LOL


Sincerely, Vitalij - Top Rated brochure designer.
Active Member
Benjamin D Member Since: Sep 9, 2015
8 of 13

Situations like this happen all the time, in any business - not just freelancing. What is important is to manage your clients expectations! Usually clients can wait a day or two if you are up front with them about your workload and delivery times. If you are providing high quality services, the result is more important to the client than the delivery time. Any reasonable client will understand that as a freelancer you need to juggle gigs from multiple clients, just don't promise what you can't deliver and this isn't an issue.

Community Guru
Maria Marilyn M Member Since: Oct 27, 2010
9 of 13

A freelancer's job is not permanent. We all know that. A contract, albeit smooth sailing for sometime may end unexpectedly. While you can always start looking for a new contract/client/project when a current job ends, some juggle multiple gigs in order to have work continuity in case one of those gigs end.


But you have to be realistic though, there are only 24 hours each day so it's either you work more than 8 hours daily (weekends included) or learn how to manage work hours. So accept tasks only if you think you can handle the time without compromising quality. Some projects can be completed faster than others so you can plan how to complete each task daily or weekly. 


In the event that an exciting opportunity comes along yet your plate is too full, sadly, you may have to let the opportunity pass by. Otherwise, your existing gigs may suffer; either you end one or some of the contracts or request for lesser hours or even a break. If your client values you or the job isn't time critical, then they may accept your request but it might create a notion that you are not considering them a priority just because a new opportunity came along.

Community Guru
Nichola L Member Since: Mar 13, 2015
10 of 13

I always leave the door open. I tell a potential (or existing) client roughly what my schedule is, and that I would love to work with them at a later date. It has worked on several  occasions. It's counter-productive to take on more than you can cope with, unless you farm out work, which I generally try to avoid.