Say “no” to new comms channels and use timeboxing with freelance clients to increase productivity

Jess Eddy
Jess Eddy
Jan 22 · 5 min read

When you’re a freelancer, time is your most precious asset. Your ability to control how you spend time during your day impacts how much work you can get done, and how much money you can make.

You’ve got to get work done at the same as you’re juggling multiple projects, meeting clients and possibly hunting down new work. You’re busy.

One of the most exhilarating parts of freelancing is when a new project kicks off. You’ve done the hard work of scoping, negotiating, understanding the client’s needs and the requirements of the work. You probably already have ideas you can’t wait to hash out.

Usually, around this time, the client might make some requests around integrating you into their systems and tools. Whether it’s Slack, Zoom, Trello, Google Docs, Dropbox, Box, Jira or Confluence or multiple of those above. You might even be asked to use a new, company email account!

You’re probably juggling multiple projects and clients and getting connected and integrated to a plethora of systems!

How do you, stop from being strangled to death by near-constant digital communications from clients?


I realize that some of the suggestions I’m about to make are not possible for all freelancers. Client dynamics being what they are don’t allow you to always and fully control the situation and call the shots. However, control aside, you need to get work done; you need your days to be productive so you can make progress on projects and run your business.

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Tip #1: Say “no”

Or, say “yes” to only the essentials.

Many times, systems, accounts, and new channels are set up without the considering of “is this useful?” Or, “will this help us communicate better?” It’s an afterthought and more of an automated action.

Identify what’s valuable and essential and say “no” to the rest.

Your client is never thinking about your other clients and projects, even if they are aware of them. Each client thinks of themselves as your only client. The demands on your time from multiple parties is a great reason to state how you will be communicating with your client in your contract. Everything else gets negotiated and so can comms.

Let’s take email as an example. Rarely your client may expect you to use their company email, they might even assume it and instead of asking, will make an account for you. When you address this scenario up front, it’s easier to manage. Here’s an example of a simple clause.

{Your company name} will use this email address {email address} to communicate with {client name}. All email communications will be through this address.

While you’re at it, it’s a great idea to be clear about your response times, precisely, what is the window of time — or working hours in which you can respond (e.g., 9am-5pm), and within how long will you respond (e.g., within four hours). Some clients do expect that you will be available whenever they need you, no matter the frequency of comms or time of day they reach out; it’s important to set boundaries.

Setting boundaries leads us to the next way in which you can make a more productive day, timeboxing.

Tip #2: Timebox your communications

When you have multiple clients and projects and if you’re involved in many Slack channels or project management boards, being overwhelmed with notifications will happen and as we know, notifications are very distracting. The easiest way to not be distracted is to shut them off.

Work with your clients to come up with a reasonable window during the day in which you can guarantee you’ll reply to messages, notifications, and other project comms. Maybe it’s a two-hour window each day.

{Your company name} will be available from 2 pm to 4 pm each day to respond to Slack messages and any other project notifications {client name} is free to message {your company name}, and {your company name} will respond to messages starting at 2 pm.

Perhaps you have an emergency clause that gives this scenario some flexibility, and if your clients are for any reason in a dire situation and do need to contact you, they should be able to. The goal is to use timeboxing — with all of your projects — to bring some sanity and productivity to your working hours so you can GSD!


Saying “no” and using timeboxing are two reasonable and straightforward ways to manage your time so you can do more of what’s important during the day. As long as you are being open with and communicating with your clients and setting up the parameters ahead of time, it shouldn’t be a problem.

The exact rules mentioned in this post aren’t necessarily right for everyone! You need to figure out what works for you, your business and your clients. Either way, these tips are intended to help you be productive and accommodating but with structure.

If you can bring structure to your day, you’ll have a better chance of achieving your desired outcomes — and that’s what we want!

If you like this post, don’t forget to 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

Jess Eddy

Written by

Jess Eddy

Digital product designer. I write about design, teamwork and exercise. Currently in Sydney, AUS.

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