5 Steps Toward an Organized Freelance Business

5 Steps to Stay Organized as a Freelancer

After you’ve already set up your portfolio and business social media accounts, it’s time for the tedious part of organizing your freelancing business. Organization is key when it comes to freelancing, especially if you are just joining the gig economy. This article takes into account five areas of organizational focus. Once you tackle this list, you’ll feel empowered and set up for success. Let’s get into it!

1. Keep Track of Client Communication

Because you already know your goals for this business, you’ll likely have a list of potential clients. Keep an updated list of your clients’ addresses and socials (Excel is the simplest way) and notes on anything else, like their communication preferences. Create space in your list for project requirements and other detailed information you’ve collected about the company so that you’re prepared for the next time they reach out. Using a project management tool is helpful, too, which we’ll get to in the next section.

2. Decide How You’ll Organize Your Time

  • Create a calendar for yourself, either client-by-client or one set aside calendar alongside your own calendar. Gmail works great for this as it allows clients to book with you simply by using your email. If you want a solely dedicated, separate app, Calendly is a great option, allowing you to place a link in your email signature so recipients can set up a time to meet with you.
  • Choose a Project management tool that is both attractive to you and has the features you need. Some people thrive on the bare-bones free-spiritedness of Trello while others need to have access to all the bells and whistles of apps like ClickUp. It benefits you to be familiar with all sorts of project management software, so explore them all to find what works for you. The good news is many of them, like Asana and Monday, are pretty similar features-wise, making learning a breeze.
  • Use a time-tracking app, like Toggl, that keeps track of and organizes your time on the job. It can also provide accurate records of time spent on each project and client, making invoicing a breeze.  

3. Be Prepared to Adapt

  • Get comfy with learning on the fly. There will undoubtedly be a client who is looking for your expertise but also needs you to learn new software or lead teams when you’ve never led before. Breathe and lean in! But if you’re drowning, speak up. Honest communication is the most important soft skill that will keep you hired with clients you love.
  • Be okay with unpredictability. You will go from seasonal downtimes to extreme highs in terms of volume of work—all depending on your industry and client needs. Have emotional support systems in place for when things get overwhelming and make sure you set time aside for yourself. Which leads us to the next very important step…

4. Know Your Boundaries

  • Know when to say no. Setting up emotional and physical parameters for how you work will help you take care of yourself whenever you hit a speed bump. For example, make a list of times from the past when work got too stressful and when you should have said no. Reflect on why, how you felt, and how you can avoid getting yourself into the same situations in the future.
  • Know what interests you. Outline the goals for your career, focusing on the types of work that interest you. Make a second list of the type of work you will never do again. Leave room for gray areas here—you can always change your mind later, pivoting toward types of work you never considered before.
  • Know your worth. Come up with a general salary you are after, breaking it down by project and by the hour (as clients may want to pay you either way). Do the research to make sure you are competitive while covering all your expenses. 
  • Create your own contracts. Find a simple template for a contract online (as a starting point). Adapt your contract based on the client’s needs and the project at hand, but know that the core part of the contract must protect your business. Consult a lawyer if needed or a manual, like the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, for ideas on building your own contracts.

5. Create a Stress-free Accounting System

  • Keep track of your finances in an app that works for your business. Wave is just one example of an app that tracks all your expenses, invoices, and more, and can be accessed by your tax professional at the end of the fiscal year. 
  • Pay your quarterly taxes on time. It’s not the most glamorous or exciting part of the freelancing business, but it’s crucial in preventing you from paying tens of thousands when tax season rolls around. Make sure you get familiar with your local tax laws and enlist a CPA professional who knows the world of freelancing.

TLDR; from time management to accounting, there are several basic organizational tasks you have to do before you begin freelancing. The good news is that, once you find software and methods that work for you, your freelancing business will be fully set up to thrive. Take the time to do your research, find a reliable tax pro, and make it fun! Make use of free trials, take knowledgeable freelance friends out for coffee, and talk to recruiters who specialize in freelancing (like us!). Freelancing might have you feeling like you’re taking on the world but know that you’re never alone.

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