July 29, 2014

Guest Post: 5 Ways To Stay Organized As A Freelancer

By Luke Clum

If you’ve ever worked as a freelancer, you know that staying organized is absolutely essential to staying on top of your assignments, client relationships, and billing. With all of the tools, apps, and suggestions out there for freelancers, it can be hard to know where to start.

Here is a list of five easy ways to start getting organized as a freelancer.

1. Log your work!

It may sound fairly obvious to keep a log of your work but make sure it is a detailed one. Save your assignments as the name of the piece and also the date of the assignment. You can also create separate folders on your computer, or online, either by month or by client which will help you to locate your work quickly and easily.

Also make sure to create an invoice for each assignment as soon as you have completed the work – even if you don’t send it quite yet – mark it in red or ‘flag’ it if you are online as a way of reminding yourself that the invoice needs to go out.

You can also use a master list in Excel to color code invoices that have been paid – helping you to keep track of your finances at the same time. Invoices can often be tricky. If you’re looking for more information on how to keep up to date with your clients, check out this really helpful invoicing guide. It’s also a great idea to keep your files online, which you can sync with your phone and computer, meaning that not only can you access your files wherever you are, you also have them backed up. It’s vital that you also use external hard drive. This offers a physical copy of your files in case your online world gets compromised.

2. Use an online calendar

The great thing about organizing different assignments, meetings and commitments online is that you can sync your different calendars – you can create a different calendar for different obligations and have each appointment displayed in one single space on your phone for example. I use multiple calendars facing different clients which makes it more easily sharable. You can just have one master calendar for all of your stuff but then your work/life balance is always mixed, so I prefer to keep things separate.

Setting reminders for important deadlines is also another great way to keep on top of your work. If you tend to work with other freelancers you can also share your calendars online, making it easy for other people to see your schedule if and when they need to.

3. Remember, time is money!

Make sure to keep a record of how long each assignment takes you and compare this on a regular basis with the fee you are charging. If you’re charging a flat rate per assignment, make sure that you are charging enough for the assignment to make it worth your time. The more experienced you are, the easier you will find it to predict your time investment but it’s super useful to be able to reference for future assignments.

4. Go old school

If you brain works better by keeping written notes of things to do, keep it simple! Have one notebook which you carry with you at all times and write down your tasks, including the date of when it needs to be completed. If, like myself, you often remember things you need to do or have great ideas just as you’re climbing into bed, keep the notebook at your bedside for easy access.

5. Keep hard copies

Files, folders, and more folders! Label them by month and keep on top of it. If you’re not up to speed with this already, take the time to get it done and once you have a system in place stick to it! If you don’t have time to file your work each day, set aside an hour or so at the end of each week – it’s all about getting into a routine. Filing applies to your invoices but also to your expenses – if you want to be able to claim them back against your tax that is. There’s nothing worse than a mountain of muddled paperwork just before the taxman comes for the audit!

If you’re contemplating freelancing, keep in mind that you will need to have the discipline to stay organized. If you’re a current freelancer, take inventory of your organizational system, and consider making any changes that might help you in the future.

Luke Clum is a Graphic Designer, web developer, and writer. He loves hiking, cooking and geeking out about the latest design trends. You can follow him on twitter here: @lukeclum