How to Get Started as a Freelancer: Get Organized

20130901.How to Get Started as a Freelancer: Get Organized

As a freelancer there is nothing in the world more fatal to profit and productivity than bad organization.  Imagine what would happen if you announced your business right this minute, and low-and-behold clients just came pouring in.  That would be absolutely wonderful, right?

Wrong–unless you have a solid system of organization in place.

Starting Backwards

The last thing you want to do when you start freelancing is constantly playing catch up with yourself.  Freelancers are usually looked at in two lights: Those that are serious and those that are just goofing around, wasting everyone’s time.  Through the eyes of a client, there is rarely any wiggle-room between these two types of freelancing individuals.

Before you start pulling in clients, take a moment to reflect on the ideal picture of your business.

    • How will you charge clients or customers (hourly, per project, on retainer)?
    • How will you bill them?
    • How many clients will you handle per month?
    • Where are you going to keep your records?
    • Will you be entering all your records by hand or inputting them into a computer?

Now back up and decide what systems and tools you need in place to make this picture a reality.

Putting Plans into Place

Contact Organization.  You’ll want to keep track of clients, potential clients, and all the contact that you make with them.  Perhaps, you’d prefer separate file folders for each, properly labeled and organized between current, potential, and past clients.  Or, maybe you’d rather invest in some snazzy software (I use Sage Act!) to help organize this all for you.

Payment Method. Before the first potential client approaches you, you have to decide how you are going to have them pay.  Nothing looks more ridiculous than a service provider that has to “get back to you” on how they’re going to charge you.  Decide if you’d rather send out printed invoices bi-weekly, monthly, or immediately following the exchange of services or products.  Are you willing to give online clients your personal address to send checks to, only allow them to pay via PayPal, or do you want to set up a P.O. Box at your local post office?

Income and Expenses.  How are you going to keep track of your income and expenses?  Columnar pads or software—what’s your poison?  Where do you plan on keeping your receipts of payment and expenses (the IRS advises you keep them for six years)?  Some people love old shoe boxes, others like to scan it all in, and then some people (like me) love to get those little plastic file folders and keep receipts sorted by months (one file per year).  I’ve even toyed around with the idea of making origami shapes—a swan for income receipts and little men for expenses—not really.

Marketing.  You should allocate a specific amount of time you’re going to spend updating and managing content on your website and/or blog.  The time you spend on business-related activities should be considered when you go back and determine just exactly how much money you’re really making.  (I mean, let’s be real, it’s incredibly easy to spend five hours on social media talking about your business, then one hour actually working.  If you made $20 off that project, spread out, you really made $3.33/hr.)

Recording Time

This leads me to the all-important recordkeeping process of recording the actual time you’ve worked.  If you don’t turn diddley-squat of a profit, and you report a plethora of “business deductions” to the IRS, you better be able to provide a record of your time.  If it looks like you just dabbled with the idea of making money, but didn’t really treat it like a business (set amount of hours per day, for example), you might be in for a heap of hurt.

When I first got started, I shelled out a minuscule amount for one of those little black “CASH” record books from Wal-Mart.  I designated the sections “Date,” “Description,” “Start,” “End,” across the top.  Then I just left the little black book open and jotted my time for every activity until I was done for the day.  This system of recordkeeping was rather tedious, to be sure, but it was cheap, yet detailed –exactly what fitted my needs at the time.

Now, as I mentioned above, I use Sage Act! to record all my contact with clients and potential clients.  It was rather exhausting trying to modify all the settings and product prices to work for my particular services, but totally worth it in the end.

You can get some great iPad productivity apps, as well.  (In fact, one of these days, I’m going to have to make a post just about the ones I’ve found helpful.)

Recording Money

If you think losing track of your time for a client is a bit of a stressful situation come billing time, you’d be dead wrong.  Literally.  Like, as in, your little ticker may stop ticking.

One piece of advice I give to anyone who asks me to sort of mentor them into the world of freelancing is simply: do your homework.  Get ahold of an accounting guru or (if you’re more like me) a college-level accounting textbook.  Take the time to learn how to properly record the money coming in and going out of your business.  If the term “accounts receivable” or “capital” mean nothing to you, back your train up before you blow yourself right off the tracks.

I prefer to keep my accounting in a lovely little 13 column columnar pad.  A while ago I had a hard-drive commit suicide, and the tech guys told me the antagonist took out my backup disk with it.  Okay, well, that wasn’t true.  In reality, I shot myself in the foot, because my computer crashed, and I hadn’t backed up everything like my dad told me to do over and over and over.  So, second lesson in one paragraph: KEEP A BACKUP!

Organization is More Than Just Paperwork

Make sure you keep yourself structured, too.  One of the first things I specified on my website’s flip-book blog (I’ve mentioned this doozy of idiocy in previous posts), was that even though I work from home, I treat my business as just that—a business, and I expect my clients to do likewise.

Working from home may make you think about pajamas, but they’re not exactly productivity-inspiring.  If you get too comfy-cozy out there, you’re more likely to fall asleep than turn a profit.  (This coming from a person that has been known to create a makeshift desk and tickity-type away out amongst her grazing horses…Pot-ketttle-black anyone?)

There truly are great benefits of being your own boss.  However, lack of discipline should not be one of them.  Treat your business like the business you want it to become.  That means recordkeeping and solid organization.  To be treated professionally, you must act like a professional (whether your clients see you or not).

Previous post on How to Get Started in Freelancing: Recordkeeping

Photo Source

Share small business news, blogs and social media tips with Project Eve’s community of small business owners and entrepreneurs today. Our contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds; so whether you are a small business owner, social media strategist, financial adviser, serial entrepreneur, or write an amateur blog we urge you to contribute a blog to our 350,000+ community today. For more information, please refer to our Content Submissions Guidelines.

Add a Blog


  1. 733949 719414In the event you are interested in picture a alter in distinct llife, starting up generally the Los angeles Surgical procedures fat reduction method is really a large movement as a way to accomplishing which generally concept. shed belly fat 992966

  2. 469173 926850The next time Someone said a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me just as considerably as this. Come on, man, I know it was my choice to read, but When i thought youd have some thing intriguing to say. All I hear is really a handful of whining about something you could fix within the event you werent too busy searching for attention. 107624

  3. Has anyone got any real success from HARO? It basically seems that most of the reporters installed on the organization are really from america which do not possess much concern from other places primarily in South Asia. Brian, can you direct us to any full situation research? Thanks.

  4. My spouse and i appreciate this write-up truly. I have been looking all over for this! Thank God I came across it on Google. You have made my working day! Thanks again..

  5. 992723 329828hello!,I like your writing so significantly! share we communicate extra approximately your post on AOL? I want an expert in this space to solve my issue. Maybe that is you! Seeking ahead to see you. 892480

  6. 970791 208954Black Ops Zombies […]some people nonetheless have not played this game. Its hard to imagine or believe, but yes, some people are missing out on all with the enjoyable.[…] 788817

  7. You actually make it appear so easy along with your presentation however I find this topic to be actually one thing which I think I might never understand. It seems too complex and extremely large for me. I’m having a look forward for your subsequent post, I’ll try to get the cling of it!

  8. Hello there. I discovered your web site by means of Google while looking for a similar subject, your website got here up. It appears great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to visit later.

  9. The very core of your writing whilst appearing reasonable initially, did not really sit well with me after some time. Someplace within the paragraphs you actually managed to make me a believer unfortunately just for a while. I nevertheless have a problem with your jumps in logic and you would do nicely to fill in all those breaks. When you can accomplish that, I could undoubtedly end up being fascinated.

  10. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this web site before but after going through a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m certainly happy I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

  11. Hiya, I’m really glad I have found this information. Today bloggers publish just about gossip and web stuff and this is actually irritating. A good site with interesting content, that is what I need. Thanks for making this web site, and I’ll be visiting again. Do you do newsletters? I Can not find it.

  12. Thanks for the suggestions you are discussing on this blog site. Another thing I want to say is the fact that getting hold of copies of your credit report in order to scrutinize accuracy of each detail could be the first action you have to perform in repairing credit. You are looking to thoroughly clean your credit history from destructive details errors that ruin your credit score.

  13. 39607 421931Ive been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this weblog. Thank you, I will try and check back much more often. How regularly you update your internet site? 466813

  14. 719339 658786of course like your web-site nonetheless you need to have to check the spelling on quite several of your posts. Quite a few them are rife with spelling issues and I to uncover it quite bothersome to inform the reality nevertheless Ill surely come back once more. 441483


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here