FREELANCING / JUL. 13, 2014
version 11, draft 11

Freelance Success: Managing Workflow and Finances

As a freelancer, you’re your own producer, administrative assistant, and accountant. Each of these hats has equal weight. Without including administrative assistance or accountancy in your role, your work alone might fail to produce a living income and, subsequently, a manageable lifestyle. Having efficient administrative and accounting skills will help you continue freelancing comfortably and, as a result, produce better work.

Managing Finances

New freelancers should understand that some clients might not send payments out right after projects are finished. For most, the process takes much longer than they’d hope. Thus, it’s important for freelancers to know how to manage cash flow in between finishing projects and finally getting paid. This seems like a lot of work but, as long as you’re diligent with it, it really isn’t that bad.

The most basic way to manage your freelance income is to create comprehensive spreadsheets using programs like Google Drive and Microsoft Excel. List every client you have, the dates your projects were finished, the actual day(s) you worked on them, how much each project was worth, and then any payments that were sent to you that week. At the end of each week, round up the cumulative amounts of the projects you finished, their monetary worth, and the payments you actually received.

An additional option is to create a supplementary spreadsheet that tracks each client’s payment timeline and any significant contractual terms. Freelancers often have multiple clients at once, so it’s useful to differentiate their systems from one another. This will save freelancers from the stress of not knowing when money is coming in and, even worse, worries of not getting paid.

Managing Workflow

The most important workflow aspects freelancers need to manage are current clients and future client leads. This is optional, but you can also keep a list of industry resources and online tools that may help you with your work. Of course, the most effective way to track each of these things is by using spreadsheets.

Freelancers are always looking for new work, whether it’s to diversify their portfolios or receive higher pay, which is why it’s incredibly important for them to constantly check job boards for more contract opportunities. You can simplify this task by entering each client of interest into a spreadsheet with columns indicating the type of work they’re looking for and any related projects you can do for them. For motivational purposes, add another column indicating whether or not you’ve contacted this potential client or not.

To manage your current clients, create a spreadsheet that includes every project you need to finish for them and highlight the ones you’re done with. This spreadsheet should include their contact information and any guidelines specific to their preferences and demands. If you’re a freelance writer, for instance, it’d be useful to include the usual word count your clients want for each article. In addition, indicate on your spreadsheet if you haven’t done work for a certain client in a while. This will make it easier for you to know when it’s a good time to contact a client and ask for additional work.

Finally, invest in a weekly planner and/or use a tool like Google Calendar to schedule each of your tasks. Each time you finish something, reward yourself by marking it off. You should keep your physical planner or online calendar open as you work. This way, you can easily go back and check if you’re on track.

Monitoring workflow and finances is necessary for attaining a more fruitful freelance career. For some, dealing with these tasks is more laborious than fun, but getting them done will create a sustainable foundation allowing freelancers to more productively produce their best work.

Image courtesy of Kristine Hoang

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