As freelancers, life can get busy. Managing a million things from projects to invoices can add up quickly… and for most of us it becomes overwhelming.
What we often fail to realize is how much time gets wasted when we’re not managing things effectively. Better management = better business. Period.
Here are 5 quick tips to help you better manage your freelancing.
1. Project Management Software
The first and most important tip is to use a project management tool. Why? Because we’re human and we forget shit all the time. So put software to work for you and become more organized instantly. I know, I know… there’s hundreds of different tools and none of them are perfect… But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use one!
I use Asana. It’s free and flexible enough to mold into my workflow. I can create boards (columns) for each phase of my projects and then build out tasks accordingly. I can also invite my clients and team members, if needed. It gives you due dates, assignments, sub tasks, and everything [basic] needed for project management. It’s fast, simple and flexible – that’s what you need. Give it a spin if you haven’t already. You can thank me later.
Even if Asana doesn’t work out, find a tool that you like and can stick with for the long haul. Not only will it make you more organized and efficient, but it also serves as a cloud repository for all your project documentation – so you can always refer back to things if the need arises.
Do it now (don’t wait on this).
Creating a consistent schedule is one of the toughest aspects of freelancing, especially when your workload gets full. However, if managed correctly it can save you massive amounts of time and lead to increased productivity.
Working without a schedule is just asking for things to pop up and derail your day. By planning your hours/projects ahead of time you’re essentially filling out your bandwidth and projecting your deliverables – i.e. what you plan to accomplish. For example, I have 36 hours scheduled this week across 4 different projects with [x] specific tasks. This is how productive people work.
I personally use Google Calendar for most of my scheduling. It’s fast and easy to create items, and it’s by far the best calendar system available online. I usually load in my scheduled hours every Friday for the following week. This keeps me on track and in control of my workload.
Here’s what my typical week looks like (grey events are scheduled work hours).
By scheduling my hours ahead of time I get a nice projection of my bandwidth and what I plan to accomplish that week. It also allows me to effectively find time for meetings as they arise.
Pair this with a good project management tool and you’re ready to roll.
3) Online Billing & Accounting
Another HUGE time suck for freelancers is the billing/accounting process. Creating, sending and tracking down invoices can be a nightmare if you’re not organized. Then when you finally do get paid you have to take the check to the bank and record the payment. This is the old way. Stop it, immediately.
Here are my suggestions for more effective billing:
1) First, stop accepting checks for anything small.
Taking time to go to the bank, wait on a teller, hear about their day, and then drive back home… takes TOO MUCH TIME. No more small checks! If you still decide to accept checks, wait until you have several to cash before you make a trip to the bank.
2) Use online accounting software.
There are plenty of options that won’t break the bank and they all offer the necessities – invoicing, online payments, bank reconciliation, etc. I previously used WaveApps (which is Free) but my accountant yelled at me. So now I use Xero, which is more accounting focused. I also like FreshBooks. Either way, use something. The amount of time you save by quickly emailing an invoice and getting paid online is well worth the 2-3% fee they take, believe me. It will also make you look more professional [and organized] with your clients.
3. When you’re able, get an accountant.
You can find a reasonable accountant for $50-ish/month. That’s a justifiable expense if you’re doing anything over 50k/year. It will also save you some cheddar at the end of the year when your accountant does your taxes instead of H&R Block, who knows nothing about your business. Seriously… pay an expert to keep track of your books and help you at tax time.
If there’s anything to take away from these tips it’s this – your time is valuable, and it get’s more and more valuable the busier you become. So become more efficient with your time and you’ll see major management improvements.
That’s it for now. Use these 3 tips and I promise you’ll see more efficiency and better use of your time. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and comments below!