by Becky Scott
Many writers forget that as freelancers, we’re also businesspersons. There are things we must do, no matter how distasteful. Paperwork. Marketing. Deadlines (okay, so maybe some of us don’t mind deadlines).
Our reality, though, is that we must take care of our business if we’re going to really make it as a freelancer. And there are things we can do to make it easier on ourselves so we can do what we love – write!
1) Find a system and stick to it.You can waste a lot of time chasing the newest, shiniest organizational system. You don’t need that. Find something that works for you. Then use it consistently.
2) Track your expenses.If you track as you go, it will make tax time so much easier for you. Who wants to spend all day going through receipts? Just a few minutes each day or week is all you need.
3) Have a plan.Plan out your time. Take an hour or two a week to do administrative work. If you take regular bites out of it, it’ll be less scary.
4) Use a calendar.It doesn’t matter if you like paper or electronic calendars. Just use one consistently to track deadlines – that includes when payments and invoices are due, as well as your writing deadlines.
5) Track your payments.Know how much money you have outstanding. When you get a check, deposit it. If you only go to the bank once a week, keep your checks together until then. And after you deposit, mark the invoices paid. If you do this as you go along, you won’t panic thinking you lost a check. You’ll know exactly where your money should be.
6) Get a business checking account.You’ll look more like a legitimate business and that’s good for your taxes. And for some writing jobs, too. Businesses sometimes like to hire other businesses.
7) File paperwork regularly.Again, if you want to have more time to write, do those little administrative tasks regularly. Like filing. Take little chunks out of it rather than making it into a big monster that you dread attacking.
8) Market yourself consistently.Don’t just wait until you don’t have anything lined up. Take some time every week to send out queries, scan the job listings daily, and keep the work rolling in. Don’t you work better when you don’t have to worry about where the next gig is going to come from? If you market consistently, you’ll have work consistently.
9) Get an accountant.Unless you’re a CPA yourself or you just really like tax stuff, hire an accountant. Yes, you’ll be paying for a service that you can probably do yourself given enough time. But do you want to spend your time wrestling numbers, or writing?
10) Track your clients.Remember that company that needed a report last year? Have you followed up with them for more work? And the editor that loved your article four months ago? Did you follow up to say thank you? Tracking satisfied clients can garner you more business. Just give them a quick call or e-mail to see what they need from you.
These ten things can sometimes seem like huge chores to a writer. But if you break them into chunks and work your way through them, you can move on to what you are really here for – to write!
Becky is a freelance writer and editor in San Diego, Ca. She writes about a variety of topics including business organization and productivity, automotive info for women, personal blogging and celebrity real estate gossip. Visit her online at www.beckyscorner.com
Great list! You’ve reminded me of all the little things I need to get done!
Best of luck!
Jenny B says
This is a great list to remind all of us to become better organizers so we can spend more time writing. Thanks for sharing.
Great list! I can always use little reminders on getting & staying organized. Thanks.
Re: #10, does anyone have any advice about how to follow up with former clients? I’ve done it but felt like such a fool. My emails usually said that I was thinking of them, how much I enjoyed working with them, and that if they had any projects I would be happy to work on them. Usually I get no acknowledgment, but once I was told it was the slow season and there would be more in 6 months. How do I know if it’s no work or no work for ME? Any hot insider tips? Thanks!
Melody Platz says
Carrar, I regularly send emails just to remind clients that I’m alive. I keep it short and simple. Yes, it feels artificial, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent an email to say hello, and the next day my client will send me a new project.
# 11, this was a great post. I’m looking at my pile of yet-to-be-filed phone bills. I know you’re right about doing a little bit at a time.
Question – what system do you use to track clients and payments? I just use an excel spreadsheet. I don’t have hundreds of clients, so this works well for me. I don’t want to buy software until I get bigger as a business.
Candidate #11 says
@Kristy – thanks! I’m glad there’s something there that you can use.
@Jenny B – you’re welcome. Thanks for your comment.
@Beth – it’s way too easy to get buried in the busywork and lose precious writing time!
Candidate #11 says
@carrar – by putting your name back in front of the client, you’re reminding them that you’re available. Even if you don’t get any acknowledgment, they’ll still have you in the back of their minds. And the client who said 6 months is basically telling you to check back then. You don’t want to be a nuisance by constantly checking back. But every 3 – 6 months is a good idea.
@Melody – that’s exactly it. You just remind them that you’re there. If you don’t have a lot to keep track of, there’s nothing wrong with an Excel spreadsheet. The main thing is to find something and use it consistently. For payments, I use Quicken (it’s what was available for my Mac). I can sync up with my bank, and I can create expense and invoice accounts so everything is up-to-date. You might think of using the client spreadsheet in conjunction with a calendar, so you can put reminders to follow up with them for more work.
@ Carrar: Here’s a strategy I’ve heard of that seems to work – Contact the former client and make them an offer. Remind them exactly what project(s) you worked on for them in the past and tell them that for a limited time you are offering a special price for your premium clients on their next order. That may be enough of a hook to get someone to contact you. (You could offer a percentage off, a reduced flat rate, or make up a coupon to go with your e-mail which would entitle them to your special offer.)
Hope that helps! 🙂
Follow a regular policy of contacting clients every 90 days or so.
Candidate #11 says
@Jodee – great idea! You could also offer a discount on their next project if they refer other clients.
@Phil – agreed. You don’t want to bug them too much, but you do want to keep in front of them.
I’ve also seen suggestions that if you see something that the client would be interested in, say an interesting article that pertains to their industry, send it along with a note saying you thought they might be interested in it. That’s it, you’re just trying to helpful. But it – again – gets your name in front of them and gives them something of value.
This is a good list, #11! I started keeping a far more detailed list/chart of my payments recently, and I LOVE it because it makes me feel so great to be all organized and track my payments as I receive them. Every time I get a new payment and put it in my system, I feel like a cackling witch who rubs her long, knobbly fingers together with joy. (I’m a little tired today, so please forgive the crazy simile.)
Hi #11, your list makes me feel like I’m right on track. Maybe I’m more organized that I thought. Well except for having a business checking account. But that’s on my to do list.
Good post. #10 can be an easy marketing technique for writers who feel a little squeamish about getting out their and marketing themselves. What Jodee said is a great way to get them thinking about you and their next project. When it comes to certain materials i.e. brochures companies just print of a billion and use them for the next 10 years. But if you nudge them they may realize that information they currently have is outdated, has changed or think of another opportunity where they could use your services.
Candidate #11 says
@ #4 – Thanks. It’s nice to know how much money you can expect and what has come in. It can be a great form of encouragement to keep going, too, when you realize how close you are to your goals.
@ #7 – I waited a long time before doing the account thing. It helps so much with record keeping, though. And businesses seem to like knowing they’re paying another business, even if it’s a sole proprietorship.
@ #3 – It’s much easier to solicit work from a current client than it is to chase new ones. (But we really should be doing both.) And don’t forget that a lot of companies take that exact brochure and reproduce it word-for-word on their web site. If you can educate them on web-friendly writing, you may get to rewrite their web copy.
Thanks, everyone, for the comments so far. Keep them coming!