I was listening to Seth Godin talk about being a successful freelancer and what he kept repeating was, ” you have to act like a professional”. Part of that means managing your money like a boss. When you go from keeping your fingers crossed that clients will pay on time, and it will be enough to pay the bills, to knowing exactly what money is coming in, from who, and what your goal is, let me tell you, it is empowering. You will make more money and gain more confidence asking for and pursuing money.
Time tracking, invoicing, and bookkeeping are the basic elements you need to get control of your money. I have tried many different programs, and I don’t think any of them are perfect, but there are some really good ones to try that cover the key components to running your business. I am sharing what I use, but try to find a few that work for you. You just have to find your money management groove.
I keep a spreadsheet in Google that runs a monthly tally of all of my clients quotes, invoices, and payments. It highlights the total amount of quotes I have sent out (prospective income), total payments made(actual income), and total outstanding invoices by self-populating the numbers. This lets me quickly access how I am doing on my budget, my goals, and who I need to invoice. I have the clients name, project, estimate, start date, finish date, and payments made. My totals add up automatically. So, yay no math!
I make a new tab and copy this sheet, and rename it for the next month. I end up with tabs for each month of the year that I can easily look through to see how I am doing. My husband manages our family budget and he can also access my sheet, which makes it easy for us to communicate about our finances. I keep a link to this document in my bookmarks bar, and I adjust my spreadsheet as soon as I send a new quote or receive a new payment. You can download a copy of my spreadsheet here.
Time Tracking and Invoicing
Right now, I use my own template in InDesign to send quotes and proposals, but you can use software to do this, and then turn your quotes into invoices. You can also use time tracking software that will turn those hours into invoices for you. Time tracking and invoices are really the two basic elements you need to make money. There are lots of options and most programs have a free trial so you can see what platform works best for you. Accounting features like tracking expenses, payroll, and income are a must as you expand and can really make your life easier: think tax time. You can read more about how I use Freshbooks and how I do my taxes here.
Some recommended programs to try ….