Back before I started this whole freelance writing adventure I didn’t know much about running a business, especially when it came to managing a freelance writing career.
Back then, I was just a girl with dreams of escaping her 9-5 and doing something she liked – on her own terms.
That naiveté came back to bite me once I embarked on my freelance writing career. Sure, I had a knack for the written word and a passion for what I was doing, but freelance writing is so much more than that. To truly be successful in this game, you can’t just be a writer. You also have to be an entrepreneur. A businesswoman (or man). An innovator.
It didn’t take me long to realize I was none of these things – at least not inherently. Fortunately, after lots of trial and error, I was able to find some strategies that made the business side a little easier … a little more palatable.
Now, I manage my freelancing business with ease (and with the help of a few choice professionals.) Want to be in the same place? Here are the tips that helped me:
Use invoicing software
For the first few years of my freelance writing career, I had the most tedious invoicing and expense tracking system imaginable (if you can even call it a “system”). A tag-team of handwritten ledgers and awful, Excel spreadsheets, I was doing everything manually – and it was time-consuming, inefficient and just plain ugly.
I finally wised up and started using Wave. A completely free platform for invoicing and tracking expenses, Wave has – no joke – changed my life. Invoicing is fast and super professional-looking. I’m able to track who’s paid, who’s overdue and what my monthly income is. I can even track expenses and use Wave to calculate my quarterly tax payments (which we all know is the best part of being a freelancer!) There’s even a mobile app so you can track invoices on the go.
Call an accountant – at least for advice.
As contractors, we have to pay taxes quarterly (mentioned above), and this can be pretty hard. Not only does it require a lot of scrimping and saving, but it also means careful income and expense tracking, as well as having a good handle on your tax rate – and all the deductibles you’ll have come the end of the year.
Your best bet at getting this right is calling in a pro. You don’t necessarily need them to do all your taxes or pay every tax payment on your behalf, but a once-in-a-while meeting to get an idea of what income percentage you should be paying every quarter? That’s definitely helpful. Spit-balling it and guesstimating can work sometimes, or it could have you owing thousands and thousands of dollars once April rolls around. (And I’ve been there. It’s not pretty!)
Require contracts … no matter what.
It’s all too easy for employers to take advantage of those working for them – especially when those workers are located hundreds of miles away and there’s no personal or face-to-face connection with them. Don’t let yourself get taken advantage of and make sure you always, always, always get paid for your work by requiring contracts of your clients.
It sounds complicated, but you don’t even need a lawyer for this. Sites like Rocket Lawyer and Form Swift make drawing up legal documents easy and – in many cases – completely free. Just sign up, find the form you need and customize it to your liking.
I’d also recommend using a tool like Plaxo to manage all your contacts. Once you’ve been at this a while, sifting and sorting through thousands of emails to find one phone number or Skype ID is pretty time-consuming. Keeping it somewhere central and organized will help cut down on the frustration.
Want more tools and apps you can use to make your life easier? Click here to read about The Top 15 Time-Management Tools for Busy Freelance Writers.
Have other tips to add? Let me know in the comments.