One of the most important, but often least fun aspects of freelancing is handling all of the admin work that comes along with owning your own business. As a freelancer, you're not just in charge of the work that you do, but also everything that happens behind the scenes in your business like contracts, invoicing, expense tracking, and the list goes on. Here's how freelance designer Max Pete (@onehandwonderman) does it.
While this area might not be the most enjoyable to focus on, it's extremely important to get systems in place because handling your admin work will help dictate how the rest of your business is doing in terms of cash flow, clients, and more.
I recommend chunking out 10% of your workday to admin related tasks or if you work better in dedicating one full day to tasks, I know many freelancers like to just leave their Mondays or Fridays for admin only work where that is all that they focus on. It's up to you as a freelancer to find out what works best for you, but dedicating time and adding it to your schedule is definitely helpful in making sure that these tasks don’t fall through the cracks.
Having been freelancing now for 5+ years, I have tested a ton of different tools for handling my admin work. Some I still use to this day, and others I ditched along the way, but the good news is that there is no shortage of tools out there to help you with this process.
Below are my top four tools I use on a daily basis:
This is by far one of the most game-changing tools that I've used in a very long time. One of the biggest pain points to freelancing is figuring out how much you have to save each invoice payment for taxes and also just manually putting that money aside for that date. With Catch, the platform does it automatically for you. You just say how much you want to set aside, and every time you get paid, a percentage gets put away into another account (out of sight, out of mind) and you can put it back into your bank account when it is tax time.
Sending invoices is how we get paid, so finding a proper tool for this is a must-have. That is where Wave comes in. Not only is it super easy to set up invoices to send to your clients, but unlike a lot of other platforms, it's free to do so. They also have automated reminders that you can set up to send to your clients if the invoice is approaching the due date. It makes getting paid easier, which in turn, makes freelancing easier.
There's definitely no shortage of project management software out there, and it seems like each new week a new platform is being built. However, after testing a bunch, I have found that Basecamp is by far the most intuitive to use not just internally facing, but also for clients to use as well. The downside is that it is a big pricey, but in my opinion it is worth it for handling project management. Also, it's an expense that you can write-off for tax time so that helps too!
Speaking of write-offs, one of the best parts but also most complicated is knowing what you can and can’t write off as an expense for your work. Lunafi helps a lot with this because you can categorize what your expenses are and when it comes to tax time, you can know exactly what you spent where so it's easy to either pass on to your accountant or do it yourself.
Tthere are a ton of tools out there for you to use to help your freelance business. The key here is to find out what works for you and implement it. There isn’t a right or wrong system, but you just have to get one started for your business and then use it so that you have your admin work fully being utilized.
What works best for me is implementing one tool at a time. If I know that I need to get a better handle on my invoicing/accounting, then I will focus on that one tool to make sure that I find something that works for my business and that I feel comfortable using it. Once that has happened, then I will move on to the next area. Oftentimes, we get so overwhelmed with everything that we need to do in our business that we just don’t know where to start. This is why it helps to focus on one area to improve and then moving on once that's done.
Also, in the beginning, you're most likely going to have to handle all of these tasks on your own. It's a good thing because it allows us to at least learn how to manage our admin work, and also it gives us more insight into how our own business is running.
However, as you get further and deeper into your freelance career, it might make sense to hire someone to handle these tasks for you. There is definitely a cost for this, and it varies a lot depending on if you want to hire someone in your area versus outsourcing to somewhere else, but it can save a lot of your own time to focus more on your business that you actually like doing.
For me, I like managing my admin work and don’t want to pass it off to someone else. But I have other freelancer friends who immediately hired someone as soon as they could afford it.
It just comes down to your preference and what you like to focus on.
Handling your admin work is not the most glorious side of freelancing and it isn’t something a lot of people think about when you want to get into this field, but it's super important to get a grip on.
With all of these tools to help freelancers on their journey, the good news is that there most likely is something out there for you to start using. Plus, the earlier that you get more dialled in on your admin tasks, the easier it will be down the road and the more clarity you will have in how your business is running.
Max Pete is a freelance Squarespace designer and advertising specialist. He has been freelancing for over 5 years and works with small businesses, consultants, and e-commerce brands. Currently, Max is starting a new venture into business coaching for freelancers/solopreneurs and is offering free 30-minute consultations.
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