‘Be more organized’ is one of the top New Year’s Resolutions every single year. It’s right up there with lose weight and make more money. For freelancers, getting and staying organized can be the hardest thing about running your own business. When there’s only you to handle every aspect of your business, things can (literally) get messy quickly. Luckily, there’s an easy way to stay on top of things without too much hassle.
Now, everyone is prone to different systems of organization. Some of us are color-coordinated filing cabinet people, some of us are piles of papers on the floor kind of people. You’ll have to tweek my steps to fit your own system. Here I tackle three of the biggest organizational issues that freelancers face: financial organization, time organization, and email organization.
1- Separate Things. If you make more than $400 freelancing you’ll be taxed by the government. In order to keep track of your business income and thus your business taxes, you should have a separate bank account for all your freelancing income.
By keeping your personal and business finances separate, you’ll make tax season much easier for yourself. Freelancers live and die by their taxable deductions. Having a bank account dedicated to your business income and expenses will make it easier to track your eligible deductions. It will also keep you on track for how much you should be paying each quarter in quarterly taxes.
2- Automation Is Your Friend. When you’re running a one-person show you’ll find that your to-do list never ends. There’s always something that needs your attention, but you won’t always have the time to devote to it. That’s what makes automation your friend.
You can schedule your social media posts through tools like Edgar or Hootsuite. You can set up invoices and automatic reminders through software like Freshbooks or Zoho. You can set reminders for meetings on your Google calendar. Anything you can do to take some responsibility off your shoulders and give it to the robots, you should do. Worry less and do more with automation.
3- Control Your Email. Email is a necessary evil for the freelancer. You’re tied to it and you have to check it frequently to stay on top of pitches, edits, and client responses. Without an email system though, you can easily spend valuable hours stuck in your inbox.
Set four times to check your email a day. If you work eight hour days, that means that no email will go unresponded to for more than two hours maximum. If you’re working longer days, you can add in email checks to make sure you’re within that two hour response window.
While lightning fast response times are becoming more and more normal, constantly checking your email is a huge distraction. In order to be more organized and productive, you need to limit your email time. If you and your clients know that you’re on email at 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm, they’ll know when to reach you and when to expect a response.
You’ll gain the ability to work more productively in the time away from the inbox, and then, be more focused when you do pop into it. No more sending emails with have thought out responses and typos. When you give yourself dedicated email space you’ll focus on it more concretely than when you try and multi-task it throughout the entire day.
Have some tips of your own? Let us know in the comments section below some of your best suggestions for getting organized in a new year.
Kara Perez is a freelance writer and founder of bravely, a company that connects women and money. She lives in Austin, Texas and is passionate about financial literacy and peanut butter. Find her on twitter @bravelygo or Instagram @webravelygo.