26 April 2012

How do you - Freelance?

I'm glomming onto Steve's excellent How do you use? series to ask the freelancers in our Philofaxy community, how do you use your Filofax to keep track of it all?

I'm on the verge of having multiple freelance opportunities (hooray for me!) and I want to be organized about it all right from the beginning.

I'm thinking of using my A5 Filofax this way: A tabbed section for each client with content ideas, notes and records of conversations; a month on two pages calendar to track blog posts and other deliverables (color coded for each client), and maybe a day per page diary to keep a record of what work I do each day, record billable hours, phone calls and other communications, etc. again color coded for each client.

But is this the best way to go about it? Do you freelancers out there do things a different way?

And I still haven't figured out how best to track billable hours, deliverables and especially invoices and payments separately for each client, to make sure I'm meeting my quotas and getting paid on time.

I would love any suggestions!


  1. I've been thinking about the same thing; I'm just about to graduate and embark on a career as a freelance illustrator (hopefully).
    What kind of work do you do?
    I'm considering a spread sheet for tracking payments, which I will print off for my filofax. You may need to track different things from me, but my columns will be:
    Date, invoice number, client ref. number (if they supplied one) client name, gross fee, sales tax/VAT, net, date paid.
    Don't know if this helps, I'm really interested to see how other people manage this stuff too!

  2. I think a section for each client is a good idea, plus a calendar to track deliverables.

    To record each clients work I would prefer to do that in the tabbed section for each client, perhaps undated day per page dairies so that you can record date and other items per client. All data for each client would then be in one section. If you record all data in one day per page for all clients then at some stage you will have to collate all that info per client.

  3. First of all: congrats Laurie on this opportunity! That's great!
    Then: For tracking billable hours you absolutely need Rays new tracking sheets. They are extremely easy to use and you can track several clients/activities etc. on the same sheet. I love this!

    As for tracking payments: I mark in my calendar when a payment is due. If it hasn't been paid, I mark that I mailed or sent a reminder and when the new due date is.

    The pay date itself is recorded on my pc (in excel).

  4. OK - I have a different take on this. I've been freelancing for around 17 years now, although I will admit I am not the worlds most organised person. Some of the ideas here are good and I might adopt some - but I'll list my preferences.

    First off, I don't have a section for each client or anything like that - I keep all my client files in a seperate folder - these are filed in a filing cabinet and are all A4/foolscape size. I just lift the folder out when I want to work on it or when I have a meeting with that client. The reason for this is that clients come and go - I never need all my info on the go and you will end up archiving some of the clients or their info anyway. The other thing is that I often end up with things my clients have sent to me, or sample of brochures I have designed and created for them and these are usually A4. All these are kept in the main client folder.

    I invoice using an excel template and mark on my calendar when each payment is due and I can check if it has been paid. I use my accounting system (such as it is) to keep all the info - with sections for bank account, business card, VAT, invoices, receipts. I record all the receipts and my payments onto an excel spreadsheet in a format agreed with my accountant.

    I'm a bit hit and miss with recording my timekeeping which is why I designed the tracking sheets (I found I was undercharging as I started estimating and erring on the side of safety) that Ray kindly took and made look very pretty, and converted into different size formats. You can use one side a day and record several customers (or if required a different task for a customer) and mark off the time in 15 minute segments.

    I use the Filofax Time Management weekly and daily sheets for more detailed planning. Odd things that crop up that have to be done that day can be recorded on these as well.

    I use Filofax month to view for overall planning (I also conduct training courses for direct clients and agencies) so I can see the pattern over the month and if someone asks for a date I can try and spread my days out a bit. Also depending on venues some fit together better than others.

    I plan to get more organised with my blogging on what will be my two websites (when they are completed) so I will use a month to view to plan this out - I will most probably print out one from Philofaxy for this. (The new diary's only came to Philofaxy after I had bought my current set, so I'll have to decide which to use next year).

    The one area where I struggle is todo lists and project lists. The reason is that I want to see my todos/projects together and by customer (or business area for my own projects) which is a challenge and I haven't quite got around that yet. If anyone can come up with a good way to do this please post!

    Sorry this is so long and I have probably forgotten some stuff I do - will post again if something springs to mind. I'm hoping that I'll learn some neater ways to handle all this - just because I've been doing it for so long - it doesn't mean I have got it right - it's so easy to fall into doing things one way and not looking up to see better ways of doing it. Also when you work on your own you don't always get chance to share ideas with others - which is why Philofaxy is so brilliant!

  5. I’d keep the notes of conversations in the client file, since you’ll no doubt have a professional/legal duty of care such will likely have to be done anyway, but that doesn’t stop you initially recording notes of A5 paper and afterwards putting them into an A4 client file.

    What I believe is essential to resolve from the start, is to set a clear diving line between the purpose of the fax and the record being the client file.

    For each client, in the fax I’d certainly be happy to keep a copy of the principal details/parameters specific to each client (inc contact details); a simple journal/timesheet of events for each client; a planning/to do sheet for each client. I’d certainly want to be able to generally advise a client by a quick check of the contents of the fax alone, preferably by just looking at a few key facts, and certainly have avoided wasting time through just duplicating the contents of the actual A4 client file.

    Colour coding is great, but can sometimes be a pain when under artificial light, or if a particular shade of colour runs out and you’re not near a stockist that is open. If you have a lot of clients and a unique colour for each client then you’re likely to end up making compromises that undermine any colour coded system.

  6. If I'm going to a meeting, I take my A4 zipped Lyndhurst. I'm probably going to be given some stuff in A4 size, and the Lyndhurst keeps everything safe. But if I'm travelling light it's easy to fold A4 paper in half and slip it into the full width pocket of my pocket sized Kensington (it just sticks out an inch or so).

    1. Hi, this blog is really instructive. I would like to know more about this.

      A4 Zipped Binders & Folders

  7. The only suggestion I can make for tracking billable hours is to use a time sheet system of sorts, including columns for start & end times, activity and time spent, including the total number of hours on the bottom.

    I've used this method once before, in an un-filofax related situation, and it worked considerably well. I finally realised how much time I spent on things I didn't think took too long to do, like research and planning.