When working as a freelancer, it can feel like your livelihood depends on calendar updates, to-do lists and diary entries. With so many clients to juggle and projects to finish, staying on top of everything in your life can be a huge task — one that many of us still haven’t quite got the hang of yet.
Without the support of a universal office calendar or a friendly colleague to get you up to speed, the responsibility of staying organised as a self-employed worker truly lies on your shoulders. From remembering to fill in your tax return to planning your next three months of content, managing and maintaining your schedule can be a full-time job in itself, and if a VA is out of your expense range, then it’s more important than ever to find a system that works for you.
In this week’s blog post, I want to share some of the best organisational tips I use for managing my work as a freelancer and recommend some of the programmes and software I love for helping me to plan out my life.
Organising my Finances
When it comes to organising my finances, I used to believe that fancy apps and indie start-up credit cards were the way to go, but over the past 6 months, I’ve worked to simplify my process. A lot of the time, the financial elements of my business can be boiled down to a couple of spreadsheets and a quick look through my bank statements when the end of the financial year rolls around.
Every month, I update my Invoice Tracker spreadsheet, filling in which clients paid their invoices when they paid them and how much. I also monitor any late fees and additional costs per client. Then I’ll update my Expense Tracker spreadsheet, adding in the data for any purchases that can be expensed, such as technical equipment, software licensing or office items.
Each different client is colour-coordinated, making it easy for me to find their information and I always save a digital copy of the original invoice sent to them in my files for later use. I keep a copy of all of my important files on both my computer and Google Drive so I can access them from wherever I’m working.
I also organised a great pricing menu for me to use when I’m approached by a potential client for the first time. This allows me to take on their requests and form a quote quickly and easily, without having to work out day rates and hourly rates in my head. Every service I offer has its own hourly estimate and price point and all I have to do is select the appropriate services and the total monthly cost is calculated.
If you’re trying to keep your finances organised, I highly recommend setting something like this up as it saves you from accidentally over or undercharging your potential clients in future.
Organising my Digital Files
When it comes to organising my digital files, as previously mentioned, I always create backups on Google Drive of everything I create. In both locations, each client has a designated, colour-coordinated folder, inside which is their initial contract, their brief to me, any social or branding assets, all of their invoices and receipts, any NDAs or agreements and any written documents i.e. articles/blogs that I’ve created for them. Once a client is no longer working with me, I update and include a termination form into their folder with their reason for leaving, and move the folder into a ‘Past Clients’ parent file.
I also use the same filing system when it comes to my personal folders and documents too. From my family photos to my house-hunting files, everything has a place and is efficiently sorted into relevant folders. I always like to know where my files are, whether I’m working on my tablet, my desktop computer, my phone or my laptop.
Even my Google Photos are all sorted and organised. New albums are set up for specific days and holidays, album covers are edited and assigned and I always invite others to share their photos from the day as well. Recently I went through the incredibly stressful and laborious task of downloading and dating all of my old Facebook photos, in case anything else happened to my account, so I would have a copy of them to look back on later. It might have seemed like a chore, but I’m happy knowing I have all of my school photos safe and accessible today.
Organising my Calendar
Unsurprisingly, I’m a big fan of calendars and diaries. Being able to start a new calendar at the start of the year is one of my biggest guilty pleasures and I love physically writing out my year ahead. I currently have three calendars — two physical and one digital — that I use to help me organise my schedule.
My physical calendar is great for popping in things such as my appointments, holidays, trips and personal reminders and it sits by my desk so I can easily glance over at it to check my availability. My diary typically holds more of my client and work-based information, including my deadlines, project start dates and meetings. Finally, my digital calendars hold absolutely everything — from my professional appointments to reminders to meditate and water the plants. I’m always on my phone, so being able to receive digital updates half an hour before they’re due is really useful for getting the job done.
Organising my Content
As a marketer, I spend the majority of my week looking at various content schedules and social media planners. Using platforms such as Trello, Later and Buffer, I typically set up seven days worth of content one week ahead for my clients, unless I’m planning a holiday, and I’ll set up reminders for myself to post anything manually i.e. Reels or Tiktoks through my digital calendar.
I typically create my own backlog of content on Monday afternoons, after organising my schedule for the week, allowing myself enough time to build up enough posts to keep my socials ticking over while I work for my clients. With my blog posts, I aim to get at least one written every two weeks, and these can require a little more planning in my own personal writing Trello board.
Every personal project I undertake will also form its own Trello board too. For example, I’m currently looking to move house in the next couple of months, so I have a Moving House board set up with to-do lists about packing, changing addresses, hiring moving vans and spaces to clean before we go. Everything from Christmas lists to my new website build will get its own Trello board, with a personalised background and colour-coded labels!
Organising my Wellness
Finally, it is vital for me to organise my wellness. I am a naturally anxious person and having recently discussed my own rather pitiful excuse for self-care with my therapist, I’ve had to implement some key blocks of time for looking after my mental health.
My calendar is a great place for me to seek out the time for relaxation breaks, socialising, reading and exercise, and I place these blocks of time just as highly as I do client meetings and project deadlines. An hour of swimming on a Monday afternoon can do me the world of good, and when I feel good, I work better.
Wellness and self-care are important factors in our lives and ones that we repeatedly forget to schedule in, alongside our dental appointments and invoice payments. I’m learning, slowly, how much my brain and my body rely on self-care to help me work to a standard my clients are happy with, and so I’m making the essential changes to organise that in the same way I’ve organised my business.
Which areas of your life could be a little more organised? Being organised doesn’t need to mean plotting out every hour of your day — sometimes it can simply mean knowing where your favourite family photo is or having a great system for hunting down invoices.
On your next quiet afternoon, why not give yourself the time to organise your spaces, both digitally and physically, and see what a difference it could make to your working life.