Tips for keeping track of your freelance cash

21st January 2009 by Denise

Here at MOO, we’re seeing more and more people heading out into the freelance or small business world. As a few of the MOO team have been freelancers at different times in our careers, we can’t help but discuss how some things have changed for the better – and other things never seem to get any easier.

One question that’s always tricky to figure out is how much you should charge for your work. Too much, and you’ll never get the clients. Too little, and not only will you be out of pocket, but you’ll start feeling like your work is under valued (and if that’s the situation, you’ll wonder why you ever quit the rat-race in the first place).

Luckily, one of the things that has changed over the years, is access to advice from other people in your situation. There are hundreds of great communities online, places you can ask for advice, and get a measure of your market. From the more obvious sites, like Enterprise Nation, and Freelancefolder, to the less obvious mini-communities on places like Flickr, it’s easier than ever make contact with people in your industry.

Freelance Switch, another community with resources for freelancers, actually has an hourly-rate calculator. Even just looking at it brings into sharp focus all the details you should be taking into account. If you haven’t made the freelance leap yet, it’s very well worth a look.

Once you’ve decided how much to charge, you need to figure out the basics of invoicing. While you can get an accountant to do the more heavy-duty end of year taxes, you’ll need to be able to figure out who owes you money and whether or not you’ve invoiced them yet.

These days there are lots of very good, simple, online applications available to help you do this. Some of our MOO designers use applications like Freshbooks – with invoicing and expense tracking, follow-up responses, and tools for gently ‘reminding’ clients when they haven’t paid.

Freshbooks also provides time tracking and client/team management on top of the money chasing. Time tracking, if you’re new to working on your own, can be an essential tool. It’s very easy to underestimate the amount of time a job will take, so carefully tracking a few different kinds of jobs – right at the beginning – can save you time, and unpaid hours as you progress. (This is also relevant for the crafters out there – just because you enjoy it, doesn’t mean it took no time to make – don’t undersell yourselves!)

So, what about you? Have you got any freelance or small business communities you frequent? Or are you using any great online tools to help you keep track of your money – or your workflow?

If you’d like to try out Freshbooks, then take this code with you – MOOMONEY. Just enter it in the discount code box, and you’ll get a $20 discount on the service you choose. Let us know how you get on.

And finally… a post with no pictures? That would never do. If you’re an artist looking to promote yourself, take a leaf out of fellow-artist Lili Chin’s book. Your work itself is your best selling point, so highlight it, share it and hand it out whenever you can.

Lili made Postcards and MiniCards, of her work, using MOO’s ‘Printfinity’ technology. (It means ‘lots of images in one pack’!) It’s a real talking point – a proper little pocket portfolio…

Lili’s Postcards

Lili’s MiniCards

Comments (11)

  1. Sir Bourgeau:

    Moo is great for everything, especially business whether your the lil’ guy or the big guy in business you wont go wrong with moo’s tips & services. Thanks moo!

  2. Denise:

    @Sir – that was such a perfect comment, I feel the need to let people know I didn’t write it myself :)

  3. Kevin:

    Hey guys, this is kind of out of your style, but I LOVE it! I really liked the note about the communities. I am a frequent visitor to freelanceswitch, its a great blog to keep on track for new freelancers, and as a student freelancer, it can be super helpful. Also, a note on invoicing and such, if you are on a Mac, check out Billings and Daylite, those are the applications I use. Plus, daylite has an iPhone version. Yay!

    Thanks again for a great article!

    Kevin

  4. Denise:

    Hey Kevin – you’re right, it is a bit out of character :)
    Printing so many cards, we’ve spotted a lot of freelancers out there, and as some of us are ex-freelancers or contractors ourselves, it seemed sensible to share our experiences a bit. I think online communities are massive help actually. I worked from home, and saw so few people each day, online communities became my office gossip, the place were I shared work frustrations – and work successes.

    Thanks for your feedback – if you have any thoughts about things you’d like us to blog about, do let us know.

  5. hannah:

    I too freelance from home and love the online community – thanks for sharing Denise. My MOO mini cards are great conversation pieces and memorable tools for network events. I use Action Method http://www.actionmethod.com/ for harnessing great ideas into projects and MyCake http://www.mycake.org/ for managing finances – its great at showing me where the pennies are coming from and going, right from the start when quoting for work.

    keep up the great ideas for MOO products.

  6. Denise:

    Hi Hannah – Action Method looks great actually (very GTD). I’ve used Basecamp for similar things, but I like the look of that – feels easy for small next steps, which are sometimes what you need when projects feel too big to even start.

    I’ve not seen ‘my cake’ before either – what’s not to love about an app with a name like that :) I’ll have a little dig around that too. Thank you for commenting.

  7. rob carter:

    You could also try xero.com – great for the starter-upper. Has blackberry and iphone formats to help you do your expenses on the tube on the way back from lunch. Am not on the payroll, just an evangelist!

  8. Jessica Routier, IAC-EZ:

    You have some great resources here! Another great application for small businesses/freelancers is IAC-EZ. The online accounting application provides a fast to learn, easy-to-use system that also integrates with freshbooks!

  9. david wilson:

    Sage have just released a FREE invoicing and job tracking package called (strangely enough) sage invoicing. might be worth a look.

  10. Chisa:

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve been keeping track of my jobs on bits of paper and excel spreadsheets, so Freshbooks is a much more organised change. Hope to see more tips and things like this :)

  11. Pia K:

    Oh sounds like a lot of neat advices and tips here, thanks!

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