How to Keep Track of Freelance Clients & Projects
I've been freelancing on the side over the last few years and I will be the first to tell you that it's not easy. Marketing yourself, getting clients, negotiating prices & contracts-- challenging. But for me, the hardest part has been trying to figure out a way to stay organized & stay on top of each project.
But I've finally figured out a method that works wonders for me & instead of keeping it private, I thought I would share it with you all! Especially since a huge chunk of the emails I get these days are folks asking for business advice, etc.
ON THE COMPUTER// Every time I secure a client or a new project, I open my desktop-folder titled "CURRENT," and create a folder with the clients' name(s), then a folder inside of that with the project name. You might think this is a little intense, but I feel that proper folder systems are one of the biggest steps towards keeping on better track with each client.
In this I'll store:
+ working files
+ our contract(s)
+ copies of emails (or links to them)
+ any other files / etc. I'll need to complete the project
ON PAPER // Second, I print one of these babies out. I fill it out with as much info as I can. What's the project title? Who am I working with? What's our timeline look like? What is the project's value? (Note that the value can be something besides $$ > for instance, a photographer friend of mine & I swapped a logo for photos)
Fill this out as much as possible right at the start so you don't forget anything & you really get a grasp on the project.
I have four different colors to help me color-coordinate what kind of project I'm working on. Pink is social media / marketing; lavender is branding & identity; blue is any other graphic design projects & chartreuse is illustrated projects. Other types of projects might be content writing, web design / coding, accounting, editing, photography-based, etc. (I tried to make these client one-sheets as universal as possible so all types of freelancers could use them.)
You'll notice that there's a check box section to keep track of the super important aspects of each freelance project:
+ Have you sent the invoice(s)? & Did you get paid? << These two are arguably the most important. Because you obviously have to get paid so you can live, duh. I normally send an invoice for half up front & then half before the final files are sent over. This makes sure that months from now, I'm not still trying to get a client to pay. Because that happens, folks.
+ Drafts, Proofs & Final Files: quite self-explanatory, but it's super important to make sure you're keeping track of what stage of the project you're on. This section helps me make sure we're going to meet our deadline.
+ Follow ups! It's a super productive practice to follow up with clients after a project is complete. (This is one of those things I'm horrid at, so adding it to the one-sheet was super helpful!) After two weeks, just send a little email asking how they're liking the project and remind them that they are always welcome to call on you again for any future projects. Do the same thing around the two month mark. This is gold for 1. keeping up great relationships with your clients & 2. for bringing in repeat business. DO IT.
PROJECT OBJECTIVES & RESOURCES // At the start of the project, I have clients send me everything. The list can range quite widely for the different types of work, but for instance for Social Media clients, first I'll have them tell me exactly what they're trying to achieve with hiring me. Are they wanting a larger audience? Are they wanting to do a social rebrand of sorts? This info is super important so I can make sure that I'm providing them with the perfect service.
Then I'll have them send me their login info & anything else I'll need to complete the project.
KEEP TRACK OF YOUR TIME! In college, I had an amazing professor who told us that one of the most important things we would ever learn was about a CTA File. She pulled out this manila folder and very dramatically tossed it on the table. "Cover Thy Ass" she said. "You're going to get screwed at least once; this'll save you." And she was totally right.
And in this CTA File, she told us to keep track of every moment you spent on a project. The time it took you to email them, phone calls, research, the actual work, etc. Write it all down. Which is why I made sure this one sheet (which is a simple, cleaner way of me making a CTA file) had a few slots at the bottom to mark down the date, time & what exactly you were doing on a project. Trust me. This is so important when making sure you're getting paid appropriately & to prove anything later down the road (just in case).
Phew! That's a lot! But currently, you can snag all four colors for $4 in the shop so you can keep your own freelance projects & clients a little better organized. And if you're looking to get some design, illustration work or social media consultation, you can totally hire me! I'd love to work with you :)
I hope this helps answer some of your questions, darlings! I'd love to hear what you use in your own system and what you think of the new one sheets! And I'll be working on another behind the scenes business post for the future, so let me know if you have any other questions! xx