Are you a systems gal (or guy)?
Even if you’re not, but you’re trying to grow your freelance writing business, this post is for you!
Systems exist to make your work easier. By having the right systems in place, you’re less likely to drop the ball and more likely to stay focused and on task.
I set out with the goal of leaving work behind when I launched my freelance blogging business in May of 2014. As the sole income earner for our family of four, I knew I needed to be successful with my side hustle if I ever hoped to take it full-time.
I’m happy to say that’s been the case. I’ve now quit my day job and I’m free – free to bust my butt and hustle to earn a living in order to feed the one big and two small mouths I have at home.
Here are the 3 most effective systems I’ve created and implemented to help me go from a brand new freelancer to one who earns more than $4,000 per month inside of six months.
1: Profit and loss statement
One of the best things that I did right away was to start tracking my income and expenses. I knew that as a self-employed person, I’d need accurate records come tax time, but I also wanted to know at a glance how healthy my business was at any given time.
So I started a Google spreadsheet with multiple pages. The front page is a rolling total of my business to date. Here’s what it actually looks like:
Then I have a projected income tab. This has been really helpful as I keep track of projects and the fee associated with each. I have a column for invoices I’ve sent, but haven’t collected on, so I can see my account receivables easily. Then I have a separate space for work that hasn’t been completed (or invoiced) for this month, as well as a forecast for next month.
This one page has been hugely helpful for me to know what my income projections are. If things are light, then I know I’ve got to hustle to get more projects in the pipeline!
The spreadsheet also includes a tab for each month. I track all income received, subtract any of the processing fees and keep track of expenses. I’ve got formulas already plugged in, so I know a rolling total of expenses and gross or net income at any given time.
This system lets me know at a glance where I’m at for the month. My profit and loss statement is also a huge source of motivation for me to try to beat my numbers each month. I’m realistic this won’t always be the case, but so far, so good!
2: Current posts list
My current posts list is a super simple Google document. I’ve got a list of work that needs to be completed before month end, a content calendar for my blog, and a list of work for the next month.
I have clients that contract me monthly, weekly, biweekly, etc. It can be hard to keep track of all of the various deadlines. My goal is to always be on time, but ideally early, in delivering my work. I want to build a reputation for not only writing great content, but also being reliable and super easy to work with.
By knowing when projects are due and finishing my work prior to the deadlines, I can leave a positive impression on both existing and new clients. Part of my job is to take their content needs off their hands and their minds!
This system isn’t overly complicated, but it is effective. When I get started working on any given day, I already have my priority list mapped out. As work gets completed, I just delete it from the list and move on to the next item. This also keeps me abreast of any invoices I need to send as work gets completed.
3: Publication checklist
Systems are great for many aspects of your freelance blogging business. I also have a system for social media promotion. What good is your work if no one knows it exists to read it, after all?
Here’s my checklist for social media promotion after publication:
- Pin it to Pinterest
- Post on Facebook (which then tweets)
- Post it to Google+
- If it’s a new website, add it to my Google+ about page and my website
- Add it to my newsletter template
Having this checklist is really helpful, so I don’t forget a step. Pinterest has been a great avenue for housing a second writing portfolio. I’ve got my suspicions about the actual effectiveness of my Facebook fan page, but I still continue to post there, as it’s a great way for my “natural market” (i.e. friends and family) to see my work.
I have my Facebook fan page linked to my Twitter account, so whenever I post on FB, it automatically tweets out content. I know many people aren’t a fan of this (each social media platform has its own unique style of interaction), but it works for me in the meantime. I’ll probably separate them in 2015, when I have more time to work each social media platform individually.
I have an (unproven) suspicion that Google+ will be much more effective over time than Facebook. The world seems to revolve around Google and its algorithms, so I figure that posting content and being active on this platform just makes sense. Plus, you can add a list of sites you’ve contributed to on your Google+ About page, which could be impressive to potential employers.
I update my website’s Hire Me page every so often, to make sure that my best clips are advertised. I also share my contributions on my monthly newsletter, but without being too self-promotional.
The short version
Systems are great. They can really make your job easier and ensure you don’t drop the ball when it comes to deadlines and client work.
Figure out which systems work best in your business by using a bit of trial and error. Don’t try to make too many changes at any given time, but review your business periodically to see what working and what’s not. Address what’s not — with a new system, perhaps?
If you’re not tracking your income and expenses, start doing this ASAP! How else do you know how much money you have coming in? Or how much you have going out? You don’t have to use a profit and loss statement like I do, but you do need to use something!
Consider creating your own current posts list and social media promotion checklist. Over time, both of these things become second nature, but having a checklist or document help you create efficient new habits. It’s also a great way to check in on yourself from time to time in case you forget something.
Do you use any of the above systems, or see one you’re going to use in your freelance blogging business? Tell us about it!