When you first start out on a freelance career, everything seems easy to track.
You have calculated exactly how much you need to work weekly to stay in the black. You’re ready to get to work, and you know for whom you’d like to work—both dream jobs and the getting-your-feet-wet jobs. You have your goals in place.
A few months (or even weeks) down the road, though, you may be surprised how quickly it all seems to spin out of control.
You’re juggling several projects at once and are in demand. This is of course a great thing! But as the work piles up, often what is first to go is your ability to track the “metadata” of each job. And this data is exactly what you need to grow your career and become more confident as a professional.
We’re here to help! Below we’ve outlined three spreadsheets to track exactly what you need to know about each job. Yes, if you have a very organized mind you can combine them into one spreadsheet. But we’ve found success by keeping them apart for the sake of clarity.
The Content Spreadsheet
Think of the content spreadsheet as a zoomed-in resume of everything you’ve completed. Let’s say you’re a freelance writer who wants to create content for a variety of businesses and publications about health and science. Your spreadsheet would include columns for the project start and end date, the publication/business/employer, your point of contact’s name and email address, number of words commissioned, and a link to the final product. If you’re a videographer, you might include equipment used or sources contacted. If you’re a graphic designer, you might also name the design style so you can create a type of buyer persona.
The bottom line is you should be able to refer to every completed project, rather than have fuzzy recollections. While you should create original work for every job, you can rely on the content spreadsheet to remind you of good sources to question or a particular color scheme that worked well in the past.
The Productivity Spreadsheet
As a freelancer, it’s tough to deal with the distractions of working outside of an office. If you have a private section of space you can turn into a study, where you aren’t tempted to check social media or your favorite blog, and life generally waits for you to finish working, then congrats! But sometimes even then you might not work most productively at home. Maybe you prefer the background noise of a local cafe, or maybe you like the smell of the library.
You can use this productivity data to find your optimal work location. Set up a spreadsheet and label columns for the date, location, time of day, and something to demonstrate how much work you completed. For a writer, this is the number of words written. For a videographer, it’s the minutes of video edited. After a number of weeks you’ll be able to see where and when you work best. The results may surprise you!
The Money Spreadsheet
This spreadsheet does as much for building your confidence as it does for making sense of your bank balances and holding true to your KPIs. Set up columns to track the amount you originally asked for and the amount you finally agreed to for each job, along with the date you were paid. In the freelancing world, everything is a negotiation, so this spreadsheet can show how much your services are being sought.
But beyond that, it gives you a real idea of what you can expect to make as you grow as a freelancer. Every field is different, so if it looks like writing about a particular subject doesn’t help you achieve your goals, for example, you may want to consider branching into another. It also helps you to know who you might like to work for again—especially when it comes to receiving a full and punctual paycheck. But most of all, you’ll have the courage to ask for more!
Set Yourself Up for Success
As you begin freelancing during your college years, partner with a site that can provide you with all of this information from day one. You’ll soon see how much you come to depend on your ability to review who you worked for, potential references, and what projects you can be proud to cite as your own. Get started by signing up with HireOwl and watch the jobs roll in!
About the Author: John Lidington founded HireOwl, the leading student freelance work platform, to address the skills gap with our nation’s graduates. HireOwl tackles this problem both by providing students with experiential learning opportunities and by reducing the inefficiencies companies face in hiring students. Follow John on Twitter!