31 Days of Freelancing: Paperwork Day

What I’m listening to: Everything by Michael Bublé

Happy Kwanzaa! And I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.

So, back to work already? What? You didn’t take more time for yourself? That’s okay. It’s your decision when you get time off. If you feel like being back in front of the computer today, that’s up to you.

But there might not be work. The rest of the country has decided to put things on hold for the rest of the month — hell, the rest of the year, in fact.

So how can you spend your time wisely? That’s what today is about.

December 26: Create Your Systems

Maybe you have perfectly functional systems already, like invoicing, collection, marketing, taxes….

Or maybe you’ve slapped it together and it works well enough.

Either way, today is a great day to take on putting more order into your freelance writing business.

Here are some areas you can tackle. You can do one, two, or all — that depends on what you feel like getting into:

  • Accounts Received/Paid
  • Invoicing process and collection
  • Taxes
  • Marketing
  • Errant papers littering your desk

What works for me in most of these areas is a simple-to-use folder system. And mine are actual folders on my stand next to the desk. You can use virtual folders, if you’d rather.

My folders used to be simple (or so I thought):

  • Accounts Paid (money I spent, including interest on accounts)
  • Accounts Received (money I earned)

Why this works — it separates out your finances and it’s a way to train yourself to keep better records.

But every tax season, I was ripping out my hair — did that go on line 22 or line 4 of Schedule C?

My husband solved it. He set up a folder system for me that follows Schedule C. Meals and Entertainment? That’s one folder. Business use of home? Another. Office expenses? Another.

Today is my day to make sure all of these folders are filled with the right things.

It’s also a great time to figure out if the estimated taxes paid are going to match the amount owed. A simple formula to get you close to what you need to pay (without going through all the forms):

Your 2016 income X 20 percent = approximately what you need to have set aside

Twenty percent seems to be close to my magic number. It’s a good place to land because if you owe more, you’ll not owe so much that it will drain your savings. It’s what I’ve used for the last few years and last year, we actually had a refund. First time in ages.

By all means, refer to a tax expert/website, for if I know one thing, it’s that I totally suck at accounting.

Your New Invoicing/Collection Process

You’ve always threatened to put one in motion. Today is a great day to write it down  — in checklist form. Then copy it to the file folder for every single client project going forward.

What I have in my process:

  • Invoice template: on it, I include my name/address/phone/email, the date, a Deliverables subhead, a thank-you line, and a late fee notice.
  • Late fees: I work into contracts the late fee, which is up to you, but I make mine 10 percent of what’s owed. The late fee is attached at the 31-day mark, and again at the 60-day mark.
  • Litigation notice: I send three invoices. That last one has this note included on the invoice and in the email — “Please pay within 10 days to avoid litigation.”

You can opt for a collection service if you’d really rather not mess with filing in small claims court. Know that I’ve never had to yet. The mention of it tends to spur action in even the most stubborn cases. But do follow through on whatever threat you may be forced to use.

Your New Marketing Push

Today is also a great day to start mapping out your 2017 marketing push. Refer to the previous posts on reaching your goals and persistence to create a manageable marketing approach.

Looking for new clients? Here are some places to search:

  • Associations in your specialty
  • Twitter hash tag search
  • Magazines in the specialty area
  • LinkedIn search for that industry
  • Within the industry/specialty of previous clients or current clients (just don’t break any NDA or noncompete)
  • Through referrals from happy clients
  • At networking events

Writers, what one office task do you need to get under control?

What particular administrative task do you excel at?

About the author




  • Joy Drohan December 26, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Just added a thank you line to my invoice template. Thank you, Lori!

    • lwidmer December 28, 2016 at 11:28 am

      You’re welcome! Just one small reminder to the clients that they matter. 🙂

  • Paula Hendrickson December 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I currently have one large envelop I put all business-related receipts in, but for 2017 I’ll add another so I can separate Schedule C and Business Use of Home receipts. Great idea!

    • lwidmer December 28, 2016 at 11:28 am

      Thank my husband, Paula. It was his idea to organize to the micro level. I’m more of a “dump it in a folder and sort it later” organizer. 🙂