The only entrepreneurs/freelancers I know whose businesses haven't succeeded are the ones who aren't organized.
I don't want you to fail. I want you to succeed! I want your business to wipe out the competition! Even if that competition is us. (OK, maybe not us, but you get my drift.)
So, the first step to doing that is to get organized! You're not just a creative, you're a project manager. We use a number a program's that help us keep super organized and ready for business.
1. Google Calendar: I've only been using Google calendar for about a month now but I'm totally hooked! It's a life saver. You can create multiple calendars, which is handy if you want to create calendars for different clients. You can also share your calendars with others. I haven't tried this yet, but I'm looking forward to sharing my client calendar with developers we work with and with the clients themselves, so everyone knows what stage the design is at. I colour coordinate all client calendars so no one gets confused.
2. Dropbox: We keep folders with client work in Dropbox folders, so client's can easily access their work and we don't have to email files back and forth.
3. Pancake: A while ago on Twitter, I had a chat with a few designers about streamlining my invoicing process and they recommended Pancake. I had a few complications when initially installing Pancake (apparently, if you have Wordpress, it doesn't install so well) but it's been great ever since.
4. OfficeTime: This helps you track how much time you've spent on various projects, and it also lets you record your expenses. The best thing about it is that it lets you export the results to Numbers or Excel! Some of our freelance friends think its a waste of time to track the time you spend on projects- which I can understand- but I think it's highly valuable! It helps you to determine whether you've over or under charging clients.
5. Written Notes: Even though a lot of our organizing is done online, I still love the feeling of crossing off a task once its completed. I keep a notebook that has 3 sections: Important, Super Important and Notes. Little day to day jobs go in here, especially things I need to remember to do that I know I won't remember.
6. Percentage Calculator:An amazing app that quickly calculates percentages. We use this when we need to calculate deposits for clients. It saves busting out the mathematics on a notepad!
7. Operations: We have a section of our business plan called Operations, where we've written a step by step process for every service we offer. We benefited from this tremendously, I can't recommend doing this more!! It's really handy to have your work process written out if you want to hire people in the future- they'll benefit a lot from having your process on hand.
Remember: don't over do it.
You don't need to use ten program's and hundreds of sticky notes and notebooks to keep your business organized. You'll just feel even more disorganized, and your business will be all over the place. Instead, keep your notes and tasks to a minimum. Simple, tidy notes equal happy workers! (And happy clients, too!)