When I first started as a freelancer, I read tons of articles on how to stay productive and manage my time better so that I can minimise the admin work and squeeze into my daily routine more of those precious hours for which I actually get paid. The 20/80 rule, focusing on The One Thing, becoming a Minimalist… I’ve researched and applied them all at different stages of my freelance learning process. All of this experimenting with productivity and time management has taught me two important lessons: (1) that it does not always pay off to get someone else to do your dirty work for you (even though it is undeniably more enjoyable), and (2) that more expensive does not always mean better. Here are some of the things that I have stopped paying for and some tips on how I have managed to do that. But first, a quick comparison on the amount of money you could save by following my tips (based on my own research):
The first thing I got fixed on after I set up my business was getting a logo designed. I really wanted to make sure I was presenting my business in a professional way, but I had a (very!) small budget of about £50 for the logo design, so there was no way I could have hired a professional logo designer. The option of purchasing a selection of ready-made logos for $5 from platforms like Fiverr didn’t appeal to me either, so I decided to design the logo myself, even though I have absolutely zero design skills. What saved me then was finding an (almost) free logo designer tool called GraphicSprings where I used some pre-designed elements to create my own logo which GraphicSprings then removed from their database after I paid a small fee of about £30 (at that time). I could have also gone with the completely free version. The logo has been praised by many of my clients, so I think I’ve made a pretty good deal by cutting my costs here…
Business cards design was another challenge. I went through several websites with standard, cost-effective business cards, but all of the designs which I found were extremely plain, with unattractive fonts, colours and shapes. I was very close to hiring a professional graphic designer to design my cards for me when I spotted the advertisement of an online printing company called MOO. Their internal system allows you to design your own business card which you can (if you want to) base on one of their ready templates. The actual cards arrive beautifully packed and well-printed, at a very decent price compared to the competition. Since my first order with MOO I fell in love with both the cards themselves and the fact that I was able to take advantage of some of their discounts on a regular basis to print my cards at a fraction of the cost (yay!).
Okay, this will be a bit of a controversial one… I personally know plenty of people who are shy to get their hands dirty when it comes to technology. Website design does seem scary, I won’t deny it, but these days there are plenty of platforms which make it easy to create a website from scratch. This blog, for example, was created from scratch by using a platform called Weebly. I did absolutely zero coding when setting everything up. I didn’t need to download anything, install anything or learn any new skills. I just selected the template I liked, inserted the text, sourced some nice images from Shutterstock and the website was up and running in about 2 hours. While you might have to choose to pay an annual subscription fee of about £80 to get access to some of the more complicated elements (e.g. online payments other than through PayPal), you can also choose to remain with the most basic level of subscription which is free of charge. Oh, and the only thing which you will need to get as an extra (especially if you will go with the free version of Weebly) is a domain (i.e. the name of the website which ends with .com, .co.uk, .net etc. rather than .weebly.com). You can either let Weebly deal with that for you (it’s included in their paid subscription) or you can buy the domain on your own from places like GoDaddy. The integration of the domain with Weebly is pretty straightforward too, but if you will really be struggling with it why not ask a friendly website developer for a half an hour consultation?
Related article: How to select the right platform for your website
Yup… even that! I have never had any particular fear of numbers, but I am not a math mastermind either, so the beginning of my journey with bookkeeping was rather rocky. When I first set up my business I was given a quote of £100 per month for accounting fees which was based on pretty small estimated earnings which I had at that time. I was already producing about 10 invoices per month myself and I had between 5 and 10 different monthly expenses, so it was just a matter of knowing what spreadsheets to start and in which column to write down the incomings and outgoings. I knew that if I learned how to do the bookkeeping myself I could easily do it in one hour per month (which is how long it takes me currently). It just seemed like a waste of my hard-earned money to be paying someone else to do it, so I started learning about book-keeping from a combination of different sources, including books like Bookkeeping & Accounting for Dummies, UK Edition (yes… really) and some courses on Udemy which helped me to grasp the basics. I have then followed up with individual guides from the support pages of the accounting software to clarify on the things I was still unsure of. It did take me about 30 hours if you put it all together to learn bookkeeping to the extent that I was able to do my own accounts, but one thing that definitely speeded up the process was using an accounting software. Although it’s not something you might need if you are self-employed (a spreadsheet will be just fine), if your business – like mine – is a company, you will struggle without using a specialist software. So, I would highly recommend you try out software like Xero which all cost below £30 per month in their basic subscription and should be just fine if you are starting out in business.
Finally, efficient diary management is something which – quite honestly – I am still struggling to figure out completely. Since starting as a freelancer I’ve tried pretty much everything, including scheduling the appointments myself, hiring a UK-based personal assistant, hiring an online assistant through Upwork etc. I’ve made a couple of (very!) costly mistakes and eventually ended up scheduling some of the appointments myself and using the free subscription of an appointment scheduler called Acuity to help clients schedule some of their appointments automatically. Although it’s not a perfect system, since I still have to do a part of the work, I’ve come up with some quick standard e-mails which I saved as canned responses in my Gmail account so that I can quickly send them to my clients when it’s time to schedule a new appointment. It seems to be working for me so far, but if I come up with a miracle way of saving even more time/money on this one, I will be sure to let you know.
Related posts: How to delegate work using workload pipelines I How to project manage yourself when working from home I 5 Amazing Productivity Tools for Solopreneurs I 5 More Amazing Productivity Tools for Solopreneurs
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