The Freelance Diaries: Keeping Track of Jobs
Everyone out there has their strengths and weaknesses. That's why, one question that is ALWAYS on the list at a job interview is, "what is your greatest strength and weakness?". I remember when I first graduated from CCS, I had a few interviews where I needed to answer that question. Everyone always told me not to reveal a real weakness but make a strength sound like a weakness (for example, I'm too obsessed with being on time that I'm always too early for work). After a few years in the hand lettering game/modern calligraphy/illustration game, I've decided that that technique is actual crap. The people who are hiring you want to know the real you. They want to hear an honest weakness of yours but they also what to hear how you face your weaknesses. The real key to overcoming your weaknesses is not to ignore them but to pinpoint what they actually are and take real steps to change.
This brings me to the topic of today: keeping track of jobs. You see, my weakness in life is organization skills. I seriously fit the bill when you think of a flighty artist who can't keep her work space clean. The pictures you see on my Instagram? They are usually shot from a tiny area in my studio that I clear out to look pretty. Smoke and mirrors, y'all. So how does my weakness for organization make me a good candidate for being a freelancer? In theory, it makes me a really bad candidate. You need to be organized to run a business. Plain and simple. But guess what? I'm 110% aware of my downfalls and I've created systems that keep me on track. I'm proactive about changing the way that I naturally think to better myself to be a more well rounded artist. Over the past year I've hired on a small team of peeps to help me run my business smoothly, and ultimately, we've become a kick-ass power team.
So today, I'm going to share with you a baby step into gaining the correct organizational skills to run a successful freelance business. Possibly the most important: Keeping track of jobs. Here are five ways to kick-start keeping track of your jobs (cuz you know you'll be juggling more than one at a time)...
1. Create job sheets
The moment a job is secured, you should create a job sheet for it. This will include all of the specifics on the job including price agreed upon, deadlines, descriptions, and contact information. It might look something like this:
Job Number: 2015001
Date: 1 Jan 2015
John Doe | The Wall Street Journal | 9827 South Street | NY, NY | 10078 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Job Cost: $1000
Sketches Due: 5 Jan 2015
Final Due: 7 Jan 2015
Usage: Exclusive print rights for one year
Description: 8x10 full color illustration with bleed. Client wants a conceptual take on the attached article. See "mood board" for style reference. Client wants the illustration to be type heavy with a feminine feel.
2. Develop a folder system
Once you have your job sheet, you need to develop a folder system on your computer that keeps track of where you're at with all jobs. This is super helpful because each morning you can pull up your "Open" folder and go through each job and see what needs to be done or who needs to be updated. My system includes an "Open" folder with internal folders containing each job. Each internal folder representing a job contains the job sheet, and then a process folder and finals folder. You can get even more specific if you want with these if you need even more organization but I find my simple method easy to keep up with. Here's a look at what your "Open Jobs" folder might look like:
And likewise, you create a "Finished Jobs" folder containing all jobs that are done.
3. Follow up
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's really important. Every day, go into your Open folder and go through each open job and check what needs to be done. For example, if sketches are due that day, be sure to send along sketches to your client. If you sent sketches two days ago and you still haven't heard from your client, follow up to give them a nudge on their revisions. Your client is most likely super busy so sometimes it's easy for things to slip through the cracks. Your follow up will be appreciated.
4. Update job sheets
After following up with your client, you might realize that they need an additional illustration or information added to your agreed upon project. Re-negotiate a revised deadline and budget at this point and be sure to update your job sheet accordingly so you know what's going on and how to keep track of the job on your books.
5. Get paid
I'm really bad at following up with invoices and re-negotiating budgets so I have an art rep that helps me out with all that. For most of you, you'll be doing this step on your own and it's really important if you want to pay your rent and buy some groceries. When you finish a job, invoice your client the same day. This makes it easier for them because it's on their mind and likewise, easier for you because you get it out of the way. Save a copy of the invoice in the folder that corresponds with the client. If they don't pay the invoice within 30 days (or whatever you agreed upon), follow up at that time. Be sure you have any legal information filled out beforehand for taxes. When you are paid, do a courtesy follow up to say thanks again for considering you for the job and that you'd like to work with them again.
Not too bad, right? This system is really simple and a great way to get your feet wet with freelancer organizational skills. Maybe you're like me and your weakness is organization. Do you find this helpful? Maybe you're a pro at keeping track of jobs already. Do you have any additional tips or tricks that work well for you? Share in the comments below, and if you felt like this was helpful, please share with the world via social media! (Psst... use #mollyjacquesworkshop to see more skills I'm teaching!)
All my best,