Ask FreelanceSwitch: Getting New Clients and Bookkeeping Software
In this issue of Ask FreelanceSwitch, we look at getting new clients and bookkeeping software. Ask FreelanceSwitch is a regular column here that allows us to help beginners get a grip on freelancing. If you have a question about freelancing that you want answered, send an email to email@example.com.
I currently don’t have any kind of financial safety net, and freelancing is currently the only way I can earn a decent income while staying flexible with my time, schedule and commitments.
The one thing that I feel concerned about setting myself up in business as a freelance front end developer is not knowing how to ensure a supply of good quality, reliable, paying clients right from the start.
There’s inherently a little more risk in freelancing than in working for an employer: you’re guaranteed to get a regular stream of work from an employer, but there’s no way to absolutely guarantee that you’re always going to have clients coming to you as a freelancer.
But there are quite a few different ways that you can bring in clients, which can let you build up a full-time income if you’re going to devote some time to it. Unfortunately, it’s rare that someone can go from zero to sixty — or have enough work to cover freelancing full-time the first day he starts out. Anyone who tells you that is going to try to sell you something immediately afterwards, like prime beachfront property in Kansas.
You are going to have to work at getting clients. You’re going to need to identify who your ideal client is, network with people who fit that description, get your name in front of them, build marketing materials just for them and so on. If you devote the time to doing so, you’re going to have regular work coming in.
If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can always head over to the various bid sites and accept a lower price for your work — if you put in a dozen bids a day, you’ll probably land at least one of them. That’s not my preferred approach and I wouldn’t consider the clients you’ll land through such sites to be the highest quality. But it is an option.
What kind of software for accounting does FreelanceSwitch or its users recommend? I’d like to keep records of clients, past projects, create invoices quickly, track profits and expenses and then make it easy to do my taxes when that comes around.
Right now I’m using Excel and well – it’s not that great.
Up until the end of the last tax year, I used Quickbooks. I resisted changing over to a web app because I prefer to pay for software once, rather than pay a subscription. But Quickbooks was difficult for me to keep up to date — my bank didn’t play nicely with the automatic import feature that was supposed to pull in all my transactions.
So I recently switched to using a combination of Freshbooks and Outright (disclosure: I also write for Outright’s blog). I’m absolutely loving it: Outright can notify me about all sorts of details about my freelancing business, as well as spit out reports that lets my CPA do my taxes very quickly. Freshbooks has allowed me to pretty much automate my invoicing process. I’m easily spending a tenth of the time I was before on bookkeeping.
I would say that Outright may not be ideal for freelancers outside of the U.S. — its tax tools don’t seem particularly international. If that’s crucial for you, you may want to research what web apps have your country’s tax requirements baked in.
That’s just what I use, though. Please share what you’re using for bookkeeping in the comments — any software that’s particularly rocking your world?