We’ve previously covered topics like why freelancers should keep excellent records, and what kind of data freelancers should keep. The next question is likely how, exactly, should you record your business records? Note that this is a highly personal question. There are several options here, and you’ll likely develop a feel for what works for you and your freelance writing business best.
Low Tech Record Keeping
One of the least technical ways to keep all this data is explained in a book called "Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers.” Writers who want to concentrate on their writing and avoid learning any new systems may want to use this book, which has printed forms for copying, along with great advice.
Excel for Freelance Record Keeping
I am going to admit to still using Excel, despite all the wonderful programs available out there (keep reading). Whereas I generally like to learn new things and try out new apps, I’m just not ready to invest the time into changing yet.
I start a new Excel book for each year (and archive the old one). Each of the bullet points in this article on what kind of data to track represents a tab at the bottom of my spreadsheet. At year end, I hand it all over to my accountant.
Accounting Software for Freelancers
Writers can purchase software programs such as Quicken, Quickbooks and/or Peachtree. These programs likely have different levels of expertise required. If you’re interested in this option, be sure to read this expert guide on accounting software.
Online Systems and Apps for Accounting
I’ve noticed that the online program Freshbooks is the favorite out there in freelance-writer-land, and if I ever get breathing room to switch my systems, it’s likely the one I will try first. Check out Carol Tice’s blog post about income tracking and Freshbooks here.
Of course, you don’t have to include all of the suggestions in the section above in your accounting/bookkeeping system. For example, there are plenty of software programs and apps that help you record and track your clientele list. You can use a service like MailChimp to keep your mailing list and send out professional emails. There are query trackers and even query services (such as Writer’s Relief) specifically designed for freelance magazine writers who pitch in volume.
Once you’ve established your bookkeeping habits and learned a program or system for tracking your data, you will likely find that accounting for your writing income, time and expenses will become like second nature to you. Good luck!