How to Build Your Network

How to Build Your Network

Ask any successful freelancer (or any successful human, period) and they’ll probably tell you that networking has been essential to their career growth. The connections we form both professionally and personally can open doors for us.

If you’re already shuddering at the prospect of putting yourself out there, we hear you. The idea of sending a cheery DM or suggesting a “chat over coffee” can be daunting, especially for the introverts among us. Plus, for lots of people, the term networking evokes memories of canned conversations with suited strangers at poorly attended mixers.

But before you write off the idea, hold up—we have some networking suggestions that can make the whole experience a lot more pleasant and set you up for long-term success.

Referral business has a much higher likelihood of closing.

Why network at all?

Networking generates referrals.

The more valuable connections we make, the more known we become. And being known can lead to an intro here, a referral there, and sometimes an entirely new gig. Referral business has a much higher likelihood of closing—5x times higher than any paid media. Why? People trust referrals more than all other forms of advertising and they’re willing to put their money where their people are.

You can share and learn best practices.

Learning from (and in) community is a super effective way to stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and best practices. Other freelancers are constantly testing new tech, absorbing helpful content, and learning through trial and error. And the best way to bolster your knowledge efficiently is to surround yourself with people who are talking about what you’re doing. Keeping up with your network online and IRL helps you stay creative and on the cutting edge.

Community keeps you connected (and curbs loneliness).

Lots of us left full-time and part-time work to freelance. And let’s face it: Even though we don’t miss the rigid and sterile bits of traditional employment, most of us miss the connections. Networking with other freelancers can fill the void. Your network can help you in high times and low times, cheering you on and cheering you up. Having humans close by who experience the same wins and flops as you can help you feel supported and empowered to grow.

The connections we form both professionally and personally can open doors for us.

How do you start?


Go have coffee with an old colleague who you keep getting LinkedIn notifications about. Email an old boss. DM that quirky acquaintance you followed on Instagram two years ago who you feel like you know intimately even though you’ve never actually spoken. Life is short. Just hit send. The worst that can happen is they say no, and even then, your name could be planted in their mind for future reference.

Leverage previous clients.

Tapping the shoulder of old clients is a great way to find other viable clients. Chances are, they have a network of their own full of people facing the same challenges you’ve helped them with in the past. A simple reminder that you’re around could jog their memory and lead to valuable introductions. You can also send your nudge in the form of holiday or new year’s gifts to thank them while also keeping you top of mind for them.

Lend a helping hand.

As the adage goes, you get what you give. Having a strong network also means you can refer business out, which actually benefits you as a freelancer too. When you’re not the right fit for a client, you can pass them on to someone who is and generate some good karma. That little act can build your rapport with the potential client, feed fellow freelancers, and strengthen your community ties. Plus, it just feels really great to align people who can help each other.

Look for opportunities to contribute.

There are loads of publications talking about every niche imaginable. Find the ones talking about yours and see if they accept contributors. When you author a piece for a relevant site or newsletter, you’re likely to get eyeballs on your business and invitations coming your way. At the very least, contributing content can lead to valuable backlinks to your website and social, which drives clicks and improves your SEO.

Attend networking events.

I know, I know. Mixer flashbacks. But if you can get past the uncomfortable small talk stage, networking events can be an awesome place to build and nurture relationships, whether they’re online or in person. You can connect with a larger audience and get to know the faces floating in your ether.

Visit co-working spaces.

A lot of co-working spaces are making community-building a key focus. They’ve also realized strong relationships lead to more business! The next time you reserve a desk at your local hotspot, see what events they’re hosting or ask the community manager for intros to people who are doing similar or adjacent work.

Go online.

Last but far from least, make sure to tap into the online networks that exist for this very purpose. Twitter is a great place for freelancers to frolic and share. (Search #freelancetwitter to find friends.) Facebook groups cater to endless niches and joining the right ones can help you find people who do what you do. (Freelancing Females is great for self-identified women.) LinkedIn groups can help you find work and build connections. (The FlexJobs group features gigs on the reg.) Slack communities can fill the water cooler needs. (Workfrom’s Slack is popping off.)

    The Takeaway

    So what’s the key to building and keeping a strong network? Consistency. Make sure you nurture it. Be genuine. Be generous. Be open. You never know how a connection can add to your life, so give people the benefit of the doubt. Say yes to the invite if it feels right. And extend your hand when someone piques your interest. Build a network that makes sense for your offering, where you can gain true value and provide it in return.

    How to Figure Out Your Pricing

    How to Figure Out Your Pricing

    As a freelancer, waffling on your pricing is practically a rite of passage. Unless you’re hyper-comfortable with putting yourself out there, valuing your own services is rarely a breeze. It can be hard. And scary. And uncomfortable. And that discomfort can lead you to lower your pricing over and over until you’re charging far less than what you actually deserve.

    If that is where you are at right now on your freelancing journey, we feel you. We’ve been there too. Asking people to pay you for your work can confront you with all sorts of false (but convincing!) stories about your own skills, experience, and worth. And if you get caught up in those stories, you may undervalue your services so much that you end up working longer hours, taking on cheap clients, and, eventually, burning yourself out.

    It doesn’t have to happen this way, though. We want to help you move through the sticky, scary stuff that comes up when you’re on the brink of professional growth. When you set your freelance prices according to the real value that you offer, you tend to attract clients who are willing to pay you what you truly deserve. And those clients are typically easier and more fulfilling to work with.

    So… where do you start? Let’s walk through the basics of how to price your services correctly as a freelancer, so you set yourself up for success.

    Step 1: Get to know the market.

    When you’re setting freelance prices, it’s important to consider what the going rate is for other freelancers who offer comparable services. The easiest way to do that is to talk to the people around you. Chat with other freelancers on social media. Post a story on Instagram or tweet at the freelance community and ask them to chime in.

    You can also explore online databases like Freelancing Females and The Freelance Creative, where people can post their rates publicly. This is a great way to compare rates by industry, service, and region in order to figure out what the ballpark range is for the work you’re doing.

    Step 2: Set your salary goal.

    Next, it’s important to decide how much you want to make annually. If you’re a sole proprietor, it’s easy to take this part lightly. But before you jot down a pretty number and move along, try pausing to consider how seriously you would take this step if you were paying someone else. Yep… It’s just as important when it’s you.

    Setting financial goals as a freelancer isn’t just about intention. Your target income determines how many clients you’ll need and what prices you’ll charge them. So as you consider your freelance salary, be sure to account for freelancer taxes, business overhead, and any other fees or expenses that will reduce your take-home income. Make sure you’re happy with the number you see after you shave those off of the top.

    Step 3: Calculate your working days per year.

    What do you want your average week to look like? Will you take days off? (Please do!) If so, how many? Will you go on vacation? (Please do!!) If so, how often and for how long? Will you plan for sick days? (PLEASE DO!!!) If so, how many?

    These questions are super important as you’re setting your freelance rates. Unlike a salaried position, where you can count on a consistent payment no matter how much you’re actually working, freelancing income depends on… how much you’re actually working (and, more specifically, how many billable hours you’re working. See Step 4 for more on that.). So, it’s helpful to first calculate your total number of working days per year before you can set your freelance pricing. Here’s the equation for that:

    Working Days Per Year = 365 – weekend days – vacation days – sick days, etc.

    So, say I plan to take two days off per week (104 days per year), 15 days of vacation, and 10 sick days per year… That leaves me with 236 working days per year (365 – 104 – 15 – 10 = 236).

    Step 4: Calculate your billable hours per year.

    How many working hours do you want to max out at per day? What commitments and personal time will you need to figure in when planning your weekly schedule? And how much time will you devote to non-billable work, like business operations?

    Since you’re a business owner on top of a business doer, it’s critical to think about all of the hours (and dollars) you put in behind the scenes to make your freelance business run. That includes the work you’re not explicitly charging clients for (AKA your non-billable hours), like marketing your business, handling the bookkeeping, managing technology, and so on. Once you figure out your average non-billable hours per work day, you can then calculate your billable hours per work day. Here’s how to do that:

    Billable Hours Per Work Day = Total Hours Per Day – Total Non-Billable Hours Per Work Day

    For example, if I plan to work an average of 6 hours per work day, and 1.5 hours will go toward non-billable work, that leaves me with roughly 4.5 hours of billable hours per work day (6 – 1.5 = 4.5).

    From there, you can multiply your total billable hours per work day and your working days per year to arrive at your billable hours per year:

    Billable Hours Per Year = Billable Hours Per Work Day x Working Hours Per Year

    Using the examples above, I would end up with roughly 1062 billable hours per year (236 x 4.5 = 1062).

    Step 5: Calculate your hourly freelance rates.

    Once you’re clear on the market rates, your yearly income goals, and your billable hours per work day, you can do the math to figure out exactly what you should be charging your future clients. Here’s what that looks like.

    Freelance Rate = Yearly Income Goal / Billable Hours Per Year

    For example, if I aim to make $100,000 per year, I would need to charge my clients around $94 an hour ($100,000 / 1062 = $94). Does that roughly align with the market rates for the work I offer? If so, great! I’ve just landed on my freelance pricing. If not, is it higher or lower than average? And is the rate I’ve come up with reflective of the real value of the work I offer?

    If your rate is on the low end, consider upping it until you reach a number that feels genuinely uncomfortable. That’s probably closer to your true value! If your rate is on the high end, consider sleeping on it before you start reducing the number. You could run it by friendlies in your industry to see how they react, too. If the rate still feels too high after that, then try reducing it by no more than 10%.

    Pitch clients on the true benefits of the work that you deliver, as opposed to selling the services themselves.

    Step 6: Name your rate and sell your value.

    Finally, when you’ve landed on a freelance rate that you’re (at least sort of) comfortable advertising, you can practice selling your value. What does that mean, exactly? It’s pitching clients on the true benefits of the work that you deliver, as opposed to selling the services themselves. When it comes down to it, this is all about simple and compelling packaging.

    When you package your work up in a way that is attractive and easy to consume, you’re likely to convince potential clients that you’re more than worth your hourly rate. In practice, this means describing the true business value of your services. For instance, if you’re a marketing consultant, instead of talking in-depth about the technical improvements you’ll make to their website, try focusing on the improved user experience, increased conversion rates, and higher revenue that your work could produce.

    If a prospect pushes back on your pricing, remember: You don’t have to negotiate if you don’t want to! Your prices are your prices. If you don’t feel comfortable lowering your rate for someone, then don’t. But if it makes sense for you and the client, you can consider decreasing the scope of the project to lower the overall costs, especially if they don’t have the budget to pay for what was originally outlined.

    The Takeaway: Know. Your. Worth.

    Of course, the monetary value of your work has nothing to do with your value as a person. (You’re priceless, BTW.) But those of us who work for ourselves know that naming our prices can easily get mixed up with our own sense of personal worth. So if you must put a price tag on yourself, make it a damn good one. Stand tall. Connect with other freelancers who cheer you on. Share your fears and your struggles. And most importantly, celebrate your wins—including the moments when you swallow back your discomfort and send a proposal with an hourly rate that makes you proud.

    How to Land Your First Client

    How to Land Your First Client

    So you’ve taken the plunge into freelancing. At this point, you’ve likely done loads of work to launch your business and convince yourself that you can, indeed, do this!

    It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and chart your own path. Once you’ve decided to freelance, your focus shifts to the biggest and scariest question: How do I get clients so I can pay my bills?!?

    When you’re first starting out, you may be tempted to take anything and everything that comes your way. But you can set yourself up for success by thinking through exactly what type of client you want and how to engage them up-front.

    In this post, we’re going to share our pro tips on how to land your first client.

    A lot of freelancers will tell you to “niche down”.

    Step 1: Figure out who you’re going after and what you’re selling.

    You probably have a general sense of what you want to offer and who would be interested in it. Still, it’s important to spend time thinking through your ideal client. This isn’t just a manifestation practice (although, we’re all about that life).

    A lot of freelancers will tell you to “niche down”—in other words, find a specialty early and really lean into it. What’s the logic? Well, setting yourself apart from your peers and charging what you’re worth can be tough, especially if your industry is saturated or you’re offering generalized services. A great way to stand out is by speaking to a very specific need. You can do this in many ways: narrowing down your offerings, focusing on a geographic region, or catering to a specific industry or company type.

    At our boutique marketing consultancy, Interimly, we niched down by specializing in short-term engagements for early-stage, B2B SaaS companies. Most of them were in the process of building out their internal teams, and they needed a mix of strategy and execution. We acted as the bridge from one stage to the next, helping them gain momentum as they entered a new phase of growth. Our offerings were actually generic—we would help with SEO, paid programs, email marketing, operations, and more—but the types of companies we worked for were very specific, and that helped us a lot.

    When you have a sense of who you want to cater to, it’s a lot easier to package your services, because you know what that audience needs. For many freelancers, this process is reversed: you know what you want to offer, and then you figure out who wants it. It works both ways. As long as you’re taking the time to identify a specific need and then fill it, you’re doing great.

      Nurture your network!

      Step 2: Get in front of your target audience.

      Once you’ve identified your ideal client, don’t be afraid to reach out to your network and contact list to get the word out. Letting your family, friends, and community know what you’re up to can create ripples that eventually nudge people your way. The more people you take the initiative to talk to, the more likely you generate new business!

      We know this can be scary, especially if you aren’t super comfortable with self-promotion. But talking yourself up a bit is a good thing! And it gets a lot easier the more you do it. Social media is a great starting place to connect with people and share what you’re working on. Try posting on your personal accounts, and even asking friends to share! Nurture your network!

      You’d be surprised how many freelancers run their business on referrals from friends, family, and other freelancers. Spend time forming connections in your field, especially with freelancers who offer complementary services to yours. Who knows? They might get a lead who’s not for them, but is for you—and if they know what you’re offering, they could send that business your way. Some freelancers, like Kat Boogaard, even share interesting gigs in their field via their newsletter and social media. Tune in!

      If you’re having trouble landing clients through your contacts and social media, you can try exploring sites like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, PeoplePerHour, 99designs (for designers), or Credo (for digital marketers). These sites are marketplaces for freelancers and clients to connect. Also, some freelancer communities like WorkFrom offer job boards where people can post about gigs and advertise their own services. Ask around to see what other sites and communities people in your field are using to land new clients.

      Step 3: Sell the value of your services.

      After you put in some work to market your services and reach potential clients, we hope you’ll get bites quickly. If you start chatting with a prospect over Instagram or someone responds on a marketplace, make sure to be responsive, confident, and clear. This is the moment to sell your value.

      It’s easy to jump straight into the details, explaining your tactics, sharing your pricing, and discussing the nitty-gritty. And all of that is essential, yes. But in early talks with a prospect, it’s super important to focus on the true value of your services.

      How do you do that? Talk to them first about the outcomes you can help them achieve, so they can see all the value you bring to the table. Paint a picture of how the work you do will meet their needs. This is a great moment to reference work you’ve done at previous jobs or for other clients (if you have them!). It gets their wheels turning, imagining all the awesome work you’ll do for them too.

      Once you’ve sold them on your value – you can discuss the nitty gritty details of how you work and your pricing.

      At this stage you should be able to qualify a client and make sure the work you are offering will meet their needs and vice versa.

      Step 4: Get that proposal and contract signed!

      If the early conversations with a prospect go well and they’re interested in moving forward, make sure you set expectations for next steps. (Well, the first step is to perform a touchdown dance as soon as you’re off the call—you don’t need to mention that part.) Let them know when you’ll follow up with a proposal and give them a general sense of what that will include. Then, go forth and close that deal.

      Our recommendation: Get a proposal created and follow up promptly so you can make a great impression and keep the ball rolling. We know this part of operating a business can be confusing. So when you’re ready to lock in your client, we suggest checking out our article on proposals and contracts. It breaks down all the basics, explaining what these documents are and how you can use them effectively.

      How to Create a Proposal

      How to Create a Proposal

      You just nailed a pitch for a potential client. The wind is in your sails. You can already visualize the project plan, the deliverables, and the enthusiastic referrals after a job well done. You’re getting ready to draft a follow-up email outlining your pricing and suggesting next steps, but then you pause and remember the workflow: It’s time to create a proposal.

      Ahh, the P word. So vague. If you’ve never created a client proposal before and you have no idea where to start, don’t worry. It’s not as daunting as it sounds. You don’t need to get down on one knee and ask your client for their business (although that would be funny). Creating a proposal is just about following a formula and showing off a little. In this post, we’ll break down the basics, offer pro tips, and show you how to create a proposal that lands you more business.

      What is the goal of a proposal?

      A proposal isn’t just a formality—it’s a critical step in the process of kicking off a new client relationship. And in many ways, it’s like an extension of your sales pitch, giving you another opportunity to sell your services and share what you’re all about. It demonstrates your professionalism and gives potential clients a true taste of what working with you is like. (Spoiler: It’s awesome.)

      Beyond encouraging people to work with you, the primary purpose of a proposal is to align on expectations, detail the scope of work, and outline your pricing structure. It’s important to consider exactly what you’re trying to communicate and settle on a plan that is reasonable and achievable, because this is the final step before you move onto creating a contract.

      A proposal illustrates your professionalism and gives potential clients a true taste of what working with you is like.

      What does your proposal need?

      The structure of your proposal will vary based on your industry, services, and project needs, but the general elements of a good proposal are:

        • About – An introduction explaining who you are, what you do, and why you’re great
        • Executive Summary – An overview of the problem you’re solving
        • Proposed Solution – An explanation of how you’d solve the problem
        • Pricing – Details on your rates and packages
        • Call to Action – A final invitation to do business with you


      The About section gives potential clients a clear picture of who they’d be doing business with. Just like the About page of a website, this section covers your background, your experience, and your services. This is your opportunity to sell yourself again, so be sure to let your personality shine through. Unless the client’s vibe requires it, you don’t need to be hyper-formal or buttoned up here. You’re a human, after all. Giving them a sense of what you’re all about.

      This is your opportunity to sell yourself again, so be sure to let your personality shine through.

      It’s great to include extra tidbits in the About Us section that may convince someone to move forward too. For example, if you have client testimonials or portfolio links to share, this is the place to do it. Just make sure you’re offering relevant examples that will resonate with your client. You can offer briefs of work you’ve done for other companies in parallel industries, which demonstrates that you’re equipped to serve companies like theirs. Or, better yet, you can include client quotes that offer social proof of your abilities.

      Executive Summary

      The Executive Summary is the place to show clients you understand them and their needs. This is where you outline the issue or challenge they’re facing and explain how you can help them solve it. This is an opportunity for you to reiterate how you’d approach the project and demonstrate why you’re the best person to take it on. It’s the lay-up to the meat of the proposal (coming next). By establishing what’s needed, you can set up your unique solution.

      Proposed Solution

      Once the challenge is stated, you can move onto your offering. The Proposed Solution is where you go deep on the details, explicitly laying out the scope of the project, the deliverables, and what success looks like by the end of the project. This section is all about setting expectations. What exactly are you offering? What will they get by the end of the project? And how long will it all take to accomplish?

      Creating a detailed outline helps you control the scope of work and align on what it is you’re offering, so it’s crystal clear before you move forward to creating a contract. Remember that a proposal is just that—a proposed solution, not a final offering. This section, in particular, may call for follow-up conversations to clarify and work out the details. The most important thing is that you and the client are totally aligned on what it is you’ll be doing for them, and when.

      The most important thing is that you and the client are totally aligned on what it is you’ll be doing for them, and when.


      The Pricing section of a proposal is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the place for you to detail your rates. If you’re proposing hourly work, be sure to give rough estimates of the total number of hours you will work within a given time period (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, or over the entire course of the project). If you plan to charge a single project fee or a retainer, it’s important to clearly outline the costs and the time frame for completion. Remember: The terms of the agreement will be in the contract, so you don’t need to get super granular here.

      Call to Action

      Finally, the Call to Action (or CTA) closes out your proposal and invites the client to take next steps. Make sure you’re clear and confident with your directions. Explain exactly what they should do next. If they want to accept the proposal, should they reply back to confirm? And if so, how long do they have to consider it? If they have questions, can they schedule another call to discuss or should they email you? If they don’t want to move forward, how should they notify you? Lay it all out. Make it easy for them to say yes.

      Proposal Pro Tips

      If you’ve made it this far and you’re feeling good, hell yeah. Proud of you. Here are some extra pieces of advice to help you create a proposal that lands you work ASAP (without sapping your time and energy).

        1. Don’t recreate the wheel. Use a template!!! They exist for a reason. Templates are great. Templates save time. Templates save lives. If you’re a Harlow user, you can use one of our pre-built templates!
        2. Consider adding a cover page and a table of contents. Putting some extra TLC into your proposal can sell a client who appreciates the effort. It’s not essential, but it’s nice.
        3. Make it pretty and readable. A visually appealing proposal adds a lot. It’s also a neat way to show off your branding and give clients a sense of your style. Just make sure it’s easy to read and absorb.
        4. Keep the contract separate. Some people like to combine their proposal and contract, but we recommend separating these two documents. It’s better to take it step by step and hold off on sending a legally binding contract until you’ve settled on the details of the proposal. See our full post on this for more details.

      Ready to propose?

      To us?! Blushing. Seriously though, we’re committed to helping freelancers like you create awesome proposals and land new clients with ease. We know the whole pre-project process can be stressful, especially if you’re new to the freelancing game. But with a little time, experience, and great software, it’s easy and even… fun? You can use Harlow for all of your proposal needs by signing up here.

      Time to Get Paid: How to Easily Create and Invoice Your Clients

      Time to Get Paid: How to Easily Create and Invoice Your Clients

      You’ve launched your freelance business (YAY). You’ve booked your first client (double YAY). You’re well on your way to becoming a confident business owner and making the money that comes along with that. At the end of month one with your new client, you’re feeling great about the future. The work is fun. You’re getting good feedback. You’re DOING IT. You’re a REAL business owner.

      But now… it’s time to create that invoice and get paid. Imposter syndrome sets in as you visualize yourself typing the numbers and hitting send. You don’t even know where to begin. Figuring out how to invoice a client can stir up lots of anxiety. We get it — it’s not always easy to ask for money. But it is necessary. And with a little time and practice, it gets easier and easier.

      We’re here to walk you through the basics of how to invoice your clients, including tips and tricks that make getting paid as painless as possible.

      What to Include in Your Invoice

      Whenever you’re invoicing your clients, it’s important to include key information about the services you’ve provided so your client understands exactly what you’re charging them for. The more explicit you are upfront, the more likely you are to get paid in a timely manner, because you cut down on all the back-and-forth.

      Here are the essential elements your invoice should include:

      A breakdown of the services you are charging for (including a time period, if that’s relevant here). Some clients may want you to be more detailed than others. Additional detail never hurts.

      Payment terms. Depending on the client and your service offering you might want to require some, or all, of the payment up front. This is something you definitely want to discuss with the client when you are negotiating the contract. If you are invoicing them after the fact, we recommend starting with net 15 payment terms (i.e. payment is due within 15 days of receipt) and then going from there if your clients push back. The earlier you get money, the better!

      How you want clients to pay you. Think through how you’re going to accept money. Some freelancers accept payment through a variety of methods (ACH, checks, Venmo, PayPal, credit cards), while others stick to one or two methods for easier tracking.

      • If you plan on accepting credit card payments or using services like PayPal or Venmo, keep in mind that fees will be deducted from your payment. You can easily build the additional cost into your pricing if you account for it upfront. Just be careful to not ignore this — these transaction costs can add up to a meaningful chunk of change over time.
      • If you plan to accept payment through ACH, make sure you’re including your EIN and any necessary routing and account numbers.

      Contact information. Invoices should always include your name, company name, business address, and email. Make sure that your invoice can stand alone, so that anyone at the company who sees it will know how to reach out to you. Oftentimes, the person paying your invoice is not your point of contact. Your invoice is likely to get sent from one person to another!

      Once you have all of the necessary information in your invoice, it’s time to send or schedule.

      Best Practices for Sending an Invoice

      Before you shoot your invoice out:

      Make sure you understand who the invoice should be sent to. Oftentimes, there’s someone from finance that will need to be included to get your invoice paid. Once you know who you should be sending it to, you can properly address it.

      Determine when you’ll send your invoice. Are you generating it immediately or in advance? Is this a recurring invoice with the same line items and payment terms? Or will it differ month-to-month? Also, think about your billing cadence–will you send biweekly or once a month on the 1st of the month?

      Be sure to write a quick note for the recipient. We suggest adding a little personality to your email so it’s not stuffy or overly formal. Make sure you say hi and let your client know that you’ve enjoyed working with them and look forward to future business together (as long as it’s in your and their best interest 😉 ).

      Other Invoicing Tips and Tricks

      If it works for your business, try to get in the habit of sending your invoices all at the same time. This will make it easier to keep track of who you’ve invoiced and who has paid. Getting money in the bank on a predictable schedule is the goal here!

      Don’t be afraid to follow up on unpaid invoices. Payment terms exist for a reason — so enforce them. If you’re shuddering at the thought of sending a follow-up message or charging a fee for late payment, remember that you can always refer back to the contract they agreed to and signed.

      Finally, be sure to use a methodical invoicing system that keeps you organized. It will save you a world of headaches on the daily and come tax season. With Harlow’s freelancing software, you can invoice your clients with ease, creating an easy and repeatable process so you get paid on time with minimal effort. Sign up for a free trial to see how it works.

      How to Track Business Expenses & Why It’s So Important

      How to Track Business Expenses & Why It’s So Important

      When tax season rolls around, so does freelancer dread. It’s time to count up all the expenses you forgot to log and figure out how to calculate your home office deduction. The process is filled with obscure questions and hazy requirements. Does the bathroom count in my home office square footage? Can I write off my vacuum cleaner? What about that label printer I bought when I was procrastinating on filing my taxes last year?

      Filing taxes as a freelancer can be anywhere from hellish to mildly inconvenient, depending on how diligent you are about tracking your business expenses and how educated you (or your accountant) are in tax law. Because the process is confusing and aggravating, many freelancers are less than thorough when it comes time to claim business deductions. In fact, 73% of freelancers overpay their taxes because they don’t claim any deductions at all.

      That sucks. That means loads of freelancers are losing out on money that they could have in their pockets right now. And we don’t want that. So in this post, we’re going to show you how to track business expenses seamlessly and keep more of your income. Here are the five key steps to doing it right.

      73% of freelancers overpay their taxes because they don’t claim any deductions at all.

      1. Educate yourself.

      The biggest challenge with filing taxes is that most of us just don’t know the rules. That’s no fault to us—people spend years learning this stuff. But even without a degree in accounting, you can get by with a little basic knowledge on tax regulations. Learning what qualifies as self-employed expenses is step one. The IRS says that any “ordinary and necessary” expense can be deducted from your taxes. That essentially means any expense that is necessary to run your business, like your software, cell phone, WiFi, and any subscription services you use for work.

      If you’re working from home, be sure to factor in all of the hidden expenses that come with managing your home office. You can deduct office furniture and essential equipment, like a new computer, chair, or printer, as long as you’re using them for work. And (importantly!) you can factor in the basic costs of living that contribute to your work. For example, if your office area is 30% of your total living space, you can count 30% of your living expenses (like rent and utilities) as business expenses.

      What else? Insurance premiums and certain types of retirement savings are also deductible. There are likely a whole host of other deduction opportunities for you too, depending on where you live and what kind of work you do. For example, if you use your car for work, you can typically deduct the cost of gas, so logging your mileage is smart.


      Hot tip: The app MileIQ is great for logging mileage because it automatically tracks your trips and creates a comprehensive record that you can reference come tax time and, if necessary, submit to the IRS for proof.

      2. Open a separate bank account.

      This one is so easy to skip over as a freelancer if you’re only paying yourself. Why not just deposit everything into your personal checking? Well, it makes everything a whole lot easier come tax season if you have a dedicated bank account for your business. Even if you don’t have an LLC, we highly recommend opening a checking account. Seriously. It’s a huge relief when you can view all of your income and expenses in one place, and just download an account statement to submit along with your taxes.

      If you’re spending more on your business than you’re earning and you’re worried about overdrafting, you might want to consider getting a business credit card to pay your expenses. There are loads of credit cards for small businesses that offer cash back rewards and low annual fees (or none at all). Again, having a dedicated credit card for your business instead of mixing personal and business expenses will save you many headaches down the line.

      3. Keep all of your receipts.

      I know, I know. It’s a hassle. But even freelancers can get audited by the IRS, and sometimes that bank statement just isn’t enough. Shove your receipts in a shoe box and let it gather dust in the closet for four years. Or, just use a tool like Expensify to snap a picture of your receipts so you can go paperless. The IRS will accept photos or physical copies.

      4. Stay organized.

      It will make your life infinitely easier if you spend 30 minutes a month organizing your expenses rather than waiting until the end of the year to scour your statements and figure out what all of those random charges were from. Plus, reviewing your finances regularly helps you catch erroneous charges and forgotten subscriptions when there’s still time to cancel them.

      Reviewing your finances regularly helps you catch erroneous charges and forgotten subscriptions when there’s still time to cancel them.

      If you’re not a log-expenses-as-you-go kinda person, try putting time on your calendar once a month to do this. Create a recurring monthly event in the first week or so of the month to review last month’s finances and log your expenses in your system of choice. You can use something as simple as a Google Spreadsheet or something more sophisticated. At Harlow, we’re working on bringing all of your bank account expenses into a single place, so you can easily categorize and organize your finances from one dashboard. Stay tuned!

      5. File your quarterly taxes!

      Finally, don’t forget about those four dates a year when you owe the IRS. As a freelancer, you aren’t just responsible for paying your income taxes. You also owe self-employment tax, which is 15.3% of your net income. (This is another good reason to log and deduct expenses!) The IRS expects you to pay taxes on a quarterly basis, so be sure to mark those tax dates on your calendar now, before you forget.

      If you have all of your business expenses in a separate bank account, it’s easy to prepare for quarterly taxes. A little recommendation: Link a savings account to your checking account and transfer 25%-30% of your income into that savings account each month, so you have more than enough cash on hand to pay your quarterly taxes throughout the year. Trust us: There’s nothing worse than getting stuck with a huge tax bill and late penalties come spring. Save as you go and you’ll save yourself the stress.

        Trust us: There’s nothing worse than getting stuck with a huge tax bill and late penalties come spring.

        We know managing finances can be one of the most overwhelming parts of freelance life. But with a little practice and a good system, it can be pretty painless (or dare we say… fun?). Like any other unpleasant activity, tracking expenses and filing taxes is a whole lot more pleasant when you focus on the ‘why’ (e.g. planning for the future) and do whatever you can to make it more pleasant. So when it comes time to scour your statements each month, grab your beverage of choice, put on a great playlist, and channel your inner accountant. You got this.