I have been a freelancer for over 8 years now, Geek Fairy Design Studio started off as an idea that went alongside my other job, and it grew over the years so much that I was able to make it my full time job.

Over the 8 years I have tried and tested lots of ways to invoice, organisational apps, time management apps, and how I work with clients.

This year I have started using 5 tools that have really changed the way I work and manage my business for the better. Leaving me with more time to focus on clients and doing the work, instead of the admin (which I hate) but needs to be done in order to get paid and run a successful business.

I still keep everything in house, my accounts, admin, quoting, and all client contact. And so it is even more important to have great tools for doing all this that allow me to be organised.

Monzo Business

I was an early adopted of the bright coral Monzo pre paid card, which then moved to a bank account.  And I also have a joint account with them.  So when they launched their business accounts I wanted one.  But I had to be patient and wait for my turn.

But this year I signed up, and then upgraded to their Business Pro.  It is £5 a month, you can use their Lite version for free.

I love the Monzo way of banking, it is easy, clear, and has lots of add ons to use in both personal accounts and business.  Pots to move money around, the Pro Business has the option of selecting a % and all incoming money has that % removed and put in a tax pot.

The app is really easy to use, you get instant notifications of money in and out, the security is fantastic to ok transactions.  It really is no hassle banking.  If you have issues, they are on chat and resolve things easily.

Historically I was with Barclays and tried Coconut, but neither for me worked.  Monzo does.  It also has the option to see your banking in a browser for accounts work etc.

The Pro account comes with lots of benefits, one big one for me was 6 months of Xero free.  That was the push I needed to move my accounting from the free Wave app to Xero…which leads to…

 

Xero

I had been using Wave for my invoicing and very basic accounts for years.  It was easy to use and with all my historical invoicing data in, I had put off moving to something that offered more functions for a while (*years.)

But with the free trial I took the plunge.  I am not going to lie, the setup was not super quick and easy BUT their support was fantastic.  I had someone from their support team email me once I signed up asking if I needed any help, and when I did they called me and talked me through it.  The main issue I had was user error, starting and putting in my bank start balance and then I had put some transactions in wrong.  But it is one of those things, you need to accept it will be a few hours to sit and get your head around then it is all simple to manage.

Xero is linked to my business Monzo, so all the transactions are in your accounts, you can use the app (or browser) and quickly reconcile items in a few swipes. So staying up to date is really easy.

What do I use Xero for?

  • Invoicing
  • Quotes
  • Project & Time management (see below)
  • Accounting

Invoicing (which I hate doing) is easy, it can be done from the app, Set up your template and you can add your ‘sales’ items.

There is a lot more Xero can offer that I haven’t got into yet, and as usual I am avoiding doing my actual accounts, but when that time comes, knowing it is all there at a few clicks of a button, and all categorized into different items for me, makes me not dread doing them as much. 

Xero Projects

Xero projects is a payable add on to Xero, at £10 a month, I decided initially I wouldn’t need it.  For time tracking for hourly rate jobs, I manually just made a note of the start and finish time.  Then for invoicing manually listed those times and what I was doing.  So for clients where I do a lot of hourly work a month, this was quite time-consuming.

But with the free trial, I thought OK let me try it, and then not like it and I can go back to the archaic way of before. 

Well, a few days into the free trial I was 100% sold.

So what does Xero Projects do? 

  • Track your time – using the app (or browser) I have a widget, or you can open the app and simply press the play button to start.  You can also pause, and re-start.  Then when you are done working on that project you click the tick and it asks you to pick the project and the task, and you can add more details if you wish.
  • Invoice from the tracked time & items – Using the data above, when it is time to invoice that client, I go into their page, click on the invoice and it creates an invoice, listing all the times & tasks you have tracked. (Or you can just invoice the amount) And you press send.  This has saved me so much time. 
  • Track your projects – When I get a new client, I add them to projects, then do a quote from their page.  I can then go in and accept the quote and change it to an invoice. And then send it out.  You can add tasks into the project, and deadlines etc too. 

Xero Projects all integrates with your main Xero and the clients and invoices there too. 

I really can’t imagine life without it now, where before I would forget to write down or track odd bits of work, now it is instictive to start the app timer when I start new work each time.

 

Loom

I had never heard of Loom until this year, another freelancer who used it had sent me a video using it and said it was fantastic.  Now a few months later it is my go to, for showing clients short and long tutorials or issues on their site.

It is basically a screen video recorder, that records, then uploads in a couple of seconds and gives you a link.  No more trying to screen record, uploading it manually, sending via we transfer.

I have a chrome extension, I click, it asks do I want just screen or browser tab, you can also record yourself too.  Then you click start, you can pause or finish.  It opens up a new window and give you your link.

How do I use Loom?

  • Client Tutorials – I have a folder for each client, and as I am building their site, for different pages I record the process of editing that page / adding an event / changing a photo. I then save each video and when handing over the site send them a link to their folder.  I do still send written tutorials but I am finding most people are much preferring the videos.
  • Showing clients problems on their site & explaining how to change things – instead of doing static screenshots and then trying out a long email, sending them a video of my showing and explaining the issue, or where you need to click is so much quicker, and feedback from clients has been excellent. 

Initially, Loom is free to use, but I have upgraded as I needed more space, you can see the pricing here. 

For me, it really is a tool I am not sure how I lived without it. 

Goodnotes & Apple Pencil

Over the years I have tried many things to keep notes and work to-do list, I kept coming back to my bullet journal and good old fashioned pen and Filofax.  This year I was fed up with the paper, not being able to find the old notes, and decided to look for a better alternative.

I looked at lots of apps and tools and tried a few but nothing stuck.  So I then looked at using my iPad and purchased an apple pencil.  I looked at the Goodnotes app and purchased a few cheap organisers through Etsy, but none of them were right for my needs.  So a few youtube tutorials later, I designed my own paperless bullet journal/organiser specific to my business. 

Strangely (I thought) you design them using powerpoint, or in my Apple world, the Keynote app on the mac. So I spent some time (*many hours as being a perfectionist has its downsides) designing the most perfect notebook for my needs. 

It has a clickable index to 

  • Day planner
  • Weekly planner
  • Client to do
  • Client notes
  • Upcoming clients
  • Stickers
  • And a check list for website launch

One of the best things is your handwriting is searchable, no more going through written notes trying to find the right thing, you just search the client name / detail and it will find it.  

Paperless and easy to use, add new pages when you need them, and delete old notes you don’t.

 

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