Time vs. Money: The Freelancer's Dilemma and How One Simple Investment Can Give You More of Both
Freelancers are risk-takers; it’s in our blood. We risk the comfort of a 9–5 to invest in ourselves, our businesses, and our passions. But there comes a point when trying to do everything on your own becomes a risk not worth taking. See how I weighed my time versus money, and found an investment that paid dividends in each.
From an early age, I knew I wanted to work in photography and film. After college and a lot of soul-searching, I returned home to Northern California. At that point, I knew I didn’t want to take the traditional Hollywood path. The hierarchal Hollywood structure would’ve meant starting at the bottom and slowly working my way up the ranks. The idea of waiting to be afforded an opportunity, regardless of my talent, didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to apply my passion and skillset much more aggressively and directly, so I decided the best way for me to achieve this goal was to start my own business.
I began my freelance career by shooting photographs of architecture and decided right then and there to go all in. I realized how similar that genre was to film making. Architectural photography involves the film production style of planning out shots, working with an art director, and producing 8 to 12 final shots that are intentional and focused. The shots are staged and I enjoy working with industry people to capture the perfect photo. Architectural photography not only inspired me, but allowed me to quickly build a nice portfolio within my first year of business and begin generating revenue.
Small Investments with Big Returns
Investing in a financial solution was not a priority for me at first. In fact, I tried to convince myself of all the reasons why I didn't need to pay for an accounting software. In the first few years, I was not making that much money, so I didn’t think it was a necessary expense. I fought it for a while, but there came a point in time when I realized that I wasn't using my time appropriately. I was manually drafting estimates and invoices and then manually sending them. I found myself waiting around for a check to arrive via snail mail without ever knowing if my client had received or viewed my invoice.
As my freelance career flourished, I realized I had complete control over my business, which included all of the fun stuff, but also encompassed the unglamorous side of accounting and securing payment. As business began to thrive, my finances required more and more time. I needed an efficient and easy solution. At that point, a friend encouraged me to check out FreshBooks, a cloud-based accounting software. I quickly learned that an accounting platform was exactly what I needed to alleviate my accounting headache and elevate my business to the next level.
I attribute my long-term success as a small business owner to having the necessary tools and information that I need set in place. When I need to work on a certain goal, the information is available and is tracked by FreshBooks. Now, I encourage all freelance professionals to embrace the mindset of spending money to make money from the beginning. Don’t be afraid to invest in a little help from the experts. That lesson has reverberated throughout my business and enabled me to make more sound investments to improve the efficiency of my business.
To my surprise, it was incredibly easy to transition from my manual process to an accounting software. Literally, as soon as I started using FreshBooks, I started making more money and getting paid faster. Accounting became a much more seamless and time-saving task.
Time vs. Money: Understanding Your Value
The beauty of FreshBooks is how simple and straightforward it is to use right out of the gate. Now, when a new customer calls and asks for a quote, which can be quite extensive considering my line of work, I can draft an estimate within minutes. Additionally, I can include my contract information and send that directly to the client with the estimate.
Best of all, collecting payment is now a synch. FreshBooks’ payment program has been an amazing service for both myself and clients. In fact, my clients have adopted and started using FreshBooks’ credit card functionality. I’m now getting paid within minutes of invoicing a client, and as a small business owner, I'm sure I don't have to tell you how important that is.
Ultimately, I want my clients to be happy, which means I enjoy making business transactions as easy as possible. My accounting software has overhauled my cumbersome payment process and made it hassle free. I’ve finally escaped the endless loop of waiting for a check to arrive in the mail and then calling the customer to check a payment’s status. It’s certainly a moneymaker and time-saver for all parties.
In addition to expediting the payment process, FreshBooks' reporting functionality saves me time and money on my taxes. Being able to tag my expenses and deductions within FreshBooks and categorize them so they update in my profit and loss report (P&L) is perfect. When tax season arrives, I run a quick export of my P&L, expenses, and income by client, all of which is provide by FreshBooks. I can see what I have spent by category and filter down to a granular look to identify what I’ve spent solely on education materials, subcontractors, accounting, and more. Immediately, I have access to a macro or micro overview, which allows me to tackle my taxes and business forecasting quickly and efficiently.
Each year my client base and revenue has grown. Currently, I manage 15 clients using FreshBooks and plan to expand because I have more time to focus on my clients and the growth of my business. FreshBooks has changed how I run my business. It enables me to work faster and provide quick information to my clients, and FreshBooks is constantly adding new features.
As my business matures, it’s great to know my accounting software is maturing alongside of me. I encourage all freelancers to be proactive in their investments and work with vendors dedicated to their success. Investing in FreshBooks has been critical to the growth of my business. I can say with certainty there is a direct correlation between my continued revenue growth and investment in FreshBooks.