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Business Admin for New Freelance Editors, Part 1: An intro to managing the admin side of your business

15 Nov 2021 5:41 PM | Maya Berger (Administrator)

In Part 1 of this series for new freelance editors, we’ll cover the basics of business admin: what it includes, why it’s crucial for the health of your business, and how to start taking control of it.

Welcome to the rewarding world of freelance editing!

​With a little organization and planning, you can get as much satisfaction from quoting, invoicing, recording your expenses, analyzing your marketing efforts, and tracking your professional development as you do from editing or proofreading.

Over-the-shoulder view of a male-presenting person wearing a dress shirt and slacks, seated with right ankle crossed over left knee, looking at charts and graphs on a tablet and holding a stylus.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

Why should I care about business admin as a freelance editor?

Managing your rates, income, expenses, marketing, and continuing professional development (CPD) activities can feel daunting when you’re just getting your freelance career off the ground, but it’s vital for the health of your business.

Neglecting the admin side of being a freelancer can have serious consequences. If you’re not tracking your business spending, whether your invoices are getting paid on time and in full, and whether your actual hourly rates are anywhere near your estimated ones, you might be earning less than you need to meet your expenses – and you’ll have no idea why. And if you aren’t tracking the time and money you spend on CPD and marketing alongside the projects you take on, you won’t know whether they’re helping you get the work you love at the rates you want.

Keeping on top of your admin will give your editorial business the best possible chance to succeed. Tracking your business data helps you see the big picture for your business, make more informed decisions, and achieve your professional goals. Plus, colourful charts and graphs are fun to look at!

Analyzing all the data you collect can also give you a motivational boost. Think of your business admin data as a record of all your goals and achievements – something that inspires you and fills you with professional pride. I still remember how good it felt to record my first client payment when I went freelance, and each time I mark a project “Complete” or an invoice as “Paid” in my admin spreadsheet, I feel that familiar little buzz.

Where do I start?

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

I’d suggest starting with your values. This might seem like odd advice for dealing with cold, hard data, but one of the best things about working for yourself is the fact that your values and priorities guide every business decision you make. And that means they also determine which metrics and data points you monitor for your business.

You don’t need an advanced accounting degree to keep track of how your business is doing – you just need to focus on what’s most important to you by setting some professional goals. They can be short-term (such as completing a course) or longer-term (such as supporting yourself solely through fiction editing within three years). If you’ve already started getting some paid work, think about the work you’re currently doing, the clients you’re doing it for, and how it’s helping you reach your goals.

If you value financial security above all else, you could start tracking your hourly rates and whether your clients offer you steady work. If you require defined project scopes and predictable payment schedules, you might want to brainstorm ways to market yourself to traditional publishers and record which of those marketing endeavours lead to the most work from them. If your goal is become a more efficient proofreader, you might find it helpful to record your estimated and actual proofreading speed for each project and then track that data alongside any proofreading or efficiency training you complete. It all comes down to what’s important to you and your business.

Where do I record all my editorial business data?

Once you have some ideas about the kinds of business admin data you want to monitor, invest a little time and energy in deciding how you’re going to track and analyze that data. This initial setup can involve creating your own business data spreadsheet template into which you can plug the details of each project and transaction, along with formulas to generate monthly summaries, annual expense totals, and other calculations. Or, if that’s not your idea of a fun afternoon, you can eliminate set-up stress and invest in a ready-made system where the structure and formulas have been created for you.

Excel spreadsheet templates, like the ones in my business data system, The Editor's Affairs (TEA), remain local on your computer, so there’s no risk of anyone else seeing your data. You can also opt for online accounting software, like QuickBooks, Wave or Sage. Whatever option you choose, once you have your system set up, the day-to-day calculations will be minimal or nonexistent.

A screen shot of a TEA spreadsheet showing project due dates, dates paid, payment status and job notes.

Editorial project data in The Editor's Affairs (TEA)

Bottom line: Business admin is essential for freelance editors

Tracking your income, expenses, project info, and client details is a necessary part of being self-employed. There’s no getting around it, so my advice is to find an approach that works for you and use the data that you track to celebrate your professional wins. If you’re looking for a little extra push to get you started, check out my article on Making Time for Admin in your Editing Workday

Recording the details of how you landed your first paid editorial job, seeing that you achieved your desired hourly rate on a challenging project, and watching your words-per-hour speed increase over time are powerful motivators, and business admin is the key to it all.

More articles in this series

Check out Part 2, which addresses the “making money” aspects of business admin:

  • setting and enforcing fair and data-supported rates,
  • quoting with confidence, and
  • tracking your income.

Check out Part 3, which addresses recording and analyzing the personal side of your business:

  • tracking your work-life balance, and
  • recording your continuing professional development (CPD) activities.

Check out Part 4, which addresses tracking the time and money you invest in your business:

  • the business expenses you declare at tax time, and
  • your marketing activities.

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