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Business Admin for New Freelance Editors, Part 4: How do I track my business expenses and marketing?

2 Dec 2021 3:25 PM | Maya Berger (Administrator)

In Part 4 of this series for new freelance editors, we’ll look at how to track the time and money you invest in your business: your business expenses and your marketing activities.

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.

An hourglass with pink sand in it inside a thick black frame, euro coins of various denominations, and a gold ring, all against a light grey background

Photo by Ricardo Diaz on Unsplash

Business expenses: don’t wait until tax time!

As freelancers, we need to record our allowable business expenses so we can declare them on our tax forms. Your local tax authority will have information about how to file your taxes as a sole trader, and I recommend familiarizing yourself with their filing processes and their guidelines about what counts as an allowable expense as soon as possible if you haven’t already.
For some of us, “doing my expenses” means one fun-filled day per year with a calculator, a shoebox of receipts and 365 days’ worth of bank statements. But why settle for only one day a year when you have an overview of what you’ve spent on your business when you could have that insight all the time?
It may seem like a giant pain to get out that calculator and those receipts more often, but as I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, there are tools out there that can do the calculations for you, and you can start with a simple Excel spreadsheet listing:

  • each of your expenses;
  • the date when it was incurred;
  • how much it cost; and
  • the receipt format (e.g., printed receipt or credit card statement).

Tracking your expenses throughout the year has other huge advantages. Not only will it tell you whether you can afford all of your planned expenses, it also helps you see what sorts of investments you’ve been prioritizing for your business and examine that alongside your project and efficiency data.

A seated person's legs, wearing black trousers, are visible around an open folder containing tax forms, a pen and a calculator on a white, wooden floor. The person's left hand holds the folder.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Keeping on top of your expenses can tell you whether those expenses are relevant to the work you’ve been doing, such as a course in a niche area of editing that you’d like to move into. And the sooner you notice a discrepancy between your working practices and your business spending, like buying a style guide that none of your clients follow, the sooner you can do something about it, like selling the style guide to a colleague or marketing yourself to clients who do follow it.

Identify the best marketing activities for your freelance editorial business

When you’re just starting out and establishing a client base, you might choose to advertise your services on every social media channel, author forum, and editor directory you can think of, as well as tapping into your existing network and cold-calling publishers and other prospective clients. Or you may be a more selective marketer, pursuing one avenue at a time and giving it your all. Wherever and however you market your editorial business, though, it’s important to keep records of your marketing efforts from day one. This will help you identify and prioritize the marketing activities that bring in your preferred clients and stop spending time and money on the ones that don’t.

A close-up of a cell phone with Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn icons on the screen

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

When you’re self-employed, your staff consists of just you, and you only have so many hours in a day to advertise and market yourself, on top of all the editing, training, invoicing, emailing, tea-drinking and everything else a freelance editor does. We don’t have entire marketing departments dedicated to social media strategies or long ad campaigns, so identifying the marketing activities that pay off for you is essential.

Where do I start?

It’s ok to start small. I’d recommend writing down the details of each of your marketing avenues, including the name, audience, any costs involved and when you began marketing yourself there. Then, whenever a new potential client gets in touch, ask them how they heard about your services and record their answers. Gradually, you’ll build up a picture of which marketing activities are worth your continued investment. The marketing activities that are the sources of the most (or best) clients are the ones to stick with.

My marketing strategies can evolve with my business

Where to focus your marketing energy is a decision you’ll likely revisit throughout your freelancing life. The same strategies won’t work for everyone at every point in their careers. As a new freelancer, you may be relying on cold-emailing publishers that you want to work with, or taking on some volunteer editorial work, but before long you may have a bigger professional network of authors, businesses and fellow editors who send you work.

A pie chart with income sources data from The Editor's Affairs (TEA)

Income sources data in The Editor's Affairs (TEA)

Keeping track of your source for each project you work on lets you spot patterns about where your work comes from. If you’ve been spending a lot of money on Google or Facebook ads, or a lot of time in online forums, but not seeing any paid work come in from them, you can pivot to focus your marketing in more lucrative directions. And if you start out by casting a wide net but then choose to work within a more specialized niche, you’ll already have some valuable data about what types of projects came in from your existing marketing activities.

Bottom line: Tracking your expenses and marketing activities helps you connect the dots

Business data is all about making connections between everything we do for our businesses. Tracking your expenses throughout the year keeps you accountable to yourself, keeps your spending in line with your business priorities, and keeps your accountant happy. And analyzing your marketing activities ensures you focus on the avenues that lead your dream clients and dream projects right to your door.

More articles in this series

Check out Part 1, which addresses 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.

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.

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