The Little Things That Matter The Most – Part III

Posted: April 2nd, 2009

Part III – Document Everything

It’s tax time already. Do you have those little receipts compiled for your deductions or do you have to hunt them down (or “make” them up)?

Well we won’t go there, but if this is you, you may want to listen up. Here’s a little tip when dealing with clients,  something that tends to be taken for granted among freelancers. That is, to document all the work you do for any client when your client sends you tasks to do. Usually these tasks are small enough to where it takes too much time drafting a long project agreement and having the client agree to it. No task is too small, though, to have a record for billing purposes.

What happens is that a client may appear to give you the green light to keep the meter running. This may be true in some cases, but it usually is a sign that the client wants things done now and then pays attention to cost later. Freelancers often assume they are free to work away and tack on the hours, eyeing those dollar signs on the next invoice.

When it comes time to pay the bill, however, you might be surprised to get an objection if you cannot provide the detail of everything you did and the time/cost involved. Believe me, they will fight you every step of the way if you can’t. That’s why it is important to assume this will always happen and prepare yourself accordingly.

Therefore, get in the habit of documenting these minor tasks by doing the following:

1. Prior to doing anything, write an email noting each task and the total cost involved. Have the client approve it by responding with a “go ahead” and your email copied in the email body. Save these emails in a folder so you can easily find them later.

2. Create an Excel or Word document and note the date, each task and the total cost. Add to this list if there are more minor tasks done and send this document with an invoice upon billing the client.

3. If billing is done on a monthly basis, you may want to send the client a copy of the above document on a weekly basis just so they are aware of the work you have done up to that point.

These small documenting tasks even take relatively little time to do. It can save you the time, however, of retracing your steps in the event the client decides that he wants to know exactly what he is being charged for.

This is much the same way you can save time on taxes by having all your receipts in one place.

See also:

Part I: The Search For Stability
Part II: The Phone Call

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

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