0 to $100k in 6 months
I started freelancing roughly 6 months back from scratch. I am on track to hit $100k annual revenues and I credit a good part of my progress to the Swiss Knife Template I created for time tracking, project management and cashflow management in one sheet.
Why did I make this tool
Being an entrepreneur, I was quick to realise that as a freelancer, my time is my most valuable resource. The more time I can save in admin tasks, more money I will be able to make. Hence, when I became a professional freelancer, I immediately felt the need to track my time, my daily efficiency, my earnings, my dropped projects and so on. At the same time, I also wanted to manage my ongoing projects efficiently.
I instinctively started looking for project management tools which can help me with cashflow management and time tracking as well. And I was shocked. I was surprised to see not a single product out there which does everything well. There are project management tools like trello etc but they suck at time tracking or just don’t support cash flow management. There are time tracking tools but they suck at project management. I tried almost all the well known tools in the market – right from basecamp to trello to harvest to what not. And I got frustrated pretty fast.
Almost all of this tools tout integrations with other tools, but that to me, only increases the complexity since now you have to hop between two systems. These integrations are pretty shallow usually and just pass basic information from one system to another. So, if you are like me and want to gain a better sense of where your time is going and how profitable are your days, you will start by pulling data from both the systems and end with pulling your hair, frustrated over the time spent on such stupid admin tasks. There is no way you can get all this info, without decent excel-fu, which defeats the entire purpose we set out for. You download reports from the two tools and then try to vlookup, merge or what have you to find your insights. On top of this, you end up paying for two tools month on month. It is not just inefficient, it is expensively inefficient.
Individually they seem inexpensive but the prices add up quickly. So,
Harvest + Trello = $22 per month or $264/year
Harvest + Asana = $22 per month or $264/year
Basecamp + Harvest = $110 per month or $1320/year
And if your business grows and you employ more users, the prices quickly go up.
Basecamp as an individual tool comes close to the requirement but it is mighty expensive at $99/month.
Even after all this investment, this solution is not flexible enough to accommodate all that your business may need.
Hence, I thought to get my hands dirty and build an end to end dashboard to handle time tracking, project management and cashflow for freelancers, under one roof. I built it on google sheets, because it is scalable, works seamlessly with google docs and it is super easy to generate any kind of report.
In this solution I paid a lot of attention to minimise the time taken for admin tasks by keeping things simple and synced across sheets. I have tried to strike a balance between automation and manual entries to maintain sanity and to keep things flexible enough to suit different business situations.
Freelancer swiss knife = Harvest/Toggl + Asana/Trello + Pulseapp + Reporting
But pricing-wise, Freelancer swiss knife is only $49 for life time. Similar solution will cost you $89 per month at bare minimum.
Let me take you through the things you can do.
Manage client contacts
Add details about your client so that you can followup easily
Set up projects with payouts and timeline
One time setup of your projects with payouts and timeline for the projects.
Milestone-specific project management
Typically all projects are milestone based and hence you can set up payouts and timelines that are milestone-specific. No need to manage your cashflow and milestones separately. In freelancing, milestones and payouts are intrinsically connected and hence, it just doesn’t make sense to manage them in two different tools. You enter your milestones, their payouts and timelines as one time setup. That’s it. Now as you track your time using the time tracker sheet, your effort will be properly attributed to the linked milestone and its payouts. Time tracking, project management and cashflow – super simplified.
One of the biggest issues as a freelancer is to predict earnings and get a hold on cashflows. No more! Just set up timeline estimates and payout estimates to help you predict your earnings and by when you will get paid.
Set up your target earnings and target hourly estimates. Track your earnings on day-by-day basis, project and milestone basis. You will be able to see which days were productive and profitable. Let me explain how days can be profitable. Let’s say you have a project in which you will be paid $30 per hour and another project in which you will be paid $50 per hour. On a given day, you worked 3 hours on the first project and 5 hours on the second project. Then you have earned $30 * 3 + $50 * 5 = $340 in 8 hours. If your daily target for earning is $500, then you are at a loss of $160. Either you need to work for more hours or stop taking loss making projects.
Track your monthly cashflow, along with the delay in payouts
Track when you get paid and when you were supposed to. This will help you in estimation and creating a predictable cashflow.
Track your time spent on different milestones and how far off it is from the budgeted time for the milestone
Just like in Harvest/Toggl, you can add the start time and end time for each task and track your productivity. Time spent on each task is linked with the milestone, estimated payouts, budgeted time etc. This helps you in being hyper productive. This module also doubles up as task management tool.
A simple but effective dashboard to track all important metrics along with charts to help you visualise your productivity, earnings and profitability
Configure & customise
Configure the sheet to suit your business by a dedicated settings tab. Set up your earning targets, your daily targets and so on.
What is the pricing of Freelancer swiss knife?
$49 one time fee
What happens after payment? How do I get access to Freelancer Swiss Knife?
Freelancer swiss knife is a google sheets add-on. Instructions on how to install a sheets add-on is here, just search for “Freelancer swiss knife”. After you make the payment, you will be directed to a form. Please enter the email id of upto 5 users who will access this tool.
What if Freelancer swiss knife doesn’t work for me?
Your payment will be refunded. No questions asked. Although, it will be great if you can share how to improve Freelancer swiss knife.