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Tracking Client Work

Last week I wrote about tracking submissions. This week I want to tackle tracking client work, which is similar, but not the same.

When it comes to my client work, the projects tend to be larger than publication jobs, books excepted. This typically means tracking more information. Here are my top client tracking logs:

Tracking Proposals & Bids

When it comes to clients, you pitch proposals instead of queries. These are usually in response to an RFP or client call. I tend to do a lot of work through agencies and production companies so my proposals are often done as a simple bid of options (x words for x dollars or x dollars for x finished minutes of script). When I do a flat rate, it is only for my portion of the project. The production company PM does the rest. With one lucky client, he just plugs in my rates and emails me what the project would pay. However it arrives, you have to track those figures as you bid them out. The touchy part of this is that most often I bid over the phone, including in the car where I can’t take notes. In those instances, I tell Siri how much the project will be and have her save it in a text to me. It is essential you mark those figures down somewhere so you know how much to invoice later. It’s embarrassing to have to ask a client how much they were going to pay you. Trust me.

Tracking Client Projects

Every time I get a new client project, I add a folder on my computer and a page to my yearly project spreadsheet. Each page lists the pertinent details about the client and that particular job. The fields on this log include: client name, client company, email, phone, address (for the invoice), alternate contacts (administrative assistants or others on the project team), project title, project description, due date (this may be broken down by phase: treatment, shooting script, first draft, etc.), contract sent, contract received date, my payment, my invoice #, invoice date, follow up, payment date, and any notes about the project or client.

I like to keep notes that will highlight issues, concerns, successes and anything else that will help me the next time I work with this client.

I make my project logs vertically so I can add sections with details and attach links to the various items submitted throughout the project. It’s easier to do this than a traditional spreadsheet. I also create an email folder to track communications about the project. This is particularly helpful when there are multiple people involved and if a disagreement on approach happens late in the project. It also saves me from having to look for information.

Tracking Client Prospects

This spreadsheet is similar to the proposal log, except it is for clients I contact without a proposal involved or through cold marketing. I keep a list of companies I would like to work for and how I have approached them, what I sent, when I sent it, and to whom and their contact details. If they respond positively, I check them off the list and add them to the client log.

Tracking Finances

This is the big one. Doing this will save you time, money and frustration. There is nothing worse than not knowing whether a client has paid you or if they are late and how late. I track all invoices and payments on one spreadsheet for quarterly taxes. I also track the source of that income by client and specific project name (or article title), date received, amount and whether it is a partial payment or full. Clients love to send partial payments for some reason. This means I have to acknowledge the partial payment and send a new invoice for the remaining amount and then track that.

I keep a separate log for my monthly contract work so I can track when I invoice and get paid. This helps when I need to remind a client they missed a payment. It also helps me manage my cash flow.

Finances are not fun. I hate doing finances. Good thing I am organized. You have to be. Otherwise, it’s too easy to miss an invoice and not get paid. I did that once and learned my lesson. I also learned good records come in handy if a client goes bankrupt as one of mine did. I needed to work with their lawyers to get paid and had to show documentation of their non-payment. Without that, they never would have paid me.

Tracking Clients

I keep a client log too. This is where I put all my clients’ contact information, projects I’ve done and when, who else I worked with in the company, any outside personnel or contractors, what the project paid and other details, like this client likes chocolate and has a Newfoundland dog. I keep one sheet for each client. It’s not a J. Edgar Hoover-like file, but it does the trick. Plus I can keep track of who comes and goes within the company so I am not left without a contact.

These are the logs I use the most. I hope it helps you be more organized in running your freelance business.

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