spring cleaning

Spring Cleaning for Freelancers: Step by Step How-To Guide

Lauren Bonk

Spring is here, friends. The earth is waking up, people are starting to consider ordering their lattes over ice, and bears are suddenly realizing they are very, very hungry.

It also means that people start throwing out words and phrases like “spring cleaning” and “decluttering.” I don’t know about you, but when the snow starts melting and the buds start to pop out on all the trees, the last thing I’m thinking about is cleaning toilets and decluttering my garage. These springy signs simply make me want to move my comfy chair outside so that I can read a book in the fresh air.

There is, however, a type of spring cleaning that I do start thinking about, and it doesn’t require me to put on rubber gloves and lug around a bucket of soapy water.

Just think about it for a minute… you’ve turned in your taxes, or are, at least, very close to having them done. You’re only a few months into the year at this point, so it’s not too late to correct any bookkeeping mistakes you’ve made, or change up something that isn’t working well for you. This is the perfect time to unplug the space heater in your office and jump back into the world like those groggy bears.

Don’t worry; I know these kinds of things are hard to start. That’s why we’re here with a handy little guide for spring cleaning your freelance business.

Go paperless.

One of my biggest sources of stress is clutter. Now, I know there are many different kinds of clutter. Figurative clutter involving emails and distractions and clients is definitely rough, but the stuff that really gets me is actual, physical clutter. My biggest clutter item? Paper.

Sure, I’ve got a paper tray. Does it have any organization? No. Should ¾ of its content be immediately recycled, rather than taking up precious space? Absolutely. That’s why it’s important to reduce the amount of paper you use or receive in the first place by going paperless. Some of the ways you can do this include utilizing a digital signature service for any legally binding documents, opting for email billing and invoicing, and scanning documents for digital storage. Going paperless is good for the environment, your office, and your sanity.

Ditch your headache clients.

This is a spring cleaning step that requires some serious thinking; you probably shouldn’t fire a client just because they’re a little annoying. I’m talking actual headache clients. The ones who have you lying awake at night, fretting over details and miscommunications. The ones whose payments don’t seem to be worth the work and stress they’re putting you through. It’s not going to be a pleasant conversation, and you’ll need to be level-headed and polite… but the freedom to work with clients and projects that are fulfilling and enjoyable is worth a couple of uncomfortable emails or phone calls.

Reevaluate your systems.

Spring is such a good time to clean because of its fortunate placement in the year. It’s close enough to December for you to look back on the previous year, and it’s early enough for you to make truly beneficial changes. Some questions you might ask yourself are:

-How is your communication process with clients? Is it effective for both parties? Do you need to be more proactive or less aggressive?
-What about your expense-tracking? Are you even tracking your business expenses at all?
-Think about your tax experience this year. How could you have made it smoother?
-Is your creative process still working, or can you implement some new techniques?
-Did you struggle with distraction and time management?
-Are there any tools that will help your freelance business be more effective?
-Do you need to ramp up your marketing?
-Are there any conferences you’d like to attend?
-Are you scheduling meetings in a way that works well for you?

Cull your electronic clutter.

Technology is a double-edged sword of convenience and excess. An app can be a lifesaver… or another thing taking up space and data.
SaaS products and subscription services can lose their usefulness as your freelance business evolves, and email subscriptions can accumulate until they become a mountain of useless text the size of Vesuvius.

Take time to look over your smartphone, and get rid of apps that are too distracting or gathering digital cobwebs. Going through your SaaS subscriptions and terminating any that you don’t fully use can save you hundreds of dollars a year… and we all know how annoying it is to see 32 promotional emails taking up space in your inbox. Unroll.me is a super-simple, super-effective way to weed through promotional subscriptions you no long care about, and give your email a quick spring clean.

Literally clean your office.

Okay, I know I started out saying that this wasn’t going to be about actual cleaning, but sometimes a little once-over with a trash can and a dust rag can do miracles for your work environment. Go through that giant pile of papers and add a recycling bin to your office… move your desk to the sunny side of the room… rearrange the action figures that adorn the bookshelf above your mini-fridge… buy a mini-fridge. Sometimes changing things up is just the trick you need to refresh your motivation and outlook.

Update the face of your freelance business.

You should also make sure your social profiles are up-to-date and accurate. Has your phone number changed? Did you build a new website with a new domain? Did you get fancy-schmancy new professional photos last year and, if so, did you add them to all of your profiles?

Your portfolio definitely deserves some attention, as well. Make sure you’ve added any recent projects, and weed out any previous work that no longer represents your creative values or the direction in which your freelance business is heading.

Re-inspect your business foundations.

A whole lot of things can happen within a year. In the span of 12 months, you can take on significantly more clients, become certified in a new specialty, and even meet people who change your entire outlook on freelancing. Take a few hours to sit down with your business plan and reevaluate your goals. Do you still want the same things you did last year? Are you headed in a direction with an entirely different endgame? Let yourself explore these changes and possibilities, and create a revised plan that accurately represents where you are now.

Don’t be afraid of spring cleaning your freelance business.

A deep clean can be daunting in that it often brings up the need for decision-making and introspection. “Should I get rid of all the jeans that don’t fit me anymore?” and “Should I give that client my 30-day termination notice?” are both questions that can bring up uncomfortable feelings. Once the decision’s made, though, the results are palpable, and your life will be gifted with a little more freedom… which is why you’re in this business in the first place, right?

This spring, why not roll up those creative sleeves, put on your mental rubber gloves, and use a little entrepreneurial elbow grease to give your business a boost of energy. I promise you won’t have to clean a single toilet if you don’t want to.

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