Yes, you didn’t start your own business to do administration, but guess what? Administration doesn’t do itself, and if you learn to get it done, quickly and effectively, it won’t dominate your new working life. You may even be surprised that you come to appreciate the thinking time that routine tasks can buy you.
Learning to be a decent administrator is a small but vital part of freelance and entrepreneurial life. The good news is that most of the work you do will be quick and easy to carry out.
No business can succeed in any great degree without being properly organized. Doing your administration makes your business properly organized.
Remember You Are a Business – Receipts and Invoices Matter
You’d be amazed at what you can expense when you run own your business. If you work from home, you can most likely expense part (though not all – in most places) of your rent. You can expense the mileage on your car for business trips, your laptop and a great many other things.
This is important because expenses, in the main, are paid before tax. E.g., you don’t have to pay income tax or corporate taxes on expenses. In some cases, particularly if you are a VAT-registered company, you may also be able to claim the VAT back on your expenses.
You need to learn to keep hold of receipts and invoices and to store them in a way that your accountant can help you work out what you can claim back against your tax bill. In the beginning, you may be able to do the accounting yourself to save money and to get a basic understanding of how basic business administration works.
The easiest way to do this is to get a big 12-part folder and allocate each month’s receipts and invoices to one part of it. Make sure the date is on each receipt or invoice before you file it (not all businesses do this automatically), put them in order according to the date and make a note of the amount and the reason for each expense and income.
Get in the habit of keeping receipts and invoices early – don’t throw them away; you can’t claim tax relief for a receipt you don’t have.
Author/Copyright holder: Marcin Wichary. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY 2.0
Paperwork is fine, but it can be a burden... and it can burn. Getting your filing online is a better idea. With Cloud Storage available for free or very little cost – there’s really no excuse.
Best Practice: Storing Contracts, Paperwork and Actual Work
You should develop an organized filing system for paperwork and particularly for your contracts. If possible, hard copies should be kept in a flame-proof filing cabinet. You should organize your hard drive to keep scanned copies, etc.
You also need to consider backup solutions such as cloud storage in case your hard drive fails. You can get free cloud storage from DropBox and Google Drive. If you need more, you can always buy more space.
Author/Copyright holder: Tani12. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
The other advantage of doing your admin in the cloud is that you can access everything from anywhere – which is really important for digital nomads and mobile business owners. The more you do it, the more you’ll wonder how you ever made do beforehand.
Finally, you need to have a system for disposing of data once you’re done with it. Best practice is to keep contracts for three years after completion. Keep work for 12 months after completion (unless using it in a portfolio) in case the client loses the work. You can choose a commonsense approach – unless your legal environment has certain mandatory requirements (check with a lawyer).
All other administration is the basic stuff that is required in pretty much any job—keeping your workplace clean and organized; ensuring that bins are emptied and that there’s coffee in the cupboards...that sort of thing.
The Take Away
It can be really tempting to ignore admin work – particularly when you’re really busy, but the truth is that it’s an essential part of running a business. Make sure you set aside some time either daily or weekly to deal with it. It’s part of the unpaid work of running a business.
In the long term, you may choose to outsource your admin when you’re busy so that you can focus more on paid projects.
References & Where to Learn More
Hero Image: Author/Copyright holder: Pizarros. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Great tips for balancing admin with “real work”: http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/balancing-administrative-tasks-and-key-projects-10-tips-for-a-more-productive-work-day.aspx