If you’re a professional illustrator or designer, or have read one of my other posts, you know this: it’s not all just drawing and cutting and glueing. On average I spend 60-70% of my time on anything but illustrating.
One of the tasks is doing admin. It’s a tricky one, most people don’t like doing it. I was never a fan, I’ll be honest.
In this blogpost I will give you a few quick tips that might make doing your admin a bit more fun. Or at least: bearable 🙂
1: Get an accountant
When I became a professional illustrator (in my book this means: doing regular illustration jobs and getting paid for it), I made a phone call to an accountant I knew and asked if she would help me. Because I’m not that good with numbers.
So if you’re having trouble with filing your taxes and want to have it done properly: get an accountant. Especially when you’re starting out! This stuff can be really complicated and when you’re starting out you have enough to worry about already. It’s a good investment and if you’re accountant is good, it will pay off.
2: Keep track of your projects
For me it works really well if I keep track of every project I have coming up. Mainly because my brain can’t remember it all. I used to pride myself with my good memory but since I had a burnout a few years back, my memory is not that good any more 🙂
A nice, sturdy notebook
For me it helps if I use good and nice-looking stationery, it makes it more fun! In this notebook (from HEMA) I write down each month which projects I have, what the deadline is and what the budget is. This way I can easily oversee how busy I am and how much money is coming in. It’s in Dutch, but it says: ‘Projects September’ and below that it says: ‘client’, ‘what?’ (short description), ‘budget’ and ‘deadline’.
I do this for every month so I can see in one quick glance what projects I have coming up and how much money is coming in.
In the past I used to take on too many projects but when I see it on one page, I can see at once what I’m up to that month. Personally, I not only look at the time I have left, but also financially. I know I have to make a certain amount of money each month to pay my bills, so in the budget-row I can see if that month is/was sufficient.
3: Plan properly
My monthly planner is very simple: it’s 2 sheets of paper taped together and I write the name of the month on top and make squares for my working days. I don’t include weekends as I want to keep them free as much as I can.
On this planner I write down the main projects, like book assignments or editorial illustrations. Everything that has a clear deadline and can be properly planned in, I add to the planner.
For example: if I know I have to have all sketches for a particular book send to the publisher by the end of the month, I will calculate how many sketches I would have to do per day. So on my monthly planner is looks like: ‘Monday 17 July: 6 sketches book title’, for example.
Next to my monthly planner I have a weekly planner. This includes more detailed and day-to-day tasks.
In general, I make a to-do list for every day, by checking my monthly planner first. I will copy that into my weekly planner (I use a Moleskine agenda for this).
I also write down for every task how many hours it will take so I can see how busy I am. I try to work not more than 5 hours planned every day, as there are always things during the day that take up unaccounted time, like phone calls and such.
I’m a big fan of using post-its. If I have a job or assignment that’s flexible in its deadline, or I can move around, I write it on a post-it. I can stick it somewhere where I think I have time, but if it turns out I don’t, I can stick it somewhere else in my planners.
4: Do paperwork digitally
As I use enough paper as it is, I do all of my admin digitally. This means I send all my invoices and job proposals through email. I never print my invoices and I send them by mail. I highly recommend doing this because: 1) it’s saves space on your shelves, 2) it’s easier to go through your files, and 3) it’s better for the environment.
Sending invoices and job proposals
For the invoices and proposals I send, I use a Dutch online service called Moneybird. I can easily create invoices, and job proposals can be even signed digitally. This service lets me know when payments are due so I can check in my bank account if the invoices have been paid. It can also send payment reminders automatically.
I pay €10 a month for this service but it easily saves me 4 hours a month on admin.
There are a lot of different online tools to send your invoices. I can imagine you would like one from your own country, so start Googling for good alternatives. Search for ‘online invoice system’ and you’ll be on your way!
Organising invoices and receipts
Most incoming invoices (invoices I have to pay) are also digitally. Most companies send a PDF through email so that’s great. In my email program I have a folder especially for all invoices coming in. I named the folder ‘Invoices’. Easy does it 😉
By the end of every quarter, I go into that folder and copy all the PDF’s and invoices to a folder on my computer.
You can see on the right how I organise my administration folder on my computer.
Receipts: so many and so messy
I hate little receipts you get at shops. Every quarter I had to scan them all in and it took me forever. I also often forgot to put them away safely so I missed quite some money because of that.
This month I started using Gekko, an app installed on my phone. I can take a photo of my receipt, enter how much it was and how much VAT was and I have it all stored away nicely immediately. I can login on my computer online and see all my receipts and I can export a file with an overview for my accountant.
You can do all of your invoicing as well in Gekko, but I’m quite fond of Moneybird 🙂
5: Keep track of your time
For years I have been doing this on paper. Whenever I started working on a project, I wrote down the date and the time and when I finished I wrote down the end time.
This year I switched to a digital tracker, named Toggl. I add the projects I’m doing to the tracker and whenever I start working on a particular project, I press play. When I finish I hit stop. Yes, it’s that easy.
When I have to write a job proposal, I calculate with quarters. I’m not going to nit-pick over 5 or 7 minutes. When I have to do correction rounds, I calculate per 15 minutes (per quarter).
Another way to organise the paperworks I using the ‘To do, doing, done’-system. I was thinking of getting into this, but for now my old system works best for me. But it’s a good read!
What you need (grocery list):
- A good notebook (I use notebooks from HEMA)
- Sheets of paper, tape and a marker/sharpie
- Agenda (I use this one from Moleskine)
- An online invoicing system (I use Moneybird)
- App to keep track of receipts (like Gekko)
- Toggl (or any other time tracking-system)
The peach notepad (with ‘work work work’ on it) is from Megan McNulty’s shop.
I was not sponsored by any of the products or services mentioned in this blog post. I have been using these products and services myself for some time and I just like them very much. So, everything mentioned in this post is my honest opinion 🙂
I hope this has helped you getting your administration in order. Please let me know what you think in the comment-section below. If you have any other tips you like to share, please feel free to do so.
And do share this blog post with others to help them 🙂 Thanks for reading!
All photos are © Marloes de Vries 2017, unless noted otherwise. Do not take these photos without my permission.
If you want to know more about the business part of illustration, please take a look at my previous blog posts. I also wrote an elaborate FAQ with answers on questions I get asked the most. I can’t offer personal help to people free of charge, as I’m a full-time illustrator.