Simple setup for a freelancer


I’ve been reading this discussion board for ages, so I thought that was about time to share my setup. (not English speaking, apologies for typos)
I am not that avid/organised not taker, so I am looking for simplicity. I don’t even need to reviews notes regularly, things are also on things3 and my gmail, and my work files are more than often on my clients onedrive/gdrive etc.
So I have those 200 notes that I want to keep a little organised

This is the setup that I am going for:

  1. Meta
  2. Me - (my life)
    1. Home - my home
    2. Family - mother and sister
    3. Belongings - car, motorbike, etc…
    4. Taxes
  3. Consultancy
    1. Clients - A note for each client with the essential information
    2. Requests - I actually use more gmail or things3 to track requests… but perhaps I should at least copy them here
    3. Templates - checklist and procedures
    4. Webinar - notes about professional webinars that I attend
    5. Materials - passwords, documents, operational material that maybe fit in 3.1
  4. Learning
    1. Albanese
    2. Webinars - this can overlap with 3.4.
    3. Coding - snippets
  5. Pleasure
    1. Travel
    2. DIY
    3. Podcast - (or any other topic that grab my interest)
  6. Research
    1. Concepts - some kind of evergreen notes
    2. Questions - questions that I ask myself with details about it
    3. Entities - research on companies and people
    4. Steal it - ideas and inspiration found around
  7. Unsorted

My doubts and thoughts

  • Basically my areas are “I am not getting money for this (2)”, "I am getting money for this (3) and “I hope to get money for this one day (6)”
  • All the others are notes that I am trying to save somewhere. I am doing everything by spotlight and often I search by a keyword rather than by category
  • I have area of research for my profession (3), but I am also keeping notes for topics that I want to research, they can be part of my profession in the future (or a side part), but they are not part of my consultancy profession. In 3.4 I put notes about webinar that I followed strictly related for my consultancy business, in 4.2 webinar, but can also be articles and papers, regarding other topics. Are they overlapping?
  • Not sure if the categories under research (6) can be placed as areas

I keep task in things3 with a bit of GTD style and I use a lot the calendar for timeblocking and Trello for when I need a higher view.

I personally really like how clean and simple this is. Because of the way you organized it you still have space for 100 clients if you need it.

On a mostly unrelated topic, how do you keep track of how many hours you’ve worked for each client for billing purposes? This is something I’m currently struggling with keeping track of

I found toggl very useful for tracking time spent on clients and projects, both billable and non billable areas.

Otherwise I do my time blocks in advance.

Shout-out to the excellent Timery which makes Toggl a bit nicer to use IMHO.

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thanks! I’ll check it out!
Speaking about time tracking, in my opinion it’s a bit of a double edge sword and I found that having a relax approach to it make me work much better.

If I can, I break down projects by daily efforts… so for a 50 hrs project I just block 2 hours each day for the next 25 days. No need to stress for each minute that I spent on something and I get deep focused on my work.

I tried a service called with you set a task (from google task I think), you say how many hours you need and it will break it down in your cal, but I found it too aggressive on filling my calendar.

I personally value long term relationships with my clients, so I rather do time blocking to be sure to advance on the project. If it requires me few more hours I am ok with it, it builds a relations. But this is really down to your type of client and work.

I have a client were I am just doing the tasks that he does not care of doing, in that case I bill/track by the hour (and always 1 hr minimum).

I’m the same.

The lads on the Cortex podcast are all-in on time tracking, and they’re smart productive people. So I thought, let’s give it a go.

So I recorded my data for a while, but then I realised that I was never looking at the results.

(I did the same for my finances a few years ago: dutifully recorded every transaction in a double-entry ledger. The data was beautiful. But I never looked at it! So I stopped doing that as well.)

Strangely enough I did have great success a while back using an app called Sorted. My job was mad busy and it was the only way that I found to actually get the important stuff done. It’s definitely worth a look, but I no longer use it.