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How I’m conquering the daily grind: free planner inside

Free printable: track your income, grow your biz, keeping hustling

Going back to full time freelancing, my goal has been to do things differently (i.e., better!) this time around. One of the things that was a personal shortfall last time is that I was definitely not great at breaking my income goals down into smaller chunks and actually keeping track of money coming into my business. I had weekly goals, but I didn’t really keep track in any easy to use visual manner.

I needed a way to see at a glance how I was doing on my income goals, and gauge the effectiveness of my pricing. And – you know me – I couldn’t find one (…that didn’t involve spreadsheets, gag me), so I made it. 

Click on the image to download your printable:

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 3.45.23 PM

 

How to use it:

It’s a pretty simple idea:

  1. Take your monthly income goal (I used $3,000 for this example, since…that’s what I’m using right now as a realistic guess for my first full month back at freelancing)
  2. Divide that by 22 (which is the average number of work days in a month, though if you wanted to get super anal-retentive you could count the actual work days in any given month)
  3. Ta da! That’s your daily goal.

The planner functions as a bar graph, and each day is divided up into four sections for 25, 50, 75, and 100%. In my example, 150 doesn’t divide evenly by four (37.5 is not a very bar-graph-friendly number), so I just rounded up and have it go by increments of 40 instead.

Here’s what mine looks like right now:

photo1

(I went ahead and filled in guaranteed income for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, just to help illustrate the usage – normally I wouldn’t color that in until it had been worked and/or paid)

The specifics of how I’m using it:

  • I’m tracking the work I do, as long as I know I’ll get paid for it. For example, if I write a 1,500 word post for a client, that’s my goal met for the day and I mark the day as complete – I don’t count the income on the day the invoice gets paid. (This could potentially bite you in the ass with a non-paying client, but again, the idea here is not detailed financial tracking; this is meant to be an at-a-glance planner that keeps your nose to the grindstone.)*
  • The exception to this is if someone buys a product on a particular day – that income goes on that day or the next blank day.
  • For money that comes in during the weekend (by which I mean, a product sold or a class enrollment, etc.), you can either not mark it on the hustle planner, and it’ll be some extra padding, or you can roll it over to the next Monday.
  • If you really wanted to, you could color code by products vs. services vs. classes, but I’m not.

*Part of the reason I’m doing it this way is that one of the recurring issues I had before was that people would pay a retainer, then I’d count the retainer income as being a full week’s (or two weeks, etc.) income goal, without actually having worked off the retainer yet. As you know if you’ve done this, this catches up and you wind up incredibly overworked at some point in the future. This is part of my way of fixing that problem.

This is useful because:

It keeps the focus on arguably the most useful metric: money. It’s too easy to get swept up in “OMG! I got 10 new email signups today!” and think that that means you can take an afternoon off, or work on things that won’t necessarily generate ROI. Looking at your guaranteed income keeps you realistic as far as what you need to plan for pitching, marketing, and sales each day and week. It keeps you hustling. (Hence the name.)

It also makes my work-day really simple: I outline my work for the day, I work until the day is full and I’ve met my income goal, and only then do I work on email, social media, marketing, writing blog posts, and so on.

Using this planner is super helpful in setting priorities – if you’re nearing the end of the first week of the month, and see you’re “blocked up” through the end of the third week in the month, you don’t have to spend as much time or energy on sales/pitching in your after-goal time – instead, you can work on something that might have a longer-term return on investment (like writing a blog post or pitching guest posts).

It’s also a handy metric for knowing if your pricing is way off. If you regularly find yourself finishing a 6-8 hour work-day without having made that goal amount yet, or you do make the goal amount but you’re so freakin’ exhausted you don’t have any time left for admin and marketing, then you need to raise your prices. Administrative details and marketing is a huge part of what goes in to freelancing and/or running a business, and if there’s not enough time for that, then something’s broken somewhere along the line.

It can be really easy to spend far too much time researching the latest social media trends or reading the newest post from your favorite marketing blogger or dicking around on Facebook “networking.” This planner helps keep your attention on the hustle – hope you enjoy it!

PS: I’ve got some awesome news coming up on Friday, and some of that awesome news will only be available for subscribers – make sure to sign up for the newsletter below or here to make sure that you don’t miss it! 

6 Comments

  1. I really like your breakdown, and this sounds like something I might try out myself 🙂
    But I think my particular case might need some tweaking…

    What do you do if you go past the 100% mark on any given day? Count it toward the following day and take a break?

    Also, I can see how this works well with hourly rates (ie. you know how much time you spent each day, and multiply by your rate), but I always work on a per project rate, and while I knew sort of what I would make per hour when I quoted the price, it can really go either way – either I spend less time than I thought, or I bust my ass for every single penny because I didn’t know what it would really take and I quoted too low.

    So basically, it’s hard for me to know if I worked “enough” or not until the feedback comes in and I can see how much is left before I get paid.

    Reply

    • Hi Nela!

      Yeah, if I make it past the 100% mark I count it to the next day. As far as hourly vs. project, I actually don’t charge hourly – I charge per project (well, per word) as well. So once I finish enough writing that it amounts to my daily goal, it’s met for the day, regardless of how many hours I’ve worked. When it comes to the specific situation you describe, part of the problem there could be that the services aren’t systematized enough – when you quote a project price, you should be covered hourly-rates-wise whether the client uses all their revisions (and you should DEFINITELY have a revisions limit in your contract/initial agreement!). I would start being very careful with your time tracking if you aren’t already, work on systematizing your services more, and base your project quotes off of the time-tracking/your past experience so you’re more covered hours-wise. (The Kick Burnout Kit can help with this, although, as a heads up, I’d wait to buy anything until you see the special info on Friday; I’ve also got a guest post going up at Sarah Von Bargen’s business blog on July 2 that covers this too.)

      And then when it comes to the daily hustle planners, mark it off based on your lower end of the estimation – i.e. if you quote your projects so that you’re making at least $50/hr then after working 3 hrs/day you’d have marked off $150 for the day. That way, if a client winds up needing less revisions or you make more than $50/hr on that particular project, that’s extra money/putting you ahead of your goals. So, for an example using my work, with the rates I charge I make at least $50/hr and if a piece is particularly quick or easy or the client doesn’t want edits, it winds up higher. I did that on purpose when I created my project/word rates.

      Does all of that make sense and help some? Let me know if you have any more questions!

      Reply

  2. I’ve always encouraged freelancers/self-employed/Independent Contractors to breakdown their income goals daily. It’s how I’ve always done it. Because if you can see your daily trends, it’s easier to shift gears at that level than it is when you’re staring at an empty checking account and have bills to pay at the beginning of the month!

    Reply

    • Yes! That’s the problem that I’ve had before is that I’ll do it weekly, and then I hit the end of the month and I’m like…errr…#screwed 😉

      Thus far, daily is working out a lot better for me!

      Reply

  3. this could definitely help me! i’m so bad at the systems/business side of business. i tried to do my first monthly goals at the beginning of this month but then you tend to just forget about it :/ i think tracking and being conscious daily is a good way to go. also, shouldn’t it be divided by 20 (you wrote 22)?

    Reply

    • Yeah, exactly – daily goals keep me focused, with monthly goals, I get off track. I hope the planner helps you out!!

      I can’t remember how I came up with the 22 number – I think I just googled for average number of work days in a month and got that, but it varies, in July there are 23 work days, August has 21, etc.

      Reply

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