Organization is Essential: Freelance

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Hanging organizer, perfect for exhibits or just forms to grab on the way out the door

INTRO: Without organization, especially in freelance, your life will descend into chaos. Your desk will clutter with exhibits and forms, and you will forget when things need to be turned in. You will feel like you’re always hanging by a thread. You won’t know when to request off. Tax time will be madness.

If you are a student, take this post to heart. Get sorted before you get thrown into the fire. In freelance, if your experience is anything like mine was, you will barely have a moment to even get your macros together to edit efficiently, much less your system on how you’re going to put food on the table, organize your calendar, and keeping a clean desk.

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EXHIBITS: First, designate an area where you will put ALL of your exhibits. I chose one long cheap desk from Ikea for $80. This is where you will lay out every stack of exhibits after every day. That is ALL this desk is for. You can keep office supplies in the drawers, but very few things other than a lamp and maybe an office plant should be on this desk. If you do not have space for a desk, get cubby holes from Ikea or Target and give each large exhibit stack a different space. The small stacks, crisscross and keep in one cubby hole.

When you come home from your first job, the first thing you should do is place your stack of exhibits from the job on your desk, crisscrossing them if there were multiple witnesses that day (but keeping them in the same stack) and placing any and ALL job forms on the top of the stack.

FORMS/SUPPLIES: Now, you need an area where you can grab your forms/backup supplies. I recommend a hanging organizer, vertical cubby holes, or a metal rack that would already have your printer on it.
You need a place for these things: business cards, exhibit stickers, batteries.
You need a separate slot for each of these forms: order forms, exhibit forms, forms that allow you to take work from another firm, general paper for printing your job sheets.
You need all these in easy-to-reach areas where you can grab quickly.

RECEIPTS: Finally, you need a tax dumping ground. Something with paperclips and a printer nearby. Whenever you buy something online or buy something at a convention, you will print out your receipt and throw it in. I ONLY paperclip the little receipts. The page receipts that I print out I just throw it in. So when I come home after a depo, I might have a UPS receipt, a parking receipt, and a restaurant receipt. Throw them in. Then at the end of each month, I gather all the loose receipts from the month in the basket and paperclip them together for that month.

At the end of the year when you’re doing your write-offs, you will go through them by month, and then tally up the large expenses (travel, conventions, Amazon purchases). Submit these figures to your tax lady in the correct categories, along with your mileage. Collect all these receipts, leaving the paperclips on, and put them into a velcro envelope and label it “2014.” Then place that velcro envelope in a binder labeled “Taxes.” You will only need to keep your taxes going back seven years, so seven velcro folders should easily fit into one 3″ binder.

MILEAGE: Mileage is a separate write-off and is the only thing impossible to track with a receipt. You either need to put on each job sheet the miles that you drove in a bright color at the top corner so you can easily tally the total at the end of the year by going through your job sheets AND/OR you need to write in a bright color the mileage in your depo book next to each job.

I have an in-depth post on tax write-offs here.

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Some other areas you will want to keep organized are your car and your bags that you take to the depos.

TIP ONE: It is great if you lay out your clothing the night before, along with your Google map printout.

TIP TWO: Many people keep a depo book to keep their jobs straight, which is only necessary if you work for multiple firms. But I would also recommend keeping a white board or calendar above your editing station with the day you took a job and a marking on the day that it is due. There are paper-thin whiteboards that are great for planning.

MEALS: You want to keep a designated day to pull together a meal plan. I have a list of all the meals that I can cook in a notebook (with ONLY the ingredients next to them, NOT the whole recipe). I pick five or six of those and create a grocery list without ever looking at my recipe cards.

CAR: Few things belong in a car! I have an in-depth post on car organization here.
Here are the ONLY things that should be in your work car, other than a bag for trash.
Trunk: Emergency fluids/emergency kit.
Front: GPS, important documents if pulled over, phone charger, music.
Middle: your reuseable grocery bags, umbrella, jacket

When you’re in the car, these are the things you will find on the seats:
Your two CR bags
Your drink of choice
Your job sheet/Google map
Your phone

BAGS: As for your CR bags, just organize like with like, except for cords. Keep cords separated so they don’t get tangled. Basically, things that you rarely take out in a depo (paper clips, highlighters, markers, batteries) should be in a SEPARATE compartment so that you’re not moving things around that you’re not going to take out anyway when setting up.

Also, personal things like feminine pads, lip balm, snacks, wallet should not be mixed in with your court reporter things but kept in a separate compartment in your backpack or in a purse. I never brought a purse to a depo because it was superfluous, but I know that many women do. If you’re going to the bathroom and need to take a lipstick/pad/snack, just put it in your pocket or take your purse.

2 thoughts on “Organization is Essential: Freelance

  1. Hello!
    Is it okay if we use this article in our next newsletter going to freelance court reporters? We will link back to your site and give you credit.
    Please let me know.
    Thank you!
    Barbara

    • Hey Barbara,

      Feel free to use any of my posts in your article. I mean this as a resource blog for all court reporters, and I am glad that you found this post helpful.

      -Melody

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