Freelancers currently make up 35 percent of the total U.S. workforce, and it’s no wonder why: The freelance lifestyle can come with higher earnings and much more liberty and flexibility. After all, as a freelancer, you have complete control of what kind of projects you want to accept and how much work you are willing to take on at any given time.

While this can be a great benefit, it also poses some challenges when it comes to staying organized and disciplined. When you’re out of the tradition 9-5 job, it’s easy to fall into a free-flowing schedule, which sometimes results in being unproductive.

In order to make the most of your freelance career, it’s essential to stay organized. Here are five

1. Keep a consitent schedule and routine

One of the most effective ways to get work done when freelancing is to keep a mindset that you are actually working and not on an indefinite vacation. This helps you stay on your toes and not miss critical deadlines. Disciplining yourself can start with efficient time management practices, establishing a regular or daily work plan and following a fixed schedule.

It is ideal to determine a schedule that works best for you and your clients as well. If you have clients that you need to interact with on a regular or daily basis, set a window within the day when you both know that you can reach and communicate with each other.

2. Use a project management software

Keeping track of your projects and assignments can sometimes be challenging as a freelancer. An effective way to handle this is to use a project management software that can help you track your workload. Downloading all your work in the app will give you a good overview of your pending deliverables, current running projects and upcoming deadlines. Using a project management app comes with a lot of benefits including being able to set the status of each deliverable you are working on.

Also make it a strict practice to secure contacts and scope of work prior to starting a new project. Many freelancers fall into the trap of over servicing their clients which results in time inefficiency and loss of profits from other potential projects that could have been done instead. These instances can be avoided by coming up with a project contract that clearly states the scope of work, timelines and payment terms.

You can also include a termination clause in the contract to protect yourself in case a client suddenly decides not to move forward with a project. That way there are set conditions to protect you when this happens, especially if you’ve delivered a large amount of work already.

3. Nurture your business relationships

One of the biggest challenges freelancers face is work stability – one day you have an abundance of work with a hefty paycheck waiting at the end of the month, the next day you’re out of clients with no source of income.

Building a solid client portfolio that gives you a steady amount of income takes a while. Therefore, it is important to be strategic about the jobs that you take. If possible, avoid low-paying, one-time projects that won’t be financially beneficial for you in the long run. Try to look for clients who need your services on a long-term basis and nurture your relationships with them. Not only will this keep your cash flow healthy, it will also give you peace of mind so you won’t be scrambling for money to pay your bills at the end of each month.

4. Use accounting software to manage your finances

When you have a regular job, you are able to predict your income based on the fixed salary you earn every month. When you are freelancing, your income becomes unpredictable especially if you are juggling various clients and regularly taking on new projects.

Make it a practice to note down your expected fees from your current clients, which should be properly outlined in your work contract. Apart from this, record all your expenses, whether personal or professional, so that you are mindful of the outgoing amount from your cash vault.

An effective way to keep track of all your finances is to use an online accounting software that can help you come up with budgets, create invoices, record expenses and payments, and compute taxes.

Apart from this, use a checking account that can help you easily move money around, whether it is paying vendors or suppliers for services or receiving payments and professional fees from your clients.

Bottom Line

While freelancing can be exciting and can potentially give you a great feeling of accomplishment, it is important to take note that you need good organizational skills to keep your career in shape.

When you are self-employed, it is your full responsibility to look after all aspects of your business, including simple administrative tasks as well as legal and financial obligations. It does take some practice to stay disciplined and on top of things but consistently practicing the tips we’ve shared can help you get there.

Maggie Aland is a staff writer for Fit Small Business, a website that provides small business owners with information to help their businesses succeed. She writes on a variety of marketing topics, ranging from newspaper ads to how to market your business on Facebook. Before joining Fit Small Business, Maggie worked as a marketing associate at a niche publishing company.