The Do’s & Don’ts of Getting Paid as a Freelancer


When people ask me why I don’t freelance full-time, I don’t always give them the same answer. Sometimes I say that while I love working on projects independently from start to finish and collaborating with some amazing clients (shoutout to my friends at Northern Lineage and Natasha Gillam!) I also really love my job (have you signed up for Vendeve yet? Don’t make me ask again. Sign up now or cry later). Other times, I tell them it’s because while I’m excellent at the creative side of my business, I am absolute garbage sometimes at the accounting/management side.

When the team at Freshbooks reached out to me to write a blog post on the ups and downs of freelancer invoicing, I jumped at the chance. I’ve definitely made my share of mistakes getting started with invoicing and managing projects and I’m pretty excited to share my blunders with you all so that you don’t do some of the dumb things I did.

So here we go, everyone loves some good ol’ “do’s and don’ts” so here are the Do’s and Don’ts of Freelance Invoicing

Do: Track Your Time

When I was first starting out as a freelancer, I tried to make really generous estimates so that I wouldn’t end up going over my time and having to do free work for a client. Smart! However, what I failed to do was properly keep track of my time. So I never knew if my original estimate was accurate and I just kept ballparking figures for about a year that we’re ultimately too low. Now, I use a great little app called Toggl that is free and helps me easily keep track of my ongoing side projects. You can also track your time directly in Freshbooks so that you can pull your billable hours straight into your invoice. Easy!

Do: Use an Accounting Software

True story: for the first year I was freelancing I created all my invoices in InDesign and added them up manually when tallying items and when I did my year end. They looked pretty, but that’s about it. It was tedious and annoying and since moving to a cloud accounting software my life has been way easier.

I like using Wave Apps, because I really like the way they’ve designed their interface to be simple and to the point: create an estimate, send it directly to the client, convert said estimate into an invoice and send to client, then get paid and send your client a receipt. Super smooth. It’s perfect for my needs as a part-time freelancer who isn’t doing a ton of billing.

I’ve also recently started testing out Freshbooks and so far, I love it. I literally signed up for the free trial and within 5 minutes I had created my first invoice. It was beyond easy and way more intuitive than other clunky desktop accounting software or excel spreadsheets that I tried in the past to use to manage my books. It’s also a mobile app so you can do your accounting while you’re on the bus, if that’s your thing. If I was freelancing full-time, I’d 100% move to Freshbooks: their time-tracking and reporting features seem like they would be really valuable to me.

Don’t: Be Afraid to Ask Your Clients to Pay Up

When you use a software like Freshbooks or Wave it’s really easy to see when something is overdue. When I first started freelancing just out of university, I always used to assume that people were way busier than me and that was why they hadn’t paid me yet. That was silly. When people agree to work with you and you send them an invoice, they know they have to pay you. Sometimes people forget and you have to remind them and that’s totally okay because we’re all human beings. But sometimes people avoid you because they’re sneaky and then you have to just bug them until they pony up.

Do: Make Sure You Know How You’re Being Paid

Etransfer? Cheque? Paypal? If you’re using Paypal for your client’s convenience, it’s a good idea to puff up your estimate because you’ll get dinged with transaction fees by Paypal, and that’s no fun. Also, be wary of wire transfers. They sometimes require you going to your bank, getting a swift/bcc code and waiting an extraordinarily long time to get paid. I’ve only dealt with receiving a wire transfer once and that was my experience, at least, so I’m going to try to avoid it from now on.

Don’t: Try to Be A Hero and Do Your Own Taxes

In 2014 I spent a whole day agonizing over my 2013 taxes and thought I had to pay $200.00. Two months later I received a cheque from the CRA stating that I had done my taxes entirely wrong and so they did them for me. I mean, that’s a pretty happy ending, but it could have gone the other way. This year I had a professional do my taxes as 2014 was a roller coaster year in terms of employment and it was also my highest earning freelance year. Plus, I had oodles of expenses that were business receipts. I hired someone to take care of it and I saved a bunch of money in the process. Lesson: if you’re the type of person who enjoys doing your taxes (you sick freak), by all means do them yourself. If you would rather be taking a nap (like me), then pay someone else.

In the end, what I’ve always loved the most about doing freelance work is being in complete control of a project.

When I used to work at an agency, messages would get passed from the client, to the account manager, to the creative director, and then to another art director, then maybe to a copywriter, until finally it was time for me to design something. As a freelance designer, I’m in it from idea conception until the finished product. It’s so rewarding to see freelance work out in the wild and being able to choose my clients. It’s even more awesome when the “businessy” side of your business is streamlined and doesn’t get in the way of doing what you love most.

How do you manage the money side of your freelance business? I’m always looking to try new ways of doing it, so share in the comments if you’ve found a tool that you love so much you just gotta share it with the world.

Why My New Favourite Fake Holiday is Galentine’s Day



Let’s get this out of the way: Galentine’s Day is a holiday made up by fictional character Leslie Knope from the popular sitcom Parks and Recreation.

If this is your first time hearing about Galentine’s day, here’s a source for ya. I’ll wait.

Now that we’re all up to speed, let me tell you why I love Galentine’s Day. It’s the day before Valentine’s Day, which is basically the most polarizing day of the year. If you don’t have a Valentine then Valentine’s Day is basically the bleakest day of the year smack-dab in the middle of an endless winter. Galentine’s Day let’s you skip the mushiness of romantic love and celebrate the sparkly sisterhood that is female friendship.

While really every time I hang out with my besties feels like  Galentine’s Day, it’s kind of nice to put a stake in the ground and say, “Hey! let’s recognize our friendship by eating too many cookies, drinking too much wine, and dancing to Taylor Swift!!”

As Leslie Knope would say,

You know my code: Hos before Bros. Uteruses before Duderuses. Ovaries before Brovaries.

So, my fellow Galentine’s, while you may have your beaus (whom you can give extra smooches to tomorrow), may you go forth and celebrate with some girl bff love today. Hug your mom. Text your sister. Write an email to your friend who lives across the country. Give your boss the highest of fives. Act really silly and laugh really hard with your best gals.

Why Taylor Swift is my 2015 Boss-Lady Inspiration


There are a lot of superstar women I admire for their fearlessness and overall badassery: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ellen Degeneres, Mindy Kaling, Sophia Amoruso, and, duhh, Beyoncé.

For a long time I didn’t even like Taylor Swift. I thought she was a sugary superficial pop-princess singing catchy tunes that someone else wrote about missing your ex.

At some point in 2014, before the release of 1989, but after “Shake it Off” came out as the album’s first single, I got really into Taylor Swift’s music. I don’t quite remember what the tipping point was, but all of the sudden I’d be about for a run and I’d catch myself singing along to every song from Red that somehow got on my playlist. I’d become one of them: A Taylor Swift Fan.

When I made my new year’s resolutions this year I had some common themes: be a boss, get stuff done, be a better friend, try new stuff that I originally wouldn’t have, and just to all-around keep my shit together. The more that I thought about it (while listening to 1989 on repeat, of course), the more I began to realize that the Taylor Swift brand is really well aligned with my new year’s resolutions.

Take “Shake it Off”:  it’s about doing your own darn thing and not giving a flying frog what other people think about it. Of course, it’s no lyrical Shakespeare, but in terms of a pop anthem, it’s perfect. It doesn’t have to be complex to be good. We can all use a little more shaking it off.

Towards the end of last year Taylor famously took her music off the streaming site Spotify, and it turns out, some people were kind of pissed off by that. While I love Spotify’s music service, I see nothing wrong with what Taylor did. Saying no to guaranteed revenue in order to take ownership of how your product is distributed is a ballsy move and for Taylor Swift, it’s a smart one. While it might be unpopular to some, she shouldn’t feel the need to apologize to anyone for putting her art and business first and refusing to compromise on what’s important. This is an idea I’m going to keep coming back to this year: am I making work that is of quality or am I just doing something kind of crappy for the money? If it’s the latter, then it’s time to change things. It also means taking on more personal projects that don’t necessarily mean more money.

When she’s not being an incredible artist and boss business woman, Taylor Swift still somehow makes time for her pals. If you follow her on Instagram you know what I mean. Taylor is all about spending time with her besties doing fun stuff. While I’m not expecting I’ll be able to haul all my girlfriends on a trip to Maui any time soon, I think I can make some more time in 2015 for kitchen parties. A few weeks ago I had a weird realization that I suddenly had become a bit of a hermit, which was something I never thought would happen to me as an extroverted person. I’m back to making a concentrated effort these days to make sure I get out in the world, see lots of people that I love and actually work on building stronger friendships.

Lastly, Taylor Swift’s style is killer. KILLER. Just look at how Taylor Swift influenced my Pinterest has become. I dream of matching crop-top and skirt sets, you guys. I feel like there needs to be another post entirely dedicated to Taylor Swift-izing my closet.

If you had asked me one year ago if I was a Taylor Swift fan I would have stared blankly as I tried to recall a single Taylor Swift song by name. Things change, ya know? Turns out, I had a lot to learn from T.Swift.


Photo credit: Jana Zills

Why I Left My “Safe” Job and Joined a Start-up


A few months ago I left my (really) good job with (really) good benefits at a successful digital agency to go work for a start-up that I knew was about to do some seriously amazing things. Literally, minutes before I gave my two weeks notice at the old job, I was offered a raise. I turned it down and I quit – I felt like I wasn’t working on anything meaningful and I felt icky about the work I was doing. I took a leap, jumped ship, and got on-board with this start-up (Swapskis, btw!) and never looked back.

Since I started working at Swapskis, I’ve gotten asked by a few people what it’s like to work for a bootstrapping start-up. It’s understandable why people are curious, we’re in the midst of a huge boom in technology and start-ups are more ubiquitous in our life than ever. We live in a culture that is obsessed with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Airbnb, and (duh) Google success stories. We read the articles about the companies that provide free housekeeping services, catered lunches, scooters, a bikeshare program, an in-house gym, and unlimited vacation time to their staff. The perception of working at a start-up is that it’s all hackathons, free t-shirts, and staff boat parties.

I’m probably not surprising anyone by saying that working at a start-up is not all free t-shirts and scooters. In fact, it is not at all free t-shirts and scooters. What it is, is the most motivated working in environment I’ve ever been a part of. Entrepreneurs are driven, determined, creative geniuses and I don’t mind bragging about our crazy-awesome and multi-talented team. I’ve never worked in an environment where what I did had this much influence. I’ve never been able to dive deep into product development, user experience, design, and marketing like I am able to do at a start-up. The experience that I’m getting now is unparalleled to my days in my previous jobs when I’d struggle to fill a day with tasks to complete and the hours would creep by slowly.

The stakes are always high, everything hangs on getting the right people to invest in our team so that we can build the product we’ve dreamed of creating. We’re pulling long hours and snack-fuelled weekends to make some seriously awesome stuff that is hopefully going to knock the socks off people. But the best part? It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like what I’ve always wanted to be doing.

It’s tough at times, but because I love what Swapskis is doing, that makes everything worth it to me. I wouldn’t be able to go work at just any start-up and dedicate this kind of energy. If there’s one piece of advice I feel like I’m able to give about working in a start-up, it’s that you have to believe in the company. You have to totally believe in what you’re doing and you have to know why you’re there. If you’re just looking for a change of scenery and a comfortable 9-5 then maybe start-up life isn’t for you. However, if you’re ready to get excited about making something that was once just a seed of a cool idea into an actual thing that could maybe actually change the universe, then yeah. Join a start-up.


Hello 2015!


I don’t know about most of you, but I was really happy to say goodbye to 2014 on December 31st. The last 2-3 months of 2014 completely blew past me (which is why I haven’t posted anything on my blog since October!): between starting a new job in October, running one Ladies Learning Code/Girls Learning Code event every two weeks for a while there, and holiday festivities, I feel like I am only recently catching my breath. Instead of opting for the typical alcohol fuelled end of year celebrations, we spent the last days of 2014 and the first days of 2015 holed up in a cabin in the woods at Windhorse Farms where the lack of running water, electricity, and technology was just what I needed to reset my brain.

In the days since New Year’s I’ve broken out my new 2015 planner and gotten a start on some much needed to-do listin’. Last year was the year I skipped having a daily planner and ugh, what a mistake that was. If I can get a little metaphorical here for a sec, I feel like my life last year was this weird little snowglobe that someone else was in control of. Every time the dust started to settle in my life, it would get completely shaken up all over again. I find it hard to believe that certain parts of the past year were even real, it all feels so long ago. There were moments in 2014 that really tested me, moments that I’d like to forget, and some of the most memorable times I’ve had in my life so far – but I’m really ready for something new.

I’ve got some fun ideas for blog posts coming up this year – considering how neglectful I’ve been on this space in the last few months I’m long overdue for some sharing/oversharing.

In the old days of having this blog I’d use my first post of the year to share some of my goals for the year in an attempt to make myself feel more accountable to achieving them, but this year my goals feel a little bit more personal than they have in the past, so I’ll be keeping them close to me for a while. They might spill out as the year goes on, but for now I’ll just say that I want 2015 to have less worry, more light, more movement, and more kindness. I think that covers it.

Happy New Year!