Mastering the art of freelancing can take a lifetime. Getting your head around the intricacies of the British tax system as well as credit control, business development and marketing while still having a functional family and social life can be all-but impossible. There are thousands of things you can tweak to make your job just that little bit easier. We’ve picked out four of our favourite tips to help you become a master freelancer that tiny bit sooner.

Use one email address

One of the best things about modern email systems is the ability to pool multiple addresses into one inbox – but this can be a double-edged sword. Accidentally email a client from your personal rather than business email address and you’ll be, at best, confusing them. At worst your email could get lost in the quagmire of a badly-configured CRM system and ignored forever!

Either stick to a single email address across the board or enforce a strict line of demarcation between business and pleasure. Consider keeping them in separate inboxes and only opening work emails during business hours.

Use sensible file names

A surefire way to drive yourself to insanity

A surefire way to drive yourself to insanity

Ever received an email from a client asking if you can “just resend your most recent invoice’”, only to find yourself in a fit of sweaty rage two hours later, cursing your filing system to the depths of hell?

Avoid clammy snafus such as this by implementing sensible file structures and naming conventions – and keep your clients in mind too. If all of Acme Inc.’s freelancers sent them invoices named “Acme Invoice 2013″, then finding your particular invoice on their system is going to be a bit tricky, yes?

Set up a custom voicemail

If you’re the kind of person who hands out business cards willy-nilly, there are lots of bits of paper with your phone number on floating around. Quite logically, this might mean you get a higher-than-normal number of phone enquiries (and if you’re anything like me, you send unknown callers to your voicemail by default). Nothing will put off a potential enquiry faster than an anonymous, robo-voicemail.

Take five minutes and record yourself a nice friendly, professional greeting. You’ll be surprised by how many more voicemails you get – and you can respond at your leisure rather than answering the phone on the toilet.

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Get a standard contract

Many of us are guilty of this one – myself included. You find a new client, you agree some work and excitedly get started – all without getting the all-important contract in place.

This isn’t the end of the world as certain rights – including the right to payment – are legally enforceable without a contract. In most cases you’ll always be in better shape if you both sign a contract though. This frequent omission can be easily rectified by knocking up (or finding) a standard contract.

Get into the habit of shooting this off to new clients before you start work and all your problems are solved!