Keeping my life organized in the areas where I do have control is, I have found, the KEY to being self-employed. I have become very friendly with Excel spreadsheets. For $10 I found an incredibly thorough budget template online. I track CD sales in a separate worksheet. I have radio and other media contacts and phone numbers in a different file. And the important thing about all of these: I keep them up-to-date. They are not snapshots; they are fluid and act like ocean waves- I need to see where the last one was in order to predict where the next one is coming from. My budget is not really a budget (since my needs and costs and income vary greatly from month to month it is hard to predict exactly what I will spend and develop a budget around that)…. instead, I use it to track my spending and my income. At the end of the year, I print out the summary sheet (which tells how much I made in CDs, tips, day jobs, speaking gigs, tax refunds… ANY source of income… along with all of my spending like gas, travel, supplies, food, extra dining out, etc…. I have over 20 categories!) and I hand it to my tax guy. He loves me. This spreadsheet is so useful, but my trick is to update it EVERY day. Any exchange of my money to ANYone, whether a few grand to my CD duplication company or $3.50 to Starbucks, it goes into my “budget”.
I keep track of the people that work for me. I have all of my band members sign receipts (even if I pay them with a check) and fill out 1099s at the end of the year. I keep all receipts that have to do with my business (CD duplication, equipment insurance, travel tickets, gas receipts) not only so I can have them when I write all that stuff off, but also to keep track of where the money I make is going. I have all band-related items in one folder. (It’s actually one of those sub-divided folders with 10 sections… my sections include: Credit card bills and statements, Insurance papers, receipts (band related), receipts (personal), tax stuff, phone and cable bills, contracts (from licensing companies, radio promotion companies, with band members), miscellaneous (jury duty papers, traffic tickets- not that I get ANY of those, etc etc), bank statements. This folder is my life, and I have one for every year.
My car has the potential for looking like a music junkie’s dirty old basement. Instead, I have my gear organized and hidden under the station wagon’s security cover. I constantly clean out garbage and keep it clean- not only for peace of mind, but to keep my gear clean too. When on the road with my band, we establish and keep our own personal space. This ensures that we survive as a band and a group of friends, and although not directly important to the “business” side of things, it keeps the business running smoothly. My charts are neat and organized in folders. My iCal calendar keeps track of my gigs and are consistent with my website and myspace show listings. And my apartment is neat. Anywhere it’s possible to stay organized and neat decreases the chances of frustration, losing something, and insanity!