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You could say that I’m a bit of a productivity and organization geek. I have moleskins, art journals by the dozens and am constantly trying out new planners and notebooks.
It’s my way of “testing out” different tools, apps and products so I can report my findings back to you — my community of readers.
Since I’ve taken my freelance work full time nearly five years ago, I’ve tested out multiple digital and paper planners to help keep my business organized and running smoothly.
In that time I’ve developed a specific system for managing my day as a business owner. It’s a combination of multiple things:
- Using Asana for recurring tasks and daily reminders
- A Google Calendar for my appointments and deadlines
- A paper planner for brainstorming big business goals
- Using a notebook for quarterly reviews
- And tracking my income with accounting software.
This year I’ve broken down my top picks for best freelancer planners into three main categories: Business planners, financial planners and blog planners.
These are all planners that have been personally tested and used by me, so I hope you find this guide helpful. Here are the best paper planners for freelancers as tried and tested by me, that will finally help you get organized this year.
The best small business planners
Running a freelance business takes a lot of planning, organizing and balancing. There are a lot of moving parts, from managing client deadlines to scheduling phone calls. But these business planners will help you manage it all successfully.
Conquer Your Year
Natalie MacNeil is one of the most popular experts in the field of entrepreneurship, and rightfully so. When I was in the beginning stages of my freelance business I read her book, She Takes On the World, and it changed my entire mindset.
Now, she’s created the ultimate business planner with other female entrepreneurs in mind. The Conquer Your Year planner seamlessly combines personal growth and business growth so you can measure the big picture.
My favorite feature is the 12-week sprints that help you plan and achieve your big goals with milestones and a brain dump. I personally live by a 90-day window when experimenting with my business, so this matches up perfectly. You can also track your habits, health, relationships in addition to the conscious creation of your empire.
There’s also a section for your “Today’s Top 5” which helps you focus on the top five most important tasks of the day, and then sum it up with a few sentences about what you’re grateful for.
A potential downside is that you may be overwhelmed with the vast amount of items to track every day. From health habits to business appointments to social events, there are quite a few lists to organize. But if you’re looking for a holistic planner that allows you to become more rounded, then this could be a great choice.
Purchase: Click here to purchase the Conquer Your Year planner
The Freelancer Planner
Michelle Nickolaisen is the creator of The Freelancer Planner, a tool I’ve been using for the past year. She originally launched the idea on Kickstarter and now offers this for sale on her website. It’s been one of the MOST helpful planners I’ve used so far in my freelance business.
My favorite feature is the daily income tracking section at the top of the monthly calendar. It can be used to track your progress much like you see for other financial goals. I use it to monitor how much money I’ve earned every day and then add up that week’s total to see if I’m on track for my month freelance income goal.
This Freelancer Planner was created specifically with freelancers, as Michelle is a freelance herself. There’s a place to track everything from client assignments to business tasks and other goals. There are pages for monthly, weekly and daily tasks, as well as bigger quarterly goals.
A potential downside is that the spiral planner is quite large (measuring 8.5×10 inches or 5.5×8.5 inches and is very thick) and won’t easy fit in your laptop bag. However, you can carry it in a backpack or other mobile file box as it’s a perfect fit.
Purchase: Click here to purchase The Freelancer Planner
The Tools4Wisdom Planner is an all-around planner that allows you to focus on both work related goals and personal ones. These essential goals are tracked every month and divided into top priority tasks and high value ones, with a record of each outcome. There’s a place to see the entire month’s calendar at a glance as well as tracking daily tasks and appointments on a weekly basis.
My favorite feature is the daily goal at the top of each calendar day. This keeps my priorities in check since it reminds me of the overarching goal I want to get done that day. You can also write down weekly goals that must be accomplished within the daily tasks.
The Tools4Wisdom calendar and planner is an excellent tool for tracking both personal and professional goals. It’s easy to let your freelance business take over your life, but this planner helps bring self-care back into focus. At the very front of the planner it has a place for you to write down actionable steps you want to take THIS YEAR to make your goals a reality.
A potential downside is that the Tools4Wisdom planner doesn’t have a monthly wrap-up or summary section. You have to go back to the beginning of the month to update your goal’s outcome. However, there are multiple sizes of the planner to choose from so you can have more space to summarize your goals if needed.
Price: $24.97 (get 30% off with code 4BLOGGER)
Purchase: Click here to purchase the Tools4Wisdom Planner
The best financial planners
Since this site is called Careful Cents I, of course, have to talk a little bit about some of my favorite financial freelance planners. Right now these are the two planners I personally use to organize and manage my inconsistent freelance finances.
The Mindful Budgeting Planner
Topping this year’s best financial planners is the Mindful Budgeting Planner from my friend and business partner, Cait Flanders. Although I may be a little biased, I have personally used the 2016 for the entire year and already ordered my 2017 copy.
While I don’t use all of the pages in the planner, I do use the weekly spending tracking and recaps, along with the monthly goals and budget sections. It also comes with full monthly calendars, custom spreadsheets, quarterly exercises and motivational quotes.
My favorite feature is the weekly spending recaps that prompt you to reflect on what you enjoyed spending money on this week and what you’re proud of yourself for accomplishing. This process has definitely given me a more positive outlook on the inconsistency that is my freelance finances.
Plus, when you order the Mindful Budgeting Planner you get a personal invite to the private Facebook group full of other budget-conscious individuals.
A potential downside to using this planner is that you’ll have to use it in conjunction with other task management or day planner, such as Asana. The Mindful Budgeting Planner doesn’t have a space for appointments, tasks or to-do’s since it’s simply there to help you manage your money better.
Price: $40 (CAD)
Purchase: Click here to buy The Mindful Budgeting Planner
The Budget Notebook
Another one of my favorite budgeting planners is the Budget Notebook from Ashley Shelly. While this notebook is a bit smaller than most planners, the concept is simple and very effective. There are pages for your bills, amounts paid, due dates and a notes section.
You can also track your debts with the Debt Overview and Debt Repayment Plan pages. The cool part is they come in multiple colors and designs to help liven up your monthly budget meetings.
My favorite feature is the fact that you can customize the budgets to your personal spending habits and your paycheck schedule. So if you keep a monthly budget, the notebook will last for 12 months. Or if you prefer to keep a weekly budget, the notebook will last for 3 months.
Some other awesome features included are a Savings Tracker, Purchase Wish List and an All Bills List overview.
A potential downside to using this planner is that it’s a very streamlined journal for bills, budgeting and debt. While I see this as a positive thing, you may find it a bit limiting because you’ll have to combine this with another day planner for client calls, important dates and other tasks.
Purchase: Click here to buy The Budget Notebook
The best blog planners
When have a blog you have to organize your business a bit differently. There are lots of moving parts and many platforms you need to understand and use to properly market your blog. For these reasons I’ve listed the best blog planners that will be helpful for taking your blog to the next level in 2017.
The Next 12 Months
The Next 12 Months planner was created by my friend (and fellow organization geek) Alaia Williams. Alaia and I have known each other for several years and met in-person through a female entrepreneur mastermind group we used to be a part of. She an expert organizer and event planner so she knows a thing or two about getting organized.
This is an evergreen planner, meaning that you can pick up and starting using at anytime — there’s no need to start on a specific date. It’s flexible to use however you want, whether it’s on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. It’s excellent for tracking “big picture” goals and to narrow down the number you’re tracking at once to avoid overwhelm.
My favorite feature is how you can use for weekly blog marketing, or big course launches. The marketing tracker pages help you schedule out content for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, your blog, email list and more. You can also perform a monthly review and record your stats for each social media platform, along with blog visitors and email subscribers.
At the end of the month you can record your monthly sales and other income from your blogging business, as well as track your expenses. It’s an excellent all-in-one blog and online business marketing and sales planner.
A potential downside is that The Next 12 Months planner doesn’t allow you to keep track of any client assignments or freelance deadlines. It’s specifically for marketing your own business, tracking social accounts and growing your blog. Still, I’ve found it very useful in my once-a-month blog and social stat reviews.
Price: $19 (also available on her website in digital, paperback and spiral)
Purchase: Click here to purchase The Next 12 Months Planner
The Badass Blog Planner
I’ve had a crush on Sarah Morgan’s blog and brand for as long as I remember, several years for sure. She’s evolved her site from being a part-time blogger and self-proclaimed “circus freak” to a full blown blogger, biz owner and aerialist.
I basically read every blog post and email she publishes, so naturally I’m a big fan of her Badass Blog Planner. This planner is very budget-friendly but packs a punch with helpful worksheets and sections to keep your blog and online brand on track.
My favorite feature is that this planner includes TONS of worksheets for bloggers to make sure every aspect of your blogging business is covered. From creating a content calendar and yearly goals, to establishing a budget and reviewing your social media marketing plan, this planner has it all.
You can also stay on top of your blog’s stats, traffic and other numbers to see how you’re progressing throughout the year. This is an excellent blog planner if you’re ready to level up your blog’s marketing, reach and traffic this year.
A potential downside is that the worksheets are great for beginning bloggers, but advanced/experienced bloggers might not find them helpful since most experience bloggers are already doing what’s listed on the worksheets.
Purchase: Get the Badass Blog Planner on Amazon
EPIC Blog Planner
As a blogger and online business owner having an in-depth planner is key to reaching your goals. How will you know where you’re going if you don’t write it down? The EPIC Blog and Editorial Planner by Regina has a little bit of everything.
It’s a mini business plan for your blog and includes tools, surveys, and reminders for any blogging, content creation and business tasks. You can easily start using it any month during the year, you don’t have to wait until January because it isn’t dated.
My favorite feature is the blog monetization methods section that allows you to brainstorm what freelance services or products you can start earning money with. Being a successful freelancer is all about diversifying the different types of income streams so this section is really valuable.
This planner is specifically focused towards blog owners and has a place to write out your brand’s mission, who your idea readers are and an on-going blog content strategy. It also has before and after sections to record your goals and progress, along with your blog income/expenses.
A potential downside is that it may not be a good planner if you manage and/or write for multiple websites and it doesn’t have much else in the way of business appointments or life organization. It’s strictly for managing a blogging business.
Purchase: Get the Epic Blog Planner on Amazon
This guide contains affiliate links which helps keep this site going, at no additional cost to you. I only promote ideas and products I personally use and love.
Paper planner giveaway
As part of the Careful Cents community you’ll have the chance to win one of the awesome freelancer planners listed above! I’m giving away a planner to one random winner.
Enter via the giveaway box below with as many entries as possible to increase your odds of winning.
A lucky winner will have 24 hours to choose their 2017 planner from the list above and receive it as my gift to a more organized New Year!