My secret for worry-free freelancing: Cushion

It would be great to be one of those devil-may-care freelancers. The ones who swing cheerfully from feast to famine. Some months they can’t afford to eat. Other months, they can’t afford to leave the house because they have so much work on.

I am not that guy. I like to plan. A lot. If I can’t make plans, I get anxious.

It’s a customer service thing too. When people ask ‘can you do this project?’, I like to be able to give them a straight answer. Because not knowing how much work you have on looks a bit flakey, doesn’t it?

Am I working hard enough?

When I first started freelancing, this wasn't a difficult question. The answer was always 'no'.

Then I started to get actual clients, and enquiries from potential clients, and suddenly this whole ‘how busy am I? do I need to hustle for work or should I be turning people down?’ thing got really stressful.

I looked at Teamweek, and Forecast by Harvest. They both seemed a bit complicated. I think they're geared towards capacity planning across a whole team, rather than for just one person.

Then I found Cushion.

Cushion is capacity planning for one-man-bands.

It probably could handle a few people, but it works just great for me on my own. Unsurprising, as the developer designed it to solve the forecasting issues he was struggling with as a lone freelancer.

It answers the ‘do I need to hustle’ question by drawing a picture of your year as workload and as money coming in.

From a workload angle, you add hours per week for a project, for a time period. You don’t need to set up estimates for individual tasks. This is a huge benefit to me because the kind of work I do isn’t easy to plan task by task for more than a week or two in advance.

Using the workload you’ve entered, and the limits you set up, Cushion tells you when you’re next available to take on more work. It also shows when you’re overloaded so you can plan to take a break.

Cushion shows you when you’re overbooked.

"Are you free?"

The web widget means clients don't even need to ask. I've embedded Cushion on my website, and it will tell you when I can take on more work.

You can see it in action on my about page. I use a simple inline message but you can also show availability as a ribbon over the corner of the page.

But what about the money?

From a financial angle, give Cushion forecast revenues for each project and it will show you how close you are to meeting your financial goals. That allows you to decide if you want to take on more work, or if you’d rather take it easy.

Cushion also links to several accounting services, including my personal favourite Xero. This means it can pull in invoices to show you how much of that forecast is turning into actual money in the door.

Cushion's financial goal tracker

Cushion helps you find the keepers

Even better, Cushion does some clever analysis to show you which clients are slow starters on projects, or who always pays their invoice late. Meaning you can decide which clients you'd like to see more of and which you'd like to gently retire.

You can try Cushion free for 14 days. After that it's \$10 a month, or \$8 a month if you pay annually.

What new freelancer tools would you recommend?

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and buy the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use myself and believe will add value to my readers.