The last part of running your own consulting outfit is to be able to manage your work. Odds are you'll have multiple projects running simultaneously each with different customers, rates, deliverables, deadlines. On top of that you absolutely need to ensure you manage your own cashflow well - nothing will kill a small business faster.
When I started out I used emails and scraps of paper. Life was simple then.
Over time with more customers and more simultaneous projects, more team members my head began to explode. Customers would call or email asking (reasonably) for a status update and I'd have to review my paper scraps, talk to the team, ... On top of that, we had multiple cusomers each with a potentially different hourly rate (for the type of work undertaken) and others on fixed priced deliverables. How would I know who to bill what and when? What if a customer queried their bill and wanted to know exactly what they were being billed for (not an unreasonable request!)?
I did what any software developer would do: I wrote my own project management system. Initially I had no thoughts of anyone else using it and it was a purely internal thing. One of the key componentsof the system is allowing customers to become part of the process. They control what goes into each phase of the project, as well as the approval of deliverables and seeing what their bill will beas the project goes. This gives the customer a high level of visibility of the project and also means I don't need to constantly contact them to tell them where something is up to - they log in and see the latest state of the project (and if there's anything that requires their attention).
As an added benefit, customers started adding new deliverables to their projects which meant more billable work for us to complete. Perfect!
A number of our customers had asked if they can use the system to manage their own projects, so last year we began building www.ProjectReactor.net. As with small business, the development of this was done "in between" the other jobs, so it took a little longer than we expected.
For us, EVERYTHING goes through Project Reactor, customer work, internal jobs, marketing, documentation, you name it. This is a critical component of managing what we do.
The good news for you, dear reader, is that ProjectReactor is now ready for your use :-).
So there you have it. To run your business effectively you need a means of quantifying and tracking what you are doing. Take a look at Project Reactor - it may just suit you perfectly :-)