I work for other people as a freelance graphic designer. And so every January my mailboxes (digital and physical) are inundated with requests for a filled-out W9 tax form. Here in the United States, companies who spend more than $600 with a vendor are recommended to have that vendor fill in a W9, which basically consists of your tax payer ID number (can be a social security number or your own freely obtained EIN), your name and contact details, and a date and signature. The best part about these things is that you only really need to fill it out once. I didn’t know this my first year as a solo designer, and so I hand-completed every form sent to me (I also used my social security number as my ID, and I highly recommend you instead go get a free EIN). I’m a little slow, but I started to notice after the twelfth or thirteenth W9 that I was never filling in information that was specific to the client. It was always the same stuff.

Ever since, I have prepared for January in the same way:

  • Print out a blank W9 form

  • Fill the form in completely
  • Sign and date it
  • Scan it in as a PDF
  • Store it in my public Dropbox folder
  • Create a TextExpander shortcut to place the link to the PDF into any email I want

Before, when I received a client emailed that they needed a W9 filled in quickly, and I was at lunch, I had to hurry back to my office, print it out, complete it, scan it back in, and then email it over. And that took about 20 minutes.

Today, when that same email comes through, I simply open Dropbox on my mobile device (they have apps for just about all of them), copy the link to the PDF, paste it into my reply email, and I’m done. Total time invested? Maybe 2 minutes.

The goal here is to remove friction from my schedule, productivity and communication. Having prepared ahead, I’m ready to answer these requests with little-to-no interruption to my tightly-scheduled day. I stay productive and focused, and my clients get a fast turnaround on something they need quickly.

Do you send out a common file to your clients on a regular basis? Do you do the same things over and over in your job, and the repetition is killing your productivity? Those things are friction. Find solutions, and remove the obstacles that stand between you and a less stressful, more rewarding future.