30 June 2006


One of the downsides of being a freelance is that you have to do everything. And I mean everything. As well as doing the stuff I get paid to do - the editing, the writing, the proofreading - I have to type my own letters, do my own research, chase clients who are late paying me, do the accounts, answer the phone and reply to e-mails (plus deleting all the spam I get sent, which is really annoying and a waste of my time), do the filing and find new clients. I don't have anyone to do these tasks for me. Only on the days when the cleaner is here, do I have the luxury of being offered a cup of tea or coffee by someone else, without having to make it myself.

Possibly the worst of all the chores is the bookkeeping. I have an accountant, of course, who does my yearly accounts and files my tax return for me. But the day-to-day burden of keeping track of the money falls on my shoulders. I use Sage Instant Accounts to do this. It's a pain to learn it, but plain sailing once you've grasped the basics.

Today is Friday and it's also the end of the month.

Every Friday, without fail, I send out invoices for jobs I have completed for clients. Depending on how many separate jobs I have done in a week, this can take up to half an hour. After I've posted the bills, I open Sage IA and enter all the amounts due. I also use this time to enter expenditure. The whole process takes about an hour.

On the last day of the month (or the last working day), I do my monthly invoices, as I have several regular clients for whom I do basic copy-editing - these are all sole traders or small businesses who understand the importance of sending out letters that are in impeccable English, or producing published materials that are readable and error-free. It's not worth anyone's while to charge per job, as many of these are small projects that can take between 5 and 30 minutes. It's pointless billing someone several times a month for a fiver here and a tenner there, and the client having to write and post several small cheques in return. For these clients, I run a monthly Excel spreadsheet, in which I note every job, how long it took and the cost. And then, like today, I tot it all up and send one invoice, detailing all the work done. This saves a lot of hassle.

Much as I hate dealing with numbers (you'd never guess I used to be a financial editor for a major Dutch investment bank!), I actually quite enjoy doing the books. It's a time to switch off from the finer points of punctuation and wading through the thesaurus. It's an opportunity to see how much I'm earning (or spending), who still owes me money, and reconcile the bank account.

I've just finished this month's books, which means I can watch Andy Murray at Wimbledon this afternoon on Centre Court, free of guilt. The bills went in the post box two hours ago, my accounts are in good order and I have a cup of tea steaming next to me. Bliss...

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