Jill Sommer over at Musings of an Overworked Translator makes the excellent point that there are two sides to the late payment game. Translators who send in their invoices late are just as guilty as their late-paying work providers.
I’m so embarrassed to admit that this is one of the weakest aspects of my business! In fairness, I’m usually on top of things and I email my invoices along the completed translation job, or immediately afterwards. But sometimes, maybe once a year, I lapse into a black hole for a couple of weeks and let all my invoices slide. And of course, the longer I leave it the harder it is to get back on top of things again because the effort required to pull all the details together feels enormous.
I have no excuse for why this happens, I know only that it has nothing to do with sense. I’ve been properly trained in invoicing. My dad is an entrepreneurial sort and I’ve understood from a young age how the admin side of a small business works. I’ve heard all sorts of helpful suggestions from Mr D over the years, who works as a data analyst to big accounting departments and is the sort that’s always itching to jump in and make order out of chaos. Now I’m relatively experienced at freelancing myself, I know the mayhem and stressed out feeling that descends when I let things slide – not to mention the implications on my cashflow. And I can’t bear to think how unprofessional it must seem…
Jill very rightly points out that it’s a question of having a system that works. Mine clearly doesn’t. I too have tried accounting and workflow management packages like Sage and Studiometry – great fun to learn and play around with, but the whole rigmarole of setting up job numbers, etc. proved too time consuming to maintain on a regular basis. Something kept bringing me back to the old Excel/ OpenOfficeOrg spreadsheet. I’ve always known that keeping it simple was the key, and it doesn’t get more straight-forward (yet powerful) than a completely customisable spreadsheet. But still, clearly I’ve been missing something.
So I had a little eureka moment when I read how Jill manages her invoicing process. Unlike Jill, I painstaking re-enter my data into a jazzed up Word document to send out as an invoice, because my ‘tracker’ spreadsheet doesn’t match up. When I read her post I realised, why on earth am I bothering to do that? That’s where the bottle neck is! Why not use a spreadsheet as my invoice, make the fields match up and copy and paste directly?! It can still look attractive and professional, espceially as I pdf my invoices anyway. Genius – yet so obvious… I’m off to give it a try. Thank you Jill!
(I’m sure the long-suffering Mr D is bashing his head against a wall as I speak. I hereby acknowledge that yes, he has always told me that a good system should never require you to enter the same data twice. Furthermore, I confirm that no, he has not been allowed to advise me in any way on this aspect of my business. Finally, I apologise for any damage caused to his professional reputation by the outing of my slovenly data-management ways…)