About two months ago, I was opening the mail when I realized I got a check from a client. The client is a trade magazine I’ve written for about once a month for almost two years. It’s not unusual to receive a check from them. What was unusual was that they didn’t owe me any money at time. I remember staring at the check like it was a trick before deciding that cashing it would be a mistake.
First thing the next morning, I emailed my editor to report the money. A few hours later, I got an email back that said he was very sure that the payment was rightfully mine. I hung up and cashed the check because if he said he owed it, he owed it.
But the truth was I had no idea if that check was really mine or not.
My Non-Existent Invoicing System
Here is the part where I’d tell you about my invoicing system and how I developed it. Well, I never really developed it. From the very start of my full-time freelance career, I had monthly clients. The bulk of my income has always been from monthly invoices. Then I have between two and five one-offs each month.
Since I know exactly how much money those monthly clients are supposed to pay me, it’s easy to say “Ok. Client B sent me a check but Client A didn’t.” Ditto with those one-offs. My entire process is just making a PDF invoice and emailing it off. It’s an ok system…until it isn’t.
Flash forward to now and it’s just not working. That check wasn’t the first time I lost sight of where my money is coming from and when it’s supposed to be here. I once forgot to even invoice a client at all because I had so much going on. Fortunately, they were happy to pay for it the next month. But what if they weren’t? Here’s a joke I like to tell about the stupidity of that situation:
Q: What do you call a freelancer who forgets to invoice for their work?
A: A volunteer.
There Has to Be Something Better
Obviously, there has to be something better out there. There are so many options for freelancers and small businesses to keep up with their finances. Between PayPal and my bank statements, I have ways to keep track of what’s coming in. But I’d like to use something that incorporates an invoicing system so I know what I have out at any given time.
So I’ve decided to try out some new things in the next couple of months and find something that works for my business. I’d love to find something that worked within Gmail and Google Calendar when applicable, but that’s not strictly necessary. What is strictly necessary is an easy to use interface with customizable invoices. As long as I have that, I should be able to get the job done.
And if any of you have any suggestions for me to try, I’d love to hear them. Lay ‘em on me in the comments section below.