Monday, August 29

The Freelance Spreadsheet To End All Freelance Spreadsheets (And Stress) (And Woe) (And Lost Days Looking For Invoices)

When you’re younger and people disappear for a significant length of time it’s always for something fishy, like a secret baby, or a nose job, or a semester spent in one of those weird “tough love” bootcamps in the woods that their fed-up parents had them kidnapped out of bed in the middle of the night for.

(Clearly, I wasn’t spending the past half-year in a grammar intensive.)

I’ve been equal parts lazy, busy, overwhelmed, unscheduled and simply stretched to the limit, figuring out how to do things like take care of a Los Angeles home instead of a New York apartment or stop myself from calling them highways instead of freeways in conversation, which is unbelievably more difficult than it sounds.

Things are finally starting to level out — I even drove on the highway (FUCK) freeway last night for the first time (!) — and just realized that the payment spreadsheet I started ‘round March when I roll myself into a tight little ball and hibernate over taxes for three straight weeks has actually held up through the bitter end of August. That’s almost two trimesters of a small growing human!

I’m not sure why this spreadsheet has been so easy for me to update, but I think it's because it operates like a cruise ship: everything is in one place, so there's no need for me to leave. I don’t need to sign in separately to access it, so there are no barriers in remembering a password or clicking multiple times to get to what I need. I do all my work in GoogleDocs, so I stumble across it often, making it omnipresent. And, most importantly, instead of treating the process of getting assignments, working on them and invoicing them as three separate tasks, they’re all corralled into one process.

(It definitely isn’t right for everyone, but for me, it works.)

So, the spreadsheet has two main parts, Assignments and Story Invoices:

Immediately when you pitch a story and it gets greenlit, it goes in here. It doesn’t matter if you have a deadline, are discussing the payment amount, whatever — when the story’s happening, it goes in; other information is added later.

This one’s pretty straightforward. It corrals the due date, the price, the story title, and any details you want to make absolutely sure you don’t forget into the notes section. (Throw future reminders of expenses you think you may forget in Notes, too.)

Sent off your story, finished edits and ready to wipe your hands clean from it? It’s ready for the Story Invoices tab, even if you don’t plan to invoice for a week or month or year later, when you scramble and beg the kind people at Hearst to maybe please still pay you even though you’re insanely late on it.

Story Invoices:
The beauty of this format, I think, is that you can paste a story directly from Assignments to Invoices, and it’ll line up with the new tabs.

(The only thing you have to do is change the due date of 8/12 to the month of August, which you’ll likely wind up doing automatically.)

The year, publication, price and story title are already plugged in. The Total On Invoice column allows you to track multiple stories within one publication — i.e., so that $500 invoice can be easily dissected as you having been paid for a $300 article and $200 article — and separate payments from expenses come tax time. Notes is where anything you want to warn future you of (like, say, that they payment came in 2017 but was for work in 2016), and Expenses is straightforward.

Now comes my favorite part: GETTING DAT COIN. When you shoot off an invoice, type YES in the Invoiced? column. Caps mean you are serious about getting paid! Then, when you receive a payment in your direct deposit, via mail or simply a bounty of gold coins in exchange for editorial services, you put a big fat YES in the Paid column.

As you see in the six sections above, there are three stories I still need to invoice for, an employer who still has to pay me, and two stories I've got that coin for. Sorry, GOT THAT COIN!

(Though, mostly, this method helps make sure you don’t triple-invoice for something because you forgot they are old-school and send paper checks, but more so helps determine who didn’t pay because they forgot to, and who didn’t pay because you forgot to invoice.)

Bank Notes is optional, but is essentially there to safeguard you when trying to double-check a regular monthly payment wasn’t accidentally skipped, or are simply in over your head. I only started using the column last month, jotting down the date and name of payment within my bank statement to make sure I wasn’t clocking two different month’s payments as one.

The Other Two Tabs

Didn’t think you could organize your editorial ideas and money in the same place?! Booyah!

Potential Stories: This is where I paste all the random (bad) ideas editors passed up on, or things I want to pitch when my load is lighter, or stories I was told to circle back on. As you’ll notice, they will paste directly into the Assignments spreadsheet under the correct categories. (Ugh, it does feel good to be organized.)

Bank Statements: Hopefully, this can be left empty forever. But when you are having one of those 3pm, last-day-of-the-month meltdowns, there’s a pre-determined place to paste every bank account credit and suss your payments out. This example ties back to that Waterfalls story I “invoiced” for in January. (This format does not match up with the others, but instead with me copy-pasting from my online bank statement. Feel free to change at will)

See? Not so bad! Spreadsheets aren’t as fun as money simply falling from the sky, but hey, maybe this foolproof one will at least feel a lil’ bit like that.

Download and make a copy of the spreadsheet right here
(It is set to view-only, so you can also download it as an excel file to build your own.)


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