Have you ever been in a position where you were “rich on paper,” but had a bank account that was starving for cash? It’s odd how you can have the pressure of debts and bills to be paid while still having several invoices you haven’t sent simply because you’re too busy to collect what is owed you.  It doesn’t make sense, but when you’re hard at work it’s easy to let these tasks slide.

I know there have been many times where I’ve had a stack of checks sitting in my inbox and I just can’t seem to find the time to make it to the bank.  Having even the small hurdle of opening Excel to record what has been invoiced and what’s been paid can help delay this task much longer than is helpful and create urgent situations which shouldn’t exist.

It’s a bit ironic considering how magical those first few invoices you sent out as a new freelancer were.

Take Yourself Seriously

If this resonates with you, it’s a good indicator that you’re not taking yourself seriously as a business. Invoicing shouldn’t be a chore. It does not make you money and if it’s costing you time, worry, and disruption towards the activities that do make you money it is an obstacle that should be removed or minimized within your business.

Imagine a small business that sells mattresses. Like many mattress stores , it also delivers the mattresses once someone has purchased them. However, the owner never does maintenance on their delivery truck because they are so busy selling mattresses. Periodically, they end up in weird situations where the truck blows out a tire and there is no spare or it spontaneously breaks down for hours at a time and then starts back up again because they haven’t changed the oil for over a year.

These sorts of emotionally draining incidents are 100% preventable, but occur because the owner is trying to save a buck by doing maintenance themselves.  All the owner needs to do is take the truck into the shop every three months and have someone service it. The solution exists, they’re just not taking advantage of it.

Similarly, there are invoicing solutions available that minimize the work and mental energy required to collect payment and for some reason freelancers don’t take advantage of them.

If you’ve been living under a rock, here are three such services, any of which will remove this problem from your life:

And there are several others.

It’s Not that You’re Cheap

I talked with a couple of freelancers this week over beer and one told me that he managed hosting for over 50 clients as well as regularly executing web development projects for these clients. I asked him how he managed those accounts and he said all through Excel. He looked at some of the services I mentioned above and shied away because they seemed expensive.

I don’t think this reflects that he is cheap- he’s just not clear about the costs. Right now harvest costs $12 a month for a freelancer. That is $144 a year. With Harvest, he can manage his time and easily bill clients as well as manage his reoccurring hosting invoices without having to enter anything into a spreadsheet. This would likely bring his monthly invoicing time down to around 45 minutes. Based on my experience, I would estimate that he probably spends 3 – 5 hours a month managing the same tasks (when I managed this in a spreadsheet, it would take me at least half a day.)

Assuming he bills $80/hour he is losing billable time to the tune of $2,736 – $4,656 annually.

This is just the direct costs and doesn’t include any of the mental and emotional space managing invoicing takes, not to mention the headaches from not keeping up with your time billable can create.

Even if he needed to be on a higher-priced plan at $45 a month, he would still come out way ahead by using tools and services that solve this problem.

He doesn’t realize it, but saving money is costing him money. Lots of money.

How Should You Spend Your Time?

If you’re taking yourself seriously as a business, it doesn’t pay to spend your time around things that don’t provide value to you or your clients.  Spend your time instead on billable work or investing in your business’s future (marketing, building a team, making your business more efficient, product development, and etc.)  Paying reasonable costs to remove obstacles so that you can do so is a solid trade.