Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stop working for free

Timesheets, invoices, pay slips. What a drudgery!

Keeping up to date with invoices was always a chore for me. In my technical writing and illustrating business, I often had to prepare invoices for small blocks of work as well as fixed-price jobs. I hated the book-keeping side of it. It’s like that for many small service businesses: you do what you're good at, but the accounting side is a necessary headache.

I use timesheets to keep track of my own work, as well as employees and subcontractors. Then at the end of the month, there's the boring work of extracting every entry on every timesheet to make invoices. A few hours here and there, from different employees, at different hourly rates. Sometimes there are day rates, mileage, expenses, and other units like "per illustration".

Like most small business, I can’t justify an accountant to do my billing, so I have to do it myself as un-paid work. Almost certainly I’ve missed a few entries, which means we did work for free.

So there are two problems to solve for a small service business: (1) make sure every billable minute gets included in an invoice (2) reduce the overhead of book keeping. Ten years ago when I had this epiphany, there wasn’t any software to do the job for small businesses, so I made it myself. The result was Etime Biz, a web-based timesheet system.

Because employees log their work against a particular job, Etime Biz can instantly tally the unbilled work for any job, then print an invoice. No more shuffling through paper timesheets and adding up hours. No lost billing and a lot more free time for me.