Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I iz a dummie

You know all those "For Dummies" books? I need one or several. Something like "Freelance Accounting for Dummies" or "Excel for Dummies" (wait, there probably is one of those. Or a few. Yup.) or "How to Keep Track of Shit for Dummies" because right now I am failing miserably at that.

I have been earning money as a freelance musician since I started graduate school many years ago. At first I was a full-time music student getting a few gigs on the side, then I was a mom and student with very few gigs on the side (turns out you can't very easily practice while breastfeeding), then I finished up and had little kids so I still just had a few gigs on the side. In the last two years my work life has ramped up somewhat as the kids have gotten older and slightly more independent. I have a part time teaching job and I gig a little more. It still doesn't all add up to full time work, but it's certainly enough to have me turning into a ball of stress as the end of the semester nears, and managing my rehearsal schedule with the family schedule is kind of a nightmare.

I can feel the fingers wagging at me now. All those of you with teenagers who are about to say this is only going to get worse, spare me. I work with teenagers all the time. I'm aware, believe me.

My problem right now is bookkeeping. I suck at it. HARD. I am working with enough different people at this point and doing enough different jobs (I accompany pre-college students, work collaboratively with college/grad students and edit papers for ELL graduate students, all freelance) that I really need to develop some skills with a spreadsheet. But every time I open Excel (can't use Numbers because for some reason it won't let you save files...which seems to defeat the purpose entirely of using it at all...so frustrating) I stare blankly at the little boxes and all the calculating options and I want to cry. I need a way to track hours per student (you might call them clients, but that feels weird to me) per month and generate separate invoices for all of them. Surely there is a way to do this. Surely I am not the first person to have this particular need. But I can't figure out a way to do this efficiently.

Tonight I sat down and opened an Excel file Stuart helped me set up to try and get started.  It's not perfect but it was theoretically going to have the information in one place. Welp, turns out the program didn't save anything the last time I closed it, so now that I have to tell everyone what they owe me for the month of March, it's going to be my best guess and they'll have to take my word for it. Since my schedule changes every week (depending on who was sick and had to cancel, how many extra studio classes I had to play for, how many rehearsals ran long, etc) this is going to be a nightmare.

I'm almost at the point where I think I should hire an accountant, if only for a consultation. Or maybe take a class. Or find a career counselor. I'm not stupid. (Right?) But I'm afraid to spend the money. I used to think that when it comes to business, I am automatically terrible at it because I'm not extroverted, nor am I a gifted marketer. I have been told this to my face, in fact, and always believed it. I believe the exact words were "Susan, if you try to run a business, you'll be a dead duck."

But now, I'm not so sure that's true. I'm not stupid. I just need to learn how to use a spreadsheet, or something. I think that I am smart and capable enough that I should be able to figure this out, but I'm feeling overwhelmed and don't know where to start.

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