On discovering I’m an entrepreneur

I had a rather odd realisation recently; I’m an entrepreneur. I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it really did. I’ve been freelancing for several years, and that’s what I’ve been calling myself — a freelancer. But about six months ago something changed. And as daggy as this sounds, the thing that changed was my invoicing software.

Yes, the thing that made me realise that I’m not just a freelancer, that I’ve been running a small business, is the way I invoice my customers.

It’s almost too nerdy to be real, but here we are.

How a freelancer invoices

Working as a freelancer, I would document my time carefully in an Excel spreadsheet. These entries would build up, uninvoiced, for an unspecified period of time, while my stomach clenched at the very idea of actually putting them into an invoice and charging money for them. Yes, I had done the work. I’d even been praised and thanked for the work. But I found it impossible to actually write and send the damn invoice.

Occasionally, when Venus aligned with Jupiter, or some other mystical movements of the heavens occurred, I would finally get around to transferring the projects from Excel into an invoice in Word. This went on for years. Years! And every time I would think to myself — there has to be an easier way. I should write a Macro, or automate this in some fashion.

Yes, ever the admin nerd, I was trying to find a Microsoft solution.

How an entrepreneur invoices

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but I finally slapped myself on the head and thought — there must be an app for this! And sure enough, there is.

There are tonnes of apps for this.

I Googled ‘invoicing software’ and found loads and loads of likely contenders. I wound up going with Zoho, mostly because I already knew the name, but also their offering suited my needs.

But whoever you decide to go with, can I just implore you — whether you’re a freelancer, writer, artist, small business owner, anybody — to throw money at the invoicing problem and start using some software??

Now, whenever I complete a project, I immediately add it to an invoice. On the first day of the month, I send out all of my invoices. There’s no contemplation, there’s no awkwardness, there’s no impostor syndrome, and there’s no shame. It’s not me sending the invoice; it’s the machine. And as soon as they’re overdue, a notice goes out reminding my clients. Again, I don’t have to chase anyone. It’s the software doing the hard work. I just have to mark off when a payment is made, and my job is done.

Changing my mindset

It’s extraordinary to me, but changing the way I invoice my clients also made me see my business in a whole new light.

I’m not ‘just’ a freelancer. I’m a business owner, and an entrepreneur. I seek out new clients, I form relationships, I stick to contracts, I deliver on projects. It’s not that I didn’t do these things before, but I didn’t recognise them for what they were.

They are all the hallmarks of a successful business, and one I’ve been running for several years. And that is definitely worth celebrating.

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