Being a home stager is fun and exciting work. You get to be creative, get to work with a lot of great people, and get the satisfaction of knowing that your skills and hard work helped someone during the stressful process of selling their home.
Then that fun comes to a screeching halt when you have to invoice your client, and the stressful process of getting paid for your work is now in effect. There is no lack of four-letter words during this process: invoices … credit card numbers … expenses … time tracking … TAXES!!
If you are like many home stagers, you probably have an Excel file of all of your jobs to track how much you charged for each job and if and when the client paid. You make your invoices in Word or Excel that are copied and pasted from previous invoices. And you have a file on your computer with your clients’ credit card numbers, and that worries you when you think about how that probably isn’t very secure. Then in February, March, or – if we’re being honest with ourselves – April, you’re working late into the night just so that you can go through all of your files to get ready to do your taxes.
Does any part of that process sound familiar?
The whole experience is stressful and time consuming. The only silver lining is that your process free. But there must be a better solution. How much is your time and sanity worth to you?
There is a better solution for home stagers
Yes, your process described above does work. But you should know that there are alternatives.
An excellent solution to help alleviate the stress and the time suck is accounting software. It’s true that just one piece of accounting software can make most of those challenges disappear.
Boring topic? Yes. Important topic? Absolutely! Can I make a boring topic interesting so you’ll continue reading to learn all about it? I’ll sure try!
You may be familiar with some online accounting software available today: FreshBooks, QuickBooks, Xero, and Wave. There are countless others, and this article will explain accounting software in general, but focus on FreshBooks (that’s what we use!) when detail is important.
The best way to explain why accounting software is a great solution for home stagers is to walk through a scenario that you may be able to relate to. So let’s start with invoicing.
Why is accounting software a great invoicing solution for home stagers?
Let’s say that you staged a home for a nice gentleman named Tom in Boston’s Back Bay. You create an invoice for his project in Word or Excel, email it to Tom, and then add him into your client tracking spreadsheet. Creating a new invoice takes a long time. You likely copied a previous invoice, changed it to Tom’s name and address, and rewrote the project details. Then you check and double check. Tedious, but it’s necessary in order to get paid.
After you send the invoice you continue working on your other staging jobs. However, that job for Tom was pretty big, so you eventually notice when that invoice hasn’t been paid. You send Tom a reminder email, and wait. Now you’re dealing with a little bit of stress from not getting paid, while also not wanting to seem like a bother by asking to get paid. To write that reminder email to Tom, you just spent more of your time, which took you away from other work you could have been doing.
When you notice Tom still hasn’t paid you, you decide to give him a call. Tom answers, and thanks you for calling. The two of you chit chat for a while, then he explains that he had been meaning to pay you, but with everything going on, he totally forgot. You tell him it’s not a problem, and ask if he would want to give you his credit card so he can take care of the payment right now. Tom is a bit apprehensive about giving that information over the phone. He also doesn’t feel too good about having his credit card number lying around your house. You address his concern, and he reluctantly tells you his credit card number, expiration date, and the security code. This phone call takes your time, Tom’s time, and leaves your client a bit uncomfortable about his credit card information.
You add Tom’s credit card number to the file you have on your computer, because you may need it in the future. You also enter Tom’s credit card number into your processing system so you can get paid. Oh, and hopefully you remember to shred that piece of paper with his credit card number. The payment goes through and you get paid! But not without a lot of time and stress along the way.
Now let’s walk through Tom’s project as if you used accounting software, specifically FreshBooks.
Once you are ready to invoice Tom, you open FreshBooks and add him as a client. To create the invoice, FreshBooks has some basic fields for you to complete, like a description of the job, cost of the job, and any notes you want to have appear on the invoice. FreshBooks then creates an invoice in a pre-made template, and emails it to Tom automatically. This invoice process is quick and easy.
Just like our example above, you don’t get paid right away. No need to worry, because FreshBooks will send Tom an email reminder, and copies you so that you are aware. You’re working on other projects, so it’s nice that you don’t have to think about chasing down that invoice. This process takes none of your time because FreshBooks does it automatically.
You eventually get another notice in your email that Tom still hasn’t paid, just like above. You view his profile in your FreshBooks account, and see that he has opened both of the emails, but hasn’t paid you. Good thing his phone number is right there in FreshBooks, so you give Tom a call, and he gives his same excuse that he forgot. “No worries”, you tell him, “just click the link in the email from FreshBooks, and you can pay online. I never see your credit card number, so you can be assured that your credit card information is secure through FreshBooks.” This process take a limited amount of your time, Tom is happy that his credit card info is secure, and you are without stress knowing that the payment is processed for you.
The payment goes through and you get paid! From start to finish, this process required only a limited amount of your time, and zero stress.
Tom’s information, invoice, and payment is tracked within FreshBooks. If you do another project for Tom, you just need to create a new invoice, select Tom as the client, and hit send. Repeat invoices are that easy!
Although this example of invoicing functionality is specific to FreshBooks, we assume that most other accounting software has similar functionality.
Accounting software sounds pretty good so far, right? Well, there’s more…
What else can accounting software do for your home staging business?
FreshBooks, and we assume other accounting software, does much more than just invoicing.
FreshBooks can track the amount time you spend on a client’s project. This is important if you bill by the hour, and also important if you just want to know how much time you spend on each project.
For example, if you are researching colors or accessories on your computer for a specific project, then you can open FreshBooks, select the client, and start the timer. When you’re done researching, then you stop the FreshBooks timer and that exact amount of time gets allocated to that client.
You can also track your time when you are physically staging your client’s home. Simply open the FreshBooks app on your smartphone, select your client, and start the timer. When you’re done staging, then stop the timer, and that time gets allocated to that client. If you forget to start the timer, you can go into FreshBooks after you’re done working for the day to manually add the time.
Within FreshBooks you can see how much time you spent on each client, each project, and even how many hours your actually worked during the day. Those hours are automatically added to that client’s next invoice when you are ready to send it.
Time tracking is easy, accurate, and takes minimal time and effort.
Businesses need to spend money to make money. FreshBooks allows you to track expenses for specific clients and for general business needs.
Sometimes you need to buy accessories for a project. If that accessory is for one client, then you can allocate the expense to that client in FreshBooks. If you will reuse it for other projects, then you can allocate it to your business in general.
There are certain expenses you may need to tie to clients. Paint for a project. Taking the client out to lunch. Moving trucks. You get the point.
There are also expenses that are for your business. A new computer and printer. RESA and IAHSP memberships. Travel for a conference. Internet and phone bill. Software, like FreshBooks.
Why is it so important to track expenses? For one thing, you can invoice your client for expenses specific to their project. As for the expenses for your business, I’m no accountant*, but they are tax deductible! Speaking of taxes…
*Note: I’m not an accountant, so I’m not qualified to give out tax advice. Please verify all tax statements that I made with your accountant.
If you are anything like I used to be, you spend several nights in March and April going through all of your business files, organizing information for taxes, writing notes, and finally sending everything off to your accountant with a note saying “sorry for sending the information you need for my taxes so close to tax day.” And every year, I would tell myself “next year, I’m going to be more organized and start my taxes earlier.” 12 months later, I would recall that lie as I’m going through my files.
Ever since I started using FreshBooks, taxes became so much easier. At the end of the year, I have all my business revenues and expenses already documented for me. Now that I use FreshBooks, compiling everything my accountant needs is a piece of cake.
Other great stuff
FreshBooks allows you to create project estimates, view reports, add employees or partners, share your account with your accountant, and much more. It’s pretty comprehensive, and I’m sure that most other accounting software is as well.
Final Thoughts on Accounting Software
Accounting software makes the life of any small business owner much easier and less stressful. It is easy to use and effective for invoicing, tracking time and expenses, and organizing everything for taxes.
Although most accounting software isn’t free, it is not expensive and well worth the cost. As an affiliate, we can offer you the opportunity to try FreshBooks for free for 30 days when you use this FreshBooks link to see if it is right for you. Best of all, since FreshBooks is a business expense, it is tax deductible!*
*I told you before that I’m not an accountant, so please verify with your accountant that FreshBooks can be deducted as a business expense.
If you are considering accounting software, please shop around to ensure that you select the software that is right for you business. Here is that link again for a free 30 day trial for FreshBooks for when you’re ready to take FreshBooks for a spin.