Logging Work To Get Paid
Tools for Indie Professionals Series Part 1
First of all, you might be interested to know that we call journals organized by time a "log" because a while ago on seafaring vessels, it was important to record information about an actual wooden log. This log was tethered to and floating alongside the boat for navigation purposes.
Anyway, you don't need much to get started whether you’re a freelancer, contractor, consultant or any other independent professional, you need someone willing to pay you and a way to collect payment.
Exchanging a deliverable for a fee is simple: get an invoice generator and you're done. A few variables that complicate things: daily vs hourly billing, multiple clients, and intangible deliverables.
To do independent work effectively, we need to show what was done, when, and for who. It's a work log – it's easy to make. But it takes time and it’s annoying and boring. It's especially annoying when the work log is made long after your work is complete. An accurate work log must be constructed at the same time work is happening (or shortly after).
Tap allows us to organize entries with everything needed for a good work log. This post will focus on how Tap helps solve the work-log organization problem.
Tap also helps solve the second part of the problem, capturing notes while you work (this will be covered in part 2).
To make the log, three things are needed: who's the work for? What is the work? When was the work done? Every entry in our log will have these three elements.
A First Try
Perfect. We have a log that says what we did, who it was for and when. Only, it's not excellent.
What happens when we do some work for the king?
Only two entries so far and it's already tedious to decipher what was done, when and for who. The solution is conventions. A convention is simply a consistent, repeatable way to structure information.
Standardization by Convention
Tap recognizes special elements, each with a special meaning. One such element is a Folder. We will put log entries for the queen in the "queen" folder and another for the king.
Folders must be written before the rest of the entry, and there can be only one per entry. Now it is easy to see which note belongs to which client.
At this point it is worth noting that each member of the royal household has separate accounts payable. By separating the work performed for the king and queen into different folders, we will not be punished most severely for incorrectly assigning work from one to the other. Unlike a tagging system, folders do not allow this blunder.
Tap has another element, Date, to systematically categorize when an entry takes place. By default the date is the creation time of the entry, to forward or backdate an entry use the *date* element. The date element must be written before the folder, and it must conform to this format:
YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM (the 24h time portion is optional).
The entries above are excellent. Most importantly they describe the work performed, but in addition to that they systematically assign the client and date.
In Tap, it's trivial to set up a system for recording this information and equally easy to pull the information out when you need to drop it in an invoice.
Tap makes all this work easy, and you can get the same features from sowhat, the open-source parsing engine for Tap.