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Viewing the 'Life among the Self-Employed' Category

Little Invoices Add Up

September 15th, 2014 at 02:50 pm

It's a long story (and not that interesting), but I have a client which requires me to invoice the people I work with separately. I was dreading doing six little invoices; ugh. I figured it wouldn't add up to much either; it's just an hour or hour and a half for each.

After I dropped F off at school and before I went back up to drive on the class field trip, I decided to challenge myself to get all six of the invoices done and emailed out to people. It only took half an hour, and the invoices add up to $880. That's more than I thought, so I'm happy I just buckled down and got it done.

I don't know about the rest of you who are self-employed, but I don't love doing invoicing. I do it though, monthly, because that's the key to cash flow.

And, I've officially invoiced for almost $13k more than my annual goal. Very excited about this! The past few years have been difficult for architects, and this is definitely an improvement! I worked hard for every penny.

Friend in Town - I'm Worried!

August 22nd, 2014 at 06:33 pm

My good friend is in town (she comes back to visit once a year). She's not staying with us, but she always has parties (I'm happy to bring a potluck dish) and wants to go out to eat (I usually skip that, and she's fine with that).

She loves to shop, and I don't shop at all, so I skip that, too. She has other friends to shop with.

The hard part is, she comes in late tonight, and will be staying through the week, but I have a HUGE deadline and no time to hang out with her (we could go on a hike or whatever). But I want to! But I have the deadline! And I don't want to be a whiner and say that I can only see her on the weekend (actually, I'll be working several hours this weekend, too).

It's a firm deadline (a County review meeting) and I had a setback today where I spent the day making a change (ugh; this is why I need to work this weekend).

Oh - did I mention that she wants to have one of the parties at my house? On Sunday night (school night!). I called her and just got voicemail, but I told her that we could maybe do something early, but that people have to clear out by 8:30 pm so F can get ready for bed. I wish I had said I couldn't do it at all because the thought of cleaning the house after a party, with a deadline looming, makes me hyperventilate.

I'm going to go do the dishes and then relax for an hour before I go to sleep; I think I need to rest before I can confront her (and myself) with the reality of self-employment!

Possible Project I may NOT Pursue

July 16th, 2014 at 07:22 pm

Right now I have enough work; in 8 months or so I may not, but here's the thing: the long term future is not a reason to take a project I don't have any time for right now, and it's definitely not a reason to take a project that looks like it could be awful.

I got a call from a woman (who knows a friend of mine) about a possible project. She's talked to some other architects but didn't feel like it was a "fit." She's bought an old house (1940s) that is in a borderline commercial area (zoned for commercial), and already done some demo (like taken out the heaters - something I wouldn't have done right away - winter isn't THAT far away). She wants to turn it into a restaurant.

I told her I'd come look at it, but let her know that I am going on vacation soon and my priority is the projects I'm currently working on. I told her I couldn't really devote more than a site visit until I return.

The house is a maze of rooms, and she wants to "open it all up." (This means replacing structural walls with beams, etc.) I talked to my engineer, and he said she needs to know that the roof load requirement for a commercial space is more than double a residence. And then there's the fire suppression system for a commercial kitchen...

And its an old house, and I'm sure there are lots of surprises in there that she won't even find out about until they start work. Oh - and did I mention that they have fixed up a few houses and want to do some of the work themselves? I honestly have no idea how much she should budget, no idea how much I would charge (given all of the unknowns).

I'm either going to tell her the timing isn't good for me, or give her a price that (if she were to accept it) would make the project definitely worth my time.

Weird Letter - Is Money Coming?

June 24th, 2014 at 04:31 pm

I got a weird letter today from my general liability insurance company. They said they made an error calculating my premium, and if I still owed money to pay on the premium, they'd adjust it, and if I'd already paid in full, they would send a check. Really? I hope so. Wonder how much? Are we talking 50 cent or $50?

In other financial news:
- F is not loving this week's camp as much as last week's, but it's from 8:30-3:30 and I'm able to get some significant work done which will allow me to take off some time next week when she doesn't have camp.

- I drove over a screw on a jobsite (this is one of those job hazards!) and had to go to the tire store. But - yay! - the screw was just stuck in between the treads and was super short so it didn't puncture anything. They removed the screw and didn't charge me.

- Because we hosted a coach last week, we have very little grocery budget left for this month (but we do have some dining out budget which I can move into the grocery bucket). Luckily only one more shop for the month. I'll need to be strategic.

- I am making my packing list (one of my favorite parts about traveling!). I will post about this at some point, but you probably guessed that I'm an extremely efficient packer. I do carry-on only. This saves bag fees. And I have a very inexpensive carry-on ($30) and very light; it's the best on out there.

Filling out my Professional Liability Renewal

June 14th, 2014 at 08:40 pm

Last year I paid $3236 for professional liability insurance. I wonder what it'll be this year...

It's not optional for me (my clients require an insurance certificate), so I just have to pay it, but it's pretty frustrating given the state of the economy for architects. Our fees go down, but it doesn't seem like the insurance premium ever goes down.

Anyway, you know how I am about tracking things... I track my incoming money (for the business which is an S-corp) and also the percentage of gross billing for different types of projects (fire station, work for homeowner's associations, offices, schools, etc.) and for different types of clients. Turns out in 2013, 88% of my fees were from local governments. Ninety-two percent of my fees were from repeat clients. I need all of this info in order to fill out the renewal application.

And more information... it's a long form. I am going to fill it out tomorrow and scan/send back to my insurance agent on Monday. Hopefully given how much (how little!) I made in 2012 and 2013, the premium won't go up. Fingers crossed.

Women in Architecture

May 30th, 2014 at 02:13 pm

I discontinued my AIA (that's American Institute of Architecture) membership as of this year. I used to be super involved, but I got tired of the repetitive lectures and unwillingness to do anything meaningful. So I donate my time instead to another organization.

The AIA is nothing more than a professional "club."

You don't need to be AIA to a licensed Architect. You can have AIA membership even if you aren't a licensed Architect. You can only call yourself an architect if you're licensed.

Anyway, one of my friends has put together a meeting (she'd like to meet monthly or every other month) of women who are architects. That is pretty interesting, mostly because it'll be a room full of people who have a lot of the same concerns. I hope there'll be some interesting discussions. I, for one, am interested in work-life balance (or imbalance!). I am also interested in how we can volunteer in the public schools (where a lot of art programs have been cut).

Leaving now to go to the event. She's asking everyone to contribute $20, but I can handle that. Will take it out of the business account.

I'll let you know how it goes!

(BTW, F is at her friend's house today, and the friend is coming to our house next Tue).

Need More Time (rather than more money) at the moment

May 29th, 2014 at 02:03 am

Summer, for us, starts officially tomorrow at noon when F is out of school for the summer.

I have two big projects going on for the duration of the summer, and about three smaller ones. Also regular summer volunteer job (not that big of a thing, but something else to schedule in).

I need more time! I am insistent that F should have a real summer, and that we should spend time together because THAT is why I'm self-employed. It's mostly just bad timing, but I can't really control the timing of my projects, and I'll be making about half the money I'll make this year in the next two months. Most architects in our city don't have any work, so I am very thankful for the work (and they are really good projects!).

To calm myself, here are some of the things I am doing so that we can do all those summer things like go to the pool, play tennis at the park, get slushies, sit outside and eat popsicles, go on hikes...

1. F is in camp for five of the summer weeks (this is day or half-day camp so we have time after pick up to hang out, but I'll also have time to get work done.

2. I will continue getting up at 6:30 am and get about an hour of work done before F wakes up - her summer schedule is about an hour later (then we'll start the daily routine of breakfast, etc).

3. I have set up a few playdates in the next few weeks (F has no camp until mid-June). If a friend is over here, I can work while they play. If she is at a friend's house, I can go into the office.

4. I have made a detailed, day-by-day summer schedule on excel with three columns: Big Project 1, Big Project 2 and F. There should be a fourth column for other work, but that just needs to fit around the big projects.

5. I am not stressing about the volunteer thing, at least not now. I've contacted the organization to know I need more people in my area, and they don't seem stressed. I will put on my list to contact them again tomorrow to let them know what's up, but I have decided it's not up to me to find people to fill my schedule. I am in charge of one area, not all volunteers. The event is mid-July.

6. I will not work a shift at the volunteer event. My job is to coordinate other volunteers.

7. I will not stress about F's birthday party. I've chosen an easy, fun party. I just need to get a few supplies. Can do that this weekend.

8. There are things like buying cat food that need to be done. D has not volunteered. It will have to wait until the weekend, since I am committed to not taking valuable work time to do errands. F may go with me after the pool tomorrow, but Friday, when she is at a friend's house is work time.

9. I will make errands as easy on myself as possible. For example, stressed about the teacher gifts (class pools resources and gets a cashier check) earlier in the evening. I was going to take work time to go to the bank to get the cashiers check (they don't open until 9) and pop by school before pick up (because D is picking F up while I teach spinning). Instead, I'm stopping at the drive-through on the way to school because they are open earlier, and instead getting new crisp bills. The teachers, I've decided, won't care if it's a cashiers check or cash! Probably easier not to go to a bank to cash it!

10. I can't think of a tenth thing.

OK, I feel better. Going back to sleep now!

Got a New Project! So I'm Decluttering the Office Storage Room....

April 7th, 2014 at 06:32 pm

I really didn't think I'd get this project - but I am so pleased I did! It's for a new pavilion (for classes and weddings) and interpretive trails at our Audubon Preserve. I teamed up for the project with a landscape architect who I really admire (and she's very passionate about educational landscapes!).

Anyway, we'll need to sign the contract this week, so I have a few days to clean up the office, particularly the storage room which was really out of control.

I bought 6 boxes at U-Haul (total $22) which were the right size (12x12x24) to store plans. I've been going through every set of plans in the office, putting them in the boxes (which I stacked up in the corner) and inserting a label in them, as well as cataloging which plans are in which box. I should end up with a lot of space on the shelves (I hope so).

Plus I've tossed a ton of old fedex boxes and duplicate plans as well as some design-stage plans which I don't need to keep once projects are complete.

The next step is to toss a bunch of old samples. Samples go out of date quickly; they introduce new colors/patterns/etc. I can give them to a school (they love stuff like that for art projects).

I hope to be done with all of this by tomorrow afternoon so that I can finish up another project (should be fast) and then start the Audubon next week.

I just like a nice clean, organized office so that I can think clearly.

Office Improvements and Some Changes, Too

February 20th, 2014 at 04:05 pm

I don't own my office (I wish I did). I rent from the BEST landlord ever. We've been in the space over 8 years and have only had one minor rent increase. It's way below market value for where it is (right downtown). No one can believe it. Actually, it's below market value for anywhere else in our city, too.

Anyway, it's in an old 50s building (with a butterfly roof - architects love butterfly roofs - and I am not the only architect in the building, actually). A lot of the fittings are from the 50s or 60s. The 50s light fixtures are cool. The kitchen, however, is a disaster. There's a countertop with a sink cutout but the sink was removed and put a foot over, so there's now a wood board over the old hole. I will take a photo for you... it will be a Before photo because the landlord just gave me the okay to put in a new sink and countertop. My office-mate and I will install it, and the landlord will pay for everything. I'm so excited!

That's an improvement. Here's the change... The office has an itsy bitsy kitchen, teeny tiny bathroom, two small offices, a storage room and a large area where the conference table is. In the large area, there is an extra desk that I've wanted to rent out, but no one has been interested mainly because it would be more of a drop-in situation and wouldn't come with a parking space. But I'm only asking $75 a month. That's a great price! Includes internet!

My office-mate just told me that due to finances he can't keep renting one of the small offices, but that he would take that desk! That is great news! Now I just have to rent the small office.

I started by calling friends, and the first friend I called (my first choice!) said she might be interested. I would love to have her. And the three of us would be a great combo. She's an architect, too. Cross your fingers for me!

And I promise I will post photos of the kitchen before and after. It can't be any worse than it is now. Seriously.

Printer Finally Stopped Working and other Work Stuff

February 3rd, 2014 at 06:43 pm

I have an office downtown, but after F gets home from school, I work at home (we do our homework together!) so I have a printer here. It's been making this horrible noise for the past few months, but it kept working. I tried to fix it, and located the noise, but the printer is old, and we got it for free with something else.

It finally stopped working yesterday, and so I bought a new printer. Or I should say, my business bought a printer for me to use at home.

It was recommended by Consumer Reports. Apparently it's not an ink-hog. And I can buy third party ink for it inexpensively. The printer was $80. Luckily that's in the work budget.

I set the work budget for this year based on last year's budget and expected income. I have $133 a month for office supplies. I had $0 in supplies for this month. Other supplies in the near future: just bought ink for the printer in the office and cd's. Also will need envelopes in the next few months.

I'm trying to be as frugal at work as I am at home; afterall, the business is a pass-through entity, so it's my money even though it's a corporation.

My business budget is just shy of $6,000 per month. That includes my salary and health insurance reimbursement. I pay quite a bit for business insurance, professional liability insurance and my licenses (I have licenses in two states and an NCARB certificate to maintain).

Freebies

January 23rd, 2014 at 10:37 am

Freebie 1 - Was taken to breakfast today by a client. This never happens, since my clients are almost always local governments. This client is a hotel. He also mentioned there will be more work coming up later in the year, so that's good.

Freebie 2 - I got paid by the gym; it was $40 (mortgage principal!). I really would (and have had) taught just for the gym membership. I think I'd get paid more if more people came to my classes, so I might have to figure out how to drum up business!

Freebie 3 - No horse riding for F today - it was canceled due to cold. She'll be sad, but I am glad since it is really cold! My parents pay for the lessons, but this saves the gas down there.

Miscellaneous Money Stuff

January 21st, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Lots of thoughts in my head right now (it's good to get this down so I can stop thinking about everything):

- I got my bonus from Capital One today - $125! Yes! I am going to apply this to mortgage principal next month.

- A friend is coming over this afternoon to share her music and choreography for the exercise class I teach. She is so nice! She used to own our gym, and she was the one who got us all certified to teach this class. She was at the hospital the day after my daughter was born (and it was a trek! We were at a hospital an hour away due to complications). Anyway, the result is that I don't need to buy choreography. And F and I get to see her!

- I was attending the same class yesterday (my friend L teaches on Mondays, and we share the Wednesday class). L and I have already shared our music, and I'll be copying everything for her, too. Anyway, the gym owner paid L, so I am hoping that means I'll get paid either tomorrow or Thursday. Fingers crossed; he is pretty erratic about paying us.

- My insurance company is making me a little crazy right now. They were great in that they decided that D's last day on the insurance was 12.31.13, but somehow decided I wasn't eligible for coverage and didn't pay my doctor for my well-visit (so I had to call and straighten it all out). Then despite the fact that D is not covered, we've paid for him for both January and February. I was told we'd get a credit for January to appear on the February statement, but they told me their billing department is separate. Another call. I'm hoping this is fixed for March and we see the credits for both January and February. The woman I spoke with understood that we shouldn't be paying for my husband, and promised that would be straightened out for March, but didn't mention the credit in the phone message she left me. We'll see.

- I finished the business taxes (both federal and state). Just need to mail - phew!! I've download Turbo Tax for our personal taxes (my parents let me use their software since you can download onto multiple computers). So I'll start that this week.

- I am doing the business checkbook reconciliation.

- I am vowing to curb our spending in February. January was "spendy" due to stocking up in the sales.