Man Just Needs To Power Through Another Day Of Not Being Broke And Unemployed

From The Onion:

CHICAGO—After listing off a litany of reasons why he cannot stand his current job, local 27-year-old Don Rutland told reporters Friday that he just needs to power through another day of not being broke and unemployed. “It’s so unbearable right now, but I’m just going to buckle down and make it to the end of the day,” said the man who is not in the midst of an agonizing nine-month job search and can pay all of his bills on time with the money from the paycheck he receives every other week.

News In Brief – The Onion (25 June 2015)

Read the full piece.

Five paid apps to replace free Apple ones

They’ve got to be good to be worth buying for cold hard cash when you already have Apple’s own apps that do exactly the same thing. Yes. They are. This is Cult of Mac round up for nearly half a dozen such very good apps.

I’d like you watch this even if you have previously had no intention of replacing your existing free apps with new paid ones. Because I was like that, I thought I was still like it: since my iPhone comes with a calendar, for instance, and I actually find it fine, I resisted changing.

But now of the five they mention here, I’m already and regularly using two; Dark Sky and Fantastical 2. See why, and what else might go next:

Concluding the streaming music debate – a bit

Previously… I write to music, always have done, I get into ferociously irritating habits of listening to exactly the same piece over and over again. I get a lot of headphones as Christmas presents. I resisted streaming music because I had what I feel is a big collection. But then I tried streaming.

Actually, just to break the Previously and tell you something new: I’ve realised why I tried. I said before that it was iTunes Radio and that’s true, I got access to that early and enjoyed hearing new music. I’ve steadily less enjoyed the steadily increasing number of ads on iTunes Radio but I’ve also realised that its way of playing you types of music rather than letting you specify artists or albums and hearing only those got a bit wearing.

And I heard a song.

I forgot that I could check back in iTunes history to see what it was and instead stupidly spent a while googling every lyric I could be fairly sure I remembered. And I found it.

It was Come to My Window by Melissa Etheridge. Love it.

And I love it enough that I once again tried Spotify. At least with Spotify, I thought, you could name a specific track and play that.

This is sort of true. And it’s also definitely true now that Spotify is free on iPhone and iPad – which is almost certainly true because of the competition from services such as iTunes Radio. Everybody wins, and it earns the artists nothing. Or very little, anyway.

Last time I mentioned this, it was because I’d found this article explaining all the various streaming services and I intended to investigate them. I intended to do this because I was sick of iTunes Radio – I’ve since come back around to it, it’s a mood thing with me – and because Spotify was irritating. I realise they want you to pay a subscription price and not only do I understand that but, spoiler alert, I’m now today thinking of it. But for trying out the service, I thought free was helpful.

But Spotify wouldn’t stick to the music I asked for, it would bound off places playing me other things that might be fine, yes, but I couldn’t stop them when I wanted to. In the end, I would just quit Spotify and force it to restart again. You can’t do that very easily while driving.

Only, today I tried it again. Instead of my usual beloved BBC Radio 4, I had Spotify and a playlist with about 25 songs on it. Including the Etheridge. For 170 miles driving, maybe 2 miles walking and for 90 minutes on buses today, I listen to those 25 songs. Over and over.

There were many, many interruptions for ads and it worries me a bit that most of them were what’s called a house ad: if you can’t sell an ad spot to someone, you use it yourself to advertise something of your business. You want to have some house ads, but you need the revenue from outside companies.

But apart from those understandable interruptions, Spotify played me those songs of mine for a not-very-understandably long time.

I’m a fan. I think. I’m going to play it a bit more to see if I go off it as I have at times with iTunes Radio. And I’m going to wait a bit to see when iTunes Radio officially launches in the UK because the price for it includes some extra benefits and is also substantially cheaper than Spotify. Both Spotify and iTunes Radio start at free but then to get the benefits of the paid-for services, it’s £9.99 UK or $9.99 US per month for Spotify and £21.99 or $24.00 US per year for iTunes Radio.

But for the meantime, I think I’m a convert. That’s a very strange feeling for a man who remembers vinyl, who remembers CD coming in, who lived through DVD coming in and then dying away. But it’s true: I had a very good time today with Spotify.

Writer’s Notes: How to Invoice

The Blank Screen (UK edition, US edition) is all about keeping us writers creative but making us more productive. But if there is one thing we put off more than writing, it is invoicing.

Nobody tells you how to do this and we hate doing it.

So here’s how to write an invoice and if you take a squint down and think this is a long job, know this one thing:

1. It just took me 8 minutes to write my first invoice for a new company

2. It then took me 2’42” to write one for an existing client

I’ll tell you now, these were very small invoices but the amount doesn’t affect the time it takes. What you should take away from this is that for a pixel over 10 minutes work, I’d written and sent – notice that, also sent – invoices to the value of £120.00. I won’t pretend that either writing job took very long but without that 10 minutes invoicing at the end, I wouldn’t be being paid.

So it is a chore, yes, but it’s incredibly quick to do and without it you don’t get to eat.

This is when you do what:

1) When you get the commission
Know how much the fee is. If you don’t know, ask before you do the work. Your editor deals with this every day: when I’ve been a commissioning editor, I’ve known my freelancers’ fees better than my own.

Ask how the company needs to be invoiced: actually, just ask exactly this: “Do you need purchase order numbers?”

If they do, they’ll tell you the number and they’ll also tell you anything else. That new client had also assigned me a vendor number. You don’t care, I don’t care, if they give you purchase order numbers, vendor numbers, anything else numbers, you just keep a note of them and copy them out onto the invoice.

Ask specifically how you are to deliver the invoice: “Do you need invoices posted or can I email them – and what’s the best address?” Cross your fingers that they’ll say email is fine because it’s so much faster and more convenient for you.

Some firms will send you a tonne of forms to fill out with your bank details. Schlep through the lot and get it done.

2) When you’ve done the work and delivered it
Invoice. Don’t wait. The invoice has nothing to do with whether the editor will ask you to do some more work on it. Send the writing, send the invoice.

It does not help you sitting on a pile of invoices – and it doesn’t help them, either. A magazine issue will have a budget allotted to it and ready to spend. In theory you should always be paid whenever you get around to invoicing but in practice, good luck getting cash if you let it slide past the end of the financial year. Or perhaps, good luck getting commissioned by the firm again if you do.

So invoice promptly.

DRI149999 Example


(For a larger version, download the annotated example invoice PDF.)

And this is how you write that prompt invoice:

a) Your name or company name at the top
You could include a company logo if you like, but don’t try to make this pretty, work to make sure that it is clear.

Definitely include your bank BACS details so that they can pay in directly. You want this. You really want this because it’s a right pain getting cheques, losing time going to pay them in and then waiting for them to clear. Encourage companies to pay by bank transfer and do so by giving them your business account’s sort code and account number.

You do also have to give them the ability to send cheques. That means listing your postal address and stating specifically how cheques should be addressed. That’ll be your name, your company name or a combination of the two: “Bugs Bunny trading as Acme Writing”.

Many people argue that you should write a line like “Payment in 30 days” and as long as some of those many people work in accounts departments, you might as well listen to them. Strictly speaking the presumption is that payment is due within 30 days so I’ve never bothered to say it but it does give you something point at when you phone up on the 31st day.

b) “For attn. Accounts Department” and their address next

c) Today’s date. This is the date of the invoice, not the work

d) Number the invoice. It’ll help if you have a system so you just know that number 12 is next

e) Describe the work
Some clients will give you the text they need for this. They’ll call it the brief or they will specifically tell you to say this or that for the invoice. It will be very short. If you’re invoicing for several things at once, the description can include an explanation of the fee: “3 days writing workshops @ £450/day”. This is where you list any purchase order numbers, vendor numbers or the like. If the client gives you any of these, use them. If they don’t, shrug.

State the date of the work here. If you’re doing an event, say, then the date is the date of that event. For a written project, it’s the date you were commissioned. That’s sometimes hard to pin down, especially when you’re doing all this months later. Find an email and use the date of that.

State any date or other detail given you for when the work will be published. If it isn’t a specific date, then it’ll be something like “Acme Magazine October Issue” or “BBC week number 12”.

f) Who commissioned you
If there’s a problem, this is who the accounts department will go to first. Usually your editor’s name.

g) Number the job
This will certainly help when you’re invoicing for several things at once – “3 x 2-page tutorials” – because you or the client can then query a specific job if necessary. But just do it anyway. Do it always. Number every job as you get it.

It helps you when you’re doing the invoices because you can see and then state each job quickly. It also means you don’t miss one out by mistake and never get paid for it. But it also helps you psychologically as the number of jobs keeps on going up.

It’s up to you whether you write a separate invoice for each job but only do that if you know it will affect when you get paid. Maybe three jobs are for the March issue of a magazine but one is a Christmas special. If the company states that it will pay 45 days after publication, invoice the Christmas one separately or you could end up waiting until next February to get your money.

h) Money
Next to each separate job number, write down the fee.

i) Expenses
If you have expenses and it’s agreed that the client will pay, write those down too. If you are VAT registered then make sure your VAT number is listed somewhere on the invoice and specify how much money that VAT is.

j) Total.
That’s the complete total for everything including the fee, the expenses and the VAT if you have that.

k) Save as PDF and email to the accounts department

Once you’ve done this once, keep a copy of that first invoice and use it as a template.

One more thing
This is a chore and you are a writer, you do prefer writing. But you also like technology so use it. I have one monthly gig in Burton upon Trent and when I leave there, my iPhone knows I’ve gone and OmniFocus pops up a reminder to do the invoice. I might not do it then, but sometimes I have done it on the train on my way home.

I don’t actually do that gig for the money, I’d pay them to let me do it, but that doesn’t change that it is paid, I do need to invoice, so I should invoice promptly.