Harvest Time

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Martin French

Freelance dancers and dance teachers, and the freelance dancers who do lots of teaching (pretty much all of them), will understand the large amount of hassle that goes into tracking your clients, hours worked, invoicing, payments received and the numerous follow ups to actually get clients to hand over the money.

You probably have notebooks full of names, numbers, dates and amounts but doing things "old school" probably causes more headaches than it's worth. Fortunately there are numerous online applications that can help sort out the muddle and, once set up properly, can make keeping track of the financial side of things an awful lot easier.

There are many time management applications available online but we're only going to look at one of them, called Harvest (getharvest.com), for the purposes of this article.

Applications like Harvest best serve the needs of people who bill by the hour because, at their core, these services are just very clever spreadsheets. The invoicing system accommodates "free form" invoicing so it will work for projects that are not done "by the hour".

For the most basic level of service Harvest is free to use for twelve months. This means you can have one user and two active projects running with four clients. If this is too restricting then you can upgrade to a paid plan for $12 per month (the site is American) which is about £7 GBP and this gets you 20 active projects and 30 active clients.

It is possible to juggle the "active" nature of clients and projects so you can effectively use the system for free. It really depends on how busy you are and how many clients and projects you juggle all at the same time. There are service plans for organsiations with multiple employees if this type of service fits your needs.

Harvest features a very clean design with just four tabs to click on for managing all of your information. For obvious reasons we are looking at Harvest from the point of view of a dancer based in the UK but the website supports all currencies so no matter where you are in the world it can be set up to work for you.

Be aware however that dates are formatted in the US style, that is month/day/year instead of the UK style which is day/month/year. The pop-up calendars take the pain out of this difference, for the most part.

Getting Started

Before you start logging hours, sending out invoices and begin amassing huge piles of money you need to set up the basics first and clicking on the "Manage" tab gets you to the nuts and bolts of the application.

Harvest calls the work you do "tasks". For a dancer these tasks would probably be broken down into teaching, admin, rehearsal directing, project management and so on but you can add as many tasks as you need.

Each task has a billable amount, per hour, added to it which is necessary for the "Time Sheet" part of the application to do its job. You can also set each task to be "billable by default" so when it comes time to send out the invoice the amount owed to you by the client is taken care of automatically.

A common complaint of dancers is the amount of work done "off the clock" so to speak. This could be time spent doing administration, planning or any one of a thousand different tasks. With Harvest you can set up non-billable tasks which will let you keep track of how much time you have spent on a project for which you are not getting paid. Such information may come in handy when negotiating fees and hours for the next project.

Paying Expenses

For later invoicing you can also add an extensive list of expenses to your standard information. You can even set a "mileage" charge if you use your own car and need to bill your client for the distance you have travelled.

Clients, Projects, People

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The "Manage" tab also offers set up option for Clients, Projects and People.

Clients are, obviously, the people that you work for. You can only store basic information about each client. That is; their name and their address. Within each client you can then store details for a particular contact, which is usually the person you would send invoices to. Each client can have multiple contacts with their own email addresses and phone numbers. The screen shot (above) shows we have a client called "Dance World" with the contact "Lucy Donnington". Remember that, it will be important later on!

Projects are the jobs that you are working on at any given time. So, for our client Dance World we are working on a project called "World Peace" which sound pretty important so we better do a good job. When you create a project you associate it with a particular client and add, if you want to, a project code. This association keeps everything neat and tidy because when you build the timesheet for the project it makes sure you only bill that client for that project and things can't get mixed up.

As for "People", well that's you! If you are a freelancer then the only entry under this category will be you. If you are running Harvest for a company then all your employees can be entered into this list and each person can be billed out independently.

The Clever Part.

The "Timesheet" tab is where things start to get interesting or as interesting as something like this will ever get!

With this part of the application you log how many hours you have worked on each project for each client. You can add information on a daily or weekly basis (weekly is much easier). When presented with the Timesheet screen you simply click on the "week" button. If you need a different week then hit the left or right arrow buttons or choose a date from the pop up calendar.

To start with the "hours worked" section of the screen will be empty. Adding hours could not be easier.

Just click the "add task to timesheet" button, select a project from the drop down list, choose one of the tasks you set up earlier, hit "add to timesheet" and hey presto, a row of boxes will appear for you to enter the number of hours worked for any given day. As you enter the data the totals will be added up for you (remember, this is just a fancy spreadsheet). When you're done, hit the save button.

Expenses can also be added to your time sheet one at a time for each date that expenses would apply. Again, these come from your presets when you first set up your account. Except for "mileage" expenses are not preset amounts because, in real life, they usually vary from job to job.

Getting the Money

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When it comes time to collect your hard earned cash, which is often more problematic than it should be, just hit the "Invoices" tab.

The screen will show you a summary of all outstanding invoices and invoices that have been paid. Making a new one is simply a process of clicking the "create invoice" button, select the client and then the project or projects you want to invoice for.

You then select the time period you want to invoice for (make sure you select the right period because if there are no hours logged for that time period then the invoice amount will be £0) whether or not to include expenses and hit the big green "create invoice button".

The following screen will present you with a detailed breakdown of what you did, for how many hours and how much you billed for that time. You can add additional one off items if necessary (for things like costumes for example), add local taxes, add some notes, then, if all is well, save the invoice.

Once saved the next screen gives you the option to print the invoice, email it to your client or generate an easy to store or email PDF document. Emails will be sent to one of the contacts for that particular client, just select which contact from the drop down list.

The resulting PDF is both clear and more than professional enough to send out to clients. When you email the invoice straight from Harvest your client receives a nicely formatted email message as well as the PDF version as an attachment.

On the front page of the invoices section, under "Open Invoices", your new invoice will be added to the list of all the others you have outstanding along with a handy total that shows how much money you would have if everybody just payed up! Invoice s that are overdue will be highlighted in red and you'll know it's time to call in the heavies!

As soon as the client hands over the money just click on the invoice, hit the "receive payment" button and the invoice will be shifted to the "recently paid invoices" column.

Bone Dry

This type of stuff may be a little bit on the dry side but tracking your hours of work, billing and payments is a big part of your job and making it as simple as possible must be a priority.

Harvest is one of many time management applications that can keep track of what you're doing and how much money you have coming in. It is one of the better ones out there on the web and the £7 per month fee is a very small price to pay for that convenience. Your information is accessible from any computer, because the application is internet based, and there are a plethora of options for keeping track of your working life.

You can give Harvest a whirl for free to see if it works for you.

[ Harvest ]

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