One of the joys of freelancing, I felt instinctively when I first went solo, would be the freedom to take each day as it comes. Sunny and warm? Ring up a friend and suggest a stroll along the river. Cold, wet, windy days could be spent doing the routine drear that comes with work of any sort. Which explains why, time after time, I find myself, as today (fabulously sunny and a sudden invitation to a pavement café lunch), tackling chaotic heaps of crumpled receipts which will, if things go well and I haven’t run out of Tippex, provide neat columns of figures in my double entry accounts book so I can do my VAT return.
VAT return? She must be doing well if she’s bothered to register for VAT! Well, no. On the advice of my accountant (a friend and fellow freelancer; I do like to support others in the same boat), registering for VAT would save me money (clients pay it to me; my VATable expenses reduce my liability) and it would make me look more professional. Ahem.
For many freelancers, registering for VAT has nothing to do with income levels and everything to do with saving the smallest sums while incomes bump along the bottom nearing and, just in time, pulling back from the overdraft limit.
And what a chore it is – and it floors me every quarter, as I sit on the carpet surrounded by piles of this and that and nothing like enough invoices, pledging never again to leave it till the last moment. To save accountancy fees, I don’t just hand over envelopes of receipts. To save my time (at the time, without a thought for future time), I don’t bother to keep them in date order though I do, now, put them in monthly envelopes. It’s a start.
Nor do I, against an initially firm resolution, do my books every month. The quarterly brown envelope arrives from The Controller, HM Revenue & Customs and only then do I think about book-keeping. With the emphasis on “think”.
And so it goes, quarter after quarter, month after month, week after week, day after day.
If your income is high enough and steady, and if your clients’ demands can be anticipated, living a spontaneous life can be yours. Putting off what needs to be done until just before the deadline is the freelancer’s biggest temptation. And I succumb every time. Perhaps, on second thoughts, I should go out for lunch. I can always do the books tonight …
Or I could bring summer indoors.
Sunshine on a plate
2 red peppers, halved and deseeded
2 cloves of roasted garlic (or use raw garlic, crushed)
8 baby plum tomatoes, halved
8 anchovy slivers, chopped
200g Puy lentils
Kallo organic vegetable stock cube
1 onion, peeled and quartered
I carrot, peeled and quartered
2 sticks of celery, cut into big chunks
- Fill each half pepper with four halves of tomato (or more or less, depending on the size of the peppers and tomatoes)
- Nestle some of the garlic and anchovy pieces under and between the tomatoes
- Drizzle two generous teaspoons of olive oil (I used the oil from the roasted garlic) over the mixture in each pepper
- Grind on some black pepper
- Bake at 160° for about an hour (it depends on your oven so check after about 40 minutes; in mine, I often find they take an hour and a quarter or so). They should be soft, slightly collapsed and burnished in parts
- Cook the lentils in the stock with the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf, until they are al dente. Drain them and, when they are cool, remove the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaves (this can be fiddly particularly if, like me, you feel compelled to scrape off every lentil from every bit of carrot and celery). Gently stir about a tbsp of olive oil through the lentils
- Eat as much as you wish, scooping up some of the oil that has escaped from the peppers and sprinkling over some basil. The rest goes in the fridge for another day.
I didn’t bother to peel these tomatoes as they had such delicate skins. If you use standard tomatoes, or can only buy baby cherry tomatoes with thick and tough skins, do peel them. It’s silly to spoil this slice of heaven to save two minutes of your time.
And now … where is that Tippex.
A variation of this blog first appeared as an article in PR Business, in which I had my own column (heady days).