An interview with Allison Buhlman
Allison runs a music studio in conjunction with providing piano lessons to several students in greater Seattle area. Her students range from young kids training their fingers on the keys for the first time to adults who want to rejuvenate their interest in music. Allison is one of the first users and a beta adopter of the invoicing application from SimplifyThis.
Let's get started. How did you first hear about SimplifyThis?
I have known Sanjay, one of the founders of SimplifyThis, for some time. He had been at hinting me that he and some of his friends were working on a web based invoicing application intended to assist self employed professionals like me. Sanjay would often come by and inquire as to how I ran my business, tracked my payments, got new customers, where I advertised, etc. After a few discussions, he unwrapped the covers of Project XO to me. I had been using email as my invoicing tool, and Excel to track payments, never having really found the need to use Quickbooks or any other accounting package. This application felt right for me and I agreed to become a beta user.
What is your first impression of this invoicing application?
Well, the first thing that struck me about it was how easily and intuitively the use of the application felt. Despite not having used any accounting or invoicing application so far, I still found myself myself being comfortable using this application the first time. The layout of functions and information seemed very logical and clear and I did not have to have to seek out any additional instruction or read any of the help pages to start using this application.
How were you managing your invoices and payments before? What problems were you facing?
I had not been using any invoicing application or process at the time. My rates vary by student, and I bill them only for the lessons that they actually take. Some of my customers proactively kept track of tuition fees and lessons, and would write me a check at the beginning of the month. To collect payment from the remaining customers I would contact them via email and indicate the number of lessons I gave and the amount they owed. This entire process was quite problematic and difficult to manage. I kept track of the lessons and the rates for each student in an Excel worksheet. Then I had to copy and paste this information in individual emails, calculate tuition and sibling discounts by myself, and repeat this for every customer. It proved to be quite inefficient. Tracking payments then became an additional challenge: who had paid, who had not, how much they had paid, and whether a remaining balance was due. Matching payments to tuition and keeping track of the balance due was something I had done manually in the past; it being tedious and difficult, it would lead to confusion and disputes with customers over payments and the balance due.
What features of SimplifyThis do you use most? How does it help you?
I am using SimplifyThis for four main tasks: (i) keeping track of the lessons that I give to students, (ii) sending out invoices, (iii) reminding customers of overdue payments, and (iv) tracking payments. This application has made it really easy for me to track the lessons that I give every day. All I need to do is record the lessons in SimplifyThis and it takes care of creating invoices at the month's end, automatically applying rates for individual customers, and emailing invoices to the customers. This makes it really convenient for both my customers and myself to track the lessons and resolves any disputes. Also, I do not need to remember individual rates. This has been a big help to me. When my customers give me checks, I just record payments against them, and this application automatically applies it against the customer account, carrying forward balance due or overpayment to next month's invoice. Occasionally, my students buy music and practice books from me. I just track these charges also in this application and they get automatically included in the following invoice. It is very easy for me to glance over the application and know who is late in payments, and I can send a reminder to them. SimplifyThis has been a great timesaver for me.
What are some of the features that SimplifyThis is missing? Any suggestions?
Well, there are a few things that I would like to see in SimplifyThis. Sometimes, my students forget about pre-scheduled lessons. If SimplifyThis could send a lesson reminder to them, it would help me a lot.
Thank you for your time and for using SimplifyThis.