Microsoft Accounting 2009 Express as a free translation office management solution.
There always comes a time when tracking of your clients and jobs with a spreadsheet becomes no longer convenient and people start looking for programs that help them to track clients, jobs, issue invoices etc.
There are several commercial tools specifically targeted for the freelance translators. While these tools can be useful for some people, there are also some free programs that can be used for managing your freelance translation business.
The purpose of this article is to show how Microsoft Office Accounting 2009 Express (the free version distributed by Microsoft) can be customized to make it more suitable for use in the workflow of a freelance translator.
What program does "out-of-box":
- Client management
- Create and track quotes
- Create and track invoices
- Create services
- Create price levels
- Vendor management
- Create and pay bills
- Create credit memos
- Record expenses
- Time management
- Create billable timesheets, etc.
- Employee management
- Full Accounting block (income/loss accounts, general ledger, etc.)
- Document management (all quotes, invoices and credit memos can be exported to Word and modified if necessary)
The program can be downloaded free of charge from http://www.ideawins.com. The installation process is straightforward and for the purposes of this article we will assume that the program is downloaded and installed on your computer.
The client management module of MS Accounting Express 2009 is very user-friendly and allows you to enter all relevant information about the client (client's name, address, website, etc.). The tabs in the main client form provide additional information about your clients (like financial history, average payment time, standard payment terms, etc.), so the client form is really a one-stop portal that gives you all pertinent information about your client.
Even though the default client form is very useful, it still lacks certain information that a freelance translator will need for a client and this is where the customization and user-defined fields will help us.
We will add custom fields for
- CAT Discounts scheme; and
- Default Rates (default currency, default rate per hour and default rate per word)
These custom fields will then be added to the main client form and the invoice form.
Adding custom fields in the main client form:
- Click Customers tab in the left pane of the main program window and click New customer in the top left section (Start task). This will open the main client form.
Screenshot: Default customer form
- This form has four main tabs:
- General (where you enter basic customer information, like name, address, etc.),
- Details (we will use this space for our custom fields),
- Financial summary (current balance, over due payment, sales information, etc.) and
- Financial history
- Open User-Defined Fields tab and click New Fields button
- A list of custom fields will be opened. Fields available for use: text, multi-line text, date, number and check box.
- Select the check box for the first text field and in the field name add "0-84% match"
- Repeat the step above for "85-94% match", "95-99% match", "100% + repetitions"
- Click OK.
The new custom fields will be displayed in the User-Defined Fields tab. We will modify the general layout of the customer form and move them to the "Details" section.
In order to move the custom fields:
- Click Modify Layout button.
- Select Details in the Tab drop-down list.
- We will add these new custom fields as a "CAT Discounts" section in the left side of the main window
- Select Left in the Form section drop-down list.
- Scroll down in the Available fields text box
- Select New group header and click Add. This new header will appear in the list of available fields.
- Click Edit button and set the default name to "CAT Discounts"
- Select the new custom fields and click the Add button.
- When finished, click OK
- This will open a pop-up window prompting you to enter the new name for your customized layout.
- Enter a name (eg. MyCustomer) and click OK.
New "CAT Discounts" section will be displayed now in the General
tab of the customers form.
Screenshot: Modified customer form with CATs Discount section
We will also add "Default Rates" section with three fields: Currency (a text field), Rate per word (number) and Rate per hour (number).
In order to add additional custom fields:
- Open User-Defined Fields tab and click New Fields button
- A pop-up window will open prompting you to switch to the default view. Click OK.
- Add Currency text field
- Add Rate per word number field
- Add Rate per hour number field
- When finished click OK.
Switch back to your customized layout and add the new Default Rates
section and three custom fields in accordance with the steps for moving the custom fields.
Screenshot: Modified customer form with CATs Discounts and Default Rate section
These custom fields can also be added to the invoice form so when you prepare your invoice you will have CAT Discounts and Default Rates information available for your use.
Conclusion: MS Office Accounting Express is by no means a specifically tailored translation office management solution. The program in its "out-of-box" form lacks certain features that the specialized commercial packages offer (like, for example, import of Trados log files). Nevertheless the program has a very user-friendly interface and can be customized. It can also be used with Outlook with Business Contact Manager giving you an integrated workflow and visibility: Outlook and Office Accounting can share databases, so you can send an invoice to your Outlook contact with practically one mouse click.
For people who are not satisfied with either the functionality or user interface of the commercial translation office management programs, MS Office Accounting Express is definitely worth a try.