We all know working in the creative industries means thinking about money, and with small studios, businesses and the freelance lifestyle of many creatives it can be hard to keep track of finances. ANNA — which stands for Absolutely No Nonsense Admin — looks to provide "an entirely digital platform that addresses the unique needs of SMEs for whom creativity is integral to their business”.
This is great in theory, but how does it actually work? We asked five of our favourite creatives, small businesses and studios to consult ANNA’s agony aunt and ask their burning questions about how the mobile accounting app works, and why it might be right for them.
Sarah Keeling, freelance editor: How will invoicing still feel personal in a direct creative/client relationship when using an automated system?
ANNA: There are some upsides to invoicing a client directly. Sometimes that email with an invoice is a nice opportunity to give them an update on something else and to start arranging the next piece of work you might do together. And your relationship with a client is much more than just transactional – they’re a collaborator, a valuable advocate, sometimes even a friend. But also, you don’t always want invoicing to feel too personal – it can actually be a bit icky… especially if payment for that invoice is late and you’re chasing your client. If anything invoicing risks being detrimental to the creative / client relationship whereas an automating system can make things feel more objective and takes the personal out of the equation.
ANNA customers have the choice of either creating invoices using a template but then still sending them to clients directly themselves, or via their ANNA account, they can send the invoice from the app – it’s entirely up to them! In the latter case it’s quite nice to drop the client a quick note first to let them know to look out for an email from ANNA.
It’s also worth saying that even though everyone’s talking about AI and the robots taking over the world, behind ANNA are real people, on-hand to answer questions. So if you’re using the ANNA chat function, the conversation is with a human in our customer support team in real-time.
Stitch, creative network management: As a small business, we regularly have to chase for invoices that are overdue which takes up a tonne of our time – can ANNA help with that?
ANNA: Definitely! You’d never need to type, chase or forget another invoice and ANNA’s team sends very polite reminders to anyone that owes you, just ask us to do it.
In the future your ANNA app will also alert you to when an invoice is overdue and simply ask if you’d like to chase payment. We understand that in a hectic business life when doing the work is the priority, chasing and sending invoices can be forgotten. ANNA will nudge you to ensure you keep your cash flow healthy.
Joanna Payne, Marguerite, an all-female creative network: How will ANNA save me the most time so I can focus on the creative side of my business?
ANNA: A friend of ours set up her own online business and about a year in, it’s doing well and is about to launch a crowd-funding campaign and we recently heard her say this: “ I hate admin and invoicing, I spend literally half my day doing this crap. As soon as I have any money I’m getting an admin assistant.”
Everyone who works for themselves or runs a small business knows that admin can be very time consuming, a bit tedious, even overwhelming. The time you spend remembering who to invoice and when, filling in your invoice template, carefully wording the email that goes with it, checking your statements to see if you’ve been paid. Then trying to find more careful words – stern but not too stern! – for that chasing email when the client’s not paid and the rent on your desk space is due – ANNA can take care of all of that. And the stress taking up space in your head and the time saved is invaluable.
ANNA comes with lots of time-saving tools and functionality. It can analyse emails and work out how much you’re owed, by who and when payment is due. When ANNA customers receive an invoice, they can forward it on and the app will automatically prepare payment information such as surnames and sort codes. If you lose your card, you can immediately freeze or unfreeze your card in the app. Anyone who gets to the end of the week and finds themselves swamped by invoices can get in touch with ANNA’s customer service team via Facebook Messenger and ask them to help. Even signing up in the first place is faster than most banks, it can be done within half an hour. Having all of this a tap away on your phone means you know that that stuff is being taken care of. Being spared the distraction of having to chase payments and do admin frees up the time you need to be creative, to think up new ideas, to experiment with products, stories, projects, exhibitions, recipes – any and all of the good stuff that lies behind why you set up your business in the first place.
Sandows Coffee, craft cold brew coffee start-up: The illustrations are amazing; what makes ANNA suited to creative industries specifically?
ANNA: The illustrations are by Alice Bowsher and you’re right – she is amazing. We were delighted when the guys at NB Studio suggested that we work with her.
The key point is that ANNA is very much a design-led business – every product development, new addition to the service, interaction with customers, our visual branding – all starts with design, and often a hand-drawn sketch. And we love to collaborate with other creatives, hence how we teamed up with people like Michael Wolff, Alice, NB and have started to build connections through events with editors, designers, screen printers, people working in contemporary crafts and making, food and drink and so on.
Plus many of the team behind ANNA have themselves been involved in what are typically described as ‘creative’ sectors e.g. digital design, fashion, media, architecture and worked in those industries for a long time so that’s also why we feel that we have an innate understanding of and affinity with the individuals, freelancers and small businesses in those areas.
Joto, creative display: Will ANNA be able to manage expenses both from the company account and employee expenses?
ANNA: Yes, we are planning on introducing these features early in 2019. The mechanics of how ANNA will manage expenses is currently being designed, we want to ensure we can create a service that’s smart and saves the precious time that our customers need. So our design and development teams are currently interviewing customers, asking them which kinds of features and functions they’d like to see included and that way, make sure we’re designing and adapting to fit people’s needs. We know integrating an intuitive and smart expense management tool into our product is an absolute necessity for businesses.