Say hello to van time: a simple way to beat admin, bit by bit.

29 May 2019

It’s no secret. Behind every busy tradesperson lurks a big old pile of paperwork. Whether it’s taking over the kitchen table or stacking up in the spare room, it’s not just physical clutter, it’s a whole heap of extra pressure that’s just not shifting.

So today we’re looking at one simple strategy for scaling that paperwork mountain. And this time, you’ll need your van…

Nobody wants to waste their evenings, weekends or hands-on trade time getting through admin. And you shouldn’t have to. But if you don’t get quotes done, work dries up, and if you don’t get invoices done, you won’t get paid. It’s time for a new strategy.

We’re calling it van time. Yep, van time. It’s a really simple hack that helps you break paperwork down into bitesized chunks and get it done as you go along. Here’s why it works…

Putting wasted time to work

Duck into the van for five minutes and it’s surprising what you can get done – while you’re having a cuppa, wolfing down lunch or waiting at the merchant’s.

As long as you’re not the one behind the wheel, you can work while you’re on the road too – heading to and from site, picking up supplies or going to meet clients.

In fact, in our recent Do Your Thing blog, Alison Coxhead from Earthstone Landscapes told us that’s exactly what she does:

“If we’re travelling somewhere and I’m not behind the wheel, I’ll often use YourTradebase on my phone to do quotes as we’re going along. I’ll do invoices on my phone as well, just sitting in the van in my lunch hour.”

It’s an idea that really works. When we’ve got a few spare minutes, we’re all guilty of faffing on our phones or flicking through the paper. But what if you put those wasted minutes to work? By knocking out a quote or emailing a customer, you’re getting something purposeful done, keeping people in the loop and clawing back valuable time in the evenings and at weekends.

If you’ve got a team, you could even grab a ten-minute admin catch up in the van once you’ve got everyone started on the day’s work. You’ll be back before they’ve missed you, and you’ll feel a whole lot better about the day ahead.

Sounds simple, right? Well, yeah. But even simple things can be hard to start – and harder to stick to. It’s about getting into good habits – and the easier they are, the more likely you are to keep going. Which is what’s so good about van time. Making it a success means fitting it into the way your business works, but to kick things off, give these steps a go…

1. What’s on your plate?

If you’re not clear what needs doing, you won’t get it done. So start this new strategy with a list. It might be a long one at first, but it’ll get shorter as you chip away at things you’ve been putting off.

Write down every single admin job that needs doing – estimates, quotes, invoices, customer calls, chasing payments, logging payments, sending receipts… the lot. Get it all down and you’ve got something to work with.

Like some help? Have a look at the what’s on your plate tool within YourTradebase. It updates automatically as you get things done, which is pretty darn handy.

2. How urgent is it?

Next, knock your list into priority order. Yes, it all needs doing, but what’s screaming at you? What’s keeping you awake at night? Who’s chasing you? Which potential jobs might just bring in the most cash? Bump those to the top of your list and you’ve made a great start.

Bear in mind most customers won’t want to wait more than a few days for a quote, and the earlier you send one, the better your chances of winning the job – if it’s one you want to win (and that’s an important if). Keep an eye on cashflow too. Even if they’re the one thing your clients aren’t chasing, you still need to make time every week to send out invoices.

3. How long will it take?

Once you’ve worked the lot into priority order, think about how long you need for each task. Some quotes can be written and sent really quickly – especially if they’re something you do regularly and you can tap into a template like the ones in YourTradebase.

You might get a couple done in one van break, and a handful across the day. More complicated jobs might need a more bespoke approach – and two or three van sessions to work through.

On the whole, invoices ought to be quicker. You know what the job is, and who it was for. As long as the price you quoted is the price you’re charging, it’s a quick switch over.

If costs increased once work started, provided you’ve tracked that, the extras should be easy to add on. And if it takes a bit of untangling this time, look for a simple way to log changes on the next job – something quick and easy like the project notes tool in YourTradebase.

4. What’s doable this week?

Think about what’s doable in a day’s worth of van breaks, and get those tasks down so you know what you need to get through. Use a reminders app, or our tasks tool (it even gives you a nudge if you fall behind). That way you’ll always have your list handy when you’re out on the job (or in the van with a brew / bacon butty / bag of Doritos you don’t want to share).

Get a list together for every day of the week ahead, and if there’s anything left over, start lists for the following week too. You can move things around if something gets more urgent, but more importantly, you can tick things off as you go, which always feels pretty good.

5. Got everything you need?

Whatever admin jobs you do regularly, invest the time upfront to find tools that make them faster. That way you’ll be able to jump in and out of your admin (and your van), getting things done quickly and making the best use of every minute you grab.

Even better, get all your your project notes, paperwork templates and customer details stored on the same device, whether it’s your phone or your iPad. No more rummaging through piles of papers and Post-its – just everything you need in one hand, ready to go.

Whatever tools you use, the big thing is to find something that works for you, and just get started. You’ll get faster as you go – and you might just sleep easier too.

If anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be in the van.

By Adam Austin

Co-founder of YourTradebase. One quick, easy app that frees you from paperwork and lets you get back to the job you love.

“I used to spend about 2 hours per estimate. After starting with YourTradebase I can put an estimate together on site saving more time.” Vincent Graves

Make more of your van time
with YourTradebase

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and lets you get back to the job you love.

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