4:30 am: Tradie’s alarm rings, he hits snooze. He still has a few minutes left before things get serious.

4:45 am: Tradie’s alarm rings again, it’s time to get up and face another grueling day. While every other bastard is tucked up and warm in their beds, Tradie is dragging his sore, tired body out of bed in -4 temperatures. He feels like he’s been hit by a Mac truck that’s also promptly reversed over him. But Tradie has to eat concrete and harden up, on this dark, cold morning because it’s handover day. Get your toolbelt on Tradie, today’s gonna be a pearla!

5:00 am: First mission: getting out of the house. Trying to navigate the house in the dark while half asleep is a stealth mission that can mean life or death. Have you ever encountered the species of wifey that exists at 5 am? It’s a cross between the exorcist and one of those raging bulls at the rodeo. You must avoid waking them at all costs! Just to make his morning routine fun, Wifey has set up an obstacle course for Tradie to navigate. Yesterday, Wifey rearranged the whole house, and the situation is worse than any Sparton mud run. His son Max has decided to add to the challenge with his strategically placed LEGO pieces in the hallway. Anyone who has ever walked on these torture blocks knows the extreme pain they can induce. It’s the kind of hazard that would make an OHS officer’s eye twitch. Three smashed toes and a twisted ankle later, Tradie makes it safely to the kitchen. Now, where are the bloody keys? Wifey can be a tad OCD at times and tends to organise everything in a chronological, alphabetical, mythological way. Today there’s nothing logical about where the effing keys have been moved to. Why can’t they just live on the hall table? Tradie cautiously wakes Wifey, gets his ear chewed off, and promptly exists the room. While grabbing his lunch bag, Tradie notices cupcakes on the counter. He has no idea what these cupcakes are for but thinks this will make for a great breakfast. He grabs a cupcake on his way out the door and a Red Bull at the servo for good measure.

5:30 am: Meet at the factory. Damo is out front having a smoke and Benny is enjoying his usual nutritious breakfast (Mrs. Mac sausage roll and Coke). The new apprentice is late. Again. He will have to make his own way to the site, as there is no time to waste today. Nobody is loading the truck as planned. Tradie asks himself why he’s paying wages to these lazy bastards and loads the truck himself. The three blokes pile into the truck. Standard rules apply – skinniest in the middle. Benny draws the short straw, he is the skinniest. Damo and Tradie soon realise the joke is on them; Benny had a kebab yesterday, with extra garlic sauce. Benny should have been tied to the tray.

7:00 am: Get to the site. Unpack the truck and touch base with the foreman. The Foreman is in a cracker of a mood, PMS is hitting hard today, and he’s running around like a goose with his head cut off. The looming deadline has him ranting about defects and people not getting paid. Piece together all his instructions and get to work. Tradie makes a mental note never to work with this mob again. Tradie delegates the day’s jobs and makes sure the team is aware that if handover doesn’t take place in exactly eight hours, shit will hit the fan.

8:00 am: The team is hard at work, so now tradie would usually be ordering materials, organising tool repairs, talking to site managers about future jobs and chasing warm leads. But today Tradie has a deadline, and he’s behind, so he needs to pick up his tools and work. But first, he needs to find his tools. Anyone who knows a tradie knows how meticulous they are about their tools. They are not to be borrowed. Ever. Tradie grabs his drill only to see that some bugger has borrowed his drill bit and hasn’t returned it. Que a few 15-minute rant to the team about tool etiquette.

small business bookkeeping tradie

8:30 am: Wifey rings. It turns out that the cupcake Tradie stole was for Max’s cake stall at school, and he is now one short. Unlucky.

8:35am: Take a call from Max. His assembly is today and he wants Dad to be there. Tradie is gutted he will miss Max’s item but assures him that he will be at the footy game on the weekend. Sorry mate.

8:45 am: Benny points out a mistake in the work and remarks, “the painter will fix it.” Que another 15-minute speech about workmanship and how they will not be eating tonight unless everything is A1. Tradie makes a mental note that he would probably make more money working by himself.

9:00 am: Smoko break. Tradie grabs his thermos out of his truck in an attempt to get warm. He’s been waiting for this coffee for a couple of hours now. He takes a swig only to realise that Benny the prankster has cunningly snuck salt into his thermos. Tradie returns a call to his brother and informs him that he doesn’t have time to work at his house for mates rates. Heck, Tradie’s wife is already pissed about the growing list of house repairs she’s been waiting on for months. Tradie returns a call to Sally who has left a voicemail requesting a quote. She tells Tradie that the “handyman” on Airtasker has made her an offer at half the price Tradie is quoting. Tradie wishes her well and tells her he’ll be expecting a call next week after Mr. Unqualified creates a scene of mass destruction on her house.

9:15 am: Back to the tools. Tradie’s back hurts, his hands hurt, in fact, every bone in his body hurts. Tradie makes a mental note to book into the physio on his next day off. His brain starts to wander to when he last had a day off. The last few weekends he’s worked 12-hour days just to catch up on all the outstanding work. Not this coming weekend though, nope, this coming weekend he’s going to his son’s football game. No amount of work is going to distract him from this game. He’s made a promise he’s going to keep.

10:00 am: The apprentice is wandering around looking lost and getting in the way, so Tradie sends him off to Bunnings to buy a tin of striped paint and left-handed screwdrivers. That’ll keep him busy and out of everyone’s hair for a while.

10:15 am: Benny informs Tradie that the order for materials has come in incorrectly. Time to jump off the tools and put his boss hat back on. The guys can’t do their job, on time, without the correct materials. Now in damage control, Tradie orders new materials and agrees to the extra surcharge for delivery. Tradie makes a mental note that this job has crept out of scope. He does some rough numbers in his head and realises that it may actually be running at a loss. Tradie has been so busy trying to get the job done that he hasn’t had time to properly track expenses. In fact, he isn’t even sure he has kept a good record of all the variations. Hopefully his trusty tattered notepad in the truck (that’s covered in spilt coffee and tomato sauce) will have some magical variations to pull this job out of a loss.

11:00 am: Tradie is back on the tools again, listening to the acoustics of Triple M on the Makita radio, Benny is whistling a tune that he only knows two lines of, and some Tourette’s tosser keeps shouting crazy shit at random intervals. Again, Tradie’s mind starts to wander. What if they don’t pull off this job on time? What if they do pull off the job, only to get to the end and realise it ran at a loss? Where is the next big job coming from? What will happen if this mob takes more than 30 days to pay and strings it out to 90 days like the last one? Will cashflow survive? Tradie feels the weight of his employees’ families, like extended members of his own family that he’s obligated to support. He thinks of his wife, the gal who has supported him through this journey of running a small family business… The one who has held the fort at home with the kids when he’s had to work every weekend for months at a time… The wife who is the only one to know when things have become really tough… SHIT, it’s their 15th anniversary today! Tradie has been so focused on making handover that he’s forgotten their anniversary. Again.

11:45 am: Tradie calls the florist to order a flower delivery, pronto. He has no idea what an “extravaganza bouquet” is, but he decides to run with it. Tradie tries not to choke when he realises the extravaganza bouquet comes with an extravagant price tag and a priority, same day delivery fee.

12:00 pm: Tradie calls Wifey and pretends he didn’t forget their anniversary, he was just trying to be considerate by not disturbing her during her morning rush. Wifey secretly knows he forgot, but it’s ok, because she forgot as well – she just won’t tell him that.

12:10 pm: Lunch break. Tradie wants to take back all the nice things he just said about Wifey. He questions why, after 15 years, she still forgets that the tomatoes should be wrapped separately, because when they’re packed in the sandwich the night before, everything gets soggy.

12:20 pm: Tradie browses Facebook and becomes annoyed with the ladies sitting in air conditioning who are complaining about the cold weather. Meanwhile, Tradie’s fingers have only just defrosted enough to scroll.

12:30 pm: It’s time to hook back in. Tradie and his team have two and a half hours to pull off a miracle, the kind that would make The Block contestants’ heads spin. Nobody talks, nobody jokes, everyone just puts their tired and sore backs into meeting the deadline.

2:00 pm: Tradie’s phone rings, it’s an urgent job. It needs to be done this weekend. Tradie knows he promised Max that he’ll be at his football game, but he also knows that this job could be the ticket to getting the next big job. The new site manager of this mob is a total ball breaker and Tradie has been kissing his arse for months to get the contract. Tradie agrees to take on the job and starts working out how he is going to explain this to little Maxy.

3:00 pm: Work is complete, the job site is cleaned, and the foreman is happy. “Cheers mate, look forward to seeing your payment in 30 days.” Time to pack up the truck, cram three sweaty bodies into the truck cab and sit in traffic like minions for the next couple of hours.

5:00 pm: Tradie arrives home. The first thing he notices is his lawn. Second to having impeccable tools is having a well-kept lawn. But Tradie doesn’t have a well-kept lawn at the moment. No, he has a jungle, and he knows that Bob up the road is no doubt enjoying his beer and making comments about Tradie’s “Houso” house. Tradie makes his way inside and is greeted at the door by an excited Max, flashing his new merit certificate from the assembly today. Tradie shoots Wifey an exhausted look that tells her he made the handover deadline and then sits with Max to talk about his day before grabbing a quick 15-minute kip.

5:30 pm: Still in his hi-vis gear, Tradie drags his tired bones to Max’s footy training and does his best to be as enthusiastic as he can, while mentally planning the conversation he’ll be having in the car about the footy game this weekend.

7:00 pm: Dinner time. Max isn’t talking to anyone. He has just been told that Dad will be missing the footy game. Max knows how important Dad’s business is to him, but he can’t help but be disappointed that his hero won’t be at his game. Wifey is talking about sheets, something about thread counts or something, but Tradie can’t hear her. He’s busy planning, stewing and worrying about upcoming jobs, cashflow and keeping his family afloat. Instead, he smiles and nods, knowing full well that at some time Wifey is going to catch him out for missing this important conversation.

8:00 pm: Dinner is finished, Max is in bed, broken-hearted but still putting on a brave face, dishwasher is loaded, and it’s time to do the business stuff that Tradie dreads. The paper shuffle. Tradie pulls out the old laptop that seems to have a vendetta against him and never does what it’s supposed to. He grabs his trusty notepad and starts piecing together some invoices for the final claim on today’s job. He scrounges through every page, looking for variations that he can pick up. He hates being unorganised, knowing that he’s missing details. He wishes there was a better way. An hour and quite a few swear words later, he emails the invoices to the customer. Next is quoting. He again scours his notepad, checks his phone for text messages and remembers some quote details he wrote on a piece of plasterboard that’s still on the back of the truck. He sends out his quotes and prays to the quoting gods that some get accepted. He checks his emails, sees that he has just received month end statements from suppliers, and suddenly all the invoices he’s just sent seem irrelevant because he is going to need to remortgage his home to pay this month’s accounts. Tradie remembers that it’s also the end of quarter, so now he must go through the pain of muddling together a BAS, hoping it will never get audited. He puts this off until another night and silently stews over how he is going to pay it this quarter. Surely there must a be a better way to stay on top of this stuff? Tradie makes a note to research bookkeepers, so that he won’t have to go through this pain again and he will know how much his projects are making or losing.

10:30 pm: Tradie drags his exhausted, defeated arse to bed. Sore and shell shocked, he sets his alarm, and before he knows it, it’s ringing again.

Groundhog Day 😜

If you’re living your life like Tradie, there is a better way.

I can’t help you with any of your site projects. I’m pretty crap with a hammer, but I’m good with numbers (not to mention funny as fxxck).

I’m also a qualified BAS agent who has spent her entire 15-year career helping small business owners take the overwhelm out of the paper shuffle.

So, if you’d rather not spend your evenings and weekends battling with your laptop, and you want to know how much you’re actually making on your jobs, instead of always flying blind – hit me up at stacey@savemybooks.com.au

Also, if you’re ready to have a laugh at the flip side of the coin, check out part 2 of my blog: A Day In The Life Of A Tradies Wife