Business Tools Update

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Happy mid-year! Have you checked in with yourself lately to see how you are doing with meeting your annual goals? I just started my paralegal training this week, so that’s one thing checked off my list.

A goal I didn’t write down is to streamline my billing and accounting system. Software packages like QuickBooks or Quicken are too expensive and complicated for my business type.  I do everything in homemade Excel spreadsheets right now, which I love, but I know they can be improved upon. And guess what? Someone has already done that! A colleague sent me a link to Simple Planner. It has everything I was looking for – income and expense calculators in the same Excel file, plus an invoice generator. It may even motivate me to calculate my profit and loss statements. I won’t be changing my system mid-year, but this is definitely going on my list of year-end buys (especially since this tip comes from someone I trust; I promise we are not in the pockets of this company). Check it out here.

[Bonus tip: Apparently, most banks let you download your transaction statements as Excel files. So instead of doing all your bookkeeping data entry by hand, you can copy/paste or link it all up!]

If marketing is your focus this year, BufferApp is another great tool to try. (Again, I am not compensated in any way for sharing this information with you.) I have been paying the nominal fee for their Awesome Plan for a couple years, no regrets. I love being able to schedule updates for events and holidays in advance, and spread out the news I read (usually in one big go on a Sunday) and share so I’m not just dumping everything on my followers at once. But it gets better: BufferApp recently added a feature that lets you sign up for RSS feeds for blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc., right in the scheduling app. So now, instead of going to my RSS feed to catch up on news, then switching to the app to post articles of interest, I can do it all in the same place. Isn’t everything better when it’s streamlined? Check out their plans here (they have a free version, too).

What goals have you checked off your list this year? What tools are you using to meet them? Please share your favorites below!

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Money tracking basics for freelancers

Record-keeping is a tricky beast when you’re running operations solo.

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These are some random tips and tricks I’ve learned over the last year:

  • Use the Google Drive app on your tablet/iPhone to snap photos of your receipts and store them automatically in a special folder. You’ll need an internet connection for this, but a good alternative is to simply snap the photo then transfer it to your computer. Photos, as opposed to paper receipts, are a legitimate, accountant-approved way of keeping this important record of your expenses, and there’s no risk of cheap ink fading before you need to show it to the tax man.
  • “Good records” mean proving an expense in triplicate, quadruplicate, or even quintuplicate: your bank statement, photo or physical receipt, an entry in your accounting record, and an entry in your day planner/calendar should all show the same purchase was made for the same reason. Keep these around for the past 5 years (if you live in the US).
  • Track the start and stop numbers on the odometer of your car for business trips. I’m terrible at this. A little notebook in the glove box might help me.
  • For those of you who haven’t yet switched over to freelancing full time: if you keep records of your expenses related to ramping up your business, you can deduct them gradually over several years after you start operations. This is true in the US, at least. What about in other countries?

If you really don’t like keeping track of all this, consider finding an accountant to help you. They’re not as expensive as you might expect, especially considering the headaches you’ll avoid. Many offer quarterly checkups, too, so you’ll only have to pay for an hour or so of their time, four times a year. Less than a thousand bucks a year to pass it on to someone who actually understands numbers? Not a bad tradeoff!

What are your best accounting and record-keeping tricks? How do you take care of the financial side of things? Feel free to share your favorite, rock-star accountant’s details below! Don’t forget to tell us the city/region he or she operates from.