I need to get organized. I've been doing freelance editing and camera work for a while, but in the last few years I've started to have more clients and more expenses. I've been doing my accounting on paper and excel spreadsheets. It's all very disorganized and clumsy when it comes tax time. I'm looking to stay more on top of it this year. I started using Freshbooks to input invoices and expenses and I really like it. But I'm not sure I want to commit to the $20/month fee. I don't see myself using some of the fancier options like taking pictures of receipts. And I don't have employees. I'm looking at other options, but I'm getting kind of confused. What's the best tool for simple invoicing and expenses? Quickbooks? Quicken? Freshbooks?
To further confuse matters, my wife also runs a small Etsy shop and needs to track expenses and income as well. Right now, she's on a separate Freshbooks account, but for tax purposes, it would be pretty nice if she was in the same database as me.
We use QuickBooks here, and have for, oh just forever.
I'm not the beancounter here, but as far as I know it has always worked pretty flawlessly.
Come tax time we just do a backup to a thumbdrive and take it to our CPA, or he comes here and takes a backup copy.
Just from what I've heard it seems to be what most people are using. Well, I mean at our level... people like CPAs use more advanced products like Peachtree, but for a small biz I'd recommend QuickBooks.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
It was our accountants who introduced us to and initially set-up QuickBooks for us. I believe that initial set up is an important factor because the accountant knows how to categorize what they're going to want to get out of the program come tax time.
As to two businesses using one software program. That's easy in QuickBooks, Your using it as separate companies just the same way you'd be making a separate spreadsheet or word processing document.
The description of two companies sharing / splitting expenses sounds far more complicated. An accountant may be able to advise you how to do this, but I suspect that the simplest way is, for financial and practical reasons, to operate as two different DBAs ("doing business as") which are for tax purposes owned and operated under a single corporate umbrella.
Then again, as we always say here... I'm not a lawyer or an accountant so free advice may be worth exactly what you pay for it.
Quickbooks is the most popular. However, being old, I still use Microsoft Excel. Here is how to stay organized. IT's now 9:50pm.
I worked today, and bought gas, paid tolls, and took my wife out to dinner.
So, while she is in the bed watching TV, I am sitting in front of the computer, just finishing entering my gas, tolls, and dinner into three different Excel spreadsheets. I have a seperate spread sheet for every type of expense (about 25 of them). In early January, I create a master sheet that links the 25 sepeate excel docs, so I can have one master sheet, that shows all of my expenses. If there are any questions about "office supplies", I just open up the office supplies excel document, and there are all the details.
This means, that EVERY DAMN DAY, when I eat, buy gas, pay a toll, go to Home Depot, order computer software, cable, connectors, etc. before I go to bed, I enter this information into the computer.
When I go to NAB, and I dont' have my office computer with me, I bring about 15 empty envelopes with me, and put the daily receipts (car rental, gas, hotel, meals) into seperate envelopes. When I fly back home, the following evening, I will sit in front of the computer and enter these receipts into each excel catagory. If I need an instant summary, I just open up the master sheet with the linked accounts (easy - Control Copy, Control Paste, and select "link" in the second sheet) - and I have a quick summary of my annual expenses. But it requires daily dicipline.
My primary job is doing what I do - video engineering. My second unpaid job is being my own bookkeeper. It sucks.
Up till recently I used to use Quickbooks, but as one business closed and another opened, I've switched to http://www.freeagent.com.
It is a simpler to use software than Quickbooks Pro. However, through research it came across with more features than the Quickbooks SaaS product (and others), hence why it did win the day.
Check out the large number of Integrations & Add-ons that it supports too. The Capsule CRM link was one particular reason for going with freeagent - however, I am still catching up with the filings before integrating the two.
All the Best
@madsvid, London, UK
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I had used Excel for a few years, and yes, it's not the best but it's not bad. I too had usually stuck the receipts in envelopes until I could enter them in Excel. Also, there are some great apps on iPhone (and I'm sure Android too), that allow you to track car mileage and export to excel (Car Bug), and to photograph reciepts and store the images rather than the reciepts (that's what businesses are allowed to do now).
Last year, due to some reasons, I had to learn Quicken, and yes, the home/business version will allow you to do both personal and small business. I tracked 3 businesses on it last year. Worse feature was it's invoicing. Best was that, yes, with a bit of diligence, all was easy this month to give totals to my tax prep person
Likely, as my business grows, which it is, I'll switch to Quickbooks.
It does force you to be more structured, whether you like it or not. I believe most of us need that. It also does a great job of downloading multiple accounts. I never hand enter any banking data any more, and 90% of my invoices, including PayPal can be imported. All I do is catagorize.
But Excel can do the job just fine, and it lets you customize it to your way of working.
As to other packages, I worry that if they go under, I'll be left high and dry. But it's usually only one year at a time.
Over the years I tried several others but realized Quickbooks is the way to go because that is what the professional bookkeepers and accountants will now accept. Until recently they looked down their noses at it as unprofessional but now most all the self employed people use it. I will give you a word of warning though, I learned this the hard way:
If you are on a Mac and your accountant is on a PC, when you convert back and forth there are glitches, no matter what they say. As usual the Mac version was an afterthought. Unfortunately most bean counters are on PCs so I have to print everything out for mine.
As to the way Bob Zellin does it, I have automated his process. Although I keep all receipts in case of an audit I now use my business checking debit card for 90% of all biz expenses. If I use cash to tip a skycap or bellman I write that down. Once a week I sit down for about one hour and log into my bank and then open the Quickbooks window. I designate each expense to it's category by just two clicks and sometimes need write the name of a new recipient in. Since most of what we do is repetitious, like Best Buy, Radio Shack, B&H, etc., it auto fills. There are many small biz owners who know how to automatically have Quickbooks and your bank reconcile online, but I am not smart enough to do that. If I balance within $200 I shrug and call it close enough, but there is a feature that will balance you to the penny.
Another good reason to use the debit card and not use cash for business expenses is if you are ever audited the IRS looks more closely as to where the cash went.
I'd also suggest that when you first buy it hire a real bookkeeper to come over for two hours and set up your account structure based on your tax returns and what your accountant requires. The one downside is that it makes cheap looking invoices.
Thanks for the responses. I've downloaded Quickbooks and am taking a look.
I use Quicken Home and Business myself, plus Excel. I log all of my business expenses via Excel, and have a portable copy on my Blackberry phone (via Documents to Go app), which is the same file I use at home, since it's on my Dropbox account. So everything is in one place. I have my banking account linked to Quicken, and download my expenditures and income by automatically syncing my bank account every morning. It allows me to stay pretty much on top of things at tax time. Then I just print out a report and hand it to my accountant.
QuickBooks for me. In addition to the ease of getting info to and from the CPA, I use "item codes" extensively for all revenue. For example for every piece of equipment I own, there is a separate item code and if I use say an ARRI kit on a project, I simply use it's item code on the invoice along with everything else I used. It takes a bit of time to set up the first time, but the cool thing is that over time (20+ years for me) I can track revenue trends for everything. It also saves time for estimates and invoices, because all you need to do is type in the item code and whatever detailed description you've set up in advance will flow to the estimate or invoice you give your client.
Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!
I recently switched over to http://www.waveapps.com after using quickbooks for a couple of years. It's free and on the cloud. I found myself being able to track expenses and take care of bookkeeping on the go from my iphone, rather than waiting to get back to the office. There are limits to it, but you can synch it up to your bank accounts to track debits & credits, which is really helpful.
Also, you can invite other people to help manage accounts from the cloud. So it's nice when tax season rolls around and I can share all that info with my CPA or have a PA do some data entry. I don't want to sell you one way or another, I just know it has worked well for our company.
Hope this helps.
Wise Foley Entertainment
One more vote: Quicken online.
I shoot people.