Organization is not my strong point. Anyone who has seen my desk can attest to that. I’ve had to work really (really, really) hard to find a system for keeping my money organized as an entrepreneur. Taking small steps to stay organized has actually helped me to spend more time working on the important parts of my business. It has also helps me know exactly what I can afford, what I should invest in to grow my business, and how to make decisions quickly (which for a semi-indecisive Libra, is a big feat).
Here Are My Top 4 Tips For Getting Started With Money Organization:
1.) Keep separate bank accounts. This is a small change but has made the biggest difference in staying organized without really having to try. It may feel like you can slide by just using your personal account (especially if you’re a sole proprietor), but it can quickly get tricky and you’ll lose track of income, expenses, and end up spending a lot of time looking through your personal info when trying to find something related to your business.
At a minimum, I suggest creating these two accounts:
- Business checking account. All off your hard earned business dollars will come into this account when you get paid and you’ll pay all business bills from here. To keep it as clean as possible, don’t use this account for anything personal.
- Tax account. An inconvenient truth about entrepreneurship is that taxes are higher. You’re now picking up the portion of your tax bill that your employer used to cover. There are a lot of ways to estimate what portion of your income you’ll need to pay in taxes, but if you’re looking for a simple benchmark, plan to put away 25% of your income into this account. Yes, this really needs to be a separate account. It’s not your money anymore.
To sketch out what this looks like, let’s say that you were just paid $1,500 for a project and your expenses related to completing that project were $200.
2.) Get organized with a bookkeeping system. I shied away from using a bookkeeping system for much longer than I should have because I thought that I could just keep track of it myself – I didn’t really have that much to look at. Ever since I started using a bookkeeping system, I’ve been much less distracted knowing that the system is keeping everything organized for me. At the end of the year it will also make filing my taxes that much easier. I currently use Waveapp, which is free and fits my basic needs just perfectly. The only thing you need to pay for are payroll services. I use Wave to send invoices (and get paid), manage all of my business expenses, and pull financial statements, which is especially helpful at tax time. I can also set up Wave so it sends automatic reminders when someone is past due on their invoice.
I know it sounds a little overwhelming to start using a bookkeeping system, especially if you’ve been doing ok on your own. But by breaking down the task of getting it set up into smaller blocks, it will feel much more manageable. If you’re just starting with an online bookkeeping system, I would set aside three 30-60 minute blocks to get organized:
- Create your account and watch the introductory tutorial video
- Connect your bank account with whichever system you use and categorize any transactions that are pulled from you bank account into the bookkeeping tool
- Set up your invoice template and practice logging a few expenses
Following these steps you’ll be up and running in no time! On to the third step…
3.) Don’t leave money on the table. My mom is also a CPA, but unlike me, she actually does taxes for a living so she is constantly reminding me about expense deductions I might be missing. Now, I keep a running list of things I can deduct taped to the outside of a folder and on the inside I store any receipts for safekeeping until I am able to scan them into Wave.
Every business has different expenses but a small list to start with is:
- web hosting
- vehicle mileage
- work travel
- courses, seminars, licensing, business related books
- shipping, packaging
- office supplies and equipment
- health insurance premiums
4.) Set a weekly date. Friday afternoon my brain turns to autopilot. I’m assessing what I’ve done for the week and talking myself into the fact that it’s ok I didn’t finish x, y, z because I’ll make time for it Monday. By the time lunch rolls around, there is little room for any work that requires a lot of brainpower. Because I know this about myself, I use every Friday afternoon to spend a bit of time getting organized. I clean up my desk, I plan for the next week, and most importantly, I take time to organize my money. Since I do it weekly, it takes 15-20 minutes and I feel incredibly accomplished (and deserving of a glass of wine).
Here’s what my weekly money check in usually includes:
- review outstanding invoices and send reminders for any that I’m waiting for
- upload receipts and log expenses from the week into Wave
- check to make sure that I have paid all of my bills
- pay myself my bi-weekly stipend “salary”
Friday afternoon might not be the best time for you, but find that time during your week that you just don’t really feel as productive and schedule weekly time to get this admin work out of the way.
Getting organized can feel like an overwhelming task, but start with small steps and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you feel in control of your business finances!
*Article written by Erica Gellerman of Upperlyne & Co.
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