DIY Bookkeeping Accounting Software for Freelance Creative Professionals

Oct 21, 2017

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

DIY Bookkeeping Accounting Software for Freelance Creative Professionals

Oct 21, 2017

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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Bookkeeping Software for Creative Professionals

Bookkeeping is unfortunately one of those tasks that all creative professionals have to keep up with in order to stay in business.

At it’s core, bookkeeping is simply maintaining a list of income and expenses. Things get a little more tricky when you have to then categorize your income and expenses for tax purposes – but it doesn’t have to be a horrible time sucking task.

In this article I will highlight a few of the bookkeeping accounting software options available for freelance creative professionals, and how they fit into my business workflow.

For the purpose of this article, I will assume that most freelance creative professionals are sole proprietors or individual corporations. Things get very complicated very fast once you’re into the realm of staff and payroll in which case you’re probably better off hiring a professional bookkeeper.

Many of the tools mentioned below do have support for payroll, but I am only going to concentrate on the core features that individual freelance professionals are most likely to use.

Intuit Quickbooks Online

Intuit Quickbooks Online

Quickbooks has been the accounting software industry standard for a long time – think Photoshop for accountants and bookkeepers.

The Quickbooks Simple Start plan is $15 per month and includes everything most freelance creative professionals need, including tracking sales tax which is not available with the base plan.

The big knock against Quickbooks is that it is overly complicated – which it is – so you should be prepared for a bit of a learning curve.

The best way to get started with Quickbooks is to hire a professional bookkeeper to help get you setup and show you what to do. After that it is pretty easy to maintain on your own.

There are two reasons why I use Quickbooks.

First, almost every professional in the accounting industry uses Quickbooks, so when you have to work with accounting industry professionals (such as your accountant) your files are compatible, the report formats are familiar and everyone know how things work.

Or if your business grows to the point where you need to hire a professional bookkeeper, your books are already set up in a format that they can continue with.

Second, the ability to download transactions directly from your financial institutions is life saving. There are many accounting software suites that can do this, but if you are used to manually entering transactions, this feature alone with change your life.

The one issue I have with Quickbooks – and this is a major issue – is that it cannot currently handle multiple currencies. This is really inexcusable in today’s world – almost every creative professional I know works in at least 3 or 4 different currencies (USD, CAD, EUR and GBP are pretty common for me).

You can work around this by creating multiple categories for multiple currencies and then manually converting the totals at the end of your reporting period, but it is a hassle and it messes up your account reconciliation.

Alternatives to Quickbooks

There are many alternatives to Quickbooks available online. I have personally tried a few of the most popular including Freshbooks and Xero.

I found them perfectly usable, however because they are just not that well known by accounting industry professionals, it was too much of a problem outputting data into formats that my accountant and other accounting industry professionals could use without explanation.

Its like if you only ever use Photoshop and someone gives you a Gimpshop file to work on.

Timesheets

Harvest Time Tracking

I believe Quickbooks can do timesheets internally, but to be honest I’ve never been able to figure it out.

I have a few clients that I have to keep track of billable time on a timesheet, and then generate invoices based on the time tracked.

I spent a long time searching for a simple timesheet tracker that would allow me to assign hours to a specific task and client.

Most timesheet solutions only have a timer – you hit start and it times how long you spend on a task. That level of time management is just a pain in the a$$ – I just need to assign hours without tracking what I’m doing to the minute.

Eventually I found Harvest for time tracking and invoicing. The Solo plan will cost you $12 per month, but if you need a time tracker – it’s the most user friendly one I’ve used.

Receipt Management

Shoeboxed Receipt Management

Keeping track of your income and expenses is one thing, but keeping track of paper and electronic receipts is a whole other issue.

If you’re like me and most people, you stuff all of your receipts into one big folder and never look at them again.

However, if you do need to find a specific receipt – for a return, a warranty claim or for an audit, it is nearly impossible to find.

Shoeboxed solves this problem by digitizing your paper and electronic receipts and storing them in a sortable, searchable database.

From a smartphone photo (or scan), Shoeboxed will automatically record the date, vendor, amount, tip, tax and any other pertinent information on the receipt and save an electronic copy.

They even have a service called “Magic Envelopes” where you can simply mail them your big giant mess of receipts and they will digitize them for you.

The text recognition isn’t always perfect and because there is no standard format for dates, years/months/days occasionally get mixed up – so a certain level of manual intervention is still required.

Most creative professionals would need the Classic plan for $39 per month (unless you have less than 50 receipts per month in which case you could get by with the $15 per month Lite plan).

I used Shoeboxed for years and really liked the service. It is surprisingly useful to always have all your receipts available (especially for returns and warranty claims) and when used in combination with Quickbooks, your bookkeeping is audit ready.

However, after a while I just couldn’t justify the hefty $39 per month price tag – so my receipts went back to the physical shoebox.

Estimates, Invoices and Payment Processing

Paypal Estimating Invoice Payment Processing

I have been using PayPal for all my estimates, invoices and payment processing for a long time (for more information read: Old Fashioned Bank Accounts Cost Your Business Time and Money – Why Not Use PayPal Instead?).

PayPal is expensive – skimming 2.9% off of every transaction they process – which really adds up over time. However, for me the convenience is worth the cost – especially if you’re working with global payments and multiple currencies.

Everyone is familiar with the PayPal brand which is also important – people know how to use the service and trust the interface – so you never have to explain how to make a payment.

What Bookkeeping Accounting Software Do You Use?

How do you handle your books?

Is there any particular software that you recommend?

Anything that you don’t recommend?

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and experiences!

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JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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10 responses to “DIY Bookkeeping Accounting Software for Freelance Creative Professionals”

  1. Mark Niebauer Avatar
    Mark Niebauer

    I was a senior tech advisor for Intuit for over 5 years. I would not trust SLick books with anyone!

  2. Martin Gatehouse Avatar
    Martin Gatehouse

    Xero is the best. End of discussion.

  3. Jeff Wasserman Avatar
    Jeff Wasserman

    I use Wave for accounting and invoicing.

  4. Graeme Simpson Avatar
    Graeme Simpson

    another one here using Wave

  5. marilyn Avatar
    marilyn

    I have used quickbooks for years. I now use quickbooks online as i was forced out of the off line version due to upgrades. I felt like a newcomer to quickbooks on line. Totally different program and reports and screen displays not as easy or as quick as the original. My biggest problem is that I travel internationally around 9 months of the year. Finding enough internet connection to run my large quick books files in my short stays in countries is a nightmare. After many years with computer generared accounting systems (30 years) I find myself having to use manual systems to keep me up to date and then enter to Quickbooks when I find internet connection, speed and time in one place to catch up with the computer system. This is double work so where is progress?
    What program could I use both offline and online so I only have to do tbe work once and then press a button to update everything. The world has gone mad and the customer is totally left holding the bag of inefficiencies.

  6. Chris Voks Avatar
    Chris Voks

    I have used a lot of support services but since I have been
    using QuickBooks. I have not had any problem. Fully satisfied with the
    QuickBooks support, QuickBooks has solved all my issues on the time.

    https://www.quickbookssupport.tech/

  7. James Rock Avatar
    James Rock

    I use QuickBooks for Bookkeeping and for issues related QuickBooks i use to get support from QuickBooks Suppport –https://www.quickbookssupport.company/

  8. Sophia Cruz Avatar
    Sophia Cruz

    Accounting software is much needed thing for the business firm nowadays. among all the software QuickBooks is the best. if you are using it then it is a best decision taken by you and for the termination of the errors kindly please visit-https://www.qbsupportnumber.com/

  9. nick mosan Avatar
    nick mosan

    You can update QuickBooks desktop as you want from the QuickBooks tool hub and this great facility is only for you to use the QuickBooks tool hub and to make the best and the most worthy desktop for your.

  10. nick mosan Avatar
    nick mosan

    Quickbooks File Doctor is one of the best and the most used software that allows you to recover your files from damage and also checks them for all kinds of failure problems that will make you a loss.