I could probably sum this up very quickly with the few words “keep it simple.” But because I want to provide you with enough information as to why you need to do that, I’ll elaborate a bit. This is not a list of great programs or apps to use but rather just explaining why it’s important to use something. However, I have my favorites I use so they will be mentioned throughout the article for reference. Alright, let’s get started!
Why Use A Bookkeeping and Invoicing Program?
Well…if you don’t think it’s vital to have something for your records and for your taxes, maybe you’re not freelancer material. You don’t have to spend much time on this each week, but it’s important to keep records and be able to invoice professionally if you want to be treated as a professional. There’s nothing wrong with going simple though, in fact, that’s exactly my next point is, so read on.
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Simplify with Freshbooks
Ok so it took me quite awhile to migrate over to Freshbooks, but it was the best decision ever. I started off with Quickbooks because I had been around businesses my whole life and they all used it. But what I didn’t realize was that those businesses had lots of billing, payroll, expenses, etc to keep up with whereas I just had me, pretty much. I do have expenses and invoicing to do, but simple is better and that’s exactly what systems like Freshbooks provide. They are made for people like us who only bill out a few times a month, have minimal expenses, and need things to just work. The big struggle I had with Quickbooks was that it was highly difficult and I just didn’t have the time to learn it. To me, a program should not be that complicated, or ugly for that matter. Here’s some things Freshbooks allows me to do.
- Send invoices online immediately
- Link to PayPal or other merchant so I can get paid immediately
- Integrates with my proposal software
- Makes bookkeeping very simple
- Limited options keep me sane
- Easy branding and color scheming
And here’s a few things that you should look for in any system.
- Reasonable cost
- Ability to easily send clients invoices online
- Ability to create invoices in just a few minutes
- Can easily track payments
- Recurring invoices
- Branding and personalizing
- Easily accessible
- Small learning curve
And lastly, below are some downfalls to using Quickbooks in particular
- High up front cost
- Very large learning curve
- Not user-friendly
- Extra fees for things like sending invoices online
- Only accessible on one computer (unless you pay extra, again)
- UI is terrible (as a designer, had to throw this one in)
I realize that Quickbooks has a lot of the same features as Freshbook and many more, but they aren’t setup out of the box and many require extra fees to use them. The best-selling point for me on Freshbooks was the fact that it’s easy. There’s really no room for error and it doesn’t overload me with options. There’s plenty of other invoicing systems out there, just be sure to check this one out but most importantly, get something that works on a professional level.
Make it Professional
We briefly touched on this in the last section but I wanted to give it its own section so you realize how important it is. First off, make sure you’re using something that’s simple as we discussed. Then you need to customize it a bit by changing your colors and/or adding your logo. The latter is really important. It’s amazing how many people will take notice that you’re serious about your business if you just add your logo. Also, be sure that everything is correct and on time when invoicing. It says a lot about you.
Be Sure to Take Out Taxes
When freelancing you have to remember that you’re taxed on everything you make. True, you have write-offs, but you will still owe money on what you’re bringing in. There’s no way for me to go into detail on how much for you to take out since every state and country is different. Be sure to check the laws on self-employment taxes and maybe meet with an accountant that can help you understand a good amount to take out. Personally, I take some out of every check so that it accumulates over the year and I have the money to pay them when tax time comes. I believe this is the best way so you’re not caught with a huge bill and no money to pay it. Many people pay their taxes quarterly as well, but as long as you’re taking money out of each payment you get, you won’t have to worry about whether it’s paid quarterly or in full.
In closing this section, I really can’t stress how important it is for you to do this. Being stuck with a several thousand dollar bill owed to the government is not a fun thing. Make it a priority, it’s in your best interest.
Be on Time
This last section really goes for any part of your freelance career. If you want people to take you seriously, be on time with everything. Even be early, but never be late. Being late shows you don’t care enough about their project to make it a priority and get it finished on time. This goes back to the “hot potato” method we talked about in the previous post. Get it done. Get it back to the client. And keep that ball in their court.
Aside from the above, being on time also adds credibility to your brand and will help you down the road when you’re getting referrals. If you’re a trustworthy, reliable person, you’ll always get more business.
Well that’s all for today. Hope this helps you in your daily freelance life and is a good reminder for those of you who are just starting out or thinking about it. Feel free to leave comments below and add to the article if you see fit!