Many owners of a small business have reluctance to hire a bookkeeper. Some of the reasons include:
We can’t afford one
I don’t want any employees
I don’t trust anyone else with my money
I enjoy managing the money myself
While these can be valid points for a business just starting out, at some point it makes sense to either hire a bookkeeper or outsource this function so that the owner can focus on more profitable activities, or tasks they know more about, and leave bookkeeping to an expert.
But...how do you know what to look for in a bookkeeper to give you that peace of mind?
Below are the key areas to ask candidates when considering them for your business.
Will your bookkeeper allow you to do a background check on them? If not, I’d recommend walking away from them, if not running away from them. A background check would reveal many things, like prior arrests for embezzlement that would warn you not to use them.
Do they have current or prior clients that have (or will) provided references on their bookkeeping services? This is one of the best checks for you. A bookkeeper can have all the credentials in the world, but if they don't take care of their clients what good are they to you? Ideally, you would have at least one reference from a business that is similar to yours. But, this isn’t necessary as most bookkeeping tasks are similar across different industries.
What credentials does this bookkeeper have? Do they have a degree in accounting? Are they certified in the programs you use, like Quickbooks? Are they certified in bookkeeping? Are these posted on their website? You want some evidence that this person has the ability to perform your bookkeeping tasks. Ideally, your bookkeeper has all of these credentials posted on their website for your review. They are typically found on the home or about pages down at the bottom.
Do they have experience in your industry? If not, it may not be a deal breaker. A lot of the tasks for bookkeeping are similar across business types. But if you have a choice between two people and one has done bookkeeping for the exact industry you’re in, choose that person (all else being equal).
Will they prepare an engagement letter that clearly states what services they will perform, what is needed from you as the client, fees…? Knowing and agreeing to everything up front prevents misunderstandings down the road. This letter also shows you how flexible the bookkeeper is. Will they perform extra services later on, will they meet over Skype, will they explain the financials, or just hand them over to you.
Are they willing to discuss your needs in person or over the phone? If so, do they sound like they value you and understand your needs? Do they sound professional? Can they answer your bookkeeping-specific questions, so you can test their knowledge? Do you get along with them? Is this a relationship that will work for you?
Hiring or outsourcing your bookkeeping can be one of the best things to do for your business and yourself. Take the time up front to make sure you on board the right person. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, effort and grief down the road, if you do.
If you’d like to talk to me about working together, I do have room for one more client. Please click the button below to find out more.
Need Help With Your Bookkeeping?
If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, you owe it to yourself to add a qualified professional bookkeeper to your team. Select the button below to start a conversation with no obligations.
Cash is the life blood of any small business.
So one of the keys to a successful business is proper cash management, by delaying payment as long as possible and collecting payments as soon as possible.
It’s usually easier for an owner to delay payments then to collect, so in this post we’ll discuss the latter.
When you sell your products and services you can collect payments two ways; upfront or bill your customers and collect later. It’s to your benefit to collect upfront and to the customer’s benefit to pay later. So, how do you decide which to do?
Obviously, the worst case is you never get paid and you’ve already given the customer their product or fully performed the service for them. Other cases are the customer pays months later, partially pays, pays after you sue them, or pays and then posts all over social media about how awful you are.
Listed below are many of the time-tested techniques for getting paid and getting paid quickly. Whichever methods you employ, write them down so you have a standard collection process that you can easily send a customer or include on your invoices or statements.
If your customer has a monthly service, or you send them a product on a routine basis, set them up with recurring payments. Most credit card providers allow you to set up recurring payments for the same amount and same time of the month, so that you don’t have to bill the customer and collect; it’s done for you.
Require your customer pay a portion of their total bill up front. This way even if they decide not to pay the remaining portion, you are not out the whole amount.
Even better than a deposit, have the customer pay the whole amount up front. You won’t be able to recognize the revenue until you’ve provided the service or product, but you’ve eliminated the collection process.
A variation of the deposit is to have the customer pay your cost of the product or service up front. You won’t make any money if they refuse to pay the remainder, but you haven’t lost anything either.
Develop your own, or copy someone else’s policy and paste it on your invoices, statements, contracts...
If you don’t have payment terms, customers will assume just about anything. I wouldn’t go any longer than 30 days. Give them a small discount (like 1% or 2%) if they pay within 10 days. Indicate the invoice due date and payment term right on the invoice and statements. Communicate this to your customers before they purchase.
Start with what happens if they were given 30 days to pay and now it’s 45 days since the invoice date. What happens? Do you call them, cut off their credit, send a letter, call your lawyer…? Have a process for 45 days, 60 days, 90 days...up to 180 days. Write it down so you don’t forget it. Regularly review your customer accounts and age them into these same buckets to make your process easier. After the balance is over 180 days old, consider either sending the amount to a collection agency or writing it off to bad debt expense.
Charging your customer if they pay late, either with a late fee or interest can be a good way to entice them to pay on time. It is also a good negotiating tactic, as you can choose to waive these if they pay.
Most people, and many businesses, pay their bills online now. Giving your customers the option to do this can make it easier to pay the invoice, and therefore they will be more apt to pay you. Quickbooks has the ability to add a “pay” button on the invoice that you can email your customers allowing them to pay the invoice right from the invoice itself.
Show you care by listening and solving issues - Many times a customer is not paying you because they have an issue with the product or service. Call them and discuss any issues they have. By showing you care to resolve their issues, you may help with them being willing to pay (or partially pay) knowing you will make it right.
Do some due diligence up front on your customers by doing a credit check or a credit reference. This is great if your customers want terms and their purchases are large. Knowing they have paid well in the past, suggest that they will pay well in the future.
A business needs cash to survive. It doesn't do any good to generate a sale only to have it go unpaid.
The tips above are proven strategies that assist a business in getting paid on time for their products and services.
Need Help With Your Bookkeeping?
If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, you owe it to yourself to add a qualified professional bookkeeper to your team. Select the button below to start a conversation with no obligations.
It is a well-known fact that most small businesses fail, many in the first year. The main reason they fail is they lose money. Unless you’re a billion dollar venture-funded corporation, you won’t survive long losing money.
If you own a small business and want to succeed, you owe it to yourself to pay attention to the numbers. Much can be gleaned from the financials. But if you didn’t major in accounting then your statements may as well have been written by an alien.
Hopefully this was helpful to you with some ideas to simplify your bookkeeping. For most small businesses, it is a good investment to delegate your taxes to a CPA that specializes in small businesses and outsource your bookkeeping to a professional bookkeeper.
If you would like to contact me about handling your bookkeeping for you, please click the button below to get in touch with me and I will schedule a call with you to discuss further.
There are numbers people and there are those that would rather step on glass than look at numbers.
Score.org listed bookkeeping as the #1 source of pain for small business owners.
Anyone who is in pain knows you just want to get rid of it and prevent it from ever happening again...if possible.
I've put together my top ten tips for making bookkeeping easier. These are tips that the small business owner can do themselves or outsource to a bookkeeper or CPA.
Automate - What some people find boring and tedious, others find comfortable and calming. Much of tediousness is due to manual processes that can now be eliminated with modern technology.
Manual entries can be replaced with bank feeds, automatic uploads of payroll entries, recurring entries, electronic payments...
If you’re still doing your bookkeeping with a lot of manual entries, you owe it to yourself to investigate switching over to an application like QuickBooks Online or have a bookkeeper/CPA help you implement systems to save you time and headaches. Eliminating manual entries also cuts down on the chance for data entry errors.
Outsource Your Bookkeeping - Are you thinking that you just don’t have the time or interest to do your bookkeeping yourself?
Then strongly consider outsourcing it to a bookkeeper or CPA. Usually, a CPA is going to charge you more, but you can certainly price shop.
With technology the way it is today, you don’t even need to hire someone in your hometown. You can hire a bookkeeper from anywhere in the world. By keeping your books in the cloud, you can access them from your computer at the same time your CPA or bookkeeper are working on them and they will be backed up.
Review Financials Monthly - You may dread having to set up a monthly appointment in your schedule to go over your books, but when you do so, you stay on top of the financial side of your business and you save yourself from the daunting task of having to look at your numbers only at tax time or yearend.
By reviewing the financials monthly, you can become aware of a new trend (good or bad) and react quickly.
Keep Personal and Business Separated - Not only does commingling your finances make your bookkeeping more difficult, but it makes your business look amateur.
If you’re ever audited by the IRS, having your bank accounts being used for both business and personal items will make it look like you’re not serious with your business. In some cases, the IRS can think your business is just a hobby.
Keep your business bank accounts and credit cards for business items only. Use things like salary or draws to take money out of your business and use that money for personal items in a separate account or credit card(s).
Put Aside Money for Taxes, Payroll, Profit - The last thing you want to do is have it come time to pay your taxes and you don’t have any money to pay for them.
Set up a separate bank account for taxes and transfer money to this account every month for your estimated taxes. Do the same for payroll and set aside some for profit as well. This will force you to watch your spending.
Documentation - Business expenses are costs incurred in the ordinary course of business. These are deductible, but you need to be able to back those amounts up with supporting documentation, such as invoices, receipts, payroll documents...
This can be tedious and it helps to automate this. If you use financial software like Quickbooks Online, you can attach these documents directly to your expenses electronically, where they are backed up in the cloud and always available.
You can use applications, like Hubdoc, to pull these documents for you and match them up to your bank feeds.
Compare Actual Expenses to Budgeted Amounts - Budgets bring up bad feelings as they can be difficult to prepare and adhere to.
But the main point of them is to change behavior. By doing a comparison of actual amounts to a budgeted amount, you can quickly see if you are overspending in an area.
You don’t need to worry about the categories where you over a small amount. Just focus on those that are way over budget.
It also helps to look at those that are way under budget. If your rent expense is under budget, you may have forgotten to pay this month’s rent. Or if office supplies are way under budget, are you going to have a huge bill coming up that you need to be aware of?
Money Tied Up in AR or Inventory - Answer this question. Where would you rather have your cash? In a bank account? Or in a product on a shelf in the warehouse? Or in your customer’s bank account?
Accounts receivable and inventory are typical sink holes for a business’ cash. The faster you can turn these amounts into cash, the better for you. Review these amounts monthly and look for old items that need your effort or should be written off.
Deadlines - Being late to the dentist is one thing, but missing your tax filing or payroll can land you in serious trouble.
Know your important deadlines and adhere to those schedules strictly. Need help in those areas? Hire or outsource this to a competent bookkeeper or CPA.
Know Your Cash Flow - Cash is king, but one of the least used financial statements is the Statement of Cash Flows.
If you knew your cash declined during the month of June, would you know off the top of your head where that decrease came from? Probably not.
There are usually too many transactions involving cash to weed through. Using the Statement of Cash Flows, you can quickly see where cash was generated and where it was used.
If you’re not familiar with this statement, be sure to have you bookkeeper or CPA show it to you and how to use it.
By following these ten tips, it will make your bookkeeping less stressful and easier as time goes by. I know what you’re saying, “these are not easy to implement and I don’t have time to do them.” For most small business owners the answer is to delegate those tasks to someone who is competent, so they can focus on running their business, increasing sales, satisfying customers…
If you’re interested in having me handle these tasks for you, press the button below to contact me. We can talk about your business and determine if we are a good fit for each other. For as little as a few hundred dollars a month, you can have a professional bookkeeper process your finances for you and take all that worry and time away from you.
Are you busy?
Being a general contractor can be overwhelming at times. But you don’t want to be so busy that you lose sight of your business and how well you are doing, right?
If I could only tell you about three numbers to help you with that, what would they be?
Here you go:
As a contractor, you want to know how each of your projects is doing and how well your business is doing in total. Your revenue is your contract/quote price to your customer(s) plus/minus all of your change orders.
You have your own method for determining how much you want to charge for a project. It could be labor hours plus materials, per square foot, fixed price, or add up the total of your subcontractor payments plus a profit/markup.
You have two kinds of expenses running your contracting business; direct costs and indirect costs.
Your direct costs are expenses that are known to be related to a particular project; you wouldn’t have that expense if you didn’t have that project. Examples are materials used on the job, labor on that job, trash removal from that job site…
Indirect costs are expenses are not related specifically to a project. These are like the rent for your office, utilities for your office, gas for your truck…
So what is your gross profit/margin?
It’s your revenue less your direct costs. Your left with the profit/margin on your project. This is usually expressed both as a dollar amount and as a percent of revenue.
This number comes when you subtract your “indirect costs” from your Gross Profit/Margin. In other words, this is a summary of all your projects and the overhead to run your business to give you your overall profitability.
All three of these numbers are important and you don’t want to look at just one of these without the other two as filters.
For example, if you look at just your revenue number, you may think your business is doing great because your revenue is up over last year or your budget. But if your direct costs are out of control, you may have individual projects where you are actually losing money.
Or, you look at all your projects and you're making money on all of them. Great, right?
Well, what if your overhead costs from running your contracting business are unusually high this year? If so, all of the profits from your projects will be wiped out by your overhead.
A good income statement for your business can disclose all three of these numbers for you and show individual projects and in total.
If you don’t currently have such a report or would like help with the bookkeeping of your contracting business, please contact me and we can discuss your needs.
Here at Consultant Bookkeeper LLC, I have experience working with general contractors. That is a real benefit to you, as that frees you up from having to train someone how your business works.
The end of the calendar year can be busy. There are the holidays, gift buying, parties, picking up people at the airport, dinners and just taking some time off. Who is thinking about bookkeeping checklists?
It’s easy to forget that the end of year means finalizing your finances, especially if you are a small business owner and your fiscal year-end is the same as the calendar year-end.
So in this post, I’m going to run through a checklist of items to cover or have someone perform for you, so you are set for the new year, closing out the old year and tax time.
Inventory Time - Do you carry inventory in your business? If so, you will need an accurate tabulation of what you are physically carrying, even if you have electronic records. It’s possible through errors or theft that the physical totals won’t agree to your accounting records. Taking the time to physically count what is on hand gives you the ability to compare to your records and make the adjustments so everything is in agreement. Do this now so you don’t have to do this on New Year’s Eve.
Financial Statements - are your monthly financial statements up to date? If not, when was the last time they were prepared? Were they reviewed by your CPA? Have you recognized all of your revenue and expenses? Have you accrued for expenses that have occurred but not paid? You will need updated and reviewed financials for your taxes, so if you are way behind in preparing these consider hiring outside help.
Presentations - Does your business present the end of the year results to its employees? If so, what information do you want to present, who will prepare it, what format will you use? Do you have last year’s powerpoint slides that you can update with the current year results?
How do you feel after reviewing the list above?
Calm and relaxed because you have everything covered? Good for you. You are a planner or likely have been through the pain before of not being ready and decided never to do that again.
Or are you even more stressed? Well, the good news is you still have some time, so don’t ruin your holidays. If you don’t think you will have enough time, resources or skill to do it all, consider hiring or outsourcing additional help.
Right now, I have openings for two additional clients and for a holiday bonus I am offering the first two months free if you sign up by December 31. I hope to hear from you.
Ever pop into QuickBooks and it looks like the blackboard of your high school algebra class?
Numbers literally everywhere.
I know I know...you are a busy busy business owner and you want to get to the gold; the important information that tells you how you are doing.
That is the beauty of reports. They take all of your financial records and summarize them for you; typically in a one-page format, organized and ready for your review.
Running them is easy. I will show you how to run the three most important reports. However understanding them is an art, but I will show you what to look for.
Let's get started.
1. PROFIT AND LOSS COMPARISON
The first report is the Profit and Loss Comparison. I like to run an income statement that compares your current results to either a budget or the prior year. Areas that need your attention jump right out at you and areas you're excelling in provide reasons to celebrate or bestow praise on your employees.
If you don't see this report when you click on the Reports button on your navigation bar (found on the left side of QuickBooks), Go to the "All Reports" tab and then click on the reports for "Business Overview".
When you run it, you specify a date range to use. The most common are the current month-to-date and the current year-to-date. So if it is currently June 12, run the May 1 to May 31 and the January 1 to May 31 reports, since June is not over yet.
Below is an example from a test company showing the revenue section.
You can quickly see at the bottom that this company's income is up 25.86% for the year. By scrolling through the list of the different categories of income you can see what the major contributors were; such as Design Income, Landscaping Services, Services, Fountains and Lighting and Services.
You can also see that categories like Plants and Soil and Pest Control Services were down compared to last year.
By reviewing this statement every month, you can get a jump on the trouble areas. In the example above, maybe they were not pushing their pest control services enough or maybe it was causing them to spend less time on their more profitable categories.
The same techniques can be used to review expenses. Here's an example from the expense section.
Ideally expenses should grow at the same rate or slower than the revenue. So in this example, since revenue grew at 25%, expenses could also grow by 25% without causing an issue on their profits, but in this case expenses "decreased" by 40%.
It looks like job materials were down from the prior year from either fewer of these types of jobs, or better buying.
Here's another example:
Expenses here are down 21.89% and were mainly due to professional costs for the first year of business. This was offset by higher equipment repairs from a (hopefully) one-time machine breakdown.
Here's one last example:
Miscellaneous expenses are generally frowned upon. They give no clear direction on what they relate to. In this case, expenses in this category are way up over the prior year and should be looked at in more detail to see if they can be reclassed to a better account.
2. BALANCE SHEET
The balance sheet is another of the big three.
This one can also be intimidating. But if you break it down into sections, it is not too bad.
Think of these items as things your business owns, that are material and have future economic benefit. Materiality is different for each business, but for the small businesses I deal with, this is usually greater than $500. Assets can be current (held for less than one year) or long-term (held for more than one year).
As an example, something like a notebook is a thing your business owns and maybe it could be used for several years (not likely) but since it only cost $2 you would expense it rather than treat it as an asset. However a truck purchased for the business for $25,000 would be both material and used for several years, so it would be treated as an asset.
The most common items are: cash, investments, balances your customers owe you (accounts receivable), inventory (items purchased to resell) and furniture and equipment. There are others, but these are the most common.
Here's an example:
Here we see that this sample business has total assets of $40,000 and this is a significant increase from the prior year.
The first thing to notice is that there was a nice increase in the bank accounts. This business is doing a better job of managing their cash flow then they were a year ago. If the cash accounts get too high, management will need to consider whether to invest this money where it can return more than a bank account.
The second point is that accounts receivables are down from last year. This could be due to several reasons: sales are down (not in this case), better collecting of customer balances due or changes in credit terms (requiring payment upfront).
Lastly, the business purchased a truck for $25,000 in the current year. Since it is material and will benefit the business for several years, it is treated as a long-term asset.
The next section is liabilities, which represents future outlays of cash, or what the business owes.
The most common items are: accounts payable (what the business owes vendors for products or services), taxes payable, accrued payroll and loans.
Like assets, liabilities can be short-term (less than one year) and long-term (over one year).
The most common ways to analyze this section is through a combination of comparing to a prior period (last month, a year ago) or using metrics, which we'll talk about shortly.
Here's an example from a sample company.
At first glance, what stands out is that debt is way up from a year ago, but that is because the business purchased a new truck and paid for it with a new loan.
Current liabilities are actually down compared to a year ago and is mainly in the credit card category where many start up expenses were paid for a year ago.
A common metric to use is to look at the current ratio or current assets divided by current liabilities. This shows the business' ability to pay for liabilities that will need to be paid for in the coming year with assets that are relatively liquid.
For this company, the current ratio is 2.31 ($15,000 / $6500) and compares favorably to last year's ratio of 1.28. The goal is to keep this number in the 1.2 to 2.0 range. Since this business is over 2.0, they should consider moving some of their assets into investments that pay a better return.
Another common metric is the debt to equity ratio which we'll look at in the next section.
Think of equity as what is leftover of your assets after the debt is taken out.
The most common components are owner contributions (like stock), current profits or losses and prior earnings that have been reinvested in the company (retained earnings).
Below is the equity section from our sample company.
The equity total has increased by $6000 due to this year's profits.
You can see that last year's profits of $2500 were all plowed back into the company's retained earnings.
A common metric to review is the debt to equity ratio. This is also important if you are trying to secure more debt, as the lender will want to see this number. A good ratio is to have the ratio be less than 1.0.
For this sample company, the debt to equity ratio is very high at 3.71 and this is about equal to last year's 3.6 (also high). Management needs to generate more profits and use these to payoff its existing debt.
3. CASH FLOW STATEMENT
The last report is also one of the BIG 3 financial statements but it is seldom used or understood by most small business owners.
The cash flow statement shows how a business' cash changed between two periods and then it shows how this change happened; where did the increase in cash from and where did the cash go.
Since cash is a vital asset to a business' health, managing cash is important and this report can help you do that.
Let's take a look at another example. The information on a cash flow statement comes from the balance sheet. Below is a sample balance sheet that compares the totals from this year to the totals from a year ago and shows the difference.
At the top of the balance, we see the two cash accounts called checking and savings. These two accounts increased by $3,817.47 over the year. Where did that extra cash come from? Well, that is what our cash flow statement will tell us.
If you look in the assets section towards the top, you can see that they increased by $13,495 from the purchase of a truck. Increases in an asset use cash. You need to pay for the truck and that will take cash.
Similarly, accounts receivable increased by $15,688.49. That is money owed by the customers that is unpaid. Think of like lending your customers money to pay for the goods or services they purchased. It is cash being taken out of the business.
On the other side of the balance sheet under the liabilities section, we see that the notes payable section increased by $25,000 during the year due to a long-term loan taken to finance the truck and some other needs in the business. The lender is giving cash to the business, resulting in an increase in cash for the business.
Lastly, in the equity section, we note that the business has net income, so far, of $997.75 which increases the business' cash.
Now, the cash flow statement summarizes all of those balance sheet accounts on one report and groups them into sections; cash from operations, cash from investing and cash from financing. This enables management to see where the increase/decrease in cash came from very easily.
Here is the resulting cash flow statement.
The top section shows the net cash from operations. This was a "decrease" of cash totaling $7,687.53.
The second section show cash from investments. This also was a decrease from the $13,495 used to buy the truck.
The third section shows cash from financing, or an increase of $25,000 to cash.
If you total all three of these sections up, you get $3,817.47 which exactly matches the increase in the cash accounts.
So, when looking at this statement is the increase in cash a good thing?
The increase came from a long-term loan. As long as the business is sufficiently profitable that it can pay its expenses and payoff the loan and the loan helps it do that, than yes the loan was a good thing.
The money that is tied up in accounts receivables could be a concern, especially if these balances are becoming old and possibly noncollectable. This would be a great discussion point between management and the accountant/CFO.
So, there are the three reports I recommend all business owners review each month. Ideally, have key management and the head of accounting sit and discuss the material items. This could be just two people.
If you're in need of a professional bookkeeper to prepare these statements for you and discuss them with you, I do have two openings right now and would love to discuss over the phone with you. Click HERE to connect to my contact page to set up a date and time with me.
I know. Running your own business can eat up all of your time.
If you have a small business, you are probably doing everything from sales/marketing, customer service, and balancing the books.
At what point do you delegate some of those tasks?
For example, do you need a bookkeeper for your business?
Here are nine reasons for hiring a bookkeeper. At the end of this post, all nine reasons are summarized in one graphic.
This is a worthwhile exercise for many tasks in your life.
Figure out what an hour of your time is worth. It could be as easy as taking your annual earnings divided by 2000 (40 hours x 50 weeks) or a subjective number like what is that hour worth to you? I’ve had weeks where I wouldn’t take $1000 to give up an hour with my daughters.
Now, if you have a choice of having someone mow your lawn, clean your house or doing it yourself, you can compare the cost of hiring someone to your hourly rate.
As a result, if an hour of your time is worth $300 per hour and you can hire a bookkeeper for a whole month for that same amount then why not turn it over to them?
I once bought a drawing program and spent probably 40 hours learning how to use it for a graphic I needed. It looked horrible.
I contacted someone on Fiverr and received a beautiful graphic for a price cheaper than the software I bought, and that didn’t include all the other hours I spent using it or going online to look up how to use it.
Lesson learned: let someone else handle what you don’t (or want to) know.
Hey, not everyone enjoys working with numbers like I do.
If you dread trying to balance your bank account balance to what the bank shows or trying to determine why the balance your top customer shows as outstanding against what they show, why not turn that pain over to someone who can do it for you?
When it comes to financials, isn’t it nice to have someone else double-checking the accuracy so you don’t have to worry when you do your taxes, wonder if you have enough money to meet next week’s payroll or if you’re spending too much on office supplies?
What price would you put on that peace of mind? Compare that to the cost of hiring a bookkeeper.
Let me ask you a question.
If you had 20 hours to spend on your business, what do you think would bring you more to your bottom line over time?
Saving a few hundred dollars a month by doing your bookkeeping tasks yourself, or spending those 20 hours drumming up new business or talking with your current customers?
The latter right?
New business should by far bring in more money than the amount you’ll saving on bookkeeping.
How do you make sure your bills are paid on time and not duplicated, or not paid too early? Who gets a 1099?
Many things can go wrong with your bill payments. You can forget to pay your vendors, pay them late, pay them too early or pay them too much or too little.
Any of these mistakes can jeopardize your credit, your vendor relationship, cut you off from future purchases or leave you without enough cash to manage the rest of your business.
A good bookkeeper can do all of this management for you.
I remember having a paper route as a kid and dreading having to ring the doorbell to collect the customer’s payment.
Most people don’t like doing this. If you don’t like it, or if you don’t have time, let a bookkeeper do it for you so your business will have its cash in your bank and not in your customer’s bank.
Payroll is one of those tasks you must delegate to someone who knows what they are doing.
Bookkeepers can either do the whole process for you or coordinate with a payroll service to have it done for the business.
There are too many rules, regulations, tax changes, and potential for errors to make this an area to skimp and save on.
Income tax filings are best left to a CPA, but bookkeepers can help by preparing supporting documentation needed by the CPA and by preparing and filing other tax returns like sales and use taxes.
These are returns that most states require to be filed monthly or quarterly and many bookkeepers can do them for you at a rate much lower than your CPA would charge.
From the time and money savings, to the focus on expertise and greater cash flow, a bookkeeper makes good sense for your business.
For a limited time, I do have an opening for another client in my bookkeeping business. If you're interested in talking to me so you can enjoy some or all of the benefits listed above, please click the link to my contact form
How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb
The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki
Bold by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster by Darren Hardy
80/20 Sales and Marketing by Perry Marshall
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Influence by Robert Cialdini
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
Zero to One by Peter Thiel
Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?
You know you should make one of your goals this year to improve your finances. But how can you do that when you’re never sure how much money will be coming in?
The experts simply say to prepare a budget. If you don’t, you’ll overspend, you won’t have enough to retire, your credit score will suck, and you’ll never have the things you desire. So just budget, they say, and your financial problems will be solved.
But hey, your income changes every month. You’re not like all those people who get a fixed salary or a set rate per hour for forty hours a week. You’re a freelancer. One month you kill it, and the next you’re scrambling to get something in the bank account.
How can anyone with an income that fluctuates do a budget, especially someone like you who has no time at all?
There is a solution that works for others, it doesn’t take long to implement, and I will show it to you.
Let’s get started.
For the FREE companion spreadsheet that goes along with this post, click the link at the end of the post.
To begin with, you need to determine the bare minimum you need each month to pay your bills. Not all expenses, just those you truly have to pay—the mortgage, car payments, utilities, credit cards, and so on.
Ignore, for now, all of the expenses that are optional like going to restaurants, taking vacations, or buying your nephew a graduation gift.
You can do this review by looking at a month or two of expenses, but it is better to look at a whole year.
Looking at a whole year will catch expenses that only happen once a quarter, a couple times per year, or just once a year. If you pick the wrong month to look at, you could miss those expenses.
Again, only look at the expenses you absolutely must pay.
Once you’ve done that, add them up and divide by the number of months you looked at and that’s the number we’ll use. That’s your baseline.
Transfer enough money into your checking account until you have your baseline. If you have too much in there already, transfer the difference out of checking into your savings account, but if you have too little then transfer enough savings into checking. When all is done, your checking account should have your baseline amount in it on the first of the month.
Don’t have enough in your savings to build up your checking account? Go back and review your expenses. You either have to cut expenses or figure out how to increase your income.
NOTE: If this is just a temporary issue, then we will discuss later how you can set up an emergency fund to help cover expenses during the months when your income is low.
Now that you know how much you need on average each month, do you regularly make enough to cover that?
Look at your earnings for the last twelve months and average them.
Does your average monthly income exceed your baseline for expenses? If so, you’re in great shape. If not, you need to either reduce your expenses or increase your income, or you are going to get in a hole over the long term.
After you do the above, forecast your earnings for the next several months. Do you foresee any months where you won’t meet your baseline? If you do, then make sure you have enough in your savings to cover it. If during your review you noted that your income was below your baseline from November through February, for instance, then you should keep at least four times your monthly baseline amount in your emergency fund to cover those months in case it happens again. In addition, you won’t be able to spend any money over this baseline amount, to ensure that you’ve got all your basic expenses covered.
If you earn more than your baseline, where will you put the difference?
It could go into any of the following (in no particular order except for the first item, which is the most important):
1. Increase your emergency fund (you want 3-24 times your baseline amount, or at least enough to cover you when your income is low)
2. Fund saving for large purchases (new house, car, vacation, wedding, computer, etc.)
3. Treat yourself (put an extra $300 into your restaurant expenses, add some funds to your baseline amount in your checking account next month, go out for coffee twice a week instead of once)
4. Start a play fund or education fund and use these amounts to invest in yourself or reward yourself for you hard work
5. Give to charity
6. Fund retirement accounts
7. Pay down debt
Make sure the first place your extra income goes is to fully fund your emergency fund. With a fluctuating income, you want to make sure you have savings for the months where you don’t make your baseline.
1. Keep separate bank accounts for personal, business, checking, savings, and your emergency fund (some banks, like Capital One, make this very easy to do by giving you one savings account that you can divide into sub-accounts and label them “emergency fund,” “vacation fund,” and so on).
2. Hire a bookkeeper and a tax accountant. It pays to pick people who are specialists. Generally these are two different people because your CPA probably won’t want to do your bookkeeping.
It’s also less expensive to have a bookkeeper maintain your records rather than a CPA.
3. Set aside money for your quarterly business taxes right away. Don’t wait until they are due. This way you won’t be scrambling or borrowing to pay your taxes.
4. Try to avoid impulse spending. When you find something you want to buy, delay the purchase a week and see if you still want it.
5. Prioritize your spending. If you’re income is high enough in the prior month that you can afford some discretionary expenses, put the money toward what you value most.
6. Live off your spouse’s income. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to do this, you can dump all of your earnings into savings.
Hopefully you are excited and can see the value in taking these steps. Most of the work is up front, and once you review your finances and get your accounts set up properly you won’t have to do much going forward. Just make sure your checking account has enough to cover your baseline expenses and whatever else you budget for discretionary expenses, then transfer the rest to savings, starting with your emergency fund until it is at the desired level. The key to your success will be only spending out of your checking account.
If you would like to download an Excel spreadsheet to help you crunch the numbers, click the link HERE and you can download it.
Don’t wait. There isn’t a better time to start than right now.