Using a shoebox for receipts and a do it yourself invoicing system will work, but what happens when you need your numbers in a pinch to apply for COVID-19 government assistance? The big boys are going to get their bail out, because they have lawyers and accounts, but there is something we can do to help ourselves in this trying time: Quickbooks.
Back when I started my business, I was working as a freelance photojournalist and I would mark down my assignments on a large paper desk calendar. Then, I marked them off with a pen as my invoices were paid.
As computers got a little more sophisticated and Microsoft Office 98 for Mac was the latest thing, I began tracking my jobs in a spreadsheet, which had every day of the year going from top to bottom. As I completed a job, I wrote it in normal font. Then I sent an invoice, and eventually I marked the job bold when the invoice was paid. At the same time I kept all of my receipts in a shoebox. At the end of the year, I sorted them and used a calculator with a printed tape to tally each tax category, which I later fed into TurboTax.
I continued on with this very flawed system until 2011 when I purchased QuickBooks for Mac (PC). I’ve use the same software ever sense. It allows you to invoice your clients and balance all of your bank and credit card accounts and assign categories for every business expense as you go. Whenever I have downtime, I balance my accounts. The process is streamlined as many of my bank and credit card accounts allow me to downloaded preformatted transaction data for Quickbooks, then I categorize each expense.
Back when I had outstanding invoices prior to the pandemic, I could easily tell how many were outstanding and how long they had been past due. Then I could make a decision whether or not to contact my client or let it slide a little longer.
There are plenty of reviews that will teach you how to use the software. I just wanted to take this opportunity to share with you my personal experience because I know so many photographers who are using a make shift solution.
When the CARES Act was passed at the end of March, I spoke with a lot of my photographer friends and realized that many of them were unable to quickly apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) assistance which offered $1000 of free money, per employee, because their accounting was a mess. Thanks to QuickBooks, I was able to get the requisite January 31, 2018 to January 31, 2019 total for both my income and my Cost of Goods Sold in a matter of seconds, where as some of my colleagues were rooting through their shoeboxes. As of today the the EDIL program is no longer taking new applications, and I don’t know if they applied in time for the first round of funding. But there will undoubtably be more aid opportunities in the near future.
When I upgraded computers a few years ago Quickbooks 2011 wouldn’t work on my new operating system, so I had to use the software on my old laptop. If I didn’t have that older computer laying around, I probably would have only been able to use the $200 desktop software for six or so years rather than 9 plus. Quickbooks does have a subscription model too, but it won’t take many months of fees to eclipse the one time price of the desktop application.