Accounting. Ugh. The bane of every creative freelancer's existence. If you're self-employed and you love to write or design or develop, you still have to manage your money and pay taxes. Of course you can do this by hand, or pay someone to do it for you, but there are several online options of companies that will help you track and manage expenses.
Right off the bat, I'm going to tell you that I use QuickBooks Self-Employed. Not because I'm endorsing it per se, but just so that you know that I might be rather biased in their direction. I also have a lot more experience with this software, and less with others. QuickBooks Self-Employed has worked great for me so far. It is a simple platform and extremely intuitive. It easily connects to your online bank accounts, and lets you make distinctions between business and personal expenses. It allows you to track mileage, and shows you how much you've made versus how much you've spent. In addition, it's connected to TurboTax, which makes paying quarterly taxes simple.
This program is great for someone like myself, who has no employees and works out of her living room. It doesn't offer options for things like time tracking or payroll, so if you have to manage others in addition to yourself, this isn't the best option for you.
Cost: $8 - $15/month.
Many know the invoice features of Freshbooks, but they also offer simple account tracking, similar to QuickBooks, in addition to allowing you to take credit card and PayPal payments through their software. Recently they have added an expense report feature, which automatically uploads transactions from all of your accounts. They also allow you to send invoices, set up client profiles, and other client management tools.
This is a great program for those who are growing. It offers flexibility in cost and in features, and they are consistently adding new pieces of software into the mix. If you're planning on keeping your business small and already have strategies in place to manage invoices or payments, this software is probably not the best option for you.
Cost: Dependent on number of clients, but between $20 - $30/month
Xero offers a wide variety of accounting options for the self-employed. It offers modules that show recent sales, inventory, paying bills, and a CRM that allows you to manage all of your clients and contacts. They also have features which allow you to track time or generate any number of financial reports.
This is a great program for individuals who have already grown beyond what their own capacity is. It has some features that work extremely well for the self-employed, but many of its features are catered more to the growing small business. If you're self-employed but have begun hiring one or two other individuals to help manage your workload, this might be for you. If you are still on your own and working from your living room, this might not be the best option for you.
Cost: Dependent on size of business, but between $19 and $70/month
This is a mobile app that connects with several other apps. It is geared to small businesses with 9 employees or less, including the self-employed individual. It hooks up seamlessly to an Invoicing and Payroll app, all designed to work together in a relatively intuitive manner. All of the apps are free. The Accounting app connects to your online bank accounts and allows you to create financial reports.
This is great for a self-employed individual that uses their mobile apps to manage a lot of their accounts, or prefers mobile to desktop. It is not good for those that prefer desktop or are not very handy with their mobile devices.
This is an online billing and invoicing platform, designed for companies from 1 - 20 employees. It's main draw is that it allows you to automate financial tasks, including sending invoices and estimates, accepting payments, tracking time,use multiple billing currencies, apply discounts, input mileage and expenses, and much more.
If you have a wide number of clients, from a wide number of places, this would help you consolidate all of that into one platform. There are few critiques--it's still so new that it doesn't offer everything you might need, and it's not intuitive to use and may be a bit inefficient.
Cost: Varies--starts at free and then they only ask you to pay for the features that you use.
I've only highlighted a few platforms here, but there are dozens that you can choose from. The good news is that you don't have to do your accounting alone--someone is there with the perfect software platform for you.