Don't Let Your Money Run Away With You - Freelance Accounting

Ariele Sieling posted this on freelance-accounting

kid ripping money by accidentWe all hate doing taxes, but thanks to modern technology, it's no longer necessary to fill out ten thousand pieces of paper with little numbers penciled in, crossing your fingers in hope that you did the math right. If there is one reason to be thankful for computers and calculators, it's taxes.

The thing about freelancing is that taxes get harder. As does accounting, managing your finances, justifying expenses, and just about everything paperwork-related. But don't fear, the internet is here!

There are dozens of useful pieces of software for freelancers out there, designed to specifically combat the challenges of the individual running their own one-person business. Programs like TurboTax, Quicken, and Mint (fun fact: run by the same company--Intuit) have been a lifesaver to many the young person trying to figure out what happened to all of their money.

Programs like Quickbooks Self-Employed (also made by Intuit--seems like they know what's going on) and Freshbooks are designed to help the freelancer.

Before we start, I should admit that I use Quickbooks Self-Employed. I chose it instead of Freshbooks, because Quickbooks Self-Employed met my needs more specifically than Freshbooks.

So what do they offer?

Quickbooks Self-Employed's main feature is simply to track self-employment income, expenses, and mileage. It also helps estimate your quarterly taxes.

Freshbooks also has an expenses tracking feature, but they also offer time-tracking, estimates, and invoicing. Osmosis actually integrates with Freshbooks as well, so you can do your proposals and questionnaires through Osmosis, and then your invoicing through Freshbooks.

Freshbooks

Let's take a closer look at Freshbooks. Their platform is pretty easy to use--everything you need is right on the front page. Just select a tab, and it takes you to what you want to do.

freshbooks-welcome-page

For example, if I click the "Expenses" tab, it takes me to a page that shows me a list of my current expenses. It pulls this data when I connect it to my online bank account.

freshbooks expenses tab

Invoicing (and all other features) is just as simple.

freshbook invoice tab

How many clients you can have is limited to the package you pay for. The basic package allows 5 clients, and then it jumps to 25 from there.

What To Like About Freshbooks

It's everything all in one place. There's no need to jump around from platform to platform. Track clients, invoices, estimates, expenses, time, and more, all in one place. This is a huge convenience, especially since having different platforms for each of these services is going to cost a lot more than their one price.

Speaking of price, that's another thing I like: the cost for Freshbooks is relatively low-- it starts at $9.95/month for 5 clients, $19.95/month for 25, and so on. As they provide so many services, this seems very cost effective.

What Bugs Me About Freshbooks

This might sound strange, but the thing I like about Freshbooks is also the thing that bugs me. Everything all in one place--it's a bit overwhelming. There is no "one thing" that Freshbooks offers that they do exceptionally well. When I first signed up for the free trial, I didn't think to myself, "oh it's easy to accomplish this specific task on this platform;" instead I had to dig to find and figure out how to use the one feature I was looking for (tracking expenses).

The other minor thing I encountered, was that when I tried to hook up my bank accounts, I got an error message for every single one. This is mainly the reason I chose Quickbooks instead of Freshbooks--because the one thing I wanted it for wasn't working at the time I signed up.

Quickbooks Self-Employed

This platform is even simpler than Freshbooks, as the purpose is specifically to help manage your income and expenses in relation to taxes, and nothing else. Below, you can see the home page. The vertical navigation on the left only has 5 options: Home, Transactions, Miles, Taxes, and Contact Us. (I have scribbled out all of my own numbers--hence the blue blobs.)

quickbooks self-employed welcome

In the transactions tab, you can select whether or not an expense/income is business-related or personal. In addition, you can select the dropdown on the business expenses and indicate what type of expense it is--advertising, contract labor, rent and lease, etc.

quickbooks self-employed transaction page

Mileage tab allows you to input trips, and automatically calculates how much that comes to in expenses, and the taxes tab shows you how many taxes it estimates you owe vs how much you have already paid. It also shows you some nice charts of spending, deductions, and expenses vs income.

What I Like About Quickbooks Self-Employed

Quickbooks Self-Employed is so easy to use it's not even intuitive. It doesn't need to be. It's just easy. Everything you need is right there, easy to find and easy to use. All of it's functions worked perfectly for me. My bank accounts synced up, inputting mileage is easy, and I can even pay my taxes right through the platform. I'm definitely a fan.

What Bugs Me About Quickbooks Self-Employed

When categorizing transactions, there is no "Custom" option to list items that don't fit inside the typical "categories" that they offer. For example, if I buy a font for a book I'm working on, I have to decide whether to put that expense under "Materials and Supplies" or "Professional Services" or "Licenses" or "Other," when what I would really like to do is make a category called "Publishing" so I can put all kinds of weird expenses related to publishing in one bucket, like I can in Mint. Although, to be fair, there could be a reason for this related to taxes that I don't know about.

The other annoyance I encountered is that because Intuit is currently merging different platforms (Turbo Tax and Mint, for example), they wouldn't let me sign up with the same email address I used to sign up for Mint, because I already had an "account" even though I didn't have an account with Quickbooks Self-Employed, just Mint and TurboTax. But I just said whatever and signed up with a different email address. 

Conclusion

Both platforms are excellent services with different (though similar) functions. Which platform you choose depends on what you are looking to do with it. If you are looking for platforms that serve a variety of purposes, Freshbooks is the way to go; with them, you can track expenses as well as track clients, send invoices, and more.

If you are looking for a simple way to track expenses and income and make sure you're paying the right amount of taxes on time, then Quickbooks Self-Employed is definitely the way to to.

If you don't know exactly what you want, that's okay too. Both offer 30-day free trials so you can log in and try them out.

Bon voyage, and may your taxes ever be done and paid.

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