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How to manage your finances the easy way

How to manage your finances the easy way
I’m not good with numbers. I like the idea of them. No. I love the idea of numbers and spreadsheets, but for the life of me I am hopeless at basic math. So when it comes to finances, especially as I’m self employed, I have to rely on tools to help me.

I was freelancing some years back and was essentially using Excel to manage my income and expenditure (Don’t worry, this is getting to a review of Freeagent).

I drew up a general book keeping template based on one I downloaded from business link. I created spreadsheets that would help me with projections and monthly summaries, but they were all very much separate. Even though values were linked, it wasn’t as easy to produce the right information in a simple manner that would allow me to focus on running the business.

So now I’m freelancing again, enter Freeagent. This tool makes accounting a joy. Yes, I said that. A joy. Every morning when I fire up Freeagent, I can immediately see where I am with the business. I can see any outstanding invoices, and nearly due payments, recent estimates, a bar chart for the previous five months income, any outstanding expenses and those all important tax dates. All this on my initial screen that I can customise as required. Priceless information at my fingertips.

What I’ve started using it for recently is for managing my time. Freeagent lets you input your time and relate it to specific projects. So I can display a full report of all the time I have spent on specific projects to make sure I am on target so I know whether I need to make that all important call to the client to say, all those changes you requested are pushing up over budget. I need more money!

When linked with the third party iPhone app – Mobile Agent, this adds another ‘layer of beautiful’, on top of the whole Freeagent experience. Here’s why. I was out at a conference last week and went for a meal afterwards with a client. After paying for the meal I got out my phone, fired up mobile agent, took a photo of the receipt, entered a bit of info and Voila! My expenses have been updated and uploaded to the wonderful cloud.

I could do the same for my time also. If I was working out of the office on a specific project, I could enter my time sheet there and then whilst it was fresh in my mind; all via my mobile.

There’s so much more to it than that. Being self employed, my self assessment is extremely important -just to keep the government happy. Freeagent makes this a joy too. By clicking on Self Assessment option, then the current tax year, all my self assessment details are worked out for me. Now this is going to sound really weird, but I can’t wait to do my self assessment next year as its going to be so easy. And it saves on accountants bills.

I could go on for ages, so just two last elements i’ll mention. That of automatic recurring invoices and bank reconciliation.

So you’ve just worked out that its costing you a large amount in time each month, (and money if you’re paying a book keeper) to send out your monthly invoices for regular services you provide. You have a pile sitting there that you just haven’t got round to doing.

Well, Freeagent allows you enter them once, select the frequency (monthly, quarterly, annual etc.) and using your existing template, send them out automatically. You never need to bother with them again!

I have some set up for different clients, both monthly and annually and its a great weight off my mind knowing they will get sent out irrespective of how busy I am. And all can be -automatically- followed up with reminder emails and a thank you once paid. I’ve had clients commenting on how efficient I am due to this. They don’t know the half of it.

The last feature I’ll mention is the bank reconciliation. One of the nightmares with accounts can be matching up your bank entries with your invoices so they tally up (I’m not an accountant so apologies to those that are for my bad terminology!). Freeagent allows you to import your bank statements and reconcile them with entries you’ve made in Freeagent (check Freeagent’s website to see if your bank allows it. I’m with HSBC and it works like a treat). I can’t tell you what a time saver this is.

So all in all, I have been using Freeagent for about eight months now and its making freelancing this time round much more efficient than before. I should say that I can’t account for its use within limited companies or those dealing with payroll with the extra intricacies there will be in those situations. But I can vouch for its use within a self-employed environment, and for that I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Have you had any experience of Freeagent -or other accounting packages? I’d love to know what you think.

Oh and as a little bonus, you can sign up with this link (http://fre.ag/4157wozi)  or any link in this blog and we both get a 10% discount.

NameFreeagent
Devices used: Mac, PC, iPhone
Rating: 5/5

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Richard Lalchan is founder of Creatives Hub whose mission is to help as many creatives as possible get rid of the shackles of procrastination, break out of fear, grow in confidence and get stuff done. He also works with individuals and businesses to build their web presence, runs a podcast network and is currently writing his first sci-fi novella.

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