- Why is accounting such an important aspect of entrepreneurship?
- Should you simply hire an accountant instead of doing it by yourself?
- What’s the best way to handle your accounting needs on your own?
Q: Can I do my own accounting?
A: Anyone is capable of doing their own accounting – whether they’re running a large enterprise or a small online business. The question is whether it actually makes sense to teach yourself the various ins and outs of self-accounting for small business. Some will choose to simply hire an accountant to save time, but doing your accounting can provide you with more control. Some also find this to be a rewarding process.
The results are in:
72% of self-employed people do their own accounting. This means that self-accounting is by far the most popular choice for most freelancers and small business owners.
Professional accountants are no doubt aware of this fact, as they only help these self-employed individuals with a quarter of their total bookkeeping tasks. The other 75% of tasks are handled independently.
So why is self-accounting so popular among self-employed individuals?
Well, the answer is pretty simple:
It just kind of makes sense.
Business owners and freelancers have the ability to save money and exert more control over how they operate financially with self-accounting, meaning you don’t need to pay a personal accountant.
With this guide, you’ll learn about the most important considerations and priorities when it comes to self-accounting.
Armed with this knowledge, you can experience all of the various benefits of self-accounting while avoiding many of its potential pitfalls.
- Why is accounting so tricky for entrepreneurs?
- Should you really hire a full-time accountant?
- How to excel as you do your own accounting
Why is Accounting So Tricky for Entrepreneurs?
Accounting is challenging for entrepreneurs thanks to a number of factors.
First of all, many self-employed business owners and freelancers don’t really trust accountants to get the job done.
14% of small business owners think that accountants could do more to minimize their tax obligations. A further 44% of business owners feel that their accounts are more “reactive” than proactive.
So if accountants aren’t always very helpful, then the only other option is for self-employed individuals to do their own taxes.
But this is where a lot of entrepreneurs start running into issues.
The truth is that many of them aren’t very knowledgeable when it comes to accounting. A full 60% of small business owners lack confidence in their abilities to handle financial and accounting tasks.
Things become even more challenging when you consider the complexity of various accounting software.
Some statistics even suggest that 94% of accounting personnel could be replaced by technology in the future – which gives you a sense of just how advanced this software has become.
Make no mistake – technology is an effective option – but it only really works if you can learn how to use it effectively.
Putting software and self-accounting apps aside, you also need to research various tax laws in your specific state or nation. This can be very time-consuming – not least because this research process never really ends.
Remember, tax laws are constantly changing. Staying up-to-date on these laws is crucial, especially since a new law could mean that certain business practices suddenly become illegal.
On the other hand, new laws can create new opportunities that could save you considerable sums.
Small business owners and freelancers also struggle with business accounting because it’s not in line with their existing skillsets.
Most entrepreneurs create successful businesses thanks to their creativity and passion. These are two words that you don’t normally associate with accounting.
Let’s face it – accounting is a cold, dry discipline. It’s a science rather than an art.
Entrepreneurs are used to putting their creative talents to the test, and it’s tough to view accounting with much excitement when you’re used to creating new products, crafting compelling marketing campaigns, and exploring new opportunities.
Should You Really Hire a Full-Time Accountant?
Faced with these challenges, many entrepreneurs choose to do the obvious thing and hire an accountant.
But is this really the best option?
Pros of Hiring an Accountant
If you’re wondering whether to hire an accountant, you should consider opportunity cost first and foremost.
Think about what you’re missing out on if you spend all that time handling the accounting demands of your business.
Just because you can do your own accounting doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Even though a lawyer might type better than their secretary, it doesn’t mean they should abandon their law firm and start a new career as a secretary.
Because their time is better served doing something more productive and profitable.
If your true talents involve coming up with new ideas for your business and developing lucrative products, why would you take time away from these crucial tasks?
In this situation, it might be better to delegate this task to an accountant so you can focus more on what matters:
Running your company.
Another important benefit of an accountant is that they remain up-to-date on the latest developments in tax law – so you don’t have to.
Instead of playing the guessing game, you can listen to your accountant’s advice and take advantage of a range of opportunities – including tax loopholes, new government programs, grants, tax credits, and so on.
Perhaps more importantly, you can avoid violating certain tax laws without even realizing it. This can save you tons of time, stress, and money. Make no mistake – you do not want to be audited, and you do not want to be fined by the IRS.
Another important benefit of an accountant is the fact that they can save you money.
In some cases, the cost of hiring an accountant is virtually nothing compared to the thousands of dollars they can save you with a few simple accounting tricks.
These advantages are worth keeping in mind as you decide whether to try self-accounting.
Cons of Hiring an Accountant
Doing your own accounting helps you get a sense of how your business is performing financially. This allows you to make much more informed decisions when it comes to things like expenses, investments, and expansion.
When you know for a fact how profitable your business is, it’s much easier to make the right call. If your accountant is the only one who understands how much money your business is making, you could potentially spend money that you don’t have.
But perhaps the greatest downside of hiring an accountant is the cost.
These professionals can be seriously expensive – especially if you choose a dedicated, private accountant who basically becomes a full-time employee of your company.
Hiring a full-time accountant is often completely infeasible for new entrepreneurs and small business owners, and you might have no choice but to engage in self-accounting.
You really need to consider your profit margins and your earnings before you make the decision to hire a long-term, full-time private accountant.
Types of Accountants
Before you dismiss the possibility of hiring an accountant altogether, it’s worth mentioning that these professionals come in many different forms:
- Certified Public Accountants: Also known as CPAs, these accountants work for many different clients – not just one. They can provide you with significant assistance as you do your accounting – although you’ll still need to do a fair amount of work with things like calculating expenses and income. Most importantly, you don’t need to hire them on a full-time basis.
- Private Accountants: Private accountants handle the same basic tasks as a public accountant, but they are hired to work for one company and one company only. This means that they’ll become a full-time staff member – just like any other employee within your company. You can rely on them to handle virtually every aspect of your company’s accounting needs – from paying bills and recording transactions to maintaining accounts and calculating expenses.
- Auditor: Generally speaking, it’s a cause for concern when an auditor is involved in your business. These professionals are often hired by government agencies to go over your finances, ensuring that there aren’t any discrepancies. Businesses are audited fairly regularly on a random basis.
How to Excel as Your Own Accountant
If you’ve decided that self-accounting is the best choice for your business, it’s time to dive headfirst into a new world filled with balance sheets, tax forms, and bookkeeping.
But perhaps most importantly, it’s time to start researching the ins and outs of self-accounting.
So how exactly do you get into self-accounting – especially if you have absolutely no accounting knowledge whatsoever?
Check Your Local Laws
The first step is simple:
Check your local laws. Tax requirements for businesses may vary from state to state, and it’s always a good idea to head to your state’s government website.
Usually, this will provide you with a basic overview of how you should be filing your taxes as a business or a freelancer.
It’s also very important to search for tax laws that match your specific business structure.
The requirements for corporations are different compared to the requirements for LLCs. Similarly, distinct laws exist for sole proprietorships, partnerships, and co-ops.
These laws might seem difficult to understand – especially since everything is written in so-called “legalese.” If you’re not sure about the fine print, it might be time to consult with an accountant.
Remember, a quick consultation doesn’t mean you’re hiring them to help you full-time.
A consultation is merely a brief meeting where you can ask questions and receive personalized legal advice based on your specific situation.
Even though you’re self-accounting, you can still ask for help.
In addition, there are plenty of YouTube videos and blogs that help make your local state laws much easier to understand. A quick Google search can go a long way.
Understanding Expenses and Income
The next step is to establish a very clear understanding of what constitutes business income and business expenses.
Often it’s pretty straightforward.
For example, buying a new piece of machinery for a factory is obviously a business expense. And when you get paid by a customer who buys one of your products, this is obviously a form of income.
But what happens if you want to write off part of your homeowners’ insurance because you work from home? Does that still constitute a business expense?
What happens when you invest in the stock market using funds from your LLC, and you experience a considerable profit? Does that still count as income?
As you can see, entrepreneurs encounter all kinds of nuanced situations as they run their businesses. In fact, you might find yourself in a unique accounting situation that no one else has previously encountered.
Here’s the key takeaway:
Even though you might think that a purchase is an expense, the IRS might not feel the same way. The same goes for income. This is why it’s best to do as much research as possible and err on the side of caution.
Examples of business expenses include:
- Bank fees
- Office rentals
- Computer costs (including self-accounting software)
- Legal fees
- Repair costs
Examples of business income include:
- Payment for services
- Payment for rentals
- Payment for profits
- Investments (under certain circumstances)
- Selling off unneeded equipment
So why is it so important to determine the exact definitions of business expenses and income?
Because unless you understand how this all works, bookkeeping will be very difficult.
But what exactly is bookkeeping?
Bookkeeping is a general term that refers to the process of recording all of your business’s financial transactions.
The goal is to give yourself an idea of how much money you’re spending and earning so you can make improvements to the overall financial performance of your business.
Bookkeeping is also very beneficial when you’re trying to do your own taxes.
First, you need to choose your bookkeeping method:
- Single-Entry Bookkeeping: This method is a simple approach that involves recording financial transactions once in your records. It’s an ideal choice if you’re a freelancer or a small business owner with relatively few transactions per month.
- Double-Entry Bookkeeping: This method is more advanced and more accurate compared to single-entry bookkeeping. Each transaction is recorded twice – once as a debit and once as a credit. Double-entry bookkeeping is an ideal choice if your business is dealing with numerous transactions each month.
In decades past, these transactions were recorded on a physical notebook of sorts called a ledger. Today, business owners can use digital record-keeping methods like Excel spreadsheets or Google Sheets.
The good news is that these digital methods are very cheap, and they allow you to set up a ledger using a set template.
The next step is to set up your business accounts. Generally speaking, accounts are divided into five categories:
- Accounts for Your Assets
- Accounts for Your Debts
- Accounts for Your Income
- Accounts for Your Expenses
- Accounts for Your Equities
Each time you record a transaction in your ledger, you’ll sort it into the appropriate account.
Now that everything is set up, all you need to do is record every single financial transaction from here on out.
When you get to the end of your fiscal year, it’s time to balance the books. You’ll start by creating a balance sheet based on the given accounting period.
Next, create two columns: One for your assets and one for your liabilities.
Add up your liabilities, and then add up your assets. Next, subtract your liabilities from your assets.
This number is your total business equity.
The double-entry self-accounting system is effective in this scenario because it allows you to spot errors easily. Since you’re writing transactions twice in both columns, you can determine whether you’ve made an error by balancing both columns within a single account.
If you come up with the number zero, you know your records are accurate. If not, you can look back at your records to see if you’ve made any errors along the way.
For example, you might have written the same transaction twice. Or perhaps you wrote a transaction in one column and not the other.
Keep in mind that it’s much easier to balance your books at the end of each month rather than at the end of the year.
This is why many small businesses with relatively high numbers of monthly transitions choose to review and balance their books each month.
Once you’ve balanced your books, it’s time to prepare your financial reports. If you’re running a corporation, you’re legally required to prepare these reports and publish them.
Examples of financial reports include:
- Balance Sheets: Companies often publish their detailed balance sheets. This report not only serves tax purposes but it also helps you determine whether you should expand or cut down on spending.
- P&L Statement: Also known as a “profit and loss” statement, a P&L statement is a breakdown of your business’s revenues, costs, and expenses over a given period of time. Many business owners use this report to accurately forecast their business’s performance in the future.
- Cash Flow Statement: Cash flow statements focus purely on how your business is earning and spending money. It also highlights the source of income and helps you determine the degree to which your business is able to pay its bills.
Try Accounting Software
Even though hiring an accountant might be prohibitively expensive at this point in time, you can still invest in accounting resources, such as accounting software. This is often an excellent “middle ground” between self-accounting on your own and hiring an accountant.
Here’s some accounting software you might want to try:
- Zoho Books
Some of these options are completely free, and others cost as little as $10 per month. For the more advanced options, expect to pay $50 to $150 per month.
Accounting is Only the Beginning
Remember, self-accounting is just one aspect of your business.
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You should also consider a number of options geared towards independent freelancers and small business owners, such as virtual offices and live receptionists.
These resources can help you save money, boost customer service, improve your reputation, and make the most of a new age where remote, digital entrepreneurship has become the norm.
Check out Alliance Virtual Offices today for more information.