So your business is ticking along nicely, you’ve had a good, albeit busy, day and you are heading home to whip on the PJs, crack open a couple of cans and settle down to this week’s instalment of Game of Thrones. There’s just one problem: you haven’t updated your accounts for a fortnight and the paperwork is menacingly towering over you on the kitchen table like a Targaryen dragon. You sigh. You pick up a couple of receipts and consider them, before telling yourself the most-uttered lie of all procrastinators: you’ll do it tomorrow.
Sound familiar? Doing your accounts is usually about as much fun as a night out with a slug, but by streamlining the experience or boxing clever, you can minimise the trauma and ennui somewhat.
1) Get to grips with Excel.
If you do your accounts yourself and don’t use a specific program, by using Excel or a similar spreadsheet to record your accounts, you’re keeping everything in one clearly accessible place. However, it can be tiresome adding in all the details, so learn some of the basic formulae so that the program will do more of the work for you. For example, something as simple as ‘=SUM(A5:A20)’, or whichever cells you want to tot up, will calculate a running total as you go. There are several sites online which will help you make the most of the program, one of which is Exceljet, a very clear and easily accessible site of explanation.
2) Make like Monica.
Ok, so Miss. Geller may be a little OCD when it comes to organisation, but the clearer your folders are, the easier it is to just slot the right paperwork in the right places. Hitting up your local stationers for a pack of file dividers can be exciting and fun. Seriously. If you have different sections for different suppliers or clients, you can bung their invoices in in a jiffy. You can also do the same on your computer, so that you can save documents quickly to the relevant folder. This way, you can access them again with ease.
3) Stick to a routine.
If you know that you have a spare half hour on a Monday evening, make it a disciplined ritual. When something is part of a pattern it becomes more commonplace and less of a chore; by integrating your accounts into your weekly schedule, the task will be less onerous, as you will only have the details of the week prior to input. If you leave it, it becomes more and more overwhelming, until eventually it is insurmountable and you have no idea where to begin. Give yourself that regular half hour and you can keep on top of it much more positively.
4) Hire someone in.
Worst case scenario, you really can’t be bothered/have no time available/don’t know what you’re doing. So instead of the aforementioned recommended half hour for you to set aside, why don’t you get a finance assistant, even just part-time. Advertise on Gumtree offering the number of hours a month you require someone to fill and the necessary skills and qualifications for the role; before you know it you’ll have people biting your arm off to do your books for you!
5) Use an online package.
Software like Xero® will do a lot of the work for you, and give you a very clear, accessible picture of your accounts. Amongst many other features, you can use it to send invoices and invoice reminders, pay your staff, claim expenses, reconcile your bank transactions, and even submit your tax return. At £10 a month for their starter package, Xero is actually a lot more cost-effective than paying a full-time accountant, and does a heck of a lot more!
The main thing is to stay organised and put something in place, whatever that is, so as to keep on top of your accounts. Messed up, overdue accounts create a whole lot of stress that you can do without; balance your accounts, and you balance yourself by the same token.