If you’re running a small business, there are lots of timesaving (and money-saving) apps and tools available now that you can utilise to concentrate on doing what you do best.
But where to start?
Firstly, ensure your business is set up properly. Talk to your accountant about the right structure – whether it’s as a company, sole trader or even a partnership. There’s also a handy Australian Government online tool to help point you in the right direction.
Establish separate bank accounts for your business
This helps to develop a financial trail (especially important at tax time), and provides boundaries between personal and business spending.
Turn to technology
Check out some of the free tools available. Many are suitable for a start-up before your business gets to a size that justifies a paid subscription.
Jane Betschel is head of marketing and digital at accounting software company MYOB, and she says technology has been a godsend for small businesses.
“If you think about the depth and breadth of accounting software, the level of features and how easy it is to use, that's a game changer for small business,” she says. “It can all happen in the background. And if they've got a good accountant and bookkeeper, then they're sorted.”
Look into ATO resources
Check out the Australian Taxation Office website for great information, calculators, tools and downloadable resources, including information on common deductions. The ATO also has a smartphone app, which allows you to create a list of due dates that you can save as reminders and more. For example, if you’re a sole trader, you can use myDeductions to record tax-related information including mileage, receipts and income while you are away from your office or desk.
Take advantage of free budgeting tools
Waveapps provides free invoicing, although its capabilities are fairly limited (no GST, for instance). Wix (a low-cost website solution) has an invoicing facility, as has Squarespace. You can even use an invoicing template through Microsoft Excel. Toggl is a useful free tool for time-tracking projects.
Most accounting software packages have an entry-level rate, and the major platforms offer a free 30-day trial period, which can help you to understand if it’s the right program for you. Software applications such as MYOB are very user-friendly and their associated apps can make tracking of finances much easier.
“The features that are really important, particularly for trades, include managing quotes, managing invoices and projects,” says Jane. “It’s important to track everything.”
Stay organised with the cloud
Cloud-based systems also allow you to track outstanding invoices and you can set up automated reminders, removing the need to follow-up slow payers. Many have a capability that allows you to scan receipts and upload them into the program.
If you’re a PowerPass member, receipts can be routed automatically into MYOB software, for ease of reporting and invoicing. “If you’re buying things at Bunnings, you can track them against every project you’re doing, and it will be integrated inside the software,” explains Jane. “It helps you to remember to invoice customers for anything purchased relating to their job. If you’re doing all of that manually, you’re bound to miss things. This means every nail is accounted for, and it really helps manage projects and the admin associated with them.”
Jane also recommends using a cloud-based storage system such as Dropbox or Google Drive to store documents safely. “I just put everything in Dropbox,” she says. “My accountant’s got access to that so at the end of the year he can find it all rather than sending emails back and forth. So much easier than trying to keep track of things like contracts and receipts.”
Both Dropbox and Google Drive have smartphone apps, allowing you to add things on the fly as well. “People are out and about,” says Jane. “If you put it in your pocket and wait for the end of the day to scan it or do something, your chances of losing that are pretty high. The day of the shoebox is over.”
Need to know
This information in this article is general in nature and doesn’t take into account your specific financial position, needs or circumstances. As with any major project, you should look at your own financial position, objectives and requirements and seek professional advice before making any financial decisions.