This story originally appeared on Due
Last week in a discussion with a business coaching client, I asked if she had updated bookkeeping and accounting records that would help her make the best business decision for a big question about her business. “No,” she replied, she didn’t have updated books. Without them, any decision regarding product lines, pricing or customer capacity is just a guess!
Guessing is not the way to run a business. On the contrary, every business big and small should have regularly updated bookkeeping and accounting records so business leaders can make the right decision with a foundation in the data. Follow along to learn three big benefits of keeping your bookkeeping and accounting records updated on a regular basis and some tips to get you started with your bookkeeping for your business.
As a freelance writer for my primary income, one of my biggest goals is finding the best clients that offer me the most significant return on my time invested. While freelancing is a business that is tough to scale, I like to do something I call “laddering up” my clients where I climb up and add new high-quality clients while letting go lower-quality and lower-paying clients as they are replaced.
This process is great in theory, and most freelancers and business owners understand the concept. But why do they continue to struggle with low-quality clients? Because they don’t look at the numbers and objectively look for ways to bring on better clients and get rid of the bad ones. With no metrics, you might not even know which clients are draining your resources and which lead to the best profitability in your business.
A few months after quitting my job to go full-time online, a look at my own updated bookkeeping records showed that about 76 percent of my income came from writing while around 15 percent came from website development and support. That is a clear 80/20 rule example. I cut the 15 percent of my income that was taking way too much of my time and my total income roughly tripled over the next few months!
The focus of my conversation with the coaching client focused on turning her services into a product she could sell for a fixed monthly subscription rate. But with no detailed accounting records beyond the reports she gets from her payment processor, she didn’t have any real records to show her income by customer or product. It doesn’t matter if you are a solo freelancer or a business with thousands of employees, you absolutely need this information!
With the right details in hand, you can pick out the one product that sucks away too much of your time for too little money. You can identify expensive recurring tasks you may be able to outsource or eliminate. As you can see from the example above, sometimes cutting underperforming products or services can lead to significant growth.
Success in this area of your business comes down to focus. But without properly updated bookkeeping and accounting records, you don’t know where to focus. You might be wasting hours and have no idea because you don’t have the data. End that big mistake right away. Get those accounting books together and keep them updated, at least monthly, so you can make the best management decisions.
If increasing revenues and cutting costs were not enough motivation to keep your books updated, here is one last lynchpin: your taxes. You have to do taxes if you have a business. That is not optional. What is optional is making it a stressful period by ignoring your accounting throughout the year and rushing to get it all done in April before the deadline.
Instead of this method, plan and keep your books updated at least once every month. I go a little over what most people need and update my accounting records weekly. But whatever you do, quarterly should be the bare minimum for bookkeeping updates for tax purposes.
While most individuals have to file and pay taxes once every year, most business owners and many side hustlers have to pay quarterly estimated taxes. While you can file and pay based on last year’s tax rates, keeping your books updated can help you get a better estimate if you need to pay more quarterly to avoid the big one-time lump payment in April.
If you have your bookkeeping updated, you just have to print out a P&L and balance sheet and can finish your taxes from there. No other prep needed!
If you find the idea of accounting and bookkeeping intimidating, you can always hire an expert to handle it for you. My friend Eric Nisall at Account Lancer helps me when I have questions with my books and handles accounting for a long list of solo business leaders. But for the most part, I like to handle things myself.
However you decide to do your bookkeeping is great as long as you stick with it! If you don’t, you’ll quickly find yourself behind and with useless financial reports. With the right focus on your books, you have the right information to put your business on track to thrive for years to come.