It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the fallacy that acclaim and success are direct outcomes of how much we earn, or how complicated our affairs are.
Accomplishment isn’t linked with complexity. We can merely “work to live” and still make major bank with the simplest of systems, workflows and personal productivity ethos. I do every month.
It’s almost comical how simply I manage my business financials as a minimalist. People often think I run an action-packed show, full to the brim of backend sorcery and financial formulas that keep the FIRE journey ablaze.
Does that mean I don’t work hard? No. Does it mean I’m not ambitious? No.
It simply means that my startup phase of working consecutive 80-hour weeks are behind me, because I know how very possible it is to achieve low-touch profits.
My four simple hacks for managing business financials as a minimalist, all yours.
Uncomplicated profit statements.
There’s nought more important in a small business than the ability to make money. And in the absence of a regular paycheck, this amount can fluctuate dramatically between seasons, recession periods, and even month-to-month.
So, keeping track of it all helps with forecasting – think basic budgeting, but also measuring periodical trends for dips in cash flow (so you can squirrel cash away for those times), and an idea of your tax liability so you can save (or invest more in the business) ahead of time.
Cue simplicity. I use a basic Excel formula that contains:
- Who the client was;
- The payment gateway used;
- The full amount earned for that client in the calendar month;
- Whether they’ve been invoiced;
- Whether I’ve been paid;
- How much I’ve sidled aside for tax, super, important insurances and HECS for the month.
I try and always send final invoices at least a week before the end of the month so that my payment terms (7-days) are honoured within the month, but if they go over, I move it into next.
I track my financials by when I get paid, not when the work was done. Why?
Because labour is fluid, but income is concrete.
Income from my shares doesn’t get logged here because we reinvest them (although tax needs to be paid on the dividends – I organise that with my accountant separately), however I do include side hustle income on this spreadsheet.
Tax time made easy-as-pie.
Very little strikes fear in the heart of the free agent as June 30.
Tax time, for many, is a frantic hurdle race to collate receipts, measure up profit vs loss, calculate GST and cry a lot over a mentally prepared potential tax bill.
But it can be a lot simpler than this.
Firstly, I know what’s tax-deductible and what isn’t, because I’ve asked a lot of questions. Thanks to my countless hours on the phone to the ATO, or running things past my accountant, I’ve kept a simple Google Doc dot-point run sheet* and refer back to it whenever I’m iffy on a business purchase.
I use that clarity to make decisions on what and how to spend on and in my business, and I track every expense as-I-go using an accounting software that has a screenshot uploading feature.
Digital receipts are perfectly legal, according to the ATO, and it means that I can recycle the paper version straightaway, instead of letting them clutter up (and fade anyway, as they always do).
I categorise expenses really specifically (payroll, marketing, administration, travel, rental overheads etc), which helps me gauge a monthly breakdown of where I invest most in the business, and at the end of the financial year, I pull a report and reconcile it against what I earned. It takes all of ten minutes.
*On the note of “tax hacks”, I also leave hints on things I’m likely to forget over the year, like how I treat international clients for tax purposes, how to easily report on my share or property earnings or how many cents per kilometre I can claim on my car.
I forget every year, and it saves me from annoying my accountant with an annual Groundhog Day series of questions.
Work with a small business-focused accountant.
I’ve always been my own book-keeper, so that I can maintain total oversight into the day-to-day money management, but when dealing with Uncle Sam, I defer to an accountant who has both a small business background (owning their own) and managing the financial affairs of others like mine.
I think staying away from mainstream accounting firms is a smart move.
Working with someone who has a deep knowledge of specific SMB taxation policies and laws (including how they change) can help avoid costly mistakes if randomly audited.
For me, it’s a tax-deductible expense and as it’s a person who I have a relationship with, I can ask questions any time via email or phone and she gets back to me quickly with everything I need.
Keep subscriptions to a minimum.
There’s no award for spending the most on exxy softwares, no matter how flashy they seem. That’s not to say that some aren’t worth paying for (even at a premium), just that they aren’t all.
I have the basics – obviously email, my website hosting, a robust accounting software… but in any case, it’s not that expensive software keeps me organised and minimalist.
On the contrary, keeping things simple and efficient is what gets me away with using the free version of the software. So it’s cheaper. And as a digital business, I need a good tech stack – I have lots of things going in and out all the time, but I don’t need to make it overwhelming with toolkit clutter (I natter on about my tech stack more via that link).
The most complicated part of running your business should be anything and everything external. Like clients, or customers… the weather, even. Nothing you can control, like money and expenses and tax. That’s all well within your hands.