Last post I looked at all the essential hardware you'll need to start your mobile, independent artist business. Over the next three posts we'll look at all the software you'll need to familiarise yourself with in order to run your business and get your art online starting with business software. Following that I'll look at creative software and then social/marketing software.
Note that I won't be going into any of the software in any great detail here. This is just an overview of the kind of software you'll need. In places I've mentioned the specific software I use but if you know of equivalent software that you prefer, by all means go with that. I've also lumped in websites as 'software' since most of the ones you'll use are really online applications and not just static informational sites.
Before you do anything you need to know you have a way to receive payments online and a way to keep track of all of your income and expenditure. It's probably the least interesting part of the business but it's the most important for working out when to enjoy your earnings and when to be a little more frugal.
Making and Receiving Payments
PayPal can be linked directly to a real world bank account so when you need access to actual cash money that's not a problem (though it does take 3-5 days to transfer money so plan ahead).
Paypal makes it easy to work in multiple currencies, making it a snap to work for clients all over the world. You can invoice them in their local currency or you can do what I do and bill everyone in US dollars (since most countries measure the value of their currency against the US dollar).
One thing to be aware of is that PayPal does take a percentage of any money you receive and there are other fees as well. Some people think their fees are too high. Personally, PayPal just makes life so much easier when it comes to managing my money online, I feel it's worth every cent. From invoicing to financial reports - and I haven't even mentioned any of the tools to help turn your website into an eCommerce site.
You could almost use PayPal exclusively if you never received or paid money with anything other than PayPal. However it won't cover all your payments and receipts, especially if you intend to earn income offline as well.
Book Keeping Software
Unfortunately I don't have any clear recommendations for accounting/book keeping software due to using a free program for the past 20 years, called 'erecord', provided by the Australian Tax Office (that is no longer available).
I'm also not recommending anything because accounting software tends to be region specific for linking to online services such as your banking institution and Tax department (allowing you to automate many process between your book keeping and related financial institutions that you access).
Software options include the heavy hitters like MYOB and Quickbooks. Both claim to make accounting simple but I found the learning curve to be too great (and I did three years of accounting and book keeping the old fashioned way - on paper - in college). Both tend to be on the expensive side and probably do way more than you'll ever need as a one person business.
Alternatively you might be better off with budget and even free accounting software packages that will do the job. A Google search for Accounting Software for Small Business or Free Accounting Software for Small Business will give you some options.
For Australian readers Free Accounting Software is a cloud based system that I'm liking the look of because it means your accounts aren't tied to any one device and it can be linked to the tax office for direct lodgement of various forms etc.
At the barest minimum you need something to record Accounts In (people and businesses who pay you money) and Accounts Out (People and businesses you pay money too for goods and services). Then you'll need a General Ledger which shows all the transactions you've done with specific people on both the Accounts In and Out side of the Ledger.
You'll also need to access a summary of your accounts that shows Gross Profit (a total of all your income from the business), Total Expenses (everything you've spent money on in your business) and Net Profit (Your actual income/profit once you've deducted expenses).
I'd highly recommend looking for software that also has the ability to show Cash Flow, which is a way of showing how much actual money you have at any given moment in time. If it has Cash Flow Projections (also known as Cash Flow Budgeting), even better, as this can help you plan for the future by estimating your future income based on current and past income and expenditure.
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Before moving on to creative software (next post). I can't stress enough how important it is to keep up with your book keeping. It may be a bit of a learning curve but once you get the hang of it, it's actually not that complex or time consuming. You'll thank yourself for being so organised when it comes to submitting your annual income tax return. No scrounging around trying to find receipts and other paperwork.
More importantly, you'll always be aware of your financial situation. You'll know when to invest in your business, when to be frugal and when to treat yourself by enjoying some of your earnings.