A guest blog post by Jennifer Escalona
When I landed my first freelance writing gig, I was so clueless that I didn’t even track my income. When my financial advisor (and by financial advisor, I mean dad) mentioned that I would need to be a little more organized come tax time, I switched to a spreadsheet. I’m a writer because of my love affair with numbers, naturally, so I treated my profit and loss spreadsheet with all the diligence of a 3-year-old with a new turtle. In other words, I picked it up and ogled it from time to time, but mostly ignored it.
I could have been in trouble, but then I found Outright.com
Outright.com is a free web-based bookkeeping application designed with freelancers and microbusiness owners in mind. When I first logged in, the application asked if I would like to enter income or expenses first. From there, it was a matter of transferring the cryptic notations on my spreadsheet to a simple ledger. When I was finished, I could wince at my yearly profit, view a report of or graphic representation of my bottom line, and export all my financials to a .csv file when I needed to prove income for a rental application. I was also, for the first time, able to visualize exactly how much money was coming in and going out, and challenge myself to exceed monthly financial goals.
I was a fairly early adopter of Outright.com, and since then, they have added another feature that makes my bookkeeping life easier: integration with Paypal. These days, whenever I login to Outright.com, any new Paypal transactions are already in there smiling back at me. Paypal integration cut my data entry time in half, and I’m not sure how I managed spending a whole five minutes a week on Outright.com when now I only have to spend about two.
Outright.com is also fully integrated with handy online applications for freelancers like the invoicing app Freshbooks and the expense tracking app Shoeboxed. It’s even integrates directly with eBay. If my business ever goes south, I’ll be fully prepared to sell widgets online and pay all my due taxes.
Did I say taxes?
Aside from user-friendliness, its tax features are where Outright.com really shines. The program helps a poor number-confused freelancer estimate her quarterly estimated federal payments (state estimates are coming soon!) and create a printable .pdf of her Schedule C. If you’ve ever stared at a blank Schedule C, then you’ll appreciate that last bit of good news. And if you never want to deal with that particular horror, you can allow your CPA access to your Outright.com account so she can fight that battle – I mean, do your taxes – for you.
If you hire contractors, Outright.com just made your January easier, too. The new 1099 service allows you to simply enter your contractor’s information and sit back and relax. From there, Outright.com emails your contractor, gets them to fill out a simple web form with their W-9 information, files the 1099 for you for just $5 per contractor, and after confirming with the IRS, informs you when filing is complete. Better yet, the $5 fee is waived if your contractor subsequently signs up with Outright.com.
Even with Outright’s help, tax time is confusing, so that’s where the Outright community comes in. There freelancers can query professional bookkeepers and CPAs about mileage, expenses, W-9’s, tax forms, and all those other nagging questions that make a big difference at the end of the year. If you have a problem or question about Outright.com itself, the Support email is answered promptly and Outright customer service even takes general questions on Twitter.
With Outright.com, I’m no longer spending hours scouring my Paypal history for unreported income or giving up on calculating my mileage deduction because it involves Google Maps and yucky multiplication. I highly recommend this free web application for all freelancers who’ve evolved beyond the spreadsheet.
Jennifer Escalona was an Outright.com user before she became one of their crack team of bloggers back in June 2009. Now she is Outright’s social media manager, but she, thankfully, does not create a rift in the fabric of the universe every time she uses Outright.com to track her income from Outright.