Tag Archives: Business

Helpful Tax Tool: Spreadsheet For Earnings & Deductions

If money and finances bore you, then this post probably isn’t for you. Come back next week and I may have a post about photography or something. However, if you geek out like I do about this kind of stuff, this may be a good little read. And actually, if you just go ahead and download the file I have here for you, you probably don’t even need to read any of this because it’s fairly self-explanatory. I’ll write it all out anyway just in case it can be useful to some people. Here goes…

I know I’m super anal about being organized (some would call me obsessive), and one thing I always have to be able to see at a glance and access quickly is my finances. It’s even more important to me because I have two income streams—a full time job and a part time side business.

Over the years I’ve developed a simple and effective Excel spreadsheet for keeping track of the money I make and the money I spend. When April 15th starts creeping up on me I simply send the document over to my accountant, and because of how I have everything laid out he can prepare my tax return without any extra hassle on either of our ends.

In this post I’ll go over how the spreadsheet is set up, and of course, give you a link to download a blank template for you to use and customize however you want.

If you don’t know how to use Excel, I’m sure there are plenty of online tutorials that can help you with the basics, but if you know the gist of the program you shouldn’t have any problems with this.

Download: Blank Tax Deduction & Earnings Spreadsheet

Basic Spreadsheet Breakdown:
Sheet 1 – Freelance Earnings
Sheet 2 – Freelance Deductions
Sheet 3 – W-2 Deductions

The first page of the spreadsheet is definitely the most fun to fill out because it’s for the money you are pulling in. The first column is for you to write a quick note about what the job was. The second column is for who you billed for the job. Next is the type of payment—cash, personal check, business check, wire transfer, etc. Then is the date that you received the full payment. After that is a column for the invoice number, and finally the amount of money you made from the job.

If you scroll down, there is a section for jobs that are pending payment so you can keep track of which jobs have not been paid for. This allows you to see who you should follow up with when needed, and also allows you to see a projection of how much you will have made once all of your invoices have been paid.

The “Pending Total,” “Total Income Earned,” and “Projected Earnings” fields will be automatically calculated as you enter figures into the “Earned” section (column F). It’s seriously like magic…

My advice is to fill this out as soon as you submit an invoice to a client and as soon as you receive a payment. But again, I’m anal and obsessive, and I wouldn’t do it any other way.

Blank Tax Deduction & Earnings Spreadsheet

The image here is condensed down for on-screen viewing, but the template you will download has more spaces for additional jobs when you scroll down.

The second page of the spreadsheet is the most detailed and complex (although still pretty simple), and is used for your freelance or side business tax-deductible expenses. I don’t know a whole lot about tax laws, but I do know that for most small businesses nearly everything you do or buy is tax-deductible. Never underestimate how far simple deductions can go and how much money they can help stay in your pocket when tax time rolls around.

The first column on this sheet is for you to write notes about the expenses you plan to write off. The second is to list any specific items you purchased. The third is where you put the date of the purchase. Then the fourth column is a field for tracking any mileage you incurred while out on the job—driving to and from photo shoots, meetings, etc. Finally, the last column is where you put the dollar amount of what you spent on the items listed in that particular row. Pretty simple, eh? I told you most of this would end up being self-explanatory.

You’ll also notice there is a dollar value added to the mileage at the bottom of that column. In the U.S., the 2011 standard deduction for miles driven for business is $0.51 per mile, so that field simply multiplies the miles you recorded by $0.51 to give you an approximate dollar amount you’ll eventually write off for all the miles you drove.

For people who work from a home or have a small office, there are fields for your basic monthly bills such rent, electricity, water, Internet, and cell phone. Of course, all of the sub totals and totals are automatically calculated. Maaaaagic!

Blank Tax Deduction & Earnings Spreadsheet

Again, the image here is condensed…the template has more on it than you see here.

The third and final page of the spreadsheet is for any tax deductions you will be making as a full-time employee when you file a W-2. The columns are set up the same as on the previous tax deduction page, but this sheet doesn’t have all of the extra areas for monthly bills.

If you submit expense reports to your employer and get reimbursed for things, then you don’t put any of those expenses on this sheet. However, I often drive places for my full-time job or buy things that I don’t expense to the company, and those are the items I put on this sheet. Again, don’t sell yourself short when it comes to taking tax deductions! That’s why these tax laws are in place—so people can use them to their advantage and keep more money in their pockets and pump it back into the economy.

Blank Tax Deduction & Earnings Spreadsheet

I think it goes without saying that I’m not a certified CPA, so don’t look to me for professional accounting advice. That being said, this is my system—it works for me, and I’m sure it will be helpful to some other people, so take it for what it is. As always, if you have any specific questions, post them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them so everyone can see.

Download: Blank Tax Deduction & Earnings Spreadsheet

If you found this post helpful, you may also like my post on using a net worth calculator (with spreadsheet to download).

10 Must-Have Items For Your Home Office

I’ve been working a full-time job from my home for just over a year now and running a side business from home for about five years. And before that I was running my college and home life like a business, too, so I think it’s safe to say I know quite a bit about spending lots of time in a home office. Here is a list I came up with of 10 must-have items that will help transform any room in your house into a comfortable and productive home office.

If you have other tips of your own please post them in the comments of this post.

Here's a look at my personal home office in my bedroom. Keeping your space simple, clean, and free of clutter will always help keep you working more effectively.

1. Comfortable Chair
If you are going to spend up to 2,000 hours a year at your desk, you may was well spend a few extra bucks to get a nice chair that you’ll be comfortable in.

2. Second Monitor
Using a second monitor (combined with proper workflow techniques) you’ll be able to get twice the amount of work done in half the time.

3. Good Mouse
This goes hand in hand with a second monitor and proper workflow techniques. A mouse with two buttons (left and right click) and a track wheel will save you a ton of time while working.

4. File Cabinet
Being organized on your computer and hard drive is super important, but having all your paper files organized is crucial as well—especially when April 15th approaches. If you keep your files organized throughout the year, and you’ll have much less hassles when it comes time to do your taxes.

5. Cutting Board, Xacto Knife (With Extra Blades), & Metal Ruler
If you don’t do any kind of hands-on work, this one may not be a “must-have”, but if you do any type of creative work, these items make a big difference and produce much better results than scissors.

6. Good Ink Pen
Aside from the inconvenience of when a cheap pen decides to stop working for no reason, having a good pen that you love to write with will put you in a good mental state when you are writing. I’ve been using Uniball’s Fine Vision pens for years and wouldn’t want to change pens even if you paid me to.

7. Stapler, Tape, & Scissors
These items are basics of any office environment, and they are basics for a reason and should never be left out.

8. Hard Drives
Backing up your work is the only way to go. In a digital age you have to be prepared to pull up work from years ago in a matter of seconds. You can’t afford to lose your digital assets if one drive breaks so it’s important to have your files on at least two different hard drives. I have one drive stored away for every year in addition to the large drive I use throughout the year that has multiple years’ worth of work on it.

9. Fast Internet Connection
Getting your job done quicker helps everyone involved. The only thing a slow Internet connection is good for is adding frustration and stress to your life.

10. Assorted Sized Permanent Markers
From big ole fat ones that can write on cardboard boxes to little skinny ones that can write on DVDs, you should be able to write on anything and everything whenever you need to.

Basic Mac Workflow Tips – 18 Easy Ways To Improve Your Speed & Productivity

I’ve been using Apple computers with the Mac operating systems for nearly a decade now, and as a graphic design student turned professional Web site editor and photographer I’ve become extremely proficient at getting a lot done on the computer in a short amount of time. A lot of that can be attributed to practicing good workflow tips that allow me to move around within my machine quicker than the average keyboard jockey. After helping a friend speed up her workflow recently I realized that just about anyone can increase their speed and productivity on a Mac just by learning a few simple tips and tricks. Here are some of the basics and my favorite Mac workflow tips…

1. Use A Mouse With A Track Wheel
There is no way you can work as quickly without one as you can with one. Having a mouse with two buttons (right and left click) and a track wheel is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall workflow speed. The track wheel can quickly scroll down through documents and Web pages.

Nothing fancy here, but I've been using this same mouse for several years and it gets the job done quickly and efficiently.

2. Use Arrow Keys Within Folders
Often times when navigating through a series of folders through OSX’s finder it is quicker to use the arrow keys as opposed to a mouse.

3. Use Space Bar To Preview Documents
When searching for a particular file, instead of double clicking a document to open it, when it is highlighted simply hit the space bar to see a preview of the item.

4. Use Two Hands
Having one hand on the computer will only let you do half the work as two hands. Keep either both hands on the keyboard, or one hand on the mouse and the other on the keyboard at all times.

5. Use Keystroke Shortcuts
Use as many keystroke shortcuts as possible while using the finder and while in applications. At the bottom of this post I have a list of some of the most common Mac keyboard shortcuts that will speed up your workflow.

6. Keep Your Open Documents To A Minimum
The more documents you have open at any given time, the more energy your computer is using. By keeping only the documents you need open, you will free up the short-term memory on your computer, which will allow your computer to work faster. Also, the less windows you have open, the less visual clutter you will encounter.

7. Keep Your Visuals Simple & Clean
By keeping your desktop clean, organized, and clutter free, and keeping a simple image set as your desktop background, you will have less visual distractions. Visual distractions lead to mental distractions, which lead to more stress and less productivity. Likewise, keep your Internet browser theme clean looking for less visual distraction.

Here's how my desktop looks on any given day. I also feel that a relaxing, beautiful photograph helps with your energy and mental state while working.

8. Save Your Work Constantly
Saving your work every few minutes (or seconds) by hitting Command + S will ensure that in the event of a system or program crash you can jump right back into working on your project where you left it off. If you loose half of your work because you forgot to save the file before the program crashed you’ll have that much more work to redo, and a lot more frustration and stress.

9. Use Tabbed Internet Browsing
Once you get comfortable using “tabbed browsing” in Firefox or Safari you will be able to navigate through multiple Web pages much more quickly.

From within your browser, click on the preferences option and open this tab.

10. Hold Command Key When Opening New Links
When you are opening multiple Internet pages, hold the “command” key when selecting the links to open those pages in new tabs of the browser. A good example of this is when you are using a search engine like Google to look for articles on a particular topic and you aren’t sure which of the top five articles will best suit your needs. Open all of the top five articles in new tabs, go look at each one, and if none of them work for you, close them out and you still have the Google search left open.

11. Right Click In Dock To Quit
Depending on what you are working on and what you have open, it is often quicker to right click and select “quit” from an application in the dock as opposed to maximizing that application and quitting it from within the program.

If an application is hidden, then reopening the program window and scrolling to File > Quit (or even hitting Command + Q) takes longer than simply quitting the program from within the dock.

12. Use Search Properly
Learn to use the spotlight search (the magnifying glass in the top right corner of your computer to locate documents, files, or programs on your hard drive. Also, learn to use the search function of Internet browsers (Command + F while in the browser) to easily find what you are looking for within Web pages, and the search function in your word processor to locate items in your written document quicker.

13. Use Colored Labels For Folders
To help visually organize folders and files on your hard drive, select the item and right click on it. Then select a colored label for the item. You will have to figure out a labeling system that works well for you. For instance, I have one folder for my invoices. If the invoice has a green label I know it has already been paid. If it has a red label, I know it is still pending payment. This organizational technique eliminates the need to break one folder of invoices into two separate folders.

14. Use Hot Corners
In the System Preferences of your computer there is a section for “Expose & Spaces.” By setting “hot corners” you can perform a number of tasks simply by pushing your cursor into a pre-set corner of your monitor. I find it most useful to have my top left corner reveal all open windows and my bottom left corner to reveal my desktop.

15. Compress Items Into A .Zip
Instead of attaching multiple files to an email, compress multiple files and/or folders into a single .zip file so you only have to attach one item. To do this simply select all the items you want to compress together, right click them, and choose “Compress X Items.”

16. Enter Changes File Names
Instead of double clicking on a file or folder to change the name of it, when it is selected, simply hit enter/return and type the new name.

17. Keep Your Dock Basic
The “hiding” and “magnification” effect of the Mac OS X dock is kind of fun at first, but not very convenient for a serious worker. Turn the hiding and magnification off, make it small, and keep it at the bottom of your monitor. It will make opening applications quicker and will allow you to see which programs are open easier.

18. Organize Your Folders
Keeping your folders and files organized is probably the thing most people have trouble with when using a Mac. I keep only two folders on my desktop at all times, and those are used on a daily basis. Most files are within those folders and their sub folders, and all other items that aren’t used as often are kept in the dock (as opposed to on the desktop), or on my hard drive. When trying to figure out how to organize your folders, think about what you use your computer for the most, and then break those needs into sections.

Most Common And Practical Mac OS X Keystroke Shortcuts
Command + A = Select All
Command + C = Copy
Command + X = Cut
Command + V = Paste
Command + Q = Quit
Command + W = Close Window
Command + Z = Undo
Command + Y = Redo
Command + M = Minimize Window
(In Most Programs) Command + H = Hide
(In Most Programs) Command + N = New
(In Finder) Command + N = New Finder Window
(In Finder) Command + Shift + N = New Folder

Private & Personalized Mac 101 Classes
If you live in the Southern California area and would like a private lesson of these techniques and more, along with a personal analysis on how you can use your Mac more effectively in the workplace, please email me at fattony4130@gmail.com.