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How to Track Business Income and Client Info
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Part I of III – Tracking, Planning, and Pricing: How to Track Your Income & Client Info

by liana on December 29, 2009

In any small business, there are THREE essential tasks necessary for keeping your “numbers” on track: Tracking Your Income, Planning Budgets and Future Income, and Pricing to be sure you’re Profitable.

I often get questions on the best way to track your income.

Let me start with this: keep your personal and business finances separate!! Programs like Quicken Online and Mint.com exist for the purpose of tracking PERSONAL finances. These programs are not meant to track small business income. What’s great is that Quicken Online and Mint.com are both free to use online and you can link up almost any account so it downloads the transactions automatically!

Quickbooks is the most widely used tracking program for small businesses. Again, you can link up your accounts and download transactions so it makes for less data-entry. You prepare invoices, receive payments, deposit payments, record expenses, view income/expense reports, check to make sure everyone is up to date on payments, pay sales tax, among many other things. You can add on payroll services too, so you can cut yourself a check and pay income tax the legal and proper way.

My recommendation is to find a bookkeeper with a heart for teaching, that understands Managerial Accounting, and specializes in helping small businesses with Quickbooks. Have them come in and interview you about what you sell, how you sell it, who your suppliers are, what accounts you have, etc. They should be able to sit down with you and set up Quickbooks so that it is the most automated and easy for you to use. They’ll make sure you’re registered with the State and IRS for proper sales tax and income tax and unemployment ID numbers. They can do the accounting for you, and/or teach you how to do it. Think of it as hiring training wheels and a teacher for a while. Have them guide you along the way until you’re confident in the process and can do it yourself without their help. You’ll hit plenty of obstacles and they’ll be the ones to call for simple solutions. They will keep you accountable for making sure filings are done on time and hold your hand when you get confusing letters from the IRS.

Your bookkeeper should work hand-in-hand with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or a number of CPAs so that they can recommend one to you. The CPA is your tax expert and can advise throughout the year simply by taking a look at your Quickbooks. I’d recommend paying them to do both your business and personal taxes for you. They’ll usually give you a deal if they’re preparing both and your books are in good shape, making their job easy.

Now back to tracking options out there: I mention Quickbooks first because it’s the one most commonly used, syncs with most banks and other financial institutions, and your CPA will love you if your Quickbooks are up to date! But what about tracking customer information beyond just the finances? That’s why programs like Successware and ShootQ and GigBooks exist.

I have personally used both Successware and ShootQ. Successware is a tool made just for photographers and is a tracking, planning, and pricing tool all in one! You won’t need Quickbooks if you have successware. The reason I switched from using Successware back to my current solution is because I’m horrible about doing data entry. Successware is wonderful except it’s not online and doesn’t do lots of stuff automatically.


Enter my current solution: Quickbooks + ShootQ. With ShootQ, clients enter their data online during the inquiry and booking process, so there’s no data-entry for me to do while putting together their photography agreement and payment schedule. In fact, that entire process is so completely automated and simple a client can send an inquiry and book within minutes without me doing much at all (except signing the agreement and checking the details). It’s essentially a database of client information, the job information, contracts, and I can set up automatic questionnaires and track my work flow within the program. I am now a Certified Green Photographer because this has allowed me to have a paperless business and do everything online. ShootQ is working on downloads for Quickbooks and while there is some minor data entry for me to do now in Quickbooks, it’s minimal so that really all I need to do is enter the client name and items and double check their payments received and deposits. Oh, and reconcile everything at the end of the month. My bookkeeper Lynne helped me set everything up right in Quickbooks as I described above. With the two programs combined, I’m happy because data entry is minimal and ShootQ makes the administrative process ridiculously easy. My accountant is happy because my Quickbooks are in order and it translates into making tax time a non-headache. My clients are happy because they can book and pay easily online without having to fax things back and forth. Nothing is lost in the mix!

A side note: Quickbooks for Mac stinks! It’s so bad that I ended up buying a used laptop with Windows XP so I can run Quickbooks 2009 on it. It’s the ONLY thing I use that computer for really, it was $150 from a used computer store so not a big deal – but it’s a lot easier to buy that than try to use Quickbooks for Mac!

Now, the final question – why is it even important to track your income?
The most obvious reason – the IRS mandates it! You have to report income to the IRS during tax time each year and will need to report details on where the money comes from, what types of expenses you have, what portion sales tax is due on, etc. If you don’t track your income and expenses you end up with a big pile of receipts in a box at the end of the year and weeks worth of work to get this stuff ready for tax-time. Plus, you cannot make wise educated decisions about purchasing and cash flow throughout the year if this data is not up-to-date. Come tax time, you’re likely to be rushed and miss out on lots of things.

If you are in Atlanta and looking for a bookkeeper, check out Lynne with Accounting Atlanta. This is the second tax year I’ve worked with her and my CPA, Michael, who she recommended to me. They’ve made the perfect team so far and now this whole process is SO much easier and less painful! I’ll copy their information below in case you’re in the area and looking for a great team.

Lynne LaRosa
Accounting Atlanta
P.O. Box 170347
Atlanta, GA 30317

Michael J Cohen, CPA, P.C.
Tax and Small Business Specialists
Dave Ramsey Tax ELP
7000 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road
Building 4, Suite 200
Atlanta, GA 30328

So that wraps up my $0.02 about tracking business income!! If you have any suggestions, questions, etc please comment below. Up next – planning!

{ 3 trackbacks }

Part II of III – Tracking, Planning, and Pricing: How to Plan for Profit
December 30, 2009 at 8:29 PM
Pricing Photography
January 1, 2010 at 7:39 PM
How to Track Business Income and Client Info | DFJ BLOG
January 31, 2010 at 12:54 AM

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Tarleton December 29, 2009 at 4:16 PM

I literally bought Quickbooks for Mac just a few hours ago. Is it really that bad? I have an old laptop that I don’t use anymore and could run the PC Quickbooks version, but I’d really hate to have to do that.

liana December 30, 2009 at 10:50 AM

The early versions were REALLY bad, but I haven’t tried Quickbooks for Mac 2009 yet. From the reviews, it seems they may have fixed some issues but it still lacks some key features that the Windows version has. I’d read the reviews and see if the missing features will effect you or not. Intuit may or may not let you return the version you just bought in exchange for the Windows version perhaps.

Paul December 30, 2009 at 5:55 PM

I have been using QB for mac for over 9 years with no problem. I am courious as to why people don’t like it? I also used successware for about 5 years and now use shootq. Thank you for a good article, happy new year:)

liana December 30, 2009 at 9:03 PM

Hey Paul! That’s great! You are honestly the first person I’ve heard this from. Did you use the Windows version first, or always the Mac version? I think why most people complain about it is that the Windows versions are usually ten (or 100) steps ahead of the Mac version as far as features and bank compatibility is concerned. If you use Windows then go to the Mac version I can see why there would be some dislike for the Mac version (that’s what happened to me). If you’ve always used the Mac version and it’s compatible and everything you need, then I’d for sure keep on using it!

Kelly Tarleton December 30, 2009 at 9:35 PM

Thanks for the input, I did go over several reviews, and I think you are right- those who switched from Windows to Mac gripe the loudest. I feel pretty confident that it will be fine for what I need it to do, so I’m going to stick with it. Thanks for the great series of articles, the info is so vital to getting off on the right foot!

liana December 30, 2009 at 10:35 PM

Hey Kelly, I agree now that I’m looking at it all again. I should rephrase my comment to : it stinks if you try to switch from Windows version to Mac version 🙂 Otherwise, ignorance of how Windows version works is bliss on Mac!

(but still the ONLY program I prefer to use on Windows)

Amna Hakim December 30, 2009 at 11:41 PM

Wow this was a great help Lliana! I know it’s going to help me a lot and your advice is just amazing!! thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences with us 🙂

Thanks again!

Paul McNerney December 31, 2009 at 1:21 PM

So true… I have only used the mac version, so I guess I don’t know what I am missing. I do know that there is nor perfect solution for photography. I have used successware and now shootQ, I felt more organized with successware. ShootQ is great for the online contract ans the “shopping cart” but the invoicing and billing is to complicated. I wish we could combine the 2 programs to one power house. If Successware went online I would probably switch back. Just my two cents:)

Karen (Mikols) Bonar January 5, 2010 at 7:24 PM

QB actually has an online function now, which makes it really nice. There’s a monthly service fee, not a flat one-time rate.

David Medina January 26, 2010 at 2:56 PM

Invoicing and Billing in ShootQ complicated? I am sorry paul, but I disagree. It could not be any easier…. ShootQ does it all for you! Just enter the amounts and ShootQ reminds the client and take care of the rest.

I tried Successware and while it is a very complete solution is archaic and too complicated.

Does anyone have heard about a manual on how to set up QB for Photographers use?

Lisa Stein February 27, 2011 at 2:57 PM

Thanks Liana,
Great article. I have used Quicken for years, ready to upgrade to Quickbooks. Keep reading bad reviews, but don’t want to dedicate PC to it, one more piece of equipment, really want to streamline, will go for Quickbook for Mac 2011, won’t know what I’m missing! Pretty simple, don’t need payroll, etc…Will get to shootq eventually too.

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