How To Organize Your Online Business Finances For Free

Plain and simple understanding the business finances is your job. Your finances tell you what is going in and coming out of your business. For most businesses, making money is one of the top priorities. So here’s a simple question.. How much money is your business making?

If you answer with your revenue then you fail the test. The profit you report on your taxes might not be the answer either. The real answer will depend on what you include in your business expenses.

I will help you answer that question.

Here is the spreadsheet I will be using as we go through this example. Before getting started you need to make sure you have your finances separated.

Don’t Mix Business and Pleasure

Separate Separate Separate.  Its a pain at first but so much easier in the future if you just separate your business and personal expenses.  I know you love your business and would never sell it but things change.  Also, even if you do keep your business it would make tax time a lot easier if things were separate so the dreaded auditors can pass over your information with ease.

If you tried to answer the “How much money is your business making?” question from above but don’t have your business revenue and expenses separated from your personal expenses then its almost impossible to really know.

What Does Separation Actually Mean?

To separate business from personal you need to be sure to have different spending accounts.  This could mean that you have a separate bank account and credit card just for business. Or it could mean that you just have a separate paypal account that’s only for business. I recommend both.

Its a bit of a hassle to set up different bank accounts and credit cards.  It is also difficult to actually pull out different credit cards to pay for business expenses instead of using the same card for everything.  But remember that at the point of purchase you have all the knowledge of what type of expense this is.  Sometimes you forget that later on when you are trying to understand what you spent and why.

For owners with multiple businesses you should also separate the businesses from each other.  I would recommend doing a separate entity (LLC) for each business but it really depends on the nature of the business and how you classify it.  The main benefit for the separation is to see how much actual profit each business is making on its own.

So for example if you have 10 adsense sites that are essentially identical copies just in different niches then you might bundle those together into one business.  But as soon as you want to start testing new strategies or revenue models then you want to separate them out to see how successful the tests are.

If you are separating out small websites from the others then there is really no need to create a new LLC and new bank accounts. You can do this separation manually until it gets too big to handle, then make the switch later.

Now that you know to keep separate records is that it? Not quite.

You really need a bookkeeper.  A bookkeeper will organize all your transactions in a meaningful way.  This can be useful for you to keep track of things as well as see where you need to spend more time.  Also this is very helpful for your accountant.

Your Company’s First Bookkeeper is You

Lets back up just a little.  Don’t hire a bookkeeper just yet.  Get a google spreadsheet set up and start hacking away at it yourself first. I’ll show you what you need to do in 7 steps:

1. Get your statements ready

2. Label Business/Personal

3. Label Accounts

4. Label One Time/Recurring

5. Do this in real time

6. Make a plan for excess cash

7. Outsource

1. Download your bank statements, credit card statements, paypal transactions, or any other financial institution transactions that you want to keep track of. Most of the time your bank will have an online portal that will allow you to download the transactions as comma separated values (csv files).  This will be the easiest format to copy into google sheets.

Once you have all of these statements downloaded then you need to open them in google sheets.  They will probably have a lot of columns depending on how much information is available and recorded. The only one’s you really need are:

  • Transaction Date
  • Amount
  • Vendor

If your bank also has a really good method of adding categories to each transaction then you can add that but I haven’t seen this work well without a lot of extra work. Also you will need to add a new column to the left of these three columns and put in the name of the source: bank, credit card, or financial institution.

Here is a snapshot of the spreadsheet before removing unneeded columns:

Here is how the table will look after deleting the extra columns and adding the source name column:

Source Date Name Amount
US Bank Credit Card 6/15/2015 AMAZON MKTPLACE PMTS -$73.56
US Bank Credit Card 6/15/2015 GOOGLE -$1.99
US Bank Credit Card 6/16/2015 PAYMENT THANK YOU $10.00
US Bank Credit Card 6/17/2015 INTEREST CHARGE ON PURCHASES -$6.95
US Bank Credit Card 6/22/2015 GOOGLE -$9.99
US Bank Credit Card 6/24/2015 AmazonPrime Membership -$99.00
US Bank Credit Card 6/24/2015 AMAZON MKTPLACE PMTS -$7.89

Once you have the first account completed then you can continue to import all the accounts you want to keep track of.  Once you have the columns deleted the source column added you can copy them under the first account rows.  So at the end of this step you should have all your transactions for this period listed on one sheet.The next few steps we will be adding various columns to organize the transactions.

2.  The first column we need to add is the Business/Personal column.  If you have already separated business and personal accounts then you will only have to separate businesses in this column.

Add a column to the right of the amount column already on your sheet.  Then label this column “Business/Personal”. For each transaction you need to put in the business name or if it is personal you will need to just type in “personal”.

There may be some transactions that will be split between two or three businesses.  This can get complicated but for now just add a new row and split the expense evenly among the different businesses.

For example if my AMAZON MKTPLACE PMTS transaction from the table above is for 3 different businesses I would just add two more rows under the first one. The first 3 columns would be labeled identically as the current transaction but the amount, and business/personal columns would change:

 

 

Dealing With Transfers

Some of the transactions we have from our statements will be money moving between accounts.  This can occur for example when we make a payment on a credit card. Transfers will not have a Business/Personal choice because they are not an actual expense.  You can label this simply as “transfer”. This will be the same for the next few steps as well.

Personal Transactions

This sheet is meant to be transactions for your business so I recommend that you eliminate the personal transactions. If you see that you have a few mixed in then it may be wise to leave them in the sheet correctly labeled just so that your accounts will match the correct balance if you want to go back and match your balances to statements in the future.

3. The next column you need to add is for the account.  You can take a look at this list of accounts for some ideas but remember this is for you to understand so group things together in a way that makes sense to you.  The actual names of the accounts are not as important.  If you sit down with your accountant to review this in the future they can change the account names to fit their template.

Here is a small list of accounts that will get you started:

  • revenue
  • cost of goods
  • training
  • travel
  • marketing
  • salary
  • office supplies
  • online tools
  • interest expense

Here is the example from above with the account category added:

Source Date Name Amount Business/Personal Account
US Bank Credit Card 6/15/2015 AMAZON MKTPLACE PMTS -$24.52 Business A Office Supplies
US Bank Credit Card 6/15/2015 AMAZON MKTPLACE PMTS -$24.52 Business B Office Supplies
US Bank Credit Card 6/15/2015 AMAZON MKTPLACE PMTS -$24.52 Business C Office Supplies
US Bank Credit Card 6/15/2015 GOOGLE -$1.99 Business A Online Tools
US Bank Credit Card 6/16/2015 PAYMENT THANK YOU $10.00 Transfer Transfer
US Bank Credit Card 6/17/2015 INTEREST CHARGE ON PURCHASES -$2.32 Business A Interest Expense
US Bank Credit Card 6/17/2015 INTEREST CHARGE ON PURCHASES -$2.32 Business B Interest Expense
US Bank Credit Card 6/17/2015 INTEREST CHARGE ON PURCHASES -$2.32 Business C Interest Expense
US Bank Credit Card 6/22/2015 GOOGLE -$9.99 Business C Marketing
US Bank Credit Card 6/24/2015 AmazonPrime Membership -$99.00 Personal Personal
US Bank Credit Card 6/24/2015 AMAZON MKTPLACE PMTS -$7.89 Business B Office Supplies

4. The next column and final column to add is the one time/recurring column.  This is a simple two option column.  This is important when you start to project future months’ revenues and expenses.  Its good to know how “normal” a given month is.

Good Business Habits

5. The next few steps are the continuous processes that you need to do in order to get the full value of your new bookkeeping spreadsheet.  The first is to continue this sheet in real time.  You already loaded past transactions and classified them. Now you need to get into the habit of updating this sheet in real time.

I recommend real time because you have all this information fresh on your mind when you are actually making the purchase.  Also it is a good way to get your mind to think about all expenses as a whole picture when you make each purchase. Looking at the whole picture or group of expenses together can help you see spending trends and understand the emotions that come with spending.

For this step you need to just keep this new spreadsheet open on your computer or phone all the time. Every time you pay for something just fill it in on the sheet.  Then at the end of the month, download the statements and make sure you didn’t miss anything. I recommend doing this for at least 2 months to get a good habit built.

Take Care of Cash

6. Once you have done this for a couple of months you can start to predict how much you will spend each month based on experience and the state of your business.  Then you can start to capitalize on the excess money in your bank accounts.  In this step you will predict how much excess cash will be in your bank at the end of each month.

Make sure you keep a buffer amount (+10%) of extra cash but move all the rest into some type of investment account.  I like to use betterment because it’s super simple to use and is also very easy to move cash in and out of.

Keeping your bank account low helps you gain a little extra income as well as helps you spend less because you see less in your bank.

Take It Off Your Plate

7. The next step is to continue this for a few months, build a solid process, and then outsource.  If you learn that you really like doing this then you can do it yourself but I recommend trusting your finances to a bookkeeper or accountant.

First, show them exactly what you have been doing and ask them for advice on how this can be modified based on their experience.  Then leave them to the task but get them to send you daily reports and updates for a couple of weeks.  When you are comfortable, move to weekly updates, and finally monthly updates.

This is based on preference and how fast you need this information but I think monthly reports should be sufficient for most businesses. Once your bookkeeper or accountant understands how you are using this information they can recommend changes or improvements to the process as well.

So, How Much Money is Your Business Making?

You should be able to answer that question now.In this article we have reviewed the basics of getting your first bookkeeping spreadsheet up and running.  This will help you have a good idea of what is going on in your business. Once you see what is coming in and going out in detail you will be able to make better decisions about where to focus your time.

How to Start a Blog or Website (Full 2018 Guide)

Get 2018 started off by completing one of those resolutions. You always wanted to get your blog started, now is the time to start.

Want to learn how to start a website? This is an all-inclusive, comprehensive guide dedicated to teaching beginning soon to be bloggers how to get on their feet- no coding necessary!

This guide will get you started and show you some of the most common- and often costly- mistakes first time bloggers make and how to avoid them. 

A quick side note before we get started, What's the difference between a blog and a website? We are going to use the terms interchangeably in this article. But a blog is a type of website that focuses on content. I believe that all good websites should also be or have a blog.

Ready to start your website? Grab a coffee and let's get started!

1: Choosing a Blogging Platform 


Recommended Platform: WordPress

First time bloggers often jump in way too fast- costly mistake number one! Before you start worrying about your blog design get a few things straightened out. One of those “things” is your choice of blogging platform.

There are a lot of platforms to choose from, WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger just to name a few, so you don’t have to worry about variety.

Which one is right for you?

As of March of 2014, there are 76.5 million blogs on WordPress, making it the clear fan favorite among bloggers.

It is easy to customize thanks to their numerous free themes, designs, and add-ons. You can create a truly unique blog!

Creating a website on a free platform will lead to frustration and headaches

No advertising of your own: On many free platforms, you cannot advertise, making it harder for you to get any revenue from blogging.

Getting your own Domain Name and finding a Web Hosting Provider

To start your website, you are going to need a couple of things:

  1. Domain name: This is how people will find your blog. For example, Google’s domain name is www.Google.com. Yours will be www.YourBlogsName.com. Once you have your domain name, the name is off the market and no one else can use the name without tweaking it a little. This only costs around $10 per year.
  2. Web hosting: This is the virtual home of your website and its content. Without this vital piece, your domain name will be useless. Web hosting is like a computer's file system that provides storage for all of your blog's content. The price for this "home" - between $24 and $60 annually - is less than a venti sized Starbucks coffee per month and is a vital component to your blogging success.

Selecting a domain name and hosting

Really only a couple of things matter with hosting:

  1. Page loading speed: The average number of seconds that it takes your pages to load for your readers.
  2. Uptime: The amount of time your blog is available to readers. The claim of 99.9% is not enough (For you number crunchers, that’s 42 minutes that your blog is unreachable per month). Those 42 minutes that people can’t access your blog can cost you readers and even revenue.

Before you jump right into it, there are many web hosting providers and they are all going to give you a similar service and price, so don’t get overwhelmed. There are famous web hosting companies like Godaddy, but we recommend HostGator after having experience with many other companies.

So…Why HostGator?

HostGator is top notch when it comes to blog load speed and uptime.

HostGator is on the money with their services, user friendly, and one of the absolute best for beginners.

Don’t get us wrong, you can always use a different hosting company. However, make sure that it is fast, dependable, and gives you unlimited storage and bandwidth. This will stop you from running into issues down the road.

2: Setting up the Blog


Note: If you don’t want to use HostGator, you can use a different hosting company. There is no promise that they will be as good as HostGator, but the sign up and set up processes should be somewhat similar. Please be aware that some companies don’t have one-click install for WordPress- if you need to manually install WordPress, you can follow this guide to do so, though this is not suggested for blogger beginners.

Getting started…

1. Visit Hostgator.com and click the "Get Started Now" button.

2. Choosing a Domain Name

Have a domain name in mind?

Click on "Domains" at the top left of the menu then search for your preferred domain.

Selecting a domain name: What do I do?

Another costly mistake among first time bloggers is choosing a bad domain.

You need a domain name that is:

1. Remembered easily – Nothing that is nonsense, difficult to spell, misspelled, or full of dashes. Something like “www.best-techy-supplies-in-the-universe.com” won’t be remember after a few seconds of looking at it and quite frankly, it could annoy some people to the point where they just click the back button upon seeing it. Something like “www.techgeek.com”, on the other hand, looks cleaner and is easier to remember.

2. Descriptive - Pick a name that lets people know who you are or what you site is about. 

3. Trustworthy – Avoid strange domain extensions like “.rocks” or “.biz”, are not often used, more forgettable, and not as trusted as “.org”, “.net”, or “.com”.

Type the domain name you want in the box, then hit “next”. If your name has not yet been claimed by someone else then you’ll be able to get it.

If the name you want is not an option, you can try another name or HostGator will give you a few choices similar to the name you wanted. It might be tempting to simply add a different extension to the name you wanted (i.e. adding “.biz” to the end instead of “.com”) but remember the trustworthy discussion above and make sure you chose the right extensions.

3. Choosing your hosting plan

For beginners the “Hatchling” plan is recommended initially. Of course, you can upgrade later if you need more features, but the Hatchling plan will give you plenty of features to play around with for now.

4. Completing Registration

When you’ve completed the steps above, you will need to complete it by typing in contact and billing information.

You will also have an opportunity to add extra services to your package.

Suggestions:

1) Domain Privacy Protection (DPP) will hide your information (address, phone number, etc.) from the “whois database”; a database that anyone can access. Highly recommended.

2) Uncheck the additional boxes: These are not really worth it. You can get them later if you decide that you want them.

5. Sign in and install WordPress blog

HostGator can take a few minutes to register your account but you should get an email shortly confirming when everything is ready to go!

Click the option “Install WordPress”

6. Log-in and look around your Website

When the install is complete, you will receive an email that has your login information which includes an “Admin URL”.

To log in to your blog, click this URL. If you ever lose this email or forget it, the URL is simply “www.yourblog.com/wp-admin”.

Congrats, you now have your blog! Remember, this guide can help you if at any time you want to create another blog – with just a little guidance it’s easy, isn’t it? You can stop here or read further for more on how to maneuver around, design and tweak your blog.

3: Configuring, Designing and Tweaking your blog


Here you’ll learn a few WordPress basics, including:

Altering the design of your blog

The WordPress Dashboard

The first time you sign in to WordPress, you are going to see a dashboard that looks similar to (or exactly the same) as this:

Here is an overview of important items for new bloggers to know:

“Plugins”: Click here if you need or want to install a new plugin. (Keep reading to learn more about “plugins” and how you can make them work for your blog).

Altering Your Design (Blog Themes and Layouts)

WordPress has design template called “themes” which you can use to change your website’s format and design. Ready for a new look? All you have to do is install a new theme to get a new look.

With over two-thousand free themes to pick from, you have plenty of variety. However, if you need more, there are premium templates at themeforest.net.

Finding and Installing a Theme

Hover over the “Appearance” button in the sidebar and hit the tab “Themes”.

It will take you to a screen with basic themes that have already been installed for you to choose from. If you do not see any that you like, you can search for themes by using the search bar at the top-right of the screen or click the button “Add New” beside the title “Themes” at the very top.

After hitting “Add New” a tab will appear and you can choose between “featured”, “popular” or “latest” themes. Alternatively, you can also use the search bar or choose another filter.

If you are getting overwhelmed by all the themes, filter through them using the “feature filter”. With the feature filter you can filter through themes based on color schemes, layouts and built-in features you would like your theme to have.

Once you have chosen what you want from your theme, click the button that says “Apply Filters” located at the top. You can also use the search bar and type in keywords to find the perfect theme for your needs.

After you have decided on the theme you would like, just click “install”.

Once it is installed all you have to do is click “Activate” when it goes to the next page:

Install a New Plugin

Make your blog more SEO-friendly

You can use the search bar to find any plugins by any keyword!

When you find a plugin you want click “Install Now” and then “Activate Plugin” on the next page.

It is important to keep your blog and its components up to date to keep everything working properly and maintain site security. Do not fret though, WordPress will normally let you know when you need to update anything.

Making your blog SEO-friendly

Search engines hate two things:

1. Irrelevant and cluttered URLs:

Wrong way: http://blog.com/2016/07/topic-a/author-Mia/how-to-start-a-blog.

Better way: http://blog.com/start-a-blog

One is packed with unrelated information while the other is simple and to the point.

To make sure your blog posts have clean URLs, hit “Settings” and then “Permalinks”. Use these settings:

2. Junky comments

Unfortunately, all too often, you will get people that will leave automated spam comments on your posts. They are often trying to steal readers from your blog and/or promoting their own services and products.

To prevent spam and junk comments, simply moderate all your comments. Go into “Settings” and then “Discussion” and mark the two things shown below:

Handling Your Information

There may be a time that you need to change your information, password, or even add a user so another person can access your website.

Managing users is simple, just hover over the tab “Users” on the sidebar.

Add New User

Hit “Add New” as shown in the image above, and you will see this page next:

“Authors”: Are able to publish and edit their posts.

4: Blog Posts / Pages


Got it all so far?

For this section, you will learn about:

  • Writing a post in WordPress

  • Adding images and links, as well as formatting text

  • Quick tips to help you write amazing content

Creating a Post

When you want to create a new post, hit “Posts” on the sidebar and click “Add New”.

You will see a screen similar to this next:

In the top bar, you type in your title of your blog post. Beneath that is a text box for you to write your post.

You can save or publish your draft by using the menu that is located on the top right of the page. You can also select a desired time for your posts to be published or post them so only authorized people can see them.

Once you hit “Publish” your blog posts are live! If you ever want to view your previously published posts, just go to the “All Posts” tab in the sidebar and they are in the “Posts” tab. You can also edit them from here any time you want.

Here are a few more tips to make your blog awesome:

Add an Image

A picture is worth a thousand words! When adding images, first make sure that your cursor is at the point that you want your image to be located. If your cursor is in the wrong place you have to move your picture manually, which can be a pain.

Once you have your cursor in the right place, hit the “Add Media” button which is located right below the title bar.

The button will direct you to a new page. From here, hit “Upload Files” and then “Select Files”.

Once you have found the picture you want to use, double click the image and it will upload automatically.

Once your picture or pictures are finished uploading, highlight the image you want to use and hit “Insert into post” to add the image into the post you are working on.

Add a Link

Linking your content to other websites is a powerful tool- it can help build relationships, cite references and share information.

To add a link into your post, hover over the top menu until you find the button that looks like a chain link.

There will be a page that pops up and you will have to enter the URL you are linking to.

URL is the link you are wanting to share. To avoid broken links, you will need to include “http://” and then the “www.”

Add Headers and Edit Text

Your blog’s appearance is important and making your blog easy on the eyes keeps readers coming back. Use headings and strategic bolding to make your content easy to scan through.

Headings

To add a heading, click on the menu on the bottom-left of the toolbar.

“Heading 1” is really only supposed to be used once within your page (normally at the top), and use the others for sections you want to stand out to readers, as this is better for the eyes and SEO. To do this the easy way, highlight your text you are wanting to make a heading and then follow the above steps

Edit Fonts

This is pretty simple for someone who knows the basics of Microsoft word but just in case:

  • “B” = bolding

  • “I” = italics

  • “U” = underlining your text

  • “A” = dropdown menu where you can the color you want your font to be

That covers the basics for editing pages and posts. Your blog is now well underway and you can shift your focus to promoting your new content!