Editor's note: This article was excerpted from 202 Services You Can Sell for Big Profits .
Getting paid and money management can be tricky business because, in addition to customers, cash flow and managing your accounts properly is what keeps your business humming along. Consequently, getting paid in full and on time, as well as understanding money management, has to become a priority, even if you elect to hire an accountant or bookkeeper to manage the books. You will still need to familiarize yourself with basic bookkeeping and money management principles and activities such as understanding credit, reading bank statements and tax forms, and making sense of accounts receivable and payable. You also have to give careful consideration to the purchase payment options you offer customers, including cash, checks, debit cards, credit cards and online payment options, as well as establishing payment terms and debt collection in the event of nonpayment.
Opening a Bank Account
Once you've chosen a name and registered your business, you will need to open a commercial bank account. Setting up a business bank account is easy. Start by selecting the bank you want to work with--think small-business-friendly--and call to arrange an appointment to open an account. There's not much more required than that. However, when you go, make sure you take personal identification as well as your business name registration papers and business license, because these are usually required to open a commercial bank account. The next step will be to deposit funds into your new account (even $100 is okay). If your credit is sound, also ask the bank to attach a line of credit to your account, which can prove very useful when making purchases for the business or during slow sales periods to cover overhead until business increases. Also be sure to ask about a credit card merchant account, debit account, and other small business services.
When it comes time to set up your financial books, you have two options--do it yourself or hire an accountant or bookkeeper. You might want to do both by keeping your own books and hiring an accountant to prepare year-end financial statements and tax forms. If you opt to keep your own books, make sure you invest in accounting software such as Quickbooks or Quicken because they're easy to use and makes bookkeeping almost enjoyable. Most accounting software programs allow you to create invoices, track bank account balances and merchant account information, and keep track of accounts payable and receivable.
If you're unsure about your bookkeeping abilities even with the aid of accounting software, you may wish to hire a bookkeeper to do your books on a monthly basis and a chartered accountant to audit the books quarterly and prepare year-end business statements and tax returns. To find an accountant or bookkeeper in your area, you can contact the U.S. Association of Chartered Accountants or the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers . In Canada, you can contact the Chartered Accountants of Canada or the Canadian Bookkeepers Association .
If you're only washing windows on weekends to earn a few extra bucks, there's little need for accounting software or accountant services. Simply invest in a basic ledger and record all business costs and sales. Since you are doing it on your own, be sure to use a commonsense approach when calculating how much to invest in your business vs. expected revenues and profits. Also remember to keep all business and tax records in a dry and secure place for up to seven years. This is the maximum amount of time the IRS and Revenue Canada can request past business revenue and expense information.