FAQ: a simple accountancy system using office software

“Where can I get some basic cheap accountancy software?”

A common question I see on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. My standard response is “if you need something basic, just use your office software”. I’ve found that most basic bookkeeping tasks can be done using Word & Excel (or your own preferred word processor and spreadsheet).

Due to the nature of my job I take on a small amount of private work outside of life at the university (writing, reviewing, speaking and consulting). I invoice for this work, do my own bookkeeping and then send everything off to my accountant who works out all the tax stuff for me.

I write up invoices in Word and log them in Excel alongside details of any business expenses; I use a few basic formulae to tot up what I earn, what I spend and what my tax liability might be; the system I have allows me to plan for my tax bill and keep track of a few dozen freelance gigs pretty easily.

When Karen Strunks recently asked this FAQ, I put together a version of my bookkeeping system for her. She offered some kind feedback and suggested I share it a little more widely. 

You can download the files (Word and Excel) from this Zip file.

Download this file

Alternatively I’ve made them available on googledocs for you to create your own copies: books spreadsheet | invoice template. If you’re an open office user and can convert them, please feel free to share a link below.

How to use:
Anything in yellow is for you to fill out, blue is a note to you to explain the documents. Simple.

A final word…

The system is simple but it works. You can of course sort your own tax and Companies House filing but for me simple means using an accountant. I’m with Pointon Young – I’ve known Steve from Pointon Young for about eight years. He’s reliable, decent, and saves me money, as such I’ve referred him to a lot of friends.

Thanks to Karen for encouraging me to share this, and Stuart Harrison for checking my googledocs for me (he wanted a bottle of scotch for his trouble, but I can only stretch to whuffie today).

By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jonhickman Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: http://interactivecultures.org