How to do Business Accounting with Third-Grade Math

Manage your freelance or small business accounting using spreadsheets and the basic math you learned in third-grade (in between recess and lunch). You don’t need a monthly subscription to an accounting software company.

You got this. 💪

This is all you need to know to run your own accounting:

  1. Addition
  2. Subtraction
  3. Hide-n-seek
  4. For big questions, ask the teacher

And here is the other good news. A spreadsheet takes the place of a calculator. There’s no need to stress over mental math.

1: Start with simple addition to balance your books

I’ve been running a side hustle, doing web development and video production, for more than 10 years. I was surprised to learn that most small business accounting is just basic addition.

You just add things up:

  • How much money did you make?
  • What did you spend on expenses?
  • How many hours did you spend?
  • How much will it take to do this project?

2: Use basic subtraction to find your net income

After that, you just have to do a little bit of subtraction:

  • How much money did you make, minus
  • How much money did you spend on expenses
Sample of small business accounting spreadsheet for a photographer

3: Hide-n-seek

Then, you need to put the answers to those simple addition and subtraction problems in the right places. I know this isn’t a math skill per se. But roll with me. It is a way to describe a basic accounting skill. When tax time comes, you are playing hide-n-seek. The government is seeking a bunch of numbers, and you have them hiding somewhere. Just find them, and hand them over.

Free or 💰Not free and 💰💰💰
You can use a simple spreadsheet/s to organize the hide-n-seek.Or you can use an app or a SaaS (software as a service) to organize the hide-n-seek.

Those apps and SaaSs cost you money. Every month they cost you money! What if you are just getting started and money is tight? Or what if you are like me, and you sometimes only do side projects a few months of the year? Monthly subscription costs should be avoided when possible.

That’s why I made HustleBooks. We sell spreadsheet-apps. The best of spreadsheets, apps, and SaaSs all rolled into one. I’ve been using them for more than 10 years and saved thousands of dollars. We will talk more about that in a minute. Spoiler alert: we have a free solution.

4: Ask the teacher

Finally, the last third grade math skill you need is asking the teacher for help. Admittedly, it can be hard to prepare your tax paperwork when you run a small business or side hustle. Forgive me, this part of the metaphor falls short….

By ‘teacher’ I mean that you need the help of an expert. A tax accountant or tax preparation software.

I suggest tax preparation software. And I’ve used both, so I have a pretty good idea.

I used to go to a tax accountant each year. I did this three years in a row. Each year I applied what I learned doing the tax return with him to make sick spreadsheets to better keep track of my finances for the next year. These would later become HuslteBooks!

Each year I would get my taxes done with this account faster and easier than the year before. I was on fire, seriously. But he charged me more money each year. Um. No.

So I put a stop to that. My spreadsheets had become spreadsheet-apps. They were small business accounting software in their own right. I took my sheets and did my taxes myself, with the essential help of tax preparation software. It was easier to work on it for a half-hour over three nights, than setting up an appointment and sitting with an impatient accountant for several hours.

I used H&R Block for one year, it was OK. The next year I used TurboTax Self-Employed. TurboTax is the winner. You do all the tax return work right on their website. It’s fast, intuitive, and thorough. I’ve used them ever since. I recommend using TurboTax Self-Employed (and I’m not an affiliate or influencer).

You’ll almost certainly need help with taxes. So just ask “your teacher” for help.

Bonus tip: use a Trapper Keeper

HustleBooks spreadsheet-apps are like those sick Trapper Keepers. When I was a kid, each August my mom would take us back-to-school shopping. My measure of success was whether I walked out of there with a Trapper Keeper. They are really just glorified 3-ring binders, but man, you felt cool at school if you had one! They actually kinda made you excited about going back to school.

a Trapper Keeper and the Hustlebooks logo with an equal sign in between them.

Cool TrapperKeepers = Spreadsheet-apps

You’ll be the cool kid in class when you use our spreadsheet-apps. Similar to a Trapper Keeper, one could say HustleBooks are glorified spreadsheets. But once you try one out, you’ll realize they are simple, small business accounting apps. With some advantages!

You can get started with our free-forever HustleBooks Starter. It keeps track of all your projects and income. For some smaller businesses and side hustles it’s all you’ll ever need.

Screenshot of the HustleBooks Starter with example numbers
HustleBooks Starter (it’s free!)

Make things even easier for yourself and grab the purchase-once HustleBooks Pro. It keeps track of projects, income, expenses, and mileage. It also has a quick dashboard to stay on top of the health of your little enterprise with just one glance.

The advantages of spreadsheet-apps

1️⃣ There is one big thing you get to skip with HustleBooks…monthly subscription costs.

Who needs those?!

A HustleBooks spread-sheet app automates all that addition and subtraction. Then it organizes all that hide-n-seek. Automatically showing you where your your small business accounting stands. Last, it makes going to the teacher (tax preparer) for help easier and faster. They’ll be impressed, and you’ll get an A+ with little effort.

Our spreadsheet-apps get all your numbers perfectly organized so your accountant, or better yet tax preparation software, can wrap it all up in a nice package and send it off to the government. We can save you a lot of time.

You pay for your Hustlebooks spreadsheet-apps once and use them forever at no additional cost.

2️⃣ You can invite unlimited collaborators.

Many apps and SaaSs charge per user, as if the monthly bill by itself isn’t bad enough already. With HustleBooks you can invite multiple users. If you do have a tax accountant, invite him to read-only or edit your spreadsheet directly. Or invite any number of friends or business partners to all or part of your spreadsheet-app.

3️⃣ Customize our sheets any way you want.

Do your finances your way, not their way. Each year as you grow, and find new ways to save time, you can tweak your sheet. You don’t have to beg your SaaS for a feature request and wait years…or worse hear that you don’t matter enough for them to add the feature. You are strong and you can do this stuff yourself.

Get out there and start that side hustle. Go grow your business. Don’t be afraid of managing your small business accounting. You can figure all that out yourself. 💪 You learned what you need in elementary school. We can help if you want.

👉🏾 Grab a HustleBooks Starter for free

📈 Get HustleBooks Pro (purchase once for $49, use and customize forever)

📧 Need a custom spreadsheet-app created or customized? Contact us to discuss!

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