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Manage Your Books the Easy Way

Don't keep your books in Excel (or actual books) when others can do it for you

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Manage Your Books the Easy Way

Don't feel as though the books on your business are a giant, unapproachable, confusing task; instead, consider letting someone that's good at such things do it

Image: Patrimonio / Fotolia.com

Accounting, bookkeeping, and taxes are often some of the biggest bugaboos for small business owners. Often, those just starting online selling businesses feel overwhelmed at the prospect of keeping books and managing money at this level, fearing that they will either need an accounting degree or an expensive accountant to help them to stay on top of things.

While an accountant is never a bad idea (so long as the accountant is a good one), in fact many small selling businesses can get by using tools that are readily available and that go a considerable distance toward automating or at the very least greatly simplifying your accounting tasks as an eBay seller—and they are, for the most part, quite inexpensive as well!

Here are some of those that are the most popular with small eBay sellers.

Accounting and Bookkeeping

In the accounting and bookkeeping space, there are three online products that are really considered the standard go-tos for small eBay sellers that aren't interested in having to get and learn the ins and outs of more serious (and expensive) accounting suites and/or having to hire an actual accountant.

  • Outright Bookkeeping - http://outright.com
    Outright is probably the most popular and easiest to use of the eBay- and/or PayPal-integrated accounting platforms. The basic package is free to use-just register, answer a few questions, and Outright does the rest, integrating automatically with eBay, PayPal, and your bank accounts to track expenses, sales, profit, loss, your best suppliers, your best customers, needed tax forms (and the data to go on them) and other common small-business accounting needs. Premium accounts are inexpensive (a monthly bill in single digits) and add quarterly and annual reporting and automatic sales tax tracking and management. With a high level of automatic information gathering from your eBay, PayPal, and bank accounts and a lot of very clear and constantly updated charts and graphics, Outright has exploded in popularity since it was introduced. To make things really easy to manage, Outright is also available as an eBay app that can be automatically configured for you and subsequently accessed from your My eBay area.
     
  • Intuit Quickbooks Connect - http://workplace.intuit.com/quickbooksconnect
    Also available as an automatically configured eBay app, Intuit's Quickbooks Connect product is an online bookkeeping platform similar in nearly all ways to Outright, Quickbooks Connect begins with a 30-day trial period and costs $12.95 a month after that. The primary differences between these two for most users will be (1) in the face that they present to the user, with Outright feeling much more like polished a "Web 2.0" app and Quickbooks Connect feeling much more like a business-style application, and (2) in the tight integration between Quickbooks Connect and other Intuit applications like Quickbooks for PC (various versions) and Quickboosk online (most versions). If you're already using Quickbooks in other areas of your life or for an online selling business, Quickbooks Connect is the obvious choice for you to automate your eBay accounting.
     
  • Zoho Books - http://www.zoho.com/books/
    Zoho Books is also a popular choice amongst small online business owners. While it doesn't integrate as tightly with eBay as do Outright and Quickbooks Connect, it does integrate with PayPal, Google Checkout, and Authorize.net and includes features specifically targeted at project and employee management and the sharing of bookkeeping responsibilities between multiple individuals/login accounts (say, accountants and co-owners), with the ability to establish permissions to control who has access to what quantities and information.

There are a number of other online and offline accounting software packages that have been designed for and that appeal to small business owners, so if none of these is up your alley, take a look at competitors like Freshbooks, Kashoo, or other alternatives that can appear in Google searches for small business accounting platforms.

Tax Preparation

Of course some small sellers would just like some help with their eBay taxes without having to hire an expensive tax preparer or become an accountant themselves. While bookkeeping platforms like Outright have features to help you to complete your taxes, they aren't tax preparation platforms per se and still leave you a great deal of work to do on your own.

Happily, most of the popular electronic tax preparation platforms also either support small businesses and related tax preparation tasks (for sole proprietors) or have alternate versions (for corporations, partnerships, and other company organizational structures) that handle these tasks. Amongst these are:

  • Intuit TurboTax - http://turbotax.intuit.com/small-business-taxes
    Sole proprietors will find that the regular version of TurboTax is enough to get them taken care of, with businesses organized in other ways able to use the small business version of the product.
     
  • TaxAct - http://www.taxact.com/products/index_business.asp
    As was the case with TurboTax, the regular version contains everything that you need for sole proprietorships, while the business editions serve those with more complex company structures.
     
  • H&R Block - http://www.hrblock.com
    H&R Block offers versions of their tax software tailored specifically to small business sole proprietors and related paperwork, for those more comfortable using a preparer that has a much stronger "real" (i.e. not just online) presence in the tax preparation world.

Make It Easy on Yourself

Whichever accounting platform or tax preparation platform you use as a small business, the point is to realize that you probably don't have to do it "the hard way," selling on eBay by day and frantically trying to learn accounting and manage your books by night. In fact, if you're doing all the work by yourself and/or by hand, you may be unnecessarily losing valuable time that could otherwise be spent in growing your business.

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