Virtual Accountant: How Cloud Accounting Software works for us.

I get quite a few tweets from time to time about the business side of doing sound for a living. Questions range from “what should I charge” to other considerations regarding promoting your business and so on. So I’ve decided to blog about it occasionally under the category of The business of doing sound. About 50% of my working week is spent running the business side of the company - that means everything from chasing up outstanding invoices, to making sure our own creditors are getting paid, keeping the books etc etc - this is all boring stuff in comparison to mixing sound for bands and tuning PA systems, but it’s just as important to the business as making sure we deliver the goods on shows for our customers.

If you don’t have access to a reasonably updated set of accounts, it’s like doing a gig in the dark - you know what you are doing but there are bound to be some surprises! If you can’t tell at a glance what you owe, what you are owed and how much money you are going to owe the taxman next quarter, you’ll soon find yourself in trouble. Even if you are just a freelance sound engineer, you need to be sure that you are making a living and by keeping all your expense receipts and so on. Even before I started the company, I always used some kind of accounting software to keep VAT accounts and do the invoices - it’s amazing how diesel receipts used to mount up.

Three years ago, the company changed every computer over to Mac for various reasons. We kept on a few PC based laptops for interfacing with some audio hardware but everything else - email, quotations, productivity and time management went over to the Macs. First problem I encountered was accounting software. Up to the changeover, we had used a pretty good PC only based application. So for the first year, we ran it on the Mac via Parallels or Bootcamp. This wasn’t always satisfactory for a variety of reasons. We searched around for a decent Mac OSX accounting package, and though there are some good ones out there, none of them really suited our needs.

The main problem was that our accountant used PC and was unlikely to switch to Mac just because one of its relatively small clients decided to do so. So late last year I decided to try a “cloud computing” application, Virtual Accountant.

For those of unfamiliar with the term, cloud computing is “Web-based processing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand over the Internet” (via Wikipedia).

This meant that not only could we enter, process and store our accounting information online using our Mac browser, but that also our accountant could access the same information via their PC browsers. This in turn meant we (the company and our accountants) could actively collaborate on keeping the accounts up to date, without the regular face to face meetings and transfers of large amounts of paperwork that it used to entail. It also meant that I did not need to be at the office in order to access the accounts, that I could actually view that information on my iPhone if need be.

Virtual Accountant may not be for every company - in fact it’s aimed more at small enterprises rather than large corporations. However its developer, Mark, is always available to help with any and every query and twelve months down the line I’m pretty happy with how it works. If you’re a freelance engineer who needs to keep track of her accounts, there a free 3 month trial

I’m now actively looking at a particular cloud computing solution to our rental management software which hopefully will be implemented next year.