Break out the Champagne! Tax season is officially over. After spending countless hours helping millions of small business owners file on time, accountants are finally taking a well-deserved break.
But not so fast. The days and weeks following your busiest time of the year are the best time to evaluate how to do your job even more effectively and efficiently come next year’s tax season. What worked—and what didn’t—will never be fresher in your mind than it is right now.
I’ve put together a list of five cloud-based tools that I find invaluable as both a small business owner and an accounting specialist. Each of them can help you better plan, organize, and manage your accounting business. And you don’t have to wait until next year to start using them!
Freedcamp is a free project management app that lets you organize projects by client and track progress using milestones. It also allows you to easily track time spent on individual tasks, an especially useful tool for invoicing during tax time when jumping across multiple clients and projects becomes much more frequent. Freedcamp features project templates that include a to-do list, calendar, discussions platform, and file uploader, as well as a customizable dashboard for an at-a-glance view. Freedcamp also offers task-specific apps, such as an invoice creator or a wiki, each for a monthly fee.
Few things are as challenging at tax time than gathering together into one place a client’s receipts from the previous year. Using the free Evernote app on your phone, you can take pictures of paper receipts, bills—even handwritten notes—and instantly store them in your Evernote account, which is automatically synced across all your devices. Voice memos and clippings of articles, travel itineraries, or anything else you find online can be stored as well. Organize them all into client- or project-specific notebooks complete with to-do lists and reminders. For additional storage and features, Evernote also offers Plus and Premium accounts.
Very little collaboration amongst accounts is done face-to-face anymore—especially during tax season, when every minute counts. Slack is an enterprise messaging service that lets you create channels based on projects, subjects, or teams where you can hold conversations, make announcements, and share files—all of which is searchable. You can also send direct messages, eliminating the need for separate emails (and earning it the moniker of “email killer” in some circles). Channels can be public (open to anyone in the company) or private (invite-only). You can participate in conversations from any device, and if you’re offline, Slack can send you notifications when items are posted that need your attention. Search and support capabilities increase with paid subscriptions.
The number of things that need to get done during tax season can quickly become overwhelming. Wunderlist is a free task management app that allows you to organize your to-do items into categorized lists that you can share with your clients or team members, keeping everyone up-to-date in real time. You can also attach files, assign related tasks, and set due dates and reminders. Wunderlist automatically syncs across all your devices so your to-dos are always at your fingertips. The paid Pro version allows you to add an unlimited number of files, assignments, and subtasks. Wunderlist for Business, also paid, includes all Pro features plus those for centralized billing and team management.
Ever find yourself out of the office and realize you forgot an important document you need to get a project done? Now, that’s a thing of the past. Dropbox allows you to take your files anywhere and access them from any device, even your phone. Your documents, photos and decks are available even when you’re not online, so you’re truly able to work from anywhere. Plus, when working with colleagues on projects, you don’t ever have to worry about version control, since you can collaborate efficiently together. Pricing tiers with the amount of storage space you need. For individuals there’s a free or subscription-based Pro plan and for teams, pricing starts at $15 per user per month.
Cherry pick to find a solution for you
Not every tool will be right for everyone. That’s okay. It’s all about finding the solutions that works for you in order to streamline workflow, make business processes more efficient, and, at the end of the day, make the coming year and the 2017 tax season just a little bit easier.
Amy Vetter, Global Vice President, Education & Head of Accounting, U.S. at Xero