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How to Keep Track of Your Accounts as a Remote Blogger

This guest post is by Jane Meighan of www.RunawayJane.com.

One of the main benefits of being a blogger has always been that you could work from anywhere in the world—whether you are surrounded by the hustle and bustle of New York City, or sitting in a quiet, secluded beach hut somewhere in Thailand.

Provided you have good internet access and a computer, you can be based anywhere. It’s one of the key factors why so many of us become bloggers in the first place—to travel or be based anywhere, and earn a living at the same time.

Remote blogging

Image copyright Dudarev Mikhail - Fotolia.com

Through my experiences over the last two years of blogging remotely and traveling the world, I have encountered some problems along the way. I am sure many of you remote bloggers out there will have experienced some or all of these at some point too. Keeping track of your accounts, storing receipts, and converting multiple currencies from those receipts based on each day’s exchange rates are only some of many issues.

If you’re taking your blog seriously, and treating it as a business, then your accounts are something you need to be on top of. But when your “office” is basically anywhere with free wifi, how do you store, back-up, keep track of, and effectively sort out your affairs, so that when it’s time to fill in your tax return, everything’s in order?

Back up everything

Every receipt you get for anything, take a picture of it with your camera. Things like scanners are not always available on the road, or when you need them, but if you’re traveling, you’ll no doubt have a camera.

When you’re moving from one place to another, with no real filing system like you may have in an office, receipts can get lost or damaged to the point where you can’t read them any more. Having pictures of everything saves that problem. Also, if you can pull them all up on your computer screen, it just makes creating a spread sheet easier than having to sift through real paper documents to create your accounts.

Make sure you have copies of all important documents in at least three different locations, plus a hard copy kept somewhere at home if possible. Your computer will be 1 location, possibly a memory stick, or extra hard drive could be another twp. Alternatively, if it’s pictures you have taken of receipts then your memory card could act as another storage location.

Use programs to make it easier

Microsoft Excel, or open source, free programs such as Open Office provide fantastic spreadsheet services. If you want Excel in particular, but don’t want to pay for it, if you have a Windows Live email account, then you can use Excel on the Sky Drive there without having to bother with risky illegal downloads.

Another useful program is Xpenser, a free expense accounting program. You can update it via the Web, by voice, by text, by email, and by Twitter! Probably the most useful aspect of using Xpenser, however, is that you can attach a digital photo of the receipt to the updated expense.

Dealing with exchange rates

If you’re travellng to a variety of countries throughout the year as you are blogging, then like me, you will probably find that when it’s time to do your taxes, you have various receipts in various currencies which you then have to convert into whatever your home currency is.

The main problem with this is that currencies can change drastically over the course of a year. To be sure you have your accounts as accurate as possible, you have to find the local exchange rate on the day of purchase so you can convert it into your home currency and add it to your total expenses.

Most currency exchange sites will have an archives section that gives you exchange rates for at least the last 12 months, and sometimes a lot longer. Check the date of your receipt, and then enter it onto the site to find out the rate on that day.

I personally use the historical exchange rates on Oanda, but there is no reason why you couldn’t use another exchange rate website.

Alternatively, use a foreign currency card while traveling. When I’m in Europe I use a Euro card most of the time. I transfer all or part of my money for the trip onto the card, and it is all converted to Euros based on the exchange rate of that date.

Therefore, when you spend money, you only have to work with one exchange rate per currency, regardless of the date you spend it on, because it’s been converted into Euros before you use it rather than at the time of each transaction or withdrawal.

Stay on top of your blog finances

Filling your taxes, and doing your accounts can be a headache even for stationary bloggers situated in one place all the time. So when you are moving from country to country without a real office, it becomes even more important to keep everything in order, and have everything backed up.

The other important factor to keep in mind is to not let yourself get behind with things. Keeping track of your expenses should be as important as writing your next blog post. Schedule in time for it. If for nothing else, it lets you know if you are actually making a profit from your blogging activities, and if not, makes you stand up and look at how you can move forward.

Jane has been blogging since January 2010 from her flagship travel blog RunawayJane.com. She travels full-time using nothing but the earnings from her blogs. Such resulting travels have included learning Spanish in Spain for 3 months, and learning about the history of the former Yugoslavia in Serbia, to name just a few trips she has been on. None of this would have been possible had she had not set up her blog back in 2010.

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Comments

  1. I haven’t heard about xpenser. I will try this tool. Thanks

  2. Mike says:

    This is useful. The things that you mentioned are essential for anyone dealing with a business on their hands so it’s important to be able to have the records established for things like taxes.

  3. Good to know that through blogging alone, it helps you to discover the world and learn foreign language. It is definitely one of my dream.

    I wonder how did you get the idea on how to manage your blogging life and the finance part of it when you first started blogging? Did you learn through experience?

    • Jane Meighan says:

      Hi Helmi

      I did a little bit of research before I began blogging on business in general, just by using the local tax office website for my home country (UK). However, most of it was just discovered through personal experience. There really is no better way to learn! :)

      Thanks
      Jane

  4. Faizan Elahi says:

    Nice Advice, it is one of my goals to earn enough income from my blog that I can travel and visit different places.

  5. Drewry says:

    I just told someone the other day on Facebook about [the beauty of blogging], and how you can “virtually work from anywhere in the world by blogging”. The irony of working online :-)

  6. Jeff Bronson says:

    An indispensably great tool for managing accounts I use is Mint. I never keep receipts anymore, and this saves a lot of time. I can see my budget and transaction report whenever I like and it really puts things into perspective.

    For business expenses in more detail though, Quickbooks wins.

  7. in a nutshell, what i can say about your article is that you need to be planned and very rigid. Strictness should be there in whatever you do

  8. Great tips, Jane… you know I love Xpenser! :)

  9. Shabayek says:

    Regarding Xpenser, it started out as a free application then went premium. The other free alternatives suffer from lack of updates and authors losing interest and moving on to other rewarding activities… If Microsoft curbs its greedy heads, Office365 might prove to be a good alternative and one solution that fits all.

  10. Dave Rowley says:

    Thanks for the tips, I really like the idea of taking photos of your receipts. Super simple, but such great advice. Xpenser sounds like a wonderful tool, i’ll have to check that out!

  11. Ayodeji says:

    It’s great you are able to bring such a helpful info out from your blogging/traveling experience. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Helen says:

    Many people find dealing with exchange rates quite confusing and it can really confuse a business’ financial records if they’re not converted properly. One of the best and safest ways of ensuring this is done properly is to involve an accountant firm.

  13. Drewry says:

    blogging is nothing more than joy to the soul :-)

  14. Michael Kwan says:

    In regards to the currency (and your local laws may vary), but it may be possible simply to look up the official “average” exchange rate at the end of the year. This assumes that your income/expenses in the foreign currency are spread out throughout the year, but it makes it a lot easier than converting each and every transaction.