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6 Ways Independent Contractors Can Use Microsoft Excel (and some better alternatives)

6 Ways Independent Contractors Can Use Microsoft Excel (and some better alternatives)Microsoft Excel is an extremely powerful tool and we’ve shared a few posts about Excel to help open your mind to its potential. The reason we love this versatile program is because it’s readily available to everyone at no additional cost. Almost all new computer set-ups include the basic version of Microsoft Office, including its spreadsheet software, meaning there’s no need to pay for additional tools.

Here’s a look at some ways your IT contracting business can be managed with a simple spreadsheet. Of course, as we’ll note throughout the list, there are situations in your business when an extra investment is worth it.

  1. Planning and Budgeting. Creating templates with calculations to play out different scenarios makes decision-making a breeze. Taking it a step further, why not plan and manage your entire budget in Excel? Check out this infographic from Quid Corner for step-by-step tips in creating a customised budget.
  2. Accounting. From basic bookkeeping to complete accounting, it’s not uncommon for small businesses to manage their finances all through an Excel workbook. A quick Google Search will reveal countless templates that will suit your business and help you get set-up.
    Alternatively: Managing your books is a crucial function in your independent contracting business and we believe that investing in the right software is a smart move. As always, we strongly recommend consulting with your accountant on your best options.
  3. Calculate Time Across Multiple Clients. In the same way you should budget your finances, knowing how you spend your time is also important. When you work for a single client, you usually use their time entry tools, but when juggling multiple clients, it’s a good idea to keep what you’ve done for each in a single spot. This gives quick insight into where you spend most of your time in a given period.
  4. Managing Your Job Search. As this article from Glassdoor points out, when you’re actively searching for new work, you can find yourself bombarded with resumes, responses and interviews and remaining oraganized is crucial. The article features seven different tips for staying organized, including these tips for managing your job search through a spreadsheet.
  5. Managing Contacts. An extension to just managing your job search, you can use Excel to manage all of your contacts. When you return from a networking conference, enter all of the business cards you received. Every time you answer an email, add their information and notes into Excel. The more columns and information you include, the more helpful it will be to sort your database in the future.
    Alternatively: There are a number of other contact management tools available and many are free. For example, your email tool (Gmail or Outlook) also includes a contact management tool.
  6. Project Management. Some Project Managers may be cringing at this thought, but in a number of cases, Microsoft Excel is helpful in managing complete projects. From creating Gantt charts to status reports to issue tracking, there are project management templates for Excel across the internet.
    Alternatively: Excel has its Project Management limits; for example, it’s difficult to collaborate and managing multiple projects can be a hassle. There are elaborate project management tools available and always worth investigating.

What absolutely did not make the list? Password management. Regardless of your ability to password protect your spreadsheet, managing passwords this way is no longer considered an option by security experts. Given a hack can destroy your finances and identity, we strongly recommend investing in a password management tool.

Microsoft Excel has been around for years and people have used it creatively to take on many tasks. Microsoft even provides templates to get you started. How are you using spreadsheets to manage your business?

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