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All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to Microsoft Excel.

Are Word and Excel Really That Great for an Independent Contractor’s Accounting?

At its core, Microsoft Office offers a suite of tools that nearly everybody uses, regardless of their profession, with Word and Excel being the most popular. Over the years we’ve provided extensive tips on formatting your resume in Microsoft Word and shared several posts with tips to use Excel to its maximum potential.

Throughout our many posts, we have suggested a time or two that IT contractors could use Microsoft Excel for accounting; however, that suggestion always comes with a caution that as powerful as it is, Excel doesn’t easily cover all of your accounting needs. In a recent blog post, Freshbooks also cautions against using Word and Excel to manage your books, even if it’s something that’s always worked for you. While we admit, Freshbooks is a biased source given its product is accounting software, they do make valid points to consider:

You’re Probably Making Mistakes in Word and Excel

Because these Microsoft tools are not created specifically for accounting, Freshbooks argues that it is easier to make mistakes that cost you time and money. For example, fixing small formatting issues in Excel is quick, but frequently making those fixes will quickly take more and more time. Or, maybe you accidentally save over (or forget to save) IT project estimates you create in Word. Then you may have to unprofessionally ask your recruiter or client to send it back to you a month later.

Tracking Cashflow Is Not as Easy

The example Freshbooks provides in their argument is that their product allows for online payment so you can get paid faster, even in a mail stoppage. But a great accounting program will help your cashflow beyond that example in ways that Excel and Word will not do as easily. If you juggle multiple clients and staffing agencies, accounting programs can track their payment status and trends to know who is better at paying. In addition, they will notify you who has yet to pay, automatically send reminders and notify you when it’s time to follow up. If you’re a pro with MS Office, you can probably set these features up on your own, but they will not run quite as smoothly.

Tax Time is Not as Easy

All independent contractors are well aware of the importance of filing your taxes properly. While your fantastic accountant takes care of everything at tax time, they will be thrilled to learn you moved away from Microsoft Office and onto an accounting software. These programs track your expenses and help manage all documentation that come with them. They can also automatically generate reports and calculations based on your tax requirements. The easier you can make tax time on your accountant, the less time it will take them to do your books, and the less they will have to charge you.

The software you choose to use to manage your IT contracting business is a decision to be made based on consultation with your accountant, in combination with your own knowledge of accounting. While this post was inspired by a Freshbooks article, there are many other options and we encourage you to explore them all. One thing is certain, though. If you choose to use programs such as Word or Excel, you will have more inconveniences and mistakes.

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?

There’s More to Excel Than Charts!

How Independent Contractors Can Leverage Microsoft Excel to Impress Their Clients

Seriously, knowing your way around Excel is the easiest way to convince people in an office that you’re a wizard.” That’s one of the most recent comments underneath this infographic when we found it on imgur.com. And it’s true. So many people only use Excel to organize a table, add a border, shade it in and, if they’re really good, create a pie chart. But there’s so much more you can do!

STL created the infographic saying it includes great tricks to impress your boss, and we’d go one step further to say they’d impress a recruiter or client and enhance your productivity. It also complements one of their other infographics we shared last year with some Excel tricks for office workers. If you work with Excel and want to enhance your skills, you should review this infographic. If you don’t work with Excel because you don’t think it could help your job, you need to see this infographic. You may be surprised by what it can do!

There's More to Excel Than Charts!

Essential Excel Tricks for Office Workers

Excel — Microsoft’s spreadsheet tool that although extremely powerful, most of us only use it to a fraction of its potential. For many, that’s because our daily lives simply have no use for some of the functions, but for others, it’s because we’re unaware of the tools and how to use them.

Did you know that you can do more than create a nice chart in Excel? If that sentence just blew your mind, check out this infographic from Best STL. Have any other favourite Excel tips to add? Please leave them in the comments below!

7 essential Excel tricks every office worker needs to know
7 essential Excel tricks every office worker needs to know by Excel Training

Free Accounting Tool for Independent Contractors

For many independent contractors, bookkeeping is that necessary task that nobody wants to do.  Having industry-leading accounting software is a great way to ease the pressure and manage your books but, it can come with high costs, especially for a new contractor.

This detailed video from Contractor 911 provides a simple way to manage your books using Microsoft Excel — a program most people already have set-up on their computer.  While this refers to contractors in the US it could easily be adapted for those in Canada too!  Check it out.  Can it work for you?