3 Things I Do To Keep Track of Income and Expenses
Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this post. This means if you click a link and make a purchase, I make a small commission. This supports my work and my caffeine addiction.
Second disclosure: I am not a financial or legal professional and am not qualified to explain legal, financial, or tax requirements in any country.
Making money from the content you create online — your sex blog, your erotic books, your pitched ideas, your videos, your WHATEVER — means that you operate a business. You might not have an official business license or LLC set up (something I recommend when you have the resources), but you are a business.
Getting someone to agree to pay you is just the first step in the process of being a business. To keep yourself organized and make sure you continue to make money, you need to get your finances in order. Like I said, I’m no tax, financial, or legal professional. I’m constantly learning how to do things better. But there are a few things I’ve done over the years that helped me make more money, pay my taxes, and know exactly how much I’ve earned in any given moment.
Create an Invoice System
If any part of your smutlancing involves sending an invoice to get paid, you need a system for it. Yes, you can send over your PayPal address and get paid, but some companies will want an invoice for their records. When you send one, you look more professional. Invoices also make it easier to follow up when someone doesn’t pay on time because it’s a record of what you’re owed.
Free: Use an invoice template in Word or Google Doc. You can google to find one, but Word offers pre-made templates, too. The downside is that there’s no payment link included — unless you add it yourself. Also, you’ll need to keep up with invoice numbers and saving your invoices, so you can find them later.
Paid: I use PayPal just because it’s easier. The only fee I pay are PayPal fees. No, PayPal isn’t friendly to adult content, few payment processors are. But for digital services and goods (like writing), I haven’t had a problem yet.
You can also use subscription services like Freshbooks and even Quickbooks for this — but there will be a monthly fee. In the US, my banking fees count as a business expense, and I claim them on my taxes. But it also means I receive less money up front.
Note: In the invoice itself, I use my author name or my business name instead of my legal name.
Keep Separate Bank Accounts
Long before I set myself up as a business (both with an LLC and an S-Corp), I still had multiple bank accounts. One was for personal expenses (my joint account with my husband, John Brownstone). The other was for business income and expenses. I sent all my earnings to one account and transferred money as I needed it to the personal account.
If you set yourself up as a business (in the US), you can usually get yourself a business bank account. I say usually because sex workers and other adult creators have been turned away by banks in the past. John Brownstone and I were fortunate. Our business name sounds innocuous. And when the bank asked what we do, it was easy to say, “I’m a writer” and for JB to say, “I’m a woodworker” without revealing the nature of what we actually create (sexy, kinky things!).
But even if you aren’t ready for a business account, keeping your money separate is a very good idea.
- Keeps your business expenses (website hosting, online tools, etc) separate from personal
- Makes it easier to keep up with business income
- Lets you hold money back for taxes and other business expenses without it getting tangled up in personal expenses
Separate Paypal Accounts
For those who work with adult and non-adult clients — under a pseudonym and your legal name — having multiple PayPal accounts is possible. Technically now that I have a business name and bank account, I could transition to one PayPal for everyone, but I’m still paranoid about crossing the streams so I maintain two.
I use one for my vanilla work under my legal name. This works because I have a separate email address for those clients, too. I use the other as “Kayla Lords” and all the money I earn or spend under this name goes through that PayPal account.
Again, use PayPal with caution. They have shut down accounts and kept money because of “suspicious” activity (sex work, adult products, etc.). Also, when you use a personal PayPal account, payors can see your legal name.
Use a Bookkeeping System
Some people are great with Excel spreadsheets and keeping up with numbers manually. They love data entry. I am not one of those people. Before I hired a tax accountant/bookkeeper (she can do both), I used Quickbooks Self-Employed regularly.
I connected it to my bank accounts and reconciled expenses and income once a month — differentiating between personal and business. It was extremely easy to do and intuitive to use. I could also pay my quarterly taxes through the platform by connecting with the IRS using my social security number.
While Quickbooks is the platform I prefer, it’s not the only one around. Whichever one you try, make sure it’s something you can easily use on the go and that makes it easy to designate what’s business income and expenses versus personal income and expenses. In the US, this determines how much your estimated taxes will be each quarter so you want it to be as accurate as possible.
If you desperately need a free option, spreadsheets will be your best option. (You can probably search for a template or find a template in Microsoft Excel or Google sheets.) But this is one time that a few dollars a month is a good investment to make. The last thing that you want to confuse yourself on or screw up a number or two and not know your income or expenses for the month, quarter, or year.
What financial tools do you use for your smutlancing income? How do handle invoicing and keeping track of expenses? Are there are other types of tools you’d recommend? Share in the comments below!