Using Kashflow for the accounts side of illustration

I’m an artist. That means I’m at the exact opposite of an accountant. I know it’s not that black and white, but you get the gist. I’m not brilliant with my accounts, doing them gives me the jitters, because I find it hard to maintain an interest long enough to get my head around all those figures. I rather to draw, but the accounts have to be done.

For a long time I developed a simple spreadsheet system, which my accountant approved of, and actually worked fine while I had relatively simple accounts. Since starting Playrama alongside my illustration business things have got a whole lot more complex with having far more clients, products to track and send out, and VAT on top. I thought it was time to find an accounts package that could handle all this in the background, and start to give me actual figures I could understand, so I could see at a glance where my new venture was headed.

After looking at several accounts programs I finally settled on Kashflow. Basically there are two options these days, traditional bought in a box software you pay for once, and in the cloud subscription services you shell out for every month. Beyond this I was looking for various features, but top of my list were ease of use, support and value for money… oh, and something that could handle rudimentary stock control… and was mostly UK based. There are plenty to choose from, Xero, which gooks gorgeous, Sage, Quickbooks, etc. Looking at the features however Kashflow stood out because it didn’t fall into accountancy jargon, and in use this was a real plus for the accounts allergic arty type.

After using Kashflow for a few months, what did I think? The most important thing was getting started and moving with it which was really quite pain free, as every button, drop down list, and option has a simple, well written description of what it does. This, in combination with the start-up guide got me moving quickly. The great thing is that at no point does the help material assume you know accounting, instead it is all written in a way that gently teaches you how the software and accounts works. On a couple of occasions I resorted to their email help desk, and the response was very fast and got me immediately back on track.

It was reassuring that the product is UK-centric. Many of the other products work across multiple countries and currencies, which is fine, but often US tax based idioms can confuse. You know the sort of thing, Zip codes instead of Postcodes. IRS instead of HMRC. One of the delicious features of Kashflow is if you are VAT registered the software tracks your VAT liability and at the click of a couple of buttons submits your VAT return. Hallelujah!

My Playrama venture means managing a number of different products being sent out to multiple customers. It could have quickly become a nightmare in the hands of a disorganised klutz, such as myself. Kashflow allowed me to set up each product in a category,  so when I get a mixed order I select items from a drop down list, and neatly get listed on the invoice. If I do an illustration as a service I just add it in the same way. I can print out or email the invoices, which look very professional, knowing that the software is tracking all this, adding it all up and putting figures in the right places.

Marketing, which I’m useless at, but trying to catch up desperately, is a great little side feature of Kashflow. You can use it to see where leads on new clients come from, track who are the most valuable, and send out data directly into Mailchimp. (Mailchimp, if you don’t know is an excellent email list marketing service). I also have the pair hooked up to a CRM, customer relationship manager, called Capsule. With all three running together I have a completely integrated business solution. (Apologies, that sounds so cheesy!)

Do you need it? I think yes, particularly if you have a lot of separate clients and single assignments to track, such as editorial work. And or you have a significant sideline in selling products direct, such as prints, postcards, etc. By the way, you can integrate it directly with Paypal so that sales on Ebay and suchlike are automatically recorded. Yum! You probably don’t need it if you illustrate large book projects for the same one or two clients and are not VAT registered because your accounts will be that much simpler.

What’s not so good about it? I think the visual design in a bit utilitarian compared to offerings like Xero. I also think there could be more fancy pie charts and graphs that just look cool, so instead of running a one man outfit drawing pictures I could pretend I was at the helm of some global mega-corporation. Cost. Well, the free option, spreadsheets, is fine, but more fiddly to work and prone to user errors creeping into the maths. The boxed one-off software options are not really one-off as they have you upgrading every year or so at extra cost. I did a quick calculation and Kashflow was pretty much even-Stephens in expense. One excellent point with cloud based software over boxed, is that you have access anywhere you can get to an internet connection.

On the whole I like it, and with the excellent help and manuals, I’m understanding more about my accounts and how they should be presented all the time.

If you think Kashflow could work for you here’s a coupon code that gives you a £1 off the cost of Kashflow subs per month. PLAYRAMA


The Autumn illustration campaign

Leo Hartas for illustration

I’ve just started my Autumn illustration publicity drive and this is the postcard I’ll be sending out to around 50 art directors and buyers at various children’s publishing houses. It’s just a start though, next week I’ll broaden it to cover advertising and corporates, and then the world! Ok, don’t get carried away! If this all goes well you will find me drawing a lot this winter.