why is accounting so hard

Why is accounting so hard? Hint: it’s actually not.

Before saying anything else, you have to know that I suck at math. Not only did I never make it past high school algebra (which I got a C- in), I went to art school. Now, at 46 years old, I struggle with doing basic calculations in my head. If you were to ask me what 8×9 is, my natural reaction would be to reach for my phone and ask Siri. However, I absolutely love calculating the numbers for my online businesses. So I’ve just got to ask: Why is accounting so hard for most people?

I have a few theories:

  • Dealing with numbers can be boring
  • It sounds complicated
  • They just haven’t found the right tools to help

I’m going to dive into each one of these items individually below. However, before doing so, can I just say something?

Accounting is not all that difficult actually. I run a multitude of different blogs and YouTube channels, each producing their own income streams. That probably sounds like an accounting nightmare, but with tools such as QuickBooks Self Employed and FreshBooks, it’s just not.

If you want to save yourself a ton of time and hassle, do be sure to check out the article that I recently wrote which compared FreshBooks vs QuickBooks. I will even go as far as to say that that’s a better article to read than this one if you’re struggling with accounting and you’re desperately looking for an easy solution.

Anyway, on with my theories…

Please note: some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means that I will get paid a commission if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of them.

Theory #1: Dealing with numbers can be boring

I totally understand this one. I have friends that do quantum computing for a living, and I can literally feel a migraine coming on whenever they tell me what they’re working on. I know (and care) so little about math that I don’t even know how to explain what it is that they’re doing. All I see is scribbling on a whiteboard using symbols and letters that looks like they’re part of a different language.

That kind of math is completely boring for me. I’d die an early death if I had to deal with that kind of stuff all the time, but I give major props to anyone who enjoys it. You’re most certainly in a minority, but you just continue being you.

accounting difficulty

The only part that I don’t understand about the theory of accounting being boring is the fact that I’ve come to the realization that numbers are not boring when it comes to my online businesses. With tools such as QuickBooks and FreshBooks, my numbers are presented to me in an organized and beautiful manner whenever I login to either platform.

Not only that, all of the numbers are up-to-date and I don’t have to do a darn thing. Again, I just have to ask: with all the amazing tools out there, why is accounting so darn hard for most people? This isn’t the 1980s anymore, and there are some really great resources out there to help.

Theory #2: Accounting sounds complicated

If you’re looking to have a little extra fun at your next big party, try doing this: for every person you meet, tell them that you’re spending all your free time learning about accounting and you’re enjoying it so much that you’re doing for others. For free.

Not only will you grow your client list to a point where it’s irresponsibly out of control, you’ll see a lot of blank stares and fake smiles when you try to explain to them how sexy accounting is.

There’s a reason why most businesses hire accountants. They want somebody focused 100% on crunching the numbers so they don’t have to. But you know what? I am here to tell you that if you’re a small business and you have a full-time accountant, they are sitting around twiddling their thumbs most of the time.

Modern accounting software packages are so good these days that there’s very little need to do anything manually anymore. All it takes is the time to set things up things (like connecting bank accounts and creating categories for income and expenses), and from that point forward things basically run by themselves. That’s the way that it works in both FreshBooks and QuickBooks (among other similar accounting software packages).

Theory #3: They just haven’t found the right tools to help

My main theory as to why accounting is so hard for most people is that they simply haven’t found the right tools to help. I know for a fact that I would absolutely loathe doing my business accounting if this was the 1980s and not the 2000s. There are so many great tools out there to help me track income and expenses, most of which that can do the work for me so I don’t even have to whip out a calculator.

When it comes to accounting (business or personal), there are four main tasks:

  1. Income and expense recording
  2. Profit and loss calculations
  3. Monitoring savings and investments
  4. Managing income and expenses for tax purposes

If we were all forced to do this kind of stuff by hand just like we did in the 1980s, I would totally understand why accounting is so hard. However, going back to my FreshBooks and QuickBooks example, these programs (among others) can do all of these calculations and categorizations for you.

Read the pros and cons of QuickBooks. Take a few minutes and pour over the income and expense reporting features of FreshBooks. I’m fairly convinced that you won’t be thinking so negatively about accounting once you understand what these tools can do for you and your business.

 FreshBooksQuickBooks
Income and Expense Reportingyesyes
Invoicingyesyes
Automatic Quarterly Tax Calculationsyesyes
Client and Project List Managementyesno
Time Trackingyesno
Pricing$13/$22/$45/mo$10/mo
Try FreshBooks
Try QuickBooks

Hiring an accountant vs using accounting software

I’m willing to bet that the way you found this article was by typing “why is accounting so hard” (or some thing similar) into Google. It’s OK. Don’t be ashamed of that. It really is hard!

However, you’ve probably got the sense by now that I’m trying to push the idea on you that accounting software is really good these days. It makes accounting a lot easier, and it’s what I recommend for most people. However, I do understand that everybody’s financial situation is different, and there are times when it’s necessary to bring in some outside help.

For example, I use both FreshBooks and QuickBooks to keep an eye on my business and personal expenses. However, I also hire a professional accountant every spring to file my taxes for me. I could probably do it myself, but these are the reasons why I spend $900 every year for the service:

  • I have an LLC which muddies my tax situation slightly
  • I’ve been audited in the past (after doing my own taxes), and I never want to go through that again
  • I suck at math, and the federal government does not. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

The fact that I’m paying $900 every year for my accountant to take all the data from QuickBooks and FreshBooks is questionable to say the least. He literally takes the data from that and plugs it into his own tax software. A week later, he sends me a bill for $900. Is it worth it? Most likely not, but the peace of mind I get for knowing that my chances of being audited will be minimal makes it a little more digestible.

Pros and cons of using an accountant versus software

There are certainly advantages to using software to track your income and expenses. And there are most certainly other advantages to paying an actual accountant to do it all for you. Based on my own experience, these are the pros and cons of using software instead of paying an accountant top dollar to manage your numbers for you:

Pros

  • It’s cheaper. Far cheaper! As I said, it feels as if I’m being extorted by my tax accountant every year for $900. However, software such as FreshBooks and QuickBooks can do all of the organization for me – both of which I can export the data to something like TurboTax or Quicken with the press of a few buttons. FreshBooks is $25 a month (if you want income and expense reporting) and QuickBooks is $10.
  • Using accounting software allows me to categorize income and expenses throughout the year automatically – instead of having to spend hours with my accountant trying to sort it all out.

Cons

  • The one nice thing about using an actual accountant is that you can build a relationship with them. This means that they will naturally start doing their best to look out for you, and will warn you when they notice things that need addressing. Software doesn’t care. Sorry. That’s just the way it is.
  • The main reason why I use an actual accountant in addition to both FreshBooks and QuickBooks is that he knows my tax situation. He handles all of my tax preparation and filing for me, which is something that basic accounting software cannot do.

Is accounting a difficult career?

To help summarize all of the points that I’ve made above, I do need to come clean. You see, despite how much easier accounting software makes things, I know for a fact that I could not do it as a career.

Being self-employed, it’s really easy for me to manage my own income and expenses. I don’t quite have the chops to do my own taxes yet, but I feel pretty comfortable managing my own situation.

That being said, I get heartburn just thinking about having to manage the books of someone else’s company (large or small) with employees. Anybody in that situation needs to love crunching numbers more than anything else. In my opinion (based on one of my own businesses for over 10 years now), accounting as a career will be difficult for you if:

  • You’re constantly finding yourself struggling to stay on top of your own bills
  • You never made it past high school math (just like me)
  • You are unable to handle the pressure of preventing the people / companies you work for for being audited (because it’ll basically be your fault if that happens)

Accounting is hard. It’s even harder if you’re doing it for others, and therefore, it takes a special kind of person to want to do it as a career. Personally, I never really understood this until I started managing the numbers of my own businesses. I always thought accountants were boring people who didn’t know what to major in while in college, so they picked the lowest common denominator.

It turns out that accountants actually are pretty cool people. Not only because they are incredibly smart, but they keep people like me in check. Also, they have conference (and balls) to take on the responsibility of keeping businesses afloat.

I know that’s not for me. Therefore, I’ll keep plugging along on my own with the latest versions of QuickBooks and FreshBooks to manage my own businesses.

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