I’ve gotten a lot of my recent work off of Elance and Odesk this year. About $13,000 of my total income is from Elance alone with another $3,000 from Odesk (I also get paid from my apps, but that’s another story). When you have that many clients paying you for projects, tax time can become a rather horrifying ordeal. How do you account for all of those payments? How do you know your numbers are correct? What about the fees the sites take from each transaction? Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief because I’m going to show you a little accounting trick I learned using Numbers on my Mac.
Getting the Elance Data:
We’ll start off with Elance. To get last year’s transaction data, you’ll want to go to Manage –> Transactions.
At the top, Elance will ask you if you want to download your account data. Click on the “click here” link, and you’ll get taken to a page where they’ll ask for a range of months.
The range you want is from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. For 2011, that’s January 2011 to December 2011.
Click download and you’ll get your data in a “.csv” file.
What to do with the Elance .CSV file:
During my first two years of online freelancing, I had no idea what to do with these files. All of the transactions come bundled together, and there was no way I was going to sift through it all by hand. I actually hired an accountant last year, but I don’t want to bother with it this year because it’s pretty easy to do. So let’s open up that .CSV file from Elance!
Mine looks just like the above mess when I’m first starting out. Notice how all of the amounts are mixed in with one another. What’s up with that? At first glance, it seems very difficult to separate all of the payments and fees from one another, but it only takes a little bit of trickery.
Step 1: Click on your table, and then click on the “reorganize” button in the top menu. You’ll get another popup menu that looks like the one below.
Step 2: Choose Column D under “Sort.” Column D corresponds to the payment amount. By sorting this way, you’re separating the payments received from the payments sent.
Step 3: Remove all ACH Payment rows. These don’t correspond to any payments from your clients. They simply denote bank transfers.
Step 4: Remove the plusses from your payments received. This is the only part of the process that’s manual labor. It sucks, and I’m still looking for a way around it. You can’t sum up your payments until you remove these plus signs.
Oh, and you don’t have to remove the minus signs from the Elance fees. You can sum them up as they are. It’ll be a negative number, but you’ll still know how much.
Step 5: Sum up the payments received and Elance fees using the “SUM” function. Pick an empty cell and enter =SUM( . Keep the parentheses open, and Numbers will allow you to select the column to sum up. Make sure you’re summing the payments received and Elance fees separately.
That’s it. This process doesn’t take that long. You can probably do it in less than ten minutes. It certainly beats trying to add up all those payments any other way.
Getting the Odesk data:
To get your yearly Odesk transaction data, you’ll want to go to Wallet –> Transaction History. The transaction history button is a tab located at the top of the page.
Enter the range from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. Don’t worry if Odesk changes the range after you’ve typed it in. They’re just trying to line up the range to the weekly payout for time. Only transactions from the year 2011 will appear.
Odesk makes it a lot easier for you to do your taxes. That’s because they never take fees away from their contractors. The client is the one who gets charged all Odesk fees, so you never have to worry about them. To find your total payout for the year, simply scroll all the way to the bottom and use the “Total Credits” number.
The rest of your accounting will probably take a lot longer. At least this part won’t trip you up. If you have any questions for me, I’m happy to answer them in the comments below.