Back-office Basics: Tools for Managing Creator Finances

by Emily Ross · Updated Apr 3, 2023

Sure, your mom might not know exactly what you do. But you know your work as a creator is legitimate. How, exactly? Well it’s your main source of income (the same goes for more than 2 million others around the world, too) and you’re coming to realize you need some tools to manage your *ahem* business.

Luckily as the creator economy swells, tools are keeping up with demand. In order to keep your backoffice in order without too much stress, here are our recommendations for tools to manage your finances – for everything from budgeting to taxes.

Creating (and sticking to) a budget

If you don’t have a budget, it’s pretty hard to stay on top of your finances. To set a foundation, take some time to really dig into your budgeting process. Of course, you can use a spreadsheet, but these tools are a step up.

Mint (iOS, Android)

The ultimate tool to keep on top of spending, Mint does more than just link up with your bank accounts. Monitor expenditures, set up reminders, and know that with every input, the app gets smarter, learning your habits over time to help you budget even more effectively. Mint is also free, which is a huge advantage when you’re just starting out.

You Need a Budget (web, iOS, Android)

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is both good advice and the name of a great budgeting tool.

This app offers support through experts, a huge community of users to tap into for tips, as well as access to reports so you can track your long-term success. The thing we love most? You can easily adjust your budget month to month, which makes it simpler to manage variable income.

Tracking your time

“Time is money” is a saying for a reason. You need to understand how you’re using your time in order to better understand how to price your skills and plan future work — especially if you’re a creator that manages several partnerships.

Toggl (web, iOS, Android)

About as simple as it gets, Toggl is a tool for keeping track of projects and clients. Simply set up your key work streams and then it’s as easy as toggling (yes, you get it) your time on and off. Toggl seamlessly tracks between devices — so if you forget to switch off a project, you can do so on your phone or even on your smart watch.

Hours (web, iOS, Android)

Multitaskers — raise your hands! Hours is a time tracking app that’s built for doing (a few too) many projects at once. The interface allows you to monitor your time spent over the course of a week or more, so you can use it as a planning tool, too. We love that it’s exceptionally straightforward to quickly switch between timers. Now your tools can finally keep up with the pace at which you need to churn out Reels.

Staying on top of accounting

Gorgeous, gorgeous girls love accounting. Well, ok, accounting isn’t that great, but it is important. If you’re more of a right-brain creative, math of any type might cause you to sweat. Luckily there are 1) online tools that can simplify the process and 2) human experts that can help you when the online tools aren’t quite cutting it.

Lumanu (web)

Touting themselves as the “business app for creators” it’s not surprising that Lumanu is packed full of goodies when it comes to accounting. Need a brand-aligned invoice? They’ve got you. How about payment reminders? Of course. They’re also building a ton of other features with creators in mind, so stay tuned to see how they grow.

Harpoon (web, iOS)

Like Lumano, Harpoon is a bit of a newer kid on the block but offers great functionality when it comes to revenue forecasting, invoicing, and more. One particularly cool tool is a vacation planning feature which allows you to determine how much time off you can take based on financial goals. Besides this perk, Harpoon nails the basics with features that span planning, time tracking, expense tracking, and invoicing.

As there are several choices when it comes to accounting tools, we’ve highlighted two we love, but realize it would be silly not to mention some other fan favorites:

Expensify (iOS, Android)

An on-the-go solution that specifically helps with receipt tracking, Expensify offers reports as well as a credit card import so you can keep all your spending data in one spot.

Wave (web, iOS, Android)

Wave provides simple invoicing, payment tracking and more. One thing that’s a great addition to their tools is payroll functionality that you can tap into when you take your business to the next level.

QuickBooks (web, iOS, Android)

Quickbooks is a household name for a reason. They have a platform that’s built for self-employed folks which is top notch.

Collaborating with like-minded creators

One of the best parts about being a creator is being able to choose your colleagues. Though it can be dreamy to work with your best friend, talking about money can be awkward. Equip yourself with a few tools to make it stress-free.

Stir  (web)

Stir integrates with most major platforms — like YouTube, Patreon, Substack, and Twitch — and allows you to easily split income you’ve made with collaborators. Plus, it’s super secure with bank-level encryption so you know you and your bestie are protected.

Splitwise (web, iOS, Android)

If you need something a bit more simple to divide project expenses, Splitwise will do the job. It’s a super simple-to-use app that offers monthly reconciliations and payment reminders. That makes it perfect for shared expenses like software licenses and co-working spaces.

Bringing it all together with your taxes

You’ve made a budget. Sent out invoices. Effectively split expenses. Now it’s time for tax season. No, don’t run and hide; there are so many tools to help make this process almost painless.

TurboTax (web, iOS, Android)

With a specific self-employed platform, TurboTax is one of the most trusted tools for individuals and creators. They have experts on call if you need them and a really approachable interface, which walks you through all the steps, suggesting deductions and calling out anything that might tip off our friends at the IRS.

Freely (web)

Built for freelancers, Freely really helps remove the burden of tax prep. We love that the tool helps maximize deductions and suggests potential write offs you might be able to tap into.

Finances don’t have to be overwhelming. Instead, invest a little bit of time upfront to find what tools simplify your unique way of working as a creator. By keeping things easy, you can focus on creating content to grace screens of all types around the world – including your mom’s. 

Emily Ross
About the author

Emily Ross

Emily grew up dreaming of being a magazine editor. Though she didn't quite make that dream a reality, she's built a career around her editorial passion through content marketing and creative strategy. Living in Vancouver, BC, you most definitely can find her wearing Patagonia on the weekends, but she's more multifaceted than that. She voraciously reads books (and magazines, of course), crafts homemade cocktails, strikes up conversations with strangers in grocery stores, and spends a little bit too much time online consuming content.
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