It’s hard to visualize a startup’s finances — especially if the founders don’t come from backgrounds like economics, finance, or business administration.

In my case, I come from a communications and marketing background, while my co-founder studied engineering. Put the two of us together and the term cash flow becomes more obscure each and every day.

We used to avoid talking about it at all costs because wrapping our heads around the company’s finances was not as exciting as brainstorming fun projects.

Nonetheless, the financials are downright critical to our future, and getting it done is non-negotiable.

One day, as we sat down to “Talk Finances”, I threw my hands up in the air and said, “I give up! All I want is to be able to see exactly how much cash we have, every single day. ON A CALENDAR. Wouldn’t that be so much easier?!”

So, we searched for that calendar. And we found it — for free.

Knowing What You Need

I’m a visual person and always have been. My frustration with finances is not so much its difficulty, but more that I need visuals to wrap my head around the concepts.

When I realized exactly what kind of tool would help me, I went through various Google searches until I hit the right document. I tried everything from “cash flow calendar” to “how to visualize finances”.

(Of course there were various paid options available, but I didn’t bite. This wasn’t a must-have for my company, it was strictly a nice-to-have for my own brain. With that in mind, I kept searching for a free version.)

Every entrepreneur is different. It took many frustrating Excel spreadsheets for me to realize what I needed was very different from what most people use to analyze finances. I didn’t wantgraphs — I wanted a calendar.

Finding the Right Tool

After about twenty minutes of searching, I finally found what I needed — a free spreadsheet template for Google Docs, complete with how-to guide and color-coded legend.

The template helps simplify the financial aspects of any project, albeit a company or personal investments. It’s a spreadsheet that allows me to input transactions in one corner (with color labels!) and reflects that information in a beautiful calendar.

It shows me exactly what I wanted: how much cash we have, every single day.

Could you find exactly what you need? For free?

Your needs as an entrepreneur are most definitely different than mine. Your current problem may be finding a good team or getting buy-in from investors.

Whatever you are looking for, the internet can help you find it — possibly even for free.

Finding Free Solutions —  Your Action Plan

  • Visualize your ideal solution. Depending on your unique problem, think about what exactly would help your situation. (Remember that pain points are great opportunities for future projects! You never know if your frustration could lead you to a great new idea…)
  • Hit up Google for useful results. Remember to always keep digging for more. Changing up search terms helps a lot. I find that the search terms that finally get me what I need are usually totally different from what I start with. Search, learn, and re-search.
  • Ask Quora’s knowledgeable community. Relying on the experience of others saves so much time. When you need to save time, tap into that pool of experience by asking communities like Quora’s for help. There is tons of free advice out there.
  • Pay for help when you really need it. Being an entrepreneur means making quick decisions, especially on cash. Be frugal on nice-to-have‘s, but never on must-have’s. If the survival of your business depends on it, do what it takes to save it. Pay a lawyer, accountant, or whoever is necessary to give you the tools you need.

I urge you to seek out solutions to your problems in a way that best suits your entrepreneurial needs. Use the web to scour for help and advice, even free tools like I did or other cheap internet marketing tools. The success of your business is in your hands — give it the best shot possible. We’re all here to help.

What online tools help you solve your business’s needs?

Bio: Marcella Chamorro has released a book on how to be more authentic in marketing and an eBook to help writers become extraordinary. She also writes for her blog on living extraordinarily. As an entrepreneur, speaker, & consultant based in Managua, Marcella works on creating technologies to boost creativity.