There are some simple facts that come with running a photography business.
You will need to learn some accounting (or pay someone to do it for you), you will need to learn how to use a variety of computer programs, and you will need to track your car’s mileage if you want to be able to write it off on your taxes – and you WILL want to do this.
One of the big things that attracted us to photography outside of actually being able to take photos was being able to leverage our photography company as a means to travel and see more of the world. Our affection for photography became a driving force that got us on a plane to Iceland. We enjoy doing sessions in new places, and so far have even traveled into upstate New York for a wedding!
All of this travel adds up into a lot of mileage on our car, and it is essential to track these miles in order to claim it on our taxes. Right now, the going rate from the federal government is 54 cents per mile. While it may not be that big of a deal if you only do one or two local sessions a year, with the amount of driving we do – it is essential.
What are the perks of MileIQ?
Our first attempts at tracking mileage ended quite abruptly. We first tried pen and paper tracking…and that was not a good idea. We then tried maintaining a spreadsheet in Excel – which was a little better, but still very tedious. We discovered MileIQ when searching for a method to streamline the process of capturing our mileage and keeping a solid record that would be suitable for our personal reference, and more importantly, for our accountant to review and use to claim a nice tax return on the miles driven.
Our biggest frustration with “the system?”
As new business owners, we were floored when we discovered that the government requires us to track every mile driven during the year – and every drive needed to be categorized as personal or business so as to differentiate. This is an issue that specifically will impact most photographers who use their personal vehicle for business purposes.
Given that the main vehicle we use for business purposes is Jes’ car, this is the only one we keep detailed track of and “write off” on our taxes. Doing it manually – whether the old school pen-and-paper way or through a spreadsheet – became incredibly taxing (pun intended!). Every day, she commutes to her day job and back, plus other stop offs to the grocery store or the park. We’re talking 4-6 drives a day that need to be logged. This isn’t so bad for a week, but try doing it for a year. This is where mileage tracking became a real pain point, because with so much else to do to keep up with our photography business, tracking mileage was the least exciting thing we could think of doing.
Now, about those perks!
In our minds, the value proposition of MileIQ is one of the best we have seen.
Our first year on the service costed $40 dollars, and we were able to easily track all of our mileage – totaling over $2,000 in deductible driving expenses.
You may want to take some time and relook at the staggering difference between those figures.
MileIQ is one of the few paid services that will actually, literally, pay for itself.
How does it work?
MileIQ is accessed using a cell phone app + your computer (for desktop viewing). The interface on both is sleek and easy to understand.
For ourselves, we setup Jes’ iPhone to automatically track her drives. This is really the main selling point of this service, because no longer do we have to write down all of the details of every individual drive. While we won’t act like we know exactly how this system works, the basic idea is that it uses cell tower information to pinpoint your location – and then tracks your drives. In our experience, this system has worked just about perfectly.
Each drive is then logged and accessible via the web or phone app. From there, you simply need to log what kind of drive it was – personal or business. You can also choose sub-categories to further identify your driving purpose. For example, you can classify a business drive as being for a client meeting or photography session.
In addition, as you begin to drive the same routes again and again, MileIQ will provide you with the option to auto-classify certain drives. We do this for Jes’ standard daily work commute to her day job and back, which saves us time having to review each of these mundane trips.
The challenges of MileIQ
Common with just about every piece of technology out there are some potential drawbacks. Our experience with MileIQ has been worth a lot of praise, but we can’t recommend it without letting you know about some of the downsides that have creeped into our use of it.
The main challenge we occasionally encounter is remembering to delete unneeded entries as a result of Jes’ getting in another car and going for a ride. Because the system is designed to auto-track drives, if she rides along in Chris’ car, or goes out with some friends, unless she remembers to turn off the tracking function – it will track the mileage.
It is easy enough to delete this out using the app or website, but these entries can sometimes become camouflaged in a sea of other entries – especially when you don’t check in on it for an extended period of time. This became most noticed when we returned from Iceland, only to find that every drive we took around the entire country was logged! We now take more precautions in this area, but it wasn’t something we really thought of when initially using it.
The only other drawback that may or may not bother you is, quite simply, the exposure you receive by letting go of some of your privacy in exchange for the convenience it offers.
Obviously, by using the app to track your drives, you are fundamentally letting MileIQ (which is now owned by Microsoft) as a company track where you are at any given time. One can hope this data isn’t going to be used maliciously in the future, and from a review of the Terms of Service on their website, it doesn’t appear it is – but for some, there is going to be some inherent risk that needs to be weighed. For us, we have generally accepted that the convenience is very valuable to us, and the rights we sign away are not much different than the rights we give away when using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Try MileIQ for free up to 40 drives per month
Another great thing about MileIQ is that the service offers an unlimited free option to test the waters. We used this free option to get a feel for how the service works, and if it would work well for our needs – that is – tracking our mileage and reducing the headache of having to constantly update information every single day. To put it bluntly: MileIQ works exceedingly well for us.
If you would like to give MileIQ a try, please consider signing up using our referral link.
If you decide to upgrade to a a Premium membership at any point, we receive a small commission and you receive 20% off your first year’s subscription. You can’t beat that!!
Have any questions about MileIQ? Leave us a comment below and we will get back to you!