April 25, 2019 11:40 AM
Doing your own accounting? Learn which software best suits your needs. (Photo: Andrey Popov/Shutterstock)
By Jaime Bender
For many small business owners, hiring an accountant just isn’t in the cards. That means – let the groaning begin – you’re going to have to do your own books.
But there’s help out there – quite a lot, actually. Accounting software comes in virtually all shapes, sizes and price points, and there’s guaranteed to be at least one program out there to fit your needs to a tee. It can be overwhelming, however, when you see just how many options are available. Deciding which one suits your small business isn’t always easy.
We’ve broken down seven well-known accounting software suites to help you narrow down your options and keep a firm hold on your finances.
QuickBooks is a go-to tool for millions of small business owners. (Photo: Ricky of the World/Shutterstock)
This is the most popular software for entrepreneurs, probably because it’s the most comprehensive. It’s also one of the oldest programs, but whether it’s right for you depends on many factors; the size of your business, the size of your budget and the number of employees are just a few stats to consider.
QuickBooks is basically broken down into three plans:
Simple Start: includes income and expense tracking, receipt organization, payment invoicing and estimates. It can also provide basic reports, maximize tax deductions, and track sales and sales tax. This option works best for self-employed folks, as it only includes a single user.
Essentials: includes all of Simple Start’s features, but adds on features to manage bills, enter timesheets and support multiple users (up to three).
Plus: includes the functions of the two lower tiers, plus support for five multiple users, tracking project profitability, tracking inventory and managing 1099 contractors.
QuickBooks Online is great for small/medium-sized businesses with a large client base,” said Jennifer Walschap, director of Imagine Music and Arts. “There is a lot of customization available, so it can get the job done for many types of businesses.”
More than 3.5 million users love Wave’s robust platform, which includes accounting, invoicing, billing, payment tracking, payroll management, finance management and receipts. But what they really love? It’s free. It’s a great alternative to Quickbooks for business owners on a tight budget, and for smaller organizations that don’t require multiple accounts. There’s no long-term subscription model, either.
“By focusing on small and micro businesses, rather than ‘small-and-medium’ businesses, we’ve been able to attract a very specific yet massive and underserved audience,” said Kirk Simpson, Wave’s CEO and co-founder. “We’ve also been able to develop a popular suite of tools made just for entrepreneurs, and with the foundation we’ve put in place over eight years, our pace of innovation and growth is accelerating.”
Having recently undergone a complete overhaul in 2017, FreshBooks has become a go-to tool for those who feel intimidated by complex financial statements. It allows users to streamline client invoicing and recurring subscriptions in just a few minutes while allowing them to collect online payment, all in the same system.
And, like QuickBooks, FreshBooks has three tiers to choose from: Lite, Plus, and Premium. All plans include basic accounting features like invoicing, payment processing and time tracking.
“The software is very easy to use with very little ramp-up time,” said TyAnn Osborn, a personal trainer. “I love the mobile app and am able to do most of my expense tracking on the go.”
Xero breaks down its plan options by your business's level of growth. (Photo: Sharaf Maksumov/Shutterstock)
Xero users love its real-time cash flow access, as well as quick bank reconciliation and online invoicing. Its features are meant to allow users to easily and efficiently manage their finances so they have more time to run their business.
Like QuickBooks and FreshBooks, Xero offers three plans. But unlike the latter two, Xero breaks down its plans based on the business’s level of growth: Early, Growing and Established. Users can customize from there.
“Xero has an attractive, modern [user interface],” said Chelsea Krause, a writer and producer. “It takes quite a while to explore all of the features it has to offer, but once you get acquainted with the software, Xero is fairly easy to use.”
When it comes to straightforward, no-nonsense accounting, many users turn to Kashoo. According to PCMag, its inventory tracking tools are the most robust on the market. The multi-currency invoice feature is a particular favorite because it allows users to issue invoices in several currencies. It also supports easy creation of invoices, auditing, taxation and more.
The big difference with Kashoo is that it doesn’t offer tiered plans like the latter four programs do. Instead, it allows users to access everything with either an annual or monthly commitment.
“[Kashoo] is a ‘no muss, no fuss’ solution for users who want a simple accounting solution,” said tech reviewer Nate Drake. “It may come with no frills but this makes it easier to navigate and there is little to no learning curve.”
Sage Business Cloud (formerly known as Sage One) offers entry-level accounting software ideal for sole traders and micro businesses. In addition to accounting, the tool includes expense management, project accounting and compliance management capabilities, all in a single platform. It’s also mobile-friendly, using a visually appealing dashboard to display data.
Users can also run more than a dozen financial reports to analyze their business, including a general ledger and an aging report, and can link bank accounts and credit cards to reconcile accounts.
Initially designed as an accounting program, Exact Globe has evolved to become a comprehensive Enterprise Resource Planning system for small- and medium-sized businesses. Its software integrates data from a broad range of business processes on one platform, covering financial administration, warehouse management, purchasing and supply chain management, production and sales.
Project management is a big notch in Exact’s belt; this feature makes it easy to obtain an overview of all the costs and revenues for each project, meaning you can check invoices, sales invoices and even employees’ schedules.