You didn’t start a business to be an accountant – you’d have trained as an accountant if that were the case. Fortunately, there are now a range of services that can automate all the boring tasks you want to avoid.
Our pick for most small businesses would be QuickBooks Online for its expense tracking features and ease of use, although there are also some great value plans to be found from FreshBooks. With prices starting from $4.50 per month, FreshBooks is extremely affordable, and is remarkably simple to use.
Office 365 integration
$11 per month
$10 per month
$20 per month
Ease of use
Best free option
It's free, no trial needed
Here at Tech.co, we take the guesswork out of choosing. We’ve independently reviewed every major accounting software to help make business owners’ lives easier.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the providers:
- Great profit and loss comparisons
- Easy import and export for data
- Automated invoicing
- 30-day free trial
- The $10/user upcharge adds up fast
- No native support for payroll processing
For small businesses, FreshBooks is the best accounting software out there. It has some stiff competition from QuickBooks and Xero — our in-depth comparison of FreshBooks and QuickBooks is over here — but FreshBooks combines excellent usability with an enticingly low price point.
FreshBooks’ software is based around a “Double-Entry Accounting” feature, which tracks revenue items against their related expenses. This makes understanding your profit and loss figures a breeze. FreshBooks will also automatically check that debit and credit amounts are all in order, and it’ll even pinpoint errors as soon as they arrive. You can even use FreshBooks to track your inventory.
As you can see above, the service offers a range of pricing, starting at a surprisingly low $4.50, although the $25 per month plan is more common.
FreshBooks also makes it easy to categorize transactions, with distinct sections for equity, transfers, or refunds. FreshBooks also generates invoices, with custom templates and email integration. You can even track how much time your employees have clocked, and it integrates with Asana, Basecamp, Trello, and Teamwork – meaning you can see what everyone is working on.
However, FreshBooks doesn’t have a native payroll processing feature. Instead, it integrates with Gusto or PaymentEvolution. It’s not a complete deal-breaker, but it is annoying that there’s no native feature.
- Granular, customizable reports
- Mobile app lets you track miles driven
- 30-day free trial
- Customer support isn't the best
- A little pricey for small operations
QuickBooks is, in our opinion, the easiest accounting software to use.
Like FreshBooks, QuickBooks is built around tracking all your expenses. It sorts all your transactions into tax categories, and links photos of receipts to the transactions they represent. QuickBooks offers personalizable invoice templates, with automatically added biddable hours, and automated reminders. It’ll also let you know when your invoices have been viewed or paid.
The QuickBooks dashboard
When it comes to expense tracking, QuickBooks has all the features you’d need. For example, it integrates with users’ accounts across platforms including bank accounts, credit cards, PayPal, Square, and more. Users can create custom categories to make expenses easier to understand, and can run reports for added visibility. The QuickBooks app will also let users track miles they have driven, which can be useful for tracking business trip deductions.
QuickBooks doesn't offer time tracking as standard, but will sell you TSheets by QuickBooks for $8 per month. It's packed with features including task and shift scheduling, real-time reports, time-off management, alerts, and even a time clock kiosk with facial recognition.
We do have an entire page on QuickBooks' price plans, but this table can get you up to speed with a glance:
Does it include bookkeeping functions?
Does it include a range of accounts payable functions?
Does it include a range of accounts receivable functions?
Does it offers tools to track different projects?
Does it offer financial reporting tools?
Budget & forecasting
Does it offer budgeting and forecasting tools?
$15 per month
$25 per month
$40 per month
$70 per month
$150 per month
QuickBooks does offer payroll processing for standard, and will auto-calculate your taxes and end-of-year forms. Employees can even access an online portal to view pay stubs, tax, data, and deductions, and can also download historical data reports.
- Works effortlessly with platforms such as Shopify, Squarespace, and Square Online
- Integrates with Amazon, Etsy, and other ecommerce sites
- Impressive mobile apps
- Doesn't track expenses as standard
Xero integrates with some of the biggest website builder platforms on the market, including Squarespace and Square Online. If your business relies on one of these platforms, there’s a good chance that Xero might be the best fit for your company.
Beyond that, however, Xero offers all the features you’d expect of an accounting platform, stacking up to QuickBooks for breadth of features. You can generate invoices quickly, and check whether recipients have seen them and paid them. It’ll also help you track your inventory, and syncs with Amazon, Shopify, Etsy, and more. Similarly, users can download the Xero Projects app on iOS and Android to record time and costs, with the data seamlessly integrating with invoices and reports.
However, Xero doesn’t cover expenses on all of its plans, instead only offering the service on the $60 per month Established plan.
All told, Xero is a very competitive package, especially given its online-first attitude.
- Can automatically send invoices and estimates to customers
- Autoscans documents to the cloud
- Will chase late payments for you
- No payroll support
Zoho would be a decent fit for most small businesses, but if you’re concerned about spending too much time carrying out boring tasks, it might be the best fit for you.
Zoho shines when it comes to its automation features, a key element behind why accounting software is so essential: Accounting makes up about 29% of all high-tech automation. Zoho can send hard copies of invoices or estimates to customers for you. A domestic letter costs one credit, while an international letter costs two credits – credits themselves are $2 per go.
Invoice payment with Zoho Books
Zoho will also autoscan any documents you upload to its system. This means that you can save time manually re-creating or changing documents, as Zoho will already have all the details. This costs $8 per month, paid annually and capped at 50 scans a month, but remember – time is money.
You can schedule payment reminders to be automatically emailed to customers, and even create a multitude of messages to be sent at different points during your chasing. Reports can be scheduled to generate weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually in PDF, CSV, or XLS formats. Again, these features can help you concentrate on the fun side of your business.
Of course, Zoho still gives you all the features you’d need for accounting software, with inventory tracking tools, invoice payments, and transaction tracking features. Feel free to check Zoho out if it sounds right for you — there's a 14-day free trial of all plans, plus a limited permanently free plan that's open to any business with an annual revenue of less than $50,000.
- Easy to use
- Integrates with Microsoft 365
- 30-day free trial
- App selection is limited
- Expensive and clunky per-user pricing
Sage’s interface is brilliantly simple. It’s all built around customers and suppliers, which makes creating and paying invoices a piece of cake.
This layout makes tracking and collecting information about your expenses really straightforward. You can also connect Sage to your business bank to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
However, Sage isn’t the most advanced platform on the market. It covers the basics of bookkeeping well, but doesn’t offer much beyond that. It can't hold a candle to QuickBooks: For example, it doesn’t offer a payroll option, nor does it allow employees to track their time.
Instead, Sage is best suited to small businesses that need the bare minimum to get their accounting done.
- Completely free to use
- Offers affordable add-ons
- Lacks features
- Struggles to scale with glowing businesses
That’s right – you don’t need to pay a penny to get started with Wave. In fact, you don’t even need a credit card to sign up to its accounting, receipt-scanning, and invoicing apps – they’re all free and ready to use.
With its free selection of apps, you can track your business’ income and expenses (as well as any associated sales tax), generate financial statements, as well as report on cash flow or profit and loss. You can invoice in any currency, as well as send quick estimates before turning them into full invoices.
The Wave payroll add-on
Wave even offers an affordable payroll add-on to help make its service a bit more complete.
So what’s the catch? Well, there’s no built-in inventory tracking, for a start. This means that you’ll have to make sure you stay on top of all that paperwork. Plus, it only has one plan available, meaning you can’t really scale with the platform as your business grows.
Still, Wave would make a brilliant choice for small companies that are just starting out.
- Simple and speedy to work out
- Impressive customer support
- Doesn't have the most advanced features
Kashoo is designed to make getting started as easy as possible. Its interface is straightforward and, while it isn’t as complex as some of the other providers on our list, it still has everything you need to get going. In fact, Kashoo claims that you can get set up with full double-entry accounting in less than a minute.
Kashoo offers automated features such as receipt copying and contact generation through its smart inbox, which collates all the vendors you normally do business with. The service also lets you create reports in moments, covering everything from profit and loss to income, expenses and cash flow.
Paying invoices is straightforward, and users can choose from KashooPay – Kashoo’s own payment processor – or Stripe. Kashoo also claims that it will automatically connect any incoming transactions with the right invoice to make tracking even easier.
Kashoo costs $20 per month, which is more expensive than some competitors, although Kashoo does give you more features at this price point.
- Very cheap to get started with
- Covers the basics that all businesses need
- Lacks advanced features that make accounting software enticing
GoDaddy‘s service isn't as complete as most other providers on our page. In fact, it only offers the basics of accounting.
It’ll help you process debit and credit card payments, send invoices, and track your finances. You won’t be able to analyze the findings but, then again, GoDaddy’s service only costs $4.99 per month.
You’ll be able to connect the service to your merchant account, and it'll help you calculate your tax at year-end. But, that’s really about it.
Still, if you need an easy, affordable service to do the basics, there aren’t many better options than GoDaddy’s platform.
- Features a built-in CRM system
- Very affordable
- Lacks some features that other providers offer as standard
- Doesn't offer any apps or integrations
OneUp is a great fit for small businesses that are regularly in contact with customers and suppliers. It has a built-in CRM system that makes chasing down customers incredibly easy.
It also has an impressive inventory management feature with plenty of detail, while remaining easy to update.
OneUp’s pricing starts at $9 per month, making it very affordable. However, it only works for one user, and you won’t get access to the company’s support teams. OneUp also eschews time tracking and billing functions, nor does it offer any add-ons or app integrations.
All told, OneUp is a decent solution if your business is heavily reliant on a sales team, and has other systems in place for time tracking and billing. If you don’t, we’d still recommend FreshBooks.
Why do Small Businesses Need Accounting Software?
Every business, not just the small ones, needs to keep an eye on what is coming in, and out, of their account.
For big companies, this normally means bringing actual accountants on the payroll. However, small companies often don’t have the means to get real, trained accountants on board permanently. Fortunately, accounting software platforms provide a great alternative, helping you keep track of your cash flow and stay in the black.
How does Accounting Software Work?
Most accounting software platforms function as big, cloud-based databases. You input the information about your sales and purchases, then the software (typically) keeps on top of all this information, and serves it up to you in small, digestible chunks.
Some platforms allow for more advanced tasks, such as FreshBooks’ error detection, while others – such as GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping – opt to keep it simple.
Core Features of Accounting Software
All accounting software platforms will let you input and track any invoices or money coming in, as well as tracking outgoings. This, really, is the core function of an accountant – keeping track of what goes in and what goes out.
However, accounting software platforms will also connect with your business’ merchant account, which can help automate accounting features and recognize when invoices have been paid by your customers.
Beyond that, accounting software platforms often offer lots of extras, such as payroll management. But, at its heart, accounting software is pretty straightforward (at least on the surface).
Accounting Software Benefits
Many small-time business owners start out balancing their bills with nothing but spreadsheets to help them. But good business is all about making trade-offs and time is money. If you start paying for an accounting software, you'll save yourself untold hours of work and you can spend your newfound free time making far more money.
Here are the top benefits that make a good accounting software the best investment a business can make:
- Reduce errors — Lost inventory, misplaced decimal points, and unpaid invoices can all slip through the cracks. With an accounting software system, it'll be easier to spot a discrepancy. Plus, the intuitive interface will make you less likely to make a mistake in the first place.
- Automate processes — You won't need to download files manually from your bank accounts, you can easily search for the right invoice with a keyword, and management tools can ping you when you need to send a bill or invoice. The impact? Endless time saved.
- Generate financial reports — P&L statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements are all essential to doing business, and accounting softwares can create them immediately, store historical records, and let you download any documents you need.
- Centralize data — Bank accounts, credit card accounts, and your employee payroll service can all be accessed from the right accounting software, so you won't need to shuffle through a ton of different accounts to figure out how they relate to each other.
- Files taxes easier — Tax season doesn't have to be the bane of all business owners: Accounting software services can auto-populate your tax filing papers and, depending on the state, may even be able to file them on your behalf.
Finance and accounting software are useful for all businesses small and large. But different use cases will determine which type of software plan is best for you.
Freelancers will want to pick a freelance-specific accounting software. These are typically cheaper, since they're designed for one user and won't need to offer some features. They won't support payroll, since a freelancer doesn't have employees. Still, the core benefits of generating invoices and financial reports make freelance accounting solutions well worth paying for.
Small or mid-sized businesses will need a more feature-rich plan. As their business grows, they'll need to manage an increasing amount of vendors and invoices. And for any business with employees, a payroll service is a must.
Finally, big enterprises can benefit from the most advanced accounting services, as granular data tracking can allow them to turn their large scale to their advantage. If an advanced accounting report finds that sales are higher at a certain hour of the day, managers can increase their staff or try a flash sale.
Whatever the use case, an accounting software will ensure your finances are centralized, automated, and error-free.
To figure out which accounting software services to include on this page, and how to rank each one, our Tech.co researchers used a metric listing the top eight categories that matter when it comes to an accounting service:
- Software Attributes
- Accounts Payable
- Accounts Receivable
- Advanced Features
- Pricing Factors
- Financial Reporting
- Help & Support
We then ranked each software on this page in each category on a score scale of one to ten. By adding all the scores together and dividing by the total number of categories, we found a single overview assessment number for each service.
Once rounded off, those assessment numbers turned into the five-star reviews listed in the table at the top of this page, while the entire research process helped us better explain the ups and downs of each service in its respective entry in this article.
Accounting Software for Your Business Needs
Not all businesses have the same needs, and as a result, some accounting software will be more suited to some companies than others.
If your business makes a lot of online, direct-to-customer sales, for example, we’d recommend Xero. It’s perfectly integrated with Squarespace and Square Online – helpful if your business uses either of these website platforms.
Similarly, if you just want to get set up as quickly and as easily as possible, we would recommend QuickBooks or Kashoo. QuickBooks has more features than Kashoo, though, so it might be a better fit for more companies.
Verdict: Choosing an Accounting Software Provider
In our view, the best accounting software provider for small businesses is FreshBooks. It’s brilliantly simple to use, and has an impressive range of powerful features.
But the best way to find out which service is right for you is by using our quick and easy comparison page. It’ll help you work out which service is the best for your business, and help you get started.
Of course, it might be prudent to check-in with an actual, trained accountant before you go submitting any year-end tax documents or anything like that.
Some other providers also have payroll features built-in, saving you the hassle of paying for two services. QuickBooks, for example, has a payroll feature ready to go.
Everything from uploading invoices to tracking payments and sales is a piece of cake. Plus, as a cloud-based system, your records are available everywhere, on every device, all the time.
Plus, its integrations with merchant accounts, credit cards, PayPal, and Square makes tracking everything that much easier.
You can get started with Wave Financial for literally nothing, but it doesn’t have the most advanced features on the market. Instead, we think it’s worth paying for services such as FreshBooks, which starts from as little as $4.50 per month.
Put simply, though, our recommendation for accountants is the same one we give to all businesses – choose FreshBooks.
But, as far as we’re concerned, why would you settle for less? Services such as FreshBooks or QuickBooks will generate invoices for you – and Zoho will even send letters on your behalf. Why work harder when you can work smarter?
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