Whether you’re a sole proprietor working alone or other small business with a handful of employees, at some point the matter of finances is going to fall on your plate. The more your business grows, the more there is to keep track of—and the more room for (sometimes costly) errors. There are a few approaches you can take: Learn accounting yourself, hire an accountant or bookkeeper to help out, or find an accounting software with features you need to keep track of your finances year-round.
Accounting software can be a great option for businesses of all sizes, from freelancers and entrepreneurs to large corporations. With all the package to choose from, which is the right fit? Which is robust enough for your needs, but not so complex that you’re paying for more than you need? Here’s a quick software cheat sheet to help you decide.
What do you need from your accounting software?
There are a few questions to ask yourself before you start your search for the perfect accounting software. In part one of this article, we broke down some of the key questions to ask yourself about your business now and in the future so you had a basic idea of the criteria to look for in your ideal accounting solution.
Now, let’s dive into some comparisons of a few top products on the market.
Good for Mobile App Payroll Double Entry Time Tracking Pricing/Plans Intuit QuickBooks Online* Businesses of all sizes, SMBs iOS, Android Yes ($) Yes Yes Pro, Premier, Enterprise / Online plans: Self-employed, EasyStart, Essentials, Plus FreshBooks* Self-employed professionals: small businesses, freelancers iOS, Android No No Yes Lite: $15/month
ECOUNT SMBs Yes Yes Yes Yes $55/month AccountEdge Pro SMBs Yes Yes Yes Yes Basic ($149), Pro ($355) Sage 50 SMBs No Yes Yes Yes First Step, Pro, Premium, Quantum Xero SMBs iOS, Android Yes Yes No Starter, Standard, Premium Sage One Contractors, entrepreneurs, and sole proprietors iOS, Android No No Yes Sage One Accounting, Sage One Wave* Small businesses (1-9 employees) No Yes Yes No Freemium w/ ads (and add-ons) Zoho Books SMBs iOS, Android No Yes Yes Basic, Standard, Professional
*These options are also great for freelancers and other independent contractors.
Heavy Hitters for Growing Businesses
These options are great for businesses that are on the cusp, experiencing tremendous growth, or have outgrown their current accounting system. There are more features, but with that can come more bulk and a tougher learning curve.
Intuit QuickBooks Online
QuickBooks is going to be one of the most robust options out there, great for businesses that need double-entry accounting. Every QuickBooks plan gives you the ability to link your bank accounts and handle accounting basics like invoicing, expenses, and tracking income. If you want additional features like inventory and purchase orders, you’ll need to look to more advanced plans.
“Running a small business is filled with anxiety, so QuickBooks has been designed to meet the needs of small businesses, whether they’re just starting out or growing to the next level,” said John Shapiro, director of product management for QuickBooks Online. “That way, the millions of people who work for themselves don’t need to spend time digging into the numbers and can focus on what they do best: serving their customers with personal experiences. They can rest easy knowing that their accounting platform is backing them.”
QuickBooks really excels in the add-on department, with access to third-party providers you can integrate for more functionality. Check out all its plans and their features here.
- Self-employed: $5/month
- Simple Start: $7/month
- Essentials: $17/month
- Plus: $25/month
Xero’s flexible plans (which you can move between when you need to) make it a great fit for anyone from freelancers to small businesses to bigger businesses. Xero is all about the add-ons and user-friendly interface, like QuickBooks Online, which makes it an excellent flexible option for small businesses who want to start with some basic features then grow from there. It’s also got 24/7 live support, which is great for accounting beginners.
If your business uses Mac over PC, Xero is a great option—it fully integrates, giving you a native desktop-like experience within the Mac interface. It’s also just as robust as QuickBooks Online, with payroll, financial reporting, invoicing, inventory, and a balance sheet module for double-entry accounting functionality.
- Starter: $9/month
- Standard: $30/month
- Premium: $70/month
Ecount is an affordable (enterprise resource planning) ERP option, which puts it more in the growing small business category. It’s an all-in-one cloud-based SaaS that covers more than just accounting—it provides tools to cover your entire workflow. Compared with an ERP like Oracle NetSuite, its $55/month price tag makes it much more accessible to small businesses. For small businesses that need room to grow, it’s a great option that can be customized to your business. Get access to tools for payroll, inventory, purchasing, sales, production, accounting, and collaboration, which includes scheduling, timesheets, project management and CRM. Being based in the cloud, it also offers cloud security and data backup.
AccountEdge really has it all for growing small businesses, with some built-in features not typically included in more basic software. It’s got a lot for the growing e-commerce business. If you need the basics plus inventory, payroll, and reporting options, this is one to look into. It’s a desktop software package, but you can add complementary cloud-based functionality with AccountEdge Cloud. There are two tiers to choose from:
- AccountEdge Basic: $149
- AccountEdge Pro: $399 (adding inventory, payroll, and time billing features to the mix)
Sage offers a number of solutions for different sizes of organizations, but for small businesses in particular, Sage One has plenty of features. It’s great for covering the basics of cloud-based invoicing and accounting and accepting payments through Sage Payments or PayPal. Features that could be valuable to growing businesses include project tracking, task management, customer and vendor management, cash flow management, multiple user support, and online invoicing. The Sage Business Cloud is ideal for growing businesses, and Sage 50 is the more robust option of the Sage products, offering larger organizations double-entry accounting. Get access to Sage Payroll for built-in payroll and compliance services that make it easy to pay on the go and file taxes easily at the end of the year.
- Sage One Start: $10/month
- Sage One Accounting: $25/month
Zoho Books is a highly rated, cloud-based online accounting with a subscription-based model that’s a great fit for freelancers and independent contractors, too. It’s also got a CRM feature and integrates well Zoho Apps and third-party apps.
Zoho has three tiered plans to choose from: Basic, with invoicing, expenses, time tracking and links to bank accounts; Standard, which has everything Basic has plus more contacts, users, the ability to print checks, and recurring transactions; and Professional, which includes the Standard plan’s features plus purchase and sales orders, inventory, and unlimited contacts and users. It’s also known for having great support.
- Basic: $9/month
- Standard: $19/month
- Professional: $29/month
FreshBooks cloud invoicing and billing is a favorite for ease of use and customer service. And if you’re a small business, sole proprietor or independent contractor, it will have everything you need. Note features like single user vs. multiple users and four monthly plans to choose from depending on the number of clients you have (or plan to have) and the number of users you need added to your account.
Plans (with extra savings for full-year subscriptions)
- Lite: $15/month
- Plus: $25/month
- Premium: $50/month
Wave is the most basic, free option in the bunch—but you’ll have ads onscreen, which is something to consider. Most of the advanced features you’ll find in other options aren’t available, but it does offer payroll and double-entry accounting. It’s not heavy into integrations and won’t integrate with your CRM, but it does feature mobile access and good support.
This is hardly an exhaustive comparison of every accounting software on the market, but it’s a good place to start in helping you to evaluate what you need out of your accounting package. Comparison tools like Capterra can be valuable in helping you run side-by-side comparisons of options that have the specific features you need.
Consider also investigating: Kashoo ($29.95/month or $16.65/month for a year), Zipbooks (months plans from $15, $35, to $125 for the most services), Patriot Software ($7.50,$10/month), SlickPie (free), Crunched.io (with Payment Processing and Payroll, offering a free plan, $19 Basic plan, and $25 Pro plan), Officewise (with monthly plans that include a free plan, $8.95 for Basic, $24.95 for Pro, and $39.95 for Professional), and Bookly ($121 – $339) for online bookkeeping and more advanced services that are handled for you.
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Author: Carey Wodehouse