Where business is concerned, it goes without saying that keeping your finances in order is imperative. Not only is it necessary in order to ensure that invoices are sent out and paid on time and to help with forecasting cash-flow, but detailed financial records are critical when the taxman comes knocking.
Nowadays, there's no excuse for not keeping your finances up-to-date. Records don't need to be meticulously written out by hand, but can be fed into a computer and presented as required.
What's more, today's accounts and invoicing packages can do far more than what was reasonably possible with just a pen and paper. Computers, and now the web, have made managing your business finances easy.
Choosing the software with which to manage your business finances, on the other hand, can be a trickier matter. Finding the right type of package for your needs online is not an exact science and different packages aren't always directly comparable.
It's unlikely that you have the time to trawl through trial after trial of potential software to find the one that is right for your organisation, so here we're going to highlight some of the best packages available to help you get started.
Price: Basic package for free; paid packages from US$19.95 (around £12, AUD$21) per month
FreshBooks is one of a burgeoning number of cloud-based accounts and invoicing packages, meaning it's accessible from anywhere and your data is automatically backed up. Indeed, along with ease of use, these are the two main benefits touted by the company.
FreshBooks provides four main services to its users: online invoicing, expense tracking, time tracking and accounting reports/tax functionality. Users can set up online invoicing and customise it to meet their requirements, such as adding their company's branding.
Options for setting up recurring invoices and automatic payments are available, as well as the option to accept payments via PayPal. Offline payments can also be tracked.
For expense tracking, FreshBooks can connect to nearly 10,000 different credit cards to automatically pull in statement data. Data can also be manually imported via a number of different file types and scans or photographs of receipts can be easily attached to expense submissions.
Users can input the time taken for a task into FreshBooks as a means of tracking productivity. Staff rates can be set and team timesheets tracked on a project-by-project basis. It is also possible to track unbillable time, such as staff hours spent on internal administration.
FreshBooks allows you to keep track of where you are up to with your accounts and when certain accounts are due. Profit and loss can be tracked and finance reports exported. Tax summaries can be automatically calculated and produced to make the process as simple as possible for your business.
Price: From £9 (around US$15, AUD$16) per month
QuickBooks is another finance platform that has now moved to the cloud. QuickBooks Online provides all of the core functionality of its predecessor, such as being able to send invoices and receive payments, tracking sales and expenses and managing VAT, but with the added benefit of being accessible from all of your devices.
As well as being accessible on your computer via the web, QuickBooks has iOS and Android apps available for use on smartphones and tablets.
The main features of QuickBooks are available to all users, but the platform is also highly customisable based on the user's needs. Add-ons can be activated to provide new and extended functionality.
In addition to providing broadly useful functionality, such as managing payroll, accepting credit card payments and stock control, add-ons are also available for connecting QuickBooks to specific CRM, contact management and e-commerce platforms. It's even possible to connect QuickBooks to other finance packages, such as FreshBooks, Harvest and Tradeshift.
The ability for users to accept credit and debit card payments and run their payroll with QuickBooks are selling points, as these features are not always present with other accounts and invoicing platforms. Of course, users get all the standard functionality that you'll find elsewhere too, such as reporting, dashboards to flag up current and recent activity, the option to customise invoices, sales and expense tracking and bank account syncing.