Best bookkeeping software
Doing accounts on a spreadsheet isn’t good enough in today's business, as it doesn’t give you live cashflow numbers or provide the detail that tax accounting needs.
The better solution is to use a bookkeeping application that can handle all the subtle aspects of number crunching and provide you with timely warnings if financial difficulties are around the corner.
These tools can interface with payroll systems to pay employees and contractors, electronic process payments in a retail setting, and a host of other critical money management chores.
Here are the best five bookkeeping applications to keep your business on track.
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Bookkeeping by Zoho
The software giant Zoho has a bookkeeping solution that is perfect for small businesses.
Zoho Books is a cloud-based solution that lends itself to online retailers or any business that is stock or service-based.
It can generate invoices and reminders, provide current stock numbers, import bank statements into the system and automatically categorise them.
And, once you’ve got all the critical data input into Zoho Books, it can generate profit & loss, balance sheets or one of thirty other important reports easily.
A big plus for this solution is that Zoho has developed mobile apps that allow a business owner away from the office to send quotes, review projects, and have an overview of critical financials.
Another great feature is that, for a small extra fee, Zoho Books can be used with a scanner to capture paper invoices and extract data from them using OCR.
The cost of Zoho Books is very modest, considering how much time it could save a small business owner.
The bottom tier basic plan is just $9 per month or $90 for the whole year, and that version supports two users, five automated workflows and can handle fifty contracts.
Additional users can be added for just $2 per month or $20 for the whole year.
And, Zoho has higher tiers with more users, more workflows and more contracts.
Popular for a reason
Intuit first bookkeeping solution was DOS-based Quicken that over time evolved into QuickBooks launched in 1992.
Today Intuit boasts more than 29 million customers using a QuickBooks product and 80% of those are small businesses.
As you might expect with such a mature product, QuickBooks has all the features a small business owner might want or need. It can invoice, project cash flow, track mileage, run payroll, and in some regions, it will even complete the financial part of tax returns.
It has no limits on transactions or invoices, can chase later payers automatically, and you can snap and store receipts using an Apple iOS or Android phone or tablet easily.
This is bookkeeping the easy way, and it even interfaces to PayPal.
Intuits success has been driven by a low-cost model, where a self-employed person can have this facility for just $10 per month, or a start-up for $20 with expense tracking for $20 per month.
A strong point of this product is that it is very scalable, growing with the business from a single-seat solution to 25 users and sophisticated reporting tools.
The only caveat to this progression is that you can’t upgrade the Self-Employed plan, only the Simple Start plan, should you start with the latter.
Cloud accounting with collaboration
FreshBooks is a web-based accountancy solution that 5 million businesses use regularly.
It combines accessibility, flexibility and affordability to provide a solution that many sole proprietors and small businesses can’t easily ignore.
Where is diverges from the likes of QuickBooks and Xero is that FreshBooks has team collaboration as a pivotal part of its design.
This capability allows those in sales to focus on the task at hand while those managing cash flow can be aware of new business as it happens. The collaboration can also be extended to vendors and suppliers, keeping them in the loop.
To keep business moving along smoothly, FreshBooks offers extensive automation to drive early invoices and chase when payments are overdue.
The only significant weakness is a lack of any stock management component, making it unsuitable for those who sell products exclusively, or that bundle them with other services.
At the time of writing, FreshBooks has a fall promotion where it has slashed prices to just $6 per month for the lowest Lite tier, and $20 per month for the top Premium service. Whatever tier you choose, this isn’t an expensive service and represents excellent value for money.
A slice of free cashflow management, madam?
SlickPie is aimed at the microbusiness sector, potentially selling through eBay or similar, that needs to send invoices, process payments, reconcile bank transactions, create quotes and estimates and track expenses.
There are lots of small businesses that could use those features, and SlickPie can be accessible from any computer or mobile device, and work with multiple businesses under one roof.
Let’s imagine that you run a catering business with an associated venue and entertainment organiser. SlickPie can manage all three business, allocating costs and expenses to each company, but providing centrally managed accounts.
What attracts many to SlickPie initially is that the Starter version is free, and you can have as many users as you like without restriction.
What’s even more remarkable about the free version is that with a few small exceptions, it offers identical features to the paid Pro tier that costs $39.95 per month.
The only differences are that the Free version only supports ten companies, where the paid can handle fifty. And, support is email and telephone for paying customers where only email is available for free.
For many potential customers, these differences aren’t critical, and the free release will be perfectly acceptable. Though, some aspects of this tool do assume some knowledge of accountancy practices.
The simple bookkeeping solution for small business owners
Not to be confused with the fruit of the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale), native to South America, Kashoo is a basic bookkeeping solution that you can access from any computer or mobile device.
The core features are the ability to track expenses, create invoices, take payments, interface to bank feeds, report on activity and provide financial insights.
These are exactly the features that any small business needs if they are not to stumble at the first cashflow hurdle or be overloaded by accountancy tasks.
Our only reservation about Kashoo is that the features have a strong American slant, as outside that region businesses rarely print checks, for example.
However, there are plenty of globally useful features, like the ability to take credit card payments using Stripe and BluePay. And it offers payroll management.
What it lacks is a stock control component, and it also doesn’t include any fixed asset management.
These facilities are available elsewhere, but probably not at the relatively low cost of Kashoo.
This service is priced at $19.95 if paid monthly or $199 if you commit to annual billing. There are no tiers, that’s the price. However, you are charged extra if you have multiple businesses.