How to choose accounting software for small business

Accounting software
(Image credit: Future)

If you’re a small business owner then it’s never been easier to stay on top of your accounts. Gone are the days when everything had to be on paper and you’d need to spend countless hours sifting through piles of invoices, purchase orders, receipts and lots more besides. 

We've picked out all the best accounting software of 2020

Thanks to a wealth of accounting software for small businesses you can quickly bypass all of that faffing around and get stuck into doing it all digitally.

In fact, if you’re a small business owner, freelancer or a sole trader you might already be using accountancy software or a payroll package. However, the world of software never stops moving, so it’s important to stay as up to date as possible and be sure you’re using the one that best fits your business. 

With frequent changes to legislation, including matters relating to tax, self-assessment and other areas that can affect your business and its fortunes, the need to have the right software has never been more vital.

Selecting software

So, which accounting software do you choose when there’s so much choice to pick from? That basically depends on a few factors, such as what type of business you run, if you employ staff, whether or not you have physical premises and also if you use the services of an accountant. 

There are other factors to consider too, with tax being perhaps at the top of the priority pile.

It’s important to select the right accounting software for the size of your business too, as there’s little point in purchasing a full-on bells-and-whistles package when you might only need to use a few of the features. If you’ve got fairly simplistic business accountancy requirements then it’s a good idea to keep things as basic as possible.

Complex accounting

Conversely, if you’ve got complex accountancy requirements then spending money on the right software can end up saving you time and money in the long run. But being able to do everything digitally is certainly the way forwards if you’re not already using computing power to crunch those numbers. 

TechRadar regularly updates its reviews of the best accounting software, so you can be sure that our look at the likes of FreshBooks, QuickBooks, Xero, Sage Business Cloud Accounting and Kashoo should all focus on the latest and best editions.

While it’s still certainly prudent to keep any paperwork you might accumulate along the way, such as fuel receipts and expenses for day-to-day meals, most of us have a digital paper trail that helps ease the burden of small business accounting. Along with internet banking there’s no reason why keeping on top of your finances shouldn't be pretty straightforward.

Software options

When it comes to small business accounting you’ll find that there are numerous options open to you, depending on your requirements. If you’re a one-man-band, perhaps a freelancer or a sole trader then you’ll find that the range of small business accounting software options open to you are many and varied.

You might also want to investigate the best billing and invoicing software too, which offer an extra dimension to improving the efficiency of your business. 

Take a look at FreshBooks, Zoho Invoice, Simplybill, Invoicera, Express Invoice or Paypal invoicing on that front. And, if you’ve got employees then there are also plenty of small business payroll software packages out there too. Try Gusto, Sage Business Cloud Payroll, QuickBooks, Patriot Payroll and BambooHR for numerous ways of solving that and other HR issues.

Remote benefits

Meanwhile, with an increasing number of us choosing to work remotely, either by choice or through necessity, there are also lots of ways of using the best cloud-based accounting solutions to lighten the load. Many web-hosted small business packages work in the cloud, meaning they’re hosted remotely and allow you to tap into their power whenever and wherever you might be.

Better still, all of the data is also stored in the cloud, which means it’s probably safer and more secure than keeping it on a local machine with all of the potential risks that can entail. 

Similarly, you should also ensure that you’ve taken adequate precautions to back-up all of your accounting data and other matters relating to your business, with your own cloud storage being a good idea given its affordability. Document storage is also worth investigating. 

After all, alongside cloud storage there is a huge range of hardware available that allows to back up and store everything without spending a small fortune. Take a look at our guide to give you an idea which one might be best for you.

Monitoring costs

Let’s also not forget that if you’re running a small business you’ll probably want to keep a firm grip on your overheads. 

While paid-for accountancy solutions are definitely the way forwards because you invariably get a better, more rounded package, there are also lots of free software programs that are also worthy of investigation. In fact, there are gratis software options specifically for small businesses, as you can see from our guide to some of the best out there currently.

Again, depending on your requirements you’ll probably be able to find a free accountancy program that will cover most bases. While there might be less in the way of features and functions, many free small business accountancy packages will prove useful, at least until you move on up to their paid-for counterparts. 

Have a look at the likes of ZipBooks, Money Manager Ex, GnuCash, TurboCash, Wave, NCH Express Invoice, VT Cash Book, Invoice Expert Lite Edition, Adminsoft Accounts and QuickFile for example.

Budgeting solutions

If you are working with limited funds, or you simply prefer to stay on top of your finances then another avenue worth exploring is budgeting. 

Our comprehensive guide gets to the bottom of this very matter. Similarly, our best personal finance software overview makes for essential reading if you’re looking to manage your own money more efficiently.

Check out the best business plan software for planning your finances

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.