Finding the best accounting software is the first step to keeping your business finances in order.
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What does your accounting solution look like? If it involves spreadsheets and handwritten anything, it's time for a change. From billing clients to paying employees, tracking expenses, creating financial reports and even helping out with taxes, accounting software offers everything small businesses need to keep an eye on the bottom line — without the hassle and headaches of manually managing your books.
"Any growing business eventually needs an automated application," said Calvin Harris Jr., a certified public accountant and president of Change Management at Harvin Consulting, a financial consulting and project management firm. By using an accounting software, business owners will save considerable time and increase efficiency, he said. "It will allow them to spend less time on bookkeeping and more time on growing their business," Harris said.
With the plethora of accounting software available, however, finding the best one for your business can be a challenge. It may seem like most software programs do the same thing, but in reality, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. For instance, while some software comes jam-packed with features, you may only need the basics. And while some accounting software is incredibly complex, others are very easy to use. [10 Accounting Solutions for Small Businesses]
To find the best accounting software, the best approach is to narrow down choices based on your type of business. "I suggest looking for a brand that can grow with their business and ideally has a version for their specific industry," Harris said.
Additionally, businesses that use or plan to use an accountant should also seek input on which software to purchase. "Admittedly, most accountants are familiar with the biggest brands, and when business owners decide to use an outside accountant, the transition will be much easier," Harris said.
In addition to accounting capabilities, businesses should look for other useful features, like task automation, mobile access and team collaboration.
For a complete side-by-side comparison of the best accounting software, visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews. Here are its top three recommendations for accounting software.
FreshBooks earned Top Ten Reviews' Gold Award as a cloud-based accounting software offering anytime, anywhere access to accounting tools. Its features include customized invoices, expense management, time tracking, accounting reports and tax calculations. With FreshBooks, small businesses can get paid faster with online payments and credit card processingvia more than a dozen payment gateways, including PayPal. Users can also set up recurring invoices, auto payments and late-payment reminders.
Ease of use: FreshBooks has an easy, intuitive user interface that takes the guesswork out of accounting. Time-saving features include recurring invoices, automatic data storage and tax calculators for managing multiple tax rates. FreshBooks is also a cross-platform accounting software that frees users from the restrictions of desktop-only accounting software, as it can be accessed on mobile devices. Users of iPads and iPhones can also download the FreshBooks app for convenient access.
Help and support: FreshBooks offers free support by phone and email.
Cost: FreshBooks is free for a limited number of clients. A monthly package, which starts at $19.95 a month, is required to manage multiple clients. A $39.95-per-month subscription is required for access to project-management features, team timesheets and team expense reporting. A 30-day free trial is also available.
QuickBooks Online Simple Start took home this year's Top Ten Reviews' Silver Award for providing users with advanced invoicing, reporting, expense tracking, billing and payment tracking. The accounting software includes numerous automated features, including automatic backup, scheduled billing and bank reconciliation. Intuit's QuickBooks Online produces professional-looking invoices, which can be completely customized by users, with their choice of logo, font, color and background image. In addition, the software has been designed to work with a variety off add-ons, including payroll, point of sale, inventory, Salesforce CRM, payment processing and Demandforce modules. Overall, QuickBooks is well suited for managing small businesses.
Ease of use: QuickBooks'online accounts can be accessed from anywhere there's an Internet connection, as well as via mobile devices. QuickBooks Online provides apps for iPhones, iPads and Android mobile devices. Although they are not full-scale versions, the mobile apps can perform tasks such as creating invoices, capturing receipt images and editing customer information. Electronic signatures are also included, so customers can sign their estimates immediately without any issues. To help users save time, the invoicing tools in this service include a variety of automated features, such as auto-fill boxes, tax calculators, integrated help topics, drop-down menus and calendars. Invoices can also be configured to allow customers to pay their bills online using the Intuit PaymentNetwork.
Help and support: QuickBooks offers support via phone and email. Additionally, its website includes a selection of help options, including a new-user resource center.
Cost: QuickBooks Online costs $12.95 per month for up to five users. That includes an unlimited number of clients and invoices.
#3 Sage One
Sage One earned this year's Bronze Award for offering an all-in-one accounting software. Sage One bundles all the tools businesses need to create, send and track invoices; process payments; manage expenses, link bank accounts and credit cards; generate financial reports; and maintain accounting records. Included in the software is a project-management platform, where users can collaborate, share files and manage tasks via the cloud.
Ease of use: Sage One is an easy-to-use accounting software. It does not require any downloads and is accessible on any Web-enabled device. The software also helps users save time with task automation features, such as automatically placing payments against invoices, sending overdue email reminders, categorizing income and expenses, and more.
Help and support: Sage One offers free support by telephone, email or chat.
Cost: Sage One costs $24 a month. A 15-day trial is also available.