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. 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." [10 Accounting Solutions for Small Businesses]
With the plethora of accounting software available, however, finding the best one for your business can be a challenge. Most software seem to all 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, as a small business, you may only need the basics. And while some accounting software feels like you need rocket science to use, others are easy as pie.
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 also look for other useful features like task automation, mobile access and team collaboration.
Our sister site, TopTenREVIEWS, does extensive in-depth reviews of accounting software. To help you find the solution for your business, here are the Top 3 recommendations for accounting software.
#1 Sage One
Sage One earned this year's top ranking 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. To compare costs, visit TopTenREVIEWS' Best Accounting Software 2014.
FreshBooks earned TopTenREVIEWS' silver 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 busineses can get paid faster with online payments and credit card processing via more than 13 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 FreshBook 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 starting at $19.95 a month is required to manage multiple clients. A $39.95 a month subscription is required for project management features, team timesheets and team expense reporting. A 30-day free trial is also available. To compare costs, visit TopTenREVIEWS' Best Accounting Software 2014.
Harvest earned the third spot as a time-tracking app designed for those who bill by time. Using Harvest, small businesses can take billable hours and easily convert them to timesheets and invoices. Harvest also enables users to accept payments using PayPal, Stripe and other payment processors. Other features include expense tracking, real-time reporting, and the ability to connect the app to more than 50 business tools, such as Google Apps and Salesforce.
Ease of Use: Harvest is a simple app that requires no accounting knowledge. To track time, users simply enter their start and stop times using the app's start/stop timer. A desktop time-entry widget is available for Windows and Mac; the Harvest app is also available for the iPhone and Android devices.
Help and Support: Harvest offers support by phone and via Twitter.
Cost: Harvest offers a free account with limited features. Paid accounts start at $12 a month. Try the service with a 30-day free trial. To compare costs, visit TopTenREVIEWS' Best Accounting Software 2014.