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Updated May 15, 2024

The Best Accounting Software Services for Self-Employed and Freelancers in 2024

You may already be familiar with the QuickBooks brand, but a number of competitors like Xero and Zoho Books are worth considering.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.
Best for Self-Employed Tax Compliance
QuickBooks Online
Quickbooks logo
  • Track mileage and expenses
  • Calculate and pay quarterly taxes
  • Obtain expert help from CPAs
USALinks to QuickBooks Online
Visit Site
  • Track mileage and expenses
  • Calculate and pay quarterly taxes
  • Obtain expert help from CPAs
Best for Tracking and Paying Bills
Xero
Xero company logo
  • Advanced bill pay tools
  • Project-based custom invoices
  • Automatic client payment reminders
  • Advanced bill pay tools
  • Project-based custom invoices
  • Automatic client payment reminders
Best for Invoicing
FreshBooks Accounting
Freshbooks company logo
  • Highly user-friendly invoicing
  • Low prices for one-person teams
  • Quickly convert quotes to invoices
USALinks to FreshBooks Accounting
Visit Site
  • Highly user-friendly invoicing
  • Low prices for one-person teams
  • Quickly convert quotes to invoices
Best for Microbusinesses
Zoho Books Accounting
Zoho Books logo
  • Free for low earners
  • Drag-and-drop custom invoices
  • Calculate taxes and file returns
USALinks to Zoho Books Accounting
Visit Site
  • Free for low earners
  • Drag-and-drop custom invoices
  • Calculate taxes and file returns
Best for Basic Accounting Features
Sage
sage company logo
  • Highly competitive initial prices
  • Bank feeds and reconciliation
  • Basic invoicing and expensing
  • Highly competitive initial prices
  • Bank feeds and reconciliation
  • Basic invoicing and expensing

Table of Contents

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Business News Daily has spent years evaluating hundreds of business software and services to identify the best solutions. We put ourselves in the shoes of business owners as we judge each product’s performance, weigh its costs and analyze how it compares to competing options. After we narrow down the possibilities and solidify our recommendations, an editor outside the review process checks to ensure our analysis meets Business News Daily’s standards for accuracy, quality and impartiality.

When selecting the best accounting software specifically for self-employed individuals and freelancers, we looked for platforms with accounting and bookkeeping tools that make financial management less of a burden, such as automated recordkeeping, invoice reminders and quarterly tax calculators. We considered how costly each solution would be for a sole proprietor and whether add-on services would significantly increase expenses. Among other factors, we also weighed how challenging the program may be for inexperienced users and the extent of customer support options. Learn more about our methodology.

As a one-person or very small team, you need all the help you can get streamlining your processes and cutting down on manual work. That’s especially true in regard to your finances. In the course of doing business, you’ll need to create invoices, maintain records, claim applicable tax deductions, and pay your quarterly taxes. The best accounting software services do all this and more for freelancers and self-employed people. Without these services, managing your finances might start to feel like its own full-time job.

To help you decide which accounting platform might best serve you as a sole proprietor, we tested several dozen leading services. Among these, we chose the five that we felt best met self-employed and freelance needs. We focused on basic tools such as automated bookkeeping as well as sole proprietor-specific tools including quarterly estimated tax calculation, filing and payment.

Compare Our Best Picks

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Our Top Picks for 2024
QuickBooks Online
Xero
FreshBooks Accounting
Zoho Books Accounting
Sage
Rating9.5/109.0/109.0/108.5/109.0/10
Use Case

Best for Self-Employed

Best for Tracking and Paying Bills

Best for Invoicing

Best for Microbusinesses

Best for Basic Accounting Features

Starting Price

$10 per month

$13 per month

$13.60 per month, plus an extra $11 per month for additional team members

$15 per month

$10 per month

Free Trial Period

30 days

30 days

30 days

14 days

30 days

Integration Options

Yes (750+)

Yes (approx. 100)

Yes (100+)

Yes (approx. 40)

Yes (several hundred)

Invoicing Tools

Limited

Custom invoices, project-based invoicing, one-click invoice distribution, automatic payment reminders, mobile invoicing

Single-screen custom invoices, one-click invoice distribution, late fees, deposit requests, mobile invoicing

Drag-and-drop custom invoices, automatic payment reminders, deposit requests,
mobile invoicing

Custom automated invoices, customer payment status, mobile invoicing, file attachment

Quarterly Tax Tools

Calculation available with lowest pricing tier, payment with two higher-priced tiers

Unavailable

Unavailable

Calculate, generate and file tax reports and returns

Unavailable

Review Link
Scroll Table
Quickbooks logo
  • Through QuickBooks Self-Employed, you spend even less than on standard QuickBooks for access to basic expense management and financial reporting tools.
  • The platform calculates your quarterly estimated taxes and files and pays them on time.
  • Although QuickBooks Online (for small businesses) is known for its robust invoicing features, these aren’t included with QuickBooks Self-Employed.
Editor's Rating: 9.5/10
Visit Site

Starting at just $10 per month, QuickBooks Self-Employed is among the most affordable accounting services for sole proprietors. You can use the platform’s mobile app to track mileage and categorize trips, and we like that this facilitates your claiming of travel-based tax deductions. We also liked that you can use both mobile and desktop to sort, match and import expenses, including from paper receipts. On top of this all, for a self-employed accounting platform, the breadth of reporting features in QuickBooks Self-Employed impressed us.

Where QuickBooks Self-Employed truly shines, though, is its sole proprietor tax features. With the platform’s least expensive pricing package, you get automatic quarterly tax calculations alongside tools for maximizing your deductions. With the mid-tier package, you get quarterly tax payments as well, alongside one state and one federal tax return filing. Step up to the highest-tier package, and you get unlimited assistance from real CPAs. For self-employed tax compliance from start to finish, we recommend QuickBooks Self-Employed especially strongly.

Xero company logo
  • Xero’s leading bill tracking and paying tools are ideal if you work with many vendors.
  • With Xero, you can generate and customize invoices based on projects via mobile or desktop and send them in one click. Xero automates your payment reminders too.
  • Expense management tools are only available with Xero’s most expensive pricing package, which is designed and priced for small-to-midsize businesses rather than self-employed users.
Editor's Rating: 9/10

Although many freelancers operate with minimal overhead, including very few vendor payments, Xero is great for self-employed people who do work with many vendors. We like Xero’s bill pay tools more than those of any other vendor we reviewed — they’re intuitive and comprehensive for small businesses and self-employed people alike. You can view all your outstanding bill payments from Xero’s dashboard and schedule payments with one click. This lessens the chances that you’ll pay costly late fees and helps you keep your books in the black.

Xero’s invoicing tools are thorough and user-friendly as well. We like how easily you can customize your invoices and build them from projects or hours worked. Plus, you can distribute them in one click from either mobile or desktop, and the platform also automates your client payment reminders. We appreciate how meaningful this is for freelancers — you’ll stop spending extra hours chasing payment and get time back for your actual work. For any sole proprietor — especially self-employed operations growing to include more bill payments — Xero is a winner.

Freshbooks company logo
  • FreshBooks is our top accounting software for invoicing, which is the bread and butter of conducting self-employed — and especially freelance — business.
  • One-person operations pay less for FreshBooks than for some competitors.
  • Although FreshBooks’ invoicing features are ideal for freelancers and the self-employed, the platform lacks tools for calculating, filing or paying quarterly estimated taxes.
Editor's Rating: 9/10
Visit Site

Among all the accounting software platforms we reviewed, FreshBooks takes the cake for invoicing, a paramount accounting feature for sole proprietors and especially freelancers. We had an easier time generating custom invoices — both manually and automatically — in FreshBooks than in any other platform. FreshBooks especially impressed us regarding its automated recurring invoices and ability to convert estimates and quotes into invoices. The latter took just two clicks, and we appreciated how much time and effort this saved us.

For one-person operations, whether that means freelancers or one-person businesses, FreshBooks stands out in terms of pricing. Its starting price without any additional team members is $13.60, which is slightly less expensive than Zoho Books and on par with Xero. This price is a bargain for the depth of invoicing features you get with FreshBooks, which include single-screen custom invoices with one-click distribution. Other invoicing tools we liked include late fees and deposit requests — and with FreshBooks, you get these and more at reasonable prices.

Zoho Books logo
  • If you earn under $50,000 per year, your Zoho Books monthly subscription will be entirely free.
  • Zoho offers powerful drag-and-drop, customizable invoices alongside tools for calculating, creating and filing tax returns and reports.
  • Zoho Books’ 14-day free trial lasts half as long as our other picks for the best self-employed and freelance accounting software. This can lead to you needlessly rushing to decide whether Zoho Books is right for you.
Editor's Rating: 8.5/10
Visit Site

The very smallest businesses excel when using Zoho Books. That’s because this feature-rich accounting platform comes with a free monthly subscription for users with annual business revenue of at most $50,000. We like how accessible this makes Zoho Books for new freelancers, whose annual income may initially fall under this cap. If this sounds like you, we recommend Zoho Books for state-of-the-art accounting tools that far outperform other free platforms.

We find Zoho Books’ invoicing and tax calculation tools especially impressive. Although FreshBooks is overall our top pick for invoicing, Zoho Books comes close with its intuitive drag-and-drop custom invoicing and deposit request tools. We also like Zoho’s tax suite, which you can use to calculate, generate and file tax returns and reports. Whereas, frustratingly, most accounting platforms lack these fundamental self-employed tax tools, they’re part and parcel of Zoho Books. If you’re self-employed and low-earning, look no further.

sage company logo
  • With a starting price of $7.50 per month for six months, Sage Accounting’s initial prices are the lowest among self-employed accounting software.
  • Sage Accounting makes entry-level invoicing, expensing, quoting and estimating tools especially accessible.
  • There are no quarterly tax tools — or, for that matter, any tax tools — in Sage Accounting.
Editor's Rating: 9/10

If you’re looking for only the simplest, easiest accounting tools, Sage Accounting is a great choice of platform. You’ll pay highly competitive prices for access to fundamental invoicing tools and bank reconciliation features. Step up to Sage Accounting’s higher-priced tier, and you add expensing, quoting, estimating and cash flow management to the picture. Plus, for your first six months, this tier’s monthly price is actually less expensive than the lower-priced tier — $7.50 as compared to $10.

We especially like that Sage Accounting offers an exceptionally robust set of startup and user guides. This goes hand in hand with Sage’s entry-level nature — you might be new to accounting software, and Sage realizes that. We found that these materials made it exceptionally easy to get started with — and keep using — Sage Accounting. Whether you’re brand new to self-employment or you’re looking to finally get your books and accounting in order, Sage Accounting offers a great starting point.

Costs of Accounting Software for Self-Employed and Freelancers

Accounting software requires a paid monthly subscription, though fret not — these monthly prices are among the lowest you’ll encounter when pursuing business technology. Plus, if your business income is under $50,000, Zoho Books is entirely free. Otherwise, you might pay as low as $7.50 for the first many months, though the price will eventually increase to between $10 and $15. Although each vendor offers more expensive plans, these include features designed for full-on businesses. Self-employed users, though, generally only need what’s in a vendor’s lowest-priced package.

Additionally, our top picks for the best accounting software for self-employed and freelance people lack implementation and setup fees. You might encounter these with other accounting platforms, but not the five we’ve reviewed here. This further lowers the overall cost of accounting software.

Occasionally, you’ll encounter accounting software for which you’ll pay an extra fee per user per month. Admittedly, this is more common with other types of business software, and if you’re truly a one-person operation, you’ll never pay this added fee. However, if you use FreshBooks and take on employees or contractors who need access to your accounting platform, you’ll pay an additional $11 per user. We recommend watching out for add-on fees as you compare and contrast accounting platforms.

If you plan to receive payment on your invoices directly from your accounting software, you may also need to factor in credit card processing costs. These are typically a small percentage of each transaction plus a tiny flat fee. For example, a processor may charge you 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction. That said, if selling products rather than offering services is key to your self-employment, perhaps you’ve already implemented credit card processing. You can use this setup instead of your accounting software to receive payments.

TipTip
Not yet set up with credit card processing? Look over our picks for the best credit card processors to start implementing this key client and customer payment technology.

Features of Accounting Software for Self-Employed and Freelancers

If you’re self-employed and seeking accounting software, prioritize the following features in any platforms you’re considering.

Bank Feeds and Reconciliation

If you’re a self-employed person, you’re not getting regular paychecks from an employer. Instead, your cash flow is at the mercy of when your clients choose to pay their invoices. This makes bank feeds an important accounting tool — they’re how you quickly review all your cash inflows and outflows.

These feeds, when combined with bank reconciliation tools, automate the alignment of your bank data and financial records. An accounting platform that offers both tools gives you full insight into and control over your money.

Bill Pay

Although some self-employed people operate while paying few to no monthly business expenses, that’s not always the case. The more business products and services you pay for monthly, the more you’ll benefit from accounting software bill pay tools.

You can use these tools to view what you owe and to which vendors you owe it. Plus, with the best accounting platforms, you can make one-click bulk payments. This way, you’re unlikely to be saddled with late payment fees that cut away at your profit and cash flow.

Client and Customer Payment

A big part of being self-employed is, in many cases, working with less infrastructure than a full-on business. This makes offering your customers or clients extra convenience a key competitive advantage.

Enter payment options embedded in invoices — no more clients logging into their bank accounts or peer-to-peer payment platforms (or writing and mailing checks). Instead, everyone who owes you money can pay it right from where they see their charges detailed. This convenience can encourage repeat customer and client transactions while streamlining your cash flow.

Dashboard

As with any platform, great accounting software should be easy to use and navigate from the very moment you log in. Only choose platforms you can intuitively move through from the initial dashboard all the way through sending an invoice.

Expense Tracking

This is a huge one for freelancers — you very well might be missing out on key tax-deductible expenses and thus overpaying your taxes. The best accounting software for self-employed people automates the identification, capture and organization of these expenses via digital records and paper receipts. This way, come tax time, claiming your deductions and lowering your taxable income is a walk in the park.

FYIDid you know
We’ve prepared a guide to paying taxes as a freelancer to demystify this seemingly complex — but often quite easy — part of flying solo.

Financial Analysis

As a freelancer, you might benefit from fundamental financial analyses such as cash flow graphs and charts. It’s worth seeking accounting platforms that include these basic analyses, though you might not need other financial reports — these are often geared toward full-on businesses. However, if you do get other reports with your accounting software, you might have an easier time growing from a one-person operation into a team.

Integrations

Great business software of all kinds integrates seamlessly with other key platforms. Look for accounting platforms that integrate natively or via third-party connections with other tools you use. For example, if you use BILL to generate and track invoices, QuickBooks Self-Employed integrates seamlessly with this service for consistent invoicing records across platforms. Even if you use relatively few business platforms, connecting them substantially streamlines your operations.

Invoicing, Estimating, and Quoting

Sending invoices — and generating them in just seconds from estimates and quotes — are how you start the client payment process as a self-employed person. This makes the invoicing, estimating and quoting tools within accounting software perhaps the most important features within any platforms you’re considering.

During your free trials of several platforms, compare each vendor’s invoicing suite in particular. Place whichever one you found most intuitive, helpful and feature-rich toward the top of your list. Then, compare your best picks across the other factors on this list while still prioritizing invoicing. Your ideal choice of platform should be pretty clear thereafter.

Mileage Tracking

This feature goes hand in hand with expense tracking — it’s how you turn work-related trips into tax-deductible expenses. Look for accounting platforms with mobile apps that automatically track your miles traveled and convert them to expenses. This is among the most hassle-free ways to lower your tax burden.

Mobile Apps

Accounting software mobile apps are good for more than just tracking miles. The best apps also include tools for snapping photos of receipts, invoicing clients on the go and more. The more a platform’s mobile features overlap with those of its desktop suite, the better.

Quarterly and Annual Tax Payments

Although this feature isn’t common among even the very best accounting software platforms, it’s key for freelancers and self-employed people. Since your clients don’t withhold taxes from your payments, you’re responsible for quarterly, not just annual, tax payments.

Several accounting platforms calculate your quarterly taxes while generating and filing the corresponding tax reports and returns. This ensures you never incur late fees or no-payment penalties while removing tedious tax work from your task list.

Choosing Accounting Software for Self-Employed and Freelancers

You might be itching to get started on organizing your finances and streamlining your client payments, but we suggest never rushing into any business decision. Instead, make your way through the following steps as you choose the right accounting software.

1. Decide what you’re looking for from your accounting software.

Maybe you’re already happy with your invoicing process and just need a place to track and store earnings and payments. Or maybe you need a way to accurately pay quarterly taxes and expedite the whole process. Whatever you need, look for platforms with the best tools for addressing these pain points. Other features, even if they seem super impressive, just might not be necessary for you. Avoiding these features can lower your costs.

2. Compare your choices and look at customer reviews.

After getting a sense of which accounting platforms best serve your precise needs, review each vendor’s pricing table. These charts are typically quite clear on what you do and don’t get with the platform and at what prices. This way, you can compare features and prices across several appealing vendors.

Tools and costs, though, don’t tell the whole story — real reviews from real customers complete the picture. Look at what actual users have said about the platform on websites such as TrustPilot and the Better Business Bureau. Does their praise make you feel reassured, or do their complaints automatically eliminate any platforms for you? Although each review speaks to only one person’s experience, horror stories and effusive praise are both worth keeping in mind.

3. Accept free trial offers.

It’s much easier to make smart decisions about accounting platforms once you’ve actually tried several of them for yourself. Go ahead and, one by one, use the trial version of all the platforms you’re considering. During each trial, fully implement the platform into your workflows as though you’ve already committed to using it. With the platform integrated into your everyday processes, you’ll really see whether it works for you.

We always recommend pursuing free trial offers. Sure, you might be tempted to just dive right into using a platform that sounds appealing. However, that requires paying for it — and if you wind up not liking it, you can’t take your payments back. Test things out first so that you only put money toward technology you like and find useful.

4. Make one final comparison.

Go over all the platforms you’ve tried hands-on and enjoyed. How do their prices and features compare? Which ones are the easiest to use? The best platform for your precise business finance needs balances all these scales. Plus, since you’ve taken this longer-term approach to choosing a platform, chances are you’ll be happy with your choice from the get-go.

Did You Know?Did you know
With most free trials, if you decide to move forward with the technology, little to no additional setup is needed. You’ll be ready to upgrade to the full experience in just a few clicks — and experienced enough with the platform for instant success.

Advantages of Accounting Software for Self-Employed and Freelancers

As a freelancer or self-employed person, you might feel that requesting client payment and chasing overdue payments is a second job in and of itself. That stops being the case when you implement accounting software, which is advantageous for the following reasons:

  • It automates client payment reminders. Set it and forget it — once you’ve sent an invoice, many accounting platforms automatically send client payment reminders at recurring intervals. This increases the likelihood of timely client payment without any additional work on your end.
  • It makes invoices easier to create, send and track. It’s one thing to generate an invoice in Word or Excel and email a PDF to a client. It’s another to create and send invoices through a dedicated accounting platform that also shows the client’s payment status. Chances are that this platform will also give you tools for following up on payments and automatically adding late fees. With these extra tools, on-time full client payments become more realistic.
  • It streamlines all things tax. Instead of manually logging your tax-deductible expenses and spending a ton on hiring an accountant, let your accounting software handle your quarterly and annual taxes. Some platforms handle the entirety of tax calculation, filing and payment both quarterly and annually, automating an especially arduous part of self-employment.
  • It minimizes human error. It’s pretty embarrassing to track all that time on a project only to bill a client for $200 instead of the $2,000 you intended. It’s also uncomfortable to send a revised invoice and dramatically shift the client’s expectations. This is much less likely, if not impossible, with accounting software. Since this software is automated, data errors and corresponding mistakes border on nonexistent.
  • It organizes all your recordkeeping and paperwork. Nobody likes shuffling through a messy file cabinet full of haphazardly stored paper records. Accounting software is exactly the opposite. It creates a clear, logical, 100 percent digital record of all your cash inflows and outflows, not to mention your invoices and tax-deductible expenses. Whether you’re paying taxes or checking on client payment status, accounting software nearly perfects it all.

Accounting Software for Self-Employed and Freelancers FAQs

QuickBooks Self-Employed, a dedicated platform separate from QuickBooks Online, is designed for self-employed people and freelancers. We recommend the former for self-employed and freelance users, whereas we recommend the latter for full-on businesses.

All employed people, whether self-employed or working full-time for a company, pay taxes. Additionally, all employed people earn money and pay for expenses, some of which are tax-deductible. So while accounting software isn’t mandated by law, it’s certainly the most convenient, least stressful way to handle these legally binding self-employment financial needs.

Accounting software is the easiest way to improve your bookkeeping if you’re freelance. Connect this software with your business bank accounts, and you’ll separate business and personal finances while creating organized records of your spending, earning and taxes.

You may prefer cash accounting instead of accrual accounting since you might be making few enough transactions that this simpler approach is manageable. In cash accounting, you record your transactions once you actually get client payments or make vendor or tax payments. This is in contrast to accrual accounting — recording transactions once invoiced — which may be better for operations with several employees and vendors.

If you can afford to hire an accountant, we recommend doing so. However, if your budget is tight, accounting software that allows for seamless invoicing, expense management and quarterly and annual tax payment should do the trick. The best combination, though, is implementing accounting software that you then give an accountant access to — it’s how you get both financial infrastructure and support.

author image
Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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