Small Business Accounting Software
The search for the best small business accounting software can be overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start. Perhaps your current setup is outdated and you're in desperate need of an upgrade, or maybe you’re just starting out in the small business world and you don’t know the first thing about invoices. It’s easy to get lost in a digital sea of reviews and suggestions, so here are a few well-reviewed contenders that can end the small business owner’s search.
For Virtual Offices with Off-Site Bookkeepers
Like most small business accounting software services, QuickBooks Online provides invoices, expense tracking, automatic integration for user bank accounts, syncing with third parties like PayPal and Square, and a mobile app for both iOS and Android. Users can email invoices and also have the option of taking online and mobile payments, which may potentially increase client response speed (meaning you get paid faster). If your office is paperless—or trying to be—QuickBooks Online offers users the option to photograph and save receipts via the mobile app. The service also offers in-depth accounting reports, covering everything from sales and expenses to employees and product inventory.
There’s a 30-day trial to be had here as well, and small business plans start at $12.95/month (Simple Start), ranging up to $39.95/month (Plus: provides option to prepare 1099 tax forms). QuickBooks Online customers can also add payroll services for about $40/ month. At this time, QuickBooks is offering up to 50% (depending on the plan) off QuickBooks Online and Payroll services for the first six months, but this discount is not available with the free trial.
It’s always an interesting marketing decision when companies self-identify as an “alternative” to another service, and that’s exactly what Xero does—on its homepage, no less. Xero specifically markets itself as a replacement for QuickBooks, boasting a straightforward data conversion process for those who make the decision to switch. The primary difference is an unlimited number of users, who can be added for free on any plan (although the payroll and timesheet options only allow up to 5 or 10 employees, depending on which plan you choose). Similar to QuickBooks, Xero also lets users snap pictures of their receipts in order to save them to expenses—another big plus for mobile users. The cloud-based service has its customers covered with invoice delivery, bill pay, 24/7 support, Android and iPhone apps, auto bank feeds, 1099 form prep across all plans, 400+ app integrations, SSL security encryption, and more.
And of course, there’s a 30-day trial. For those who like what they see during that time, the cheapest plan (Starter) is $9/month, with the second (Standard) being $21/month and the third (Premium) $70/month. There’s also a discount offered for the first six months of each one.
For Traditional Small Business Offices with In-House Bookkeeping
If you’re generally working in an office, update your books on-site, and don’t have a particular need for on-the-go access, the more powerful QuickBooks Desktop might be the best small business accounting software option. You don’t need an Internet connection to access your account, as you would with QuickBooks Online and other cloud-based software. (This is also a bonus if you’re wary of cloud-based accessibility.) In terms of features, QuickBooks Desktop has all the invoicing, tracking, account management and tax reporting features included in the online version. Additionally, there are a few options only available to Desktop users, such as business plan creation, a more detailed level of analytics, and sales/expense forecasting.
There’s no free trial period here (but QuickBooks does offer a 60-day money back guarantee), since the software is purchased up-front, and there are two versions to choose from (for non-accountants). The Pro version starts at $219.95 and Premier at $379.95 (these are technically discounted prices, but they are available virtually any time), with the major difference between tiers being the increased number of financial reports and managerial features provided in Premier.
For Freelancers and Contractors
If you’re a freelancer in need of tax-focused accounting software, QuickBooks has a solution that’s specific to you. Marketed with an emphasis on “quarterly and year-end tax relief,” QuickBooks Self-Employed prepares users for their quarterly tax process and streamlines the financial tracking process. Auto-categorization of expenses makes it easy to track patterns of income and profit, as well as business versus personal expenses, and there’s a mobile app for on-the-go freelancers. There are two plans to select from: the regular Self-Employed software for $9.99/month (currently available for $4.99/ month for the first year) or the Self-Employed Tax Bundle for $16.99/ month (currently available for $11.99/ month for the first year). The bundle features an option to export to TurboTax and includes one federal and one state tax return.
For Niche Businesses: Specialty Software
If you work in construction or manufacturing, chances are there’s a product that caters to your industry. For example, Sage 100 Contractor incorporates an Excel-based Intelligence Reporting tool into its financial tracking. AccuBuild, another product tailored to the construction industry, is a comprehensive business management service that covers financial business, projects, documents, workforce (field reports, time cards, etc.), and more. Another option, Procore, also delves into construction project management and features a collaborative aspect allowing for input from everyone involved in the project, such as architects and engineers.
No matter what stage your business is in—brand-new or established and growing at a rapid pace—there’s an accounting software out there that’s bound to make your life easier.