If you have a small business, you want to focus your time and effort on your core competency. Unfortunately, the very nature of smaller businesses means that you may not have the personnel to handle your back-office functions while your attention is elsewhere. This is why small businesses should focus their software resources on the parts of the business that draw them away from their core competency.
If, for example, you’re the owner of a tee-shirt designing business, you don’t want to use up most of your days by doing your accounting by hand. Accounting, invoicing, payroll and other time-consuming back-office tasks are some of the best to go after early in the game. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re shopping around for accounting software and some recommendations to look at.
In accounting software, look for time-saving features like automated entries, bill payments, invoicing, expense and financial reports and reconciliations. If you need to perform advanced tasks like data syncing with point of sale (POS) systems and bank accounts, you want to find accounting software that makes those actions simpler. To get your money’s worth, you should also look for software that will scale as your business grows.
Some examples of accounting software include:
Whether you’re a freelancer or a restaurant owner, Intuit QuickBooks Online has just about everything you need. It has a very intuitive user interface, and features include financial reporting, tracking of income and expenses, the ability to download bank and credit card transactions, automatic data backups, and quarterly and year-end tax preparation and filing; it also integrates with over 150 other business apps.
QuickBooks offers both phone and chat support, which is important for the small business owner who may not be comfortable with accounting.
The QuickBooks dashboard gives you a snapshot of your financial status, with information such as income, overdue and paid invoices, expenses, profits and losses, and even a to-do widget. Pricing starts at $9.99, a plan that is limited to one user, and scales up from there. You get a mobile version of the app free with your QuickBooks Online subscription.
Wave Accounting is a free, cloud-based accounting software specifically designed for businesses that are just starting out or plan to remain small. While Wave offers mostly core accounting functions, it does have some time-saving features that small business owners will find attractive. These include automatic billing and invoicing, and the ability to set up reminders to help keep track of paid and unpaid items. The software also offers a simple, step-by-step guide to year-end and tax prep.
Wave also automatically syncs data, so you don't have to manually input transactions yourself. It automatically backs up data so you don’t have to worry about redoing everything in the event of an outage or cyber attack. One drawback is customer service. Although Wave offers a FAQ page, community forums and a knowledge base, you don’t get live customer support unless you purchase the Premium Services, which starts at $9 per month. Mobile apps are also available for iOS and Android.
If your business is growing, Wave Accounting may not be the best solution for you. A paid option like Zoho Books is a good accounting option for microbusinesses (those employing nine people or fewer).
Zoho costs $24 per month, is easy to use, and offers additional features to help businesses make the most out of accounting software. That monthly fee gives you unlimited access to all of its features, which include invoices, estimates, bills, expenses, customers, vendors, currencies, projects and even users. It also offers automated billable hours via a built-in time-tracking tool, advanced reporting and API and third-party integrations (e.g., Google Apps, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.).
With the Zoho service, you get email and 24-hour phone support five days a week in the U.S., the UK, Australia and India. It includes an accounting app for iPhone, which allows you to manage your business accounts anywhere.
If you want to concentrate on your business’ core competency and less on the back-office stuff like accounting, take a look at the options. Many of the software programs offer free 30-day trials, which is a good way to get a peek at a program before you make a commitment to buying.