I’ve received a few reader emails recently, asking me what I think of different online and offline accounting packages, and which one I use.
Well, I’m an old-fashioned type, so I use an offline accounting package. This is primarily because there’s more than one business entity I’m involved with that uses the same software.
However, if you’re starting out, or still deciding on the right accounting package for you, here are some thoughts.
There are plenty of accounting system choices available to you, both traditional offline packages and web-based.
Features and costs vary widely among the options on the market. Any accounting package you consider should allow you to track items such as:
- Accounts receivable
- Accounts payable
- General ledger
- Stock or inventory
- Purchase orders
- Sales orders
Most systems allow you to send an invoice or receipt as a PDF by email, as well as the old-fashioned “print out and mail” method. Some of the newer versions also feature handy functions, such as time sheets (so you can input your hours directly into the system), mail merge (to enable a basic mailing list), and automated debt collections or reminders.
Speak to other colleagues to find out what they use, and search for reviews and tutorials for these packages online before making any commitment.
It’s also very important to ask your bookkeeper or accountant for their advice prior to making a commitment; they’ll probably be very useful also when it comes time to set up your initial accounts.
In my book, The Principles of Successful Freelancing, I cover some of the popular packages available. Here are six that I look at:
Quicken have at least five versions of their product, ranging from the ultra-light starter edition, to the premier edition, which integrates with banks, tracks investments, and more.
With 15 different suites, QuickBooks have everything from home finance tracking through to Retail, Accountant, and Payroll editions.
With their four products — FirstEdge through to Premier — MYOB have payroll, time billing, inventory, and even a simple contact database included.
FreshBooks is both an invoicing and time tracking system, with widgets available for desktop integration, sophisticated reports, and integration with the big-name payment gateways.
The individuals at Less Accounting make a point of saying that, instead of “some bloated accounting package,” they offer simple small business accounting software.
The most mature of the web-based finance offerings, Saasu rolls out new features regularly and has tight integration with social networks, search engines, and CRM systems. They have all the regular software features as well.
Whichever system you end up choosing, it’s vital that you become familiar with how it works. That way, you’re able to gain a quick snapshot about your business profitability and current standing at any time. It’s clever money management for the self employed or business owner.
This post first appeared as part of Issue 442 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I was co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.