Probably the most important aspect to running a business, and one of the most difficult, is keeping tabs on your income, outcome, and overall profit. 

This is especially when you’re a start-up, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the administrative tasks you need to manage. However, similar applies to larger corporations as the volume of invoices can make it difficult to be entirely sure of the financial position of the business at any one time.

This is way having a good accounting solution in place from the start is a seriously good idea, so that you can ensure you can keep on top of tracking money in and out of the business as and when you need to check. This is even more important as the business grows, because without a solution in place problems from lack of oversight can snowball along with stress levels.

This is particularly the case for businesses who might want to simply leave everything to their accountants at the end of the year. While technically it means the accounts are done and taxes filed, without a proper idea of the day-to-day costs and earnings then the company is almost certainly losing money.

Luckily, there are some very easy to use and well-developed software applications available, which can not only make it easy to manage your accounts, but also make everything clearer for your accountant at the end of the year, saving administration costs there. 

Some accounting packages are downloadable software, but these days it’s more common for applications to run in the cloud, which means you can access them through a web browser or app on almost any device, including on your phone while on the go.

Here then are the best in accounting software currently available.

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1. FreshBooks

A product tailored for SMBs

User-friendly interface

Plenty of depth and features

Integrates with many popular services

FreshBooks is a popular cloud-based accounting service designed specifically for small business owners.

The package has plenty of features – invoicing, expense tracking, time tracking, a host of business reports, even an option to take credit card payments (for a 2.9% plus 30 cents transaction fee) – but a straightforward interface aimed at non-accountants ensures you’ll be up-and-running right away.

Despite the simplicity, there’s real depth here. You can bill in any currency, save time by setting up recurring invoices, allow customers to pay via credit card by checking a box, and even automatically bill their credit card to keep life simple for everyone.

If you need more power, the system integrates with many other services, including PayPal, MailChimp, Basecamp, WordPress, Gusto, Zendesk and more. 

Management hassles are kept to a minimum. You’re able to access and use the system from your desktop or its free iOS and Android apps, and because it’s a cloud-based system there’s no need to worry about backups.

If this sounds appealing, you can try FreshBooks for 30 days without using a credit card.

The Lite plan gives you invoices, estimates, time tracking, expenses, plus the ability to accept online credit card payments and import expenses from your bank account. It’s $15 a month, but only covers you for five clients.

The Plus plan supports a more reasonable 50 clients, adds the ability to send proposals, and saves you time by providing recurring invoices and the option to automatically send payment reminders. It’s decent value at $25 a month.

The $50 a month Premium plan lifts the client limit to 500, and further users can each be added for $10 per month.

(Image credit: QuickBooks)

2. Intuit QuickBooks

Veteran cloud-based suite that covers all business needs

Even basic plan is well-featured

Lots of extras available

Free trial

Intuit QuickBooks may have been around since the days of DOS, but the latest version is right up-to-date – it’s an easy-to-use cloud-based suite for just about all your business needs.

Even the Essentials plan for $20 per month has plenty of features: invoicing, expense tracking, as well as time tracking, manage bills, and works for up to three users. There’s also the option to add either self service payroll or full service payroll for an additional fee.

Just like FreshBooks, there are a pile of apps to add more features: inventory management, Shopify integration, job scheduling, CRM and more. These can be expensive – many services cost more than QuickBooks itself – but there are exceptions.

Add GoCardless (which is available for UK customers), for instance, and you’re able to set up and take regular Direct Debit payments from customers for a mere 1% transaction fee capped at £2 – and there are no sneaky setup charges or other hidden extras. QuickBooks also offers mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Overall we’d usually prefer FreshBooks, but there’s plenty to like about QuickBooks, too, and with free trials available it’s easy to try them both.

3. Xero

Plenty of power with a cheap basic plan

Temptingly cheap Starter plan

Excellent mobile apps

Basic plan has limitations

Xero might grab your attention with its low $9 per month Starter account but look closely and limitations soon become apparent – like being restricted to sending a maximum of five invoices, entering five bills, or reconciling only 20 bank transactions.

Still, if you can live with those restrictions there are some pluses here. The service offers smart expense tracking and management, optionally on your mobile with Xero’s excellent app for Android and iOS. There are dozens of configurable reports, simple budgeting, and no limits at all on additional users or the accountants you might want to access the data.

If the invoice, bank or billing issues are a problem then the Xero Standard plan looks like a better deal. It’s a lot more money at $30 per month, but you can issue as many invoices and enter as many bills as you like.

One disappointment is the lack of support for multiple currencies, which only arrives if you sign up for Xero Premium for $60 a month.

Xero offers plenty of functionality, including a handy “convert your QuickBooks files” service to help you get started, and it’s certainly easy to use. But if you don’t quite need all that power, there’s better value to be had elsewhere.

4. Sage Business Cloud Accounting

Another veteran offering with some tempting subscription plans



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