There are a lot of things that go into the equation when trying to choose the best accounting software for your small business. Of course you want something that will do the trick for the specific task you most need handled, whether that be invoicing, time tracking, bill paying, or what have you. But you will also want the solution to be affordable, and intuitive.

That is exactly what we kept in mind when we looked at the different options available to you, the small business owner, when it comes to small business accounting software. Some of the programs we looked at were great for businesses with employees and others better suited for freelancers. Some were easy to use, others were not.

When ranking the different choices, we specifically looked at the following factors: Cost, ease of learning and use, built-in features - like ability to import data, invoicing, payroll, bank reconciliation, inventory tracking, and the like - and then what additional options can be added in and for what cost.

We found that the best overall choice, especially when considering cost, is Zoho Books; maybe a surprise winner. Zoho Books isn't as well-known as some of the other big-name competitors, like QuickBooks or Sage, but nevertheless offers all the features you likely need, but at a fraction of the cost. 

Ranging between $9 and $29 a month, Zoho Books is a cloud-based app (as all of these tools are) that allows you to easily create timesheets, projects, invoices, track expenses, track inventory, generate purchase and sales orders, create automated workflows, and more. Their customer support is superior too, using real-time chat, phone, andemail support. The only real flaw with Zoho Books is the lack of payroll integration, and if you need that, then this is not the program for you.

See our Zoho Books Review here.

The best choice for a business that needs to generate payroll is QuickBooks Online. Intuit has been the leader in the financial software game for over 30 years and with QuickBooks Online, it is easy to see why. The user interface is superior, and the app can be outfitted to be as robust as you need.  You can pick from three different versions of QuickBooks Online, and each version offers a 30-day free trial (again, as do most of these programs.) 

While integrated payroll is not included by default in QuickBooks Online (you have to pay extra), if that is what you need, it is worth it. Notably, QuickBooks Online's integrated payroll application allows payroll in all50 states, which is not the case for many other comparable products. 

The other piece of good news here is that the QuickBooks user interface is extremely clean, intuitive, and easy-to-use. The colors make it inviting and user-friendly, and there are an array of third party applications you can download, all of which are integrated seamlessly into the QuickBooks Online interface. Reconciling your bank statements with QuickBooks is also easy, and that your accountant likely uses this option as well can't hurt.

The best accounting software for freelancers is FreshBooks.FreshBooks was designed specifically for freelancers and contractors. On the upside, the FreshBooks user interface is perhaps the most intuitive out of all comparable programs. It also does best what you as a freelancer likely most need - project management and generating invoices and related follow-ups. On the downside, don't expect financial reports, inventory tracking, customer statements, payroll, or bank reconciliation. 

Overall, there are a lot of great choices out there when it comes to small business accounting and it is tough to go wrong. But certainly, some of these tools are better than others, especially in the areas noted above.

Other Options:

AccountEdge - There are two software-based versions of AccountEdge.  The Basic version of the program is designed for the sole proprietor to help with basic bookkeeping needs.  The more powerful Pro version offers a full-featured accounting program for slightly larger businesses.  The software is available as a desktop-based application.  Some cloud-based features are available in the Pro version.  The Pro version has a list price of $399, and the Basic version has a list price of $149.  

CenterPoint Accounting - There are different versions of CenterPoint Accounting offered, depending on the type of business that you run.  There are specific versions available for Farm businesses, Municipal funds in small to mid-population centers as well as a General Business version.  CenterPoint offers a payroll module that handles most situations.

FreeAgent - FreeAgent is a cloud-based accounting application designed for freelancers, consultants, and small businesses.  The service integrates bank feeds, has features for recurring invoicing, payment reminders and time tracking, which provides flexible reporting as well as an integrated project tool.  FreeAgent has an introductory price of $12 per month for the first six months after a 30-day free trial period, and $24 per month after that.

GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping - GoDaddy offers an online accounting package, formerly from Outright.  If you run an online business and use GoDaddy for your web hosting, this offers a unique solution that will integrate your bank accounts, credit cards and sales accounts like Amazon and Etsy.  Plans range from $4.99 per month for the basics up to $14.99 per month for the Premium plan.

myBooks - myBooks is a cloud-based accounting system designed for solopreneurs and small businesses.  myBooks is designed to simplify the tasks related to keeping the books so if you have pretty basic needs; this could be a good solution.  There is a free version of myBooks available for extremely small businesses the price of the Standard version is $4.99 per month, and the Premium version is $9.99 per month.

Sage Business Cloud Accounting - formerly known as Sage One, Sage offers an affordable accounting system, but also offers 100 other applications that offers a more robust system for businesses with additional needs, like Stripe and GetMyInvoices.com.  Sage offers an excellent payroll module to integrate directly into your accounting system.  Pricing for Sage starts at $10 per month for the entry-level version and $25 for the advanced version.

 

Editor's Note: Looking for Accounting and Bookkeeping Services for your company? If you would like information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner, BuyerZone, provide you with information for free:

Editor's Note: Looking for Accounting and Bookkeeping Services for your company? If you would like information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner, BuyerZone, provide you with information for free:

Published on: Sep 24, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.