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Businesses are designed to make money and when that money comes in and flows out it must be tracked. Fortunately, in today’s day and age, we skip the pencils and ledgers to keep track of dollars and cents and to see how the business is doing. There are many great online bookkeeping software options that can make the job of financial management easier, but the challenge can often be in selecting the right software tool from so many options, to avoid painful bookkeeping mistakes.
The average entrepreneur runs a small business (at least small to start) that may have basic needs in the early stages. Some are solo-preneurs who work in construction and perhaps add one or two employees over time. A service-based company with 100 employees will have a lot of need for payroll and benefits tools in their bookkeeping software. A cake-decorating company is going to have staff, a lot of perishable products on hand and fluctuating sales around the holidays which will need a completely different bookkeeping approach as well.
It would be beneficial for these business owners and managers to take an online bookkeeping certificate course to understand the process of managing the financials, but as any entrepreneur will tell you, it’s hard to find time for additional education in a small, growing business. Fortunately, there are tools that don’t require an online bookkeeping certificate to get you on the right track and keep you from making those horrific bookkeeping mistakes that lead to calls from the CRA or losing money. The selection of the right software tool is all about the business itself. The factors include the size of the business, what it does and the nature of income and outflow.
Here are some bookkeeping software options to consider and cases where each is a good choice.
For small businesses with basic needs, Sage One can do an adequate job with its cloud-based offering. This is a basic system to keep track of income and expenses, but it lacks payroll features and has minimal reporting functionality. On the plus side, it is mobile-capable on both Apple and Android smartphones so that data is constantly current and you can see it immediately. There is connectivity to financial institutions, the ability to accept payments through PayPal and options for creating and sending invoices. You can also share the data with others so that your accountant can access the details as needed. This software is good for a 1 to 10 (or so) person business with simple transactions, low reporting needs and another method to manage payroll. Unfortunately, Sage doesn’t provide live customer support. It would fit the construction business and possibly the cake company noted above.
Perhaps the best know “Grandaddy” of all accounting software options, QuickBooks is familiar to most entrepreneurs’ ears. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of QuickBooks is that there are so many versions, once you’ve decided to use the system, you’ll need to pick which one is best for your business. On that side of things, there are a number of online bookkeeping certificate courses that use QuickBooks as example software and there are also QuickBooks specific courses. This will help you not only determine the right version but will also educate you on using it as soon as you have it in place.
There are online versions, a desktop version and industry-specific versions, so knowing someone who understands the world of QuickBooks (or contacting the company’s support team) can be an easy way to find your ideal version. Additionally, because it is so well known, help and support are available from a range of sources, making it relatively easy to get familiar with and operate without the fear of bookkeeping mistakes. There is a 30-day free trial to allow you to get familiar with the software before signing on.
Also, because Quickbooks has a variety of add-ons and connectivity to other programs and tools, it’s the ideal choice for businesses as they grow. This prevents the need to go through a painful accounting software transition. You would be able to simply add on the modules as you need them and learn how to use them, rather than taking on the education required to run an entirely new system.
QuickBooks is able to support all the small businesses mentioned in our example above and many more. Whether it’s a service-based business, one in construction, one with lots of inventory or even a café, this is the option that fits them all when you purchase the right version.
Seen as one of the best options for freelancers, FreshBooks has been gaining a lot of traction in the world of the solo-preneur and those who have small freelance service operations. Unlike QuickBooks, there is no inventory tracking, but that’s what makes it ideal for freelancers who don’t carry inventory. There are mobile access ability, payroll tools and lots of training options.
With a 30-day free trial, it makes it easy to get to know the software before making a decision and the monthly payment plans are based on the size of your business in terms of the volume of customers. The invoicing tool includes auto-billing and payment reminders which are incredibly handy.
Obviously, as an option for freelancers, FreshBooks is best for service-based businesses and possibly the construction company.
Another cloud-based solution is New Zealand-based Xero which offers an intuitive interface and three different types of payment plans. This system also allows potential users to try it free for 30 days, but unfortunately, despite it having a payroll module, there isn’t one for Canadian customers at this point. It includes all major accounts receivable and accounts payable forms (something FreshBooks lacks) and even has an inventory tracking element.
There is no live support with Xero, which makes some sense given that the product is from New Zealand, but there is training available like with all of the options mentioned previously. Xero also allows you to integrate with CRM systems (which Sage doesn’t do).
Overall, Xero is a nice option for a small or mid-sized business that may have inventory (something like our cake shop example at the start of the blog or the construction company).
Take the time to explore accounting software options and determine which tool will be the best for your needs. You want to find the best software to meet your business needs while also helping you avoid costly bookkeeping mistakes.