For any small business, managing your accounts is key. A pile of receipts in a shoe box is not going to give you an up to date financial view of your business. Here I review 3 popular online accounts software.
Xero (pronounced zero) is an Online Accounting Software package and is probably the world’s market leading small business online package. The company was started only in 2006 in New Zealand but now have a presence in Australia, the US and in the UK.
Although any user can sign up for their own Xero account and start working on their accounts straight away Xero has an international network of Accountants and Bookkeepers who partner with Xero.
For myself and I’m sure many other micro-business owners ‘Accounts’ is a dirty word which keeps us from our families and prevents us from spending time doing what we love. Xero has a number of features which can help you claim back some of these lost hours number crunching. They have the ability to get an automatic feed from your bank (check you bank allows this) and import and automatically code your transactions which allows you to reconcile your accounts with just a few clicks.
Of course Xero does all the usual accounts functions such as pay bills, create purchase orders and invoices, run your payroll and handle expenses claims. For businesses which sell to around the world or in foreign currency Xero can handle 160 foreign currencies and exchange rates are updated hourly letting you have true visibility on gains and losses made through currency fluctuations.
If you run a retail operation or an online store then Xero integrates with third party packages to automate this without having to spend a fortune on web design or POS (Point Of Sale) equipment.
Speaking of integrations this is one of Xero’s strong points, they allow you to integrate with other systems such as inventory or job management systems, Customer Relationship Management systems and Quoting tools.
Pricing – From £12 to £24 per month,
Support – 24/7 email support
Free Trial – yes – reduced feature set only start paying when you’re ready.
Kashflow is a 10 year old, UK based company which has over the years made a name for itself providing a great accounting package aimed at small businesses. If you listen to commercial radio in the UK you might well have heard their adverts over the last couple of months.
Kashflow covers the basic accounting functions including sales and purchase orders, invoicing, bank reconciliation, reporting etc but doesn’t have quite as rich set of features as Xero. For instance it doesn’t allow reconciliation via bank feeds or support payroll functions.
However it does have a lot of functionality geared towards the UK market such as reports for Self Assessment and HMRC reporting. Another plus for Kashflow is the large amount of payment processors it integrates with including PayPal, SagePay, PayPoint and Barclaycard to name a few. In fact integrations with other systems is a real focus for Kashflow and there’s more to choose from than with Xero, I counted 40+.
As with Xero, Kashflow has a partnership arrangement for Accountants and bookkeepers.
Pricing – A flat £17.99/month
Support – 24/7 email support
Free Trial – Yes, full featured trial for 14 days.
Freshbooks has been around for nearly as long as Kashflow and is based in Canada but has customers in 120+ countries. Freshbooks is probably the simplest most intuitive packages to use and is geared very much towards businesses that bill for time so is great if you have a service oriented business such as IT Support, Social Media or Business Consultancy. Unlike the two above, unless you’re in North America there isn’t a partnership scheme for accountants.
As you would expect Freshbooks makes it super simple to track time spent on clients, expenses tracking and client rebilling. They also make it easy to take payments online, integrating with 14 payment processors including PayPal of course. In fact where I was impressed with the integrations available with Xero, my mind was blown by Kashflows integrations Freshbooks integrations are just mind bogglingly extensive.
Although Freshbooks has slightly less whistles and bells than the rest it is by far the simplest to use, for those of us, myself included, who hate doing the accounts this could end up being the deciding factor.
Pricing – from Free (limited to 3 clients) to $39.95/month.
Support – email and phone support Mon-Fri 9am-6pm EST (GMT – 5hrs).
Free Trial – yes, 30 days.
(Ed – there is also FreeAgent)
Today’s Micro Action
There are a lot of Accounts packages out there so take a look at the solutions above as well as any others you find on Google and compare their features to what YOUR business actually needs to keep your accounts in order.