Founding a startup comes with various challenges. Maintaining your financial reports shouldn't be one of them. Inaccurate finances bring trouble with projections, investor updates, and cash flow management.
Utilizing accounting software early on prevents financial hiccups down the line. Before you commit, you need to do your due diligence.
To help you make the right choice, we’ve reviewed the best startup accounting software.
What Does Accounting Software Do?
Accounting software contains advanced technology and algorithms to streamline accounting tasks. Recording and reconciling company financials becomes the software's responsibility. You get your time back to focus on fundraising and building your startup.
Manual, time-consuming tasks like data entry are no longer human responsibilities and should be automated. Automation lowers data errors and cost that can rack up during manual entry. Accurate data equates to accurate forecasts, a tool every founder needs. Quickly capture a snapshot of your startup’s financial health on a dime.
Accounting software automates recording and organizing all financial data throughout the day. Specific software handles invoices, payroll, bill pay, and basic accounting tasks. More advanced software handles accounts payable and accounts receivable management, too.
What Should I Look For In Accounting Software?
No startup is identical; only you know what your business needs to run. Many accounting software offers the basics that can get you through the day-to-day. But, there are vital components to consider before purchasing.
1. Financial Insights
Good decision-making in business relies on accurate financial data at your fingertips. Not all software provides instant data; some limit how many reports you can run per month. Check transaction update time and the speed at which AP and AR update.
Depending on how many invoices you accept and send out, the software can take a day or two to update fully. Waiting on financials isn’t always an option. Budgets rely on numbers from the month before. Ensure the software you choose doesn’t get backlogged with consistent incoming data.
2. Additional Features
If your startup doesn’t require advanced features like payroll services, skip the extra payment. Look for software that lets you add these features to any existing plan. Additional features include payroll management, AP and AR management, bill pay, and a higher number of monthly invoices.
Startups can function with the basics. But eventually, you’ll need additional services to accommodate your growth. Certain software allows you to add features individually, while others require full plan upgrades.
Consider software with different plan levels. Switching plans is easier and less time-consuming than switching platforms.
4. Customer Support
Software isn’t always 100% operational. Ensure the software you purchase has efficient customer service readily available. Many software companies offer more points of contact besides phone services.
Email, online chat, and tutorials are becoming more common forms of support. These can be valuable resources if you're new to financial management functions.
Startups run on a tight budget. Consider whether it makes more sense to pay monthly or annually. Additionally, compare the number of invoices you send against the number you’re given monthly per plan. For most software, you can add individual invoices as needed, but the cost varies.
Determine what you can afford beforehand. Check your budget and adjust accordingly. Consider prices on additional services you’re considering adding at some point. Payroll, for example, is typically an add-on feature.
6. Specific Accounting Features
Reporting should be a top feature in your accounting software list. Check the limitations against how often you need to pull and run reports per month.
At a minimum, any software you choose should be able to generate the following:
Check the report running frequency and the limits on the number you can run.
Invoicing and payments: Check invoice limits and supported payment methods. AP and AR management is an important function in any software. Some software won't be compatible, depending on how many transactions you run. Certain software charges pay-per-use. If cost is the main component, stray away from pay-per-use software.
Expense tracking: Software with receipt scanning makes invoice management simple and quick. Check if the software supports scannable uploads or if everything is manual. Credit card and bank integration is another aspect of effective expense tracking. Make sure your cards and bank accounts work with the software you’re considering.
Bill Pay: Check that the software handles automated bill pay and look at any limits on the number of bills you can pay. Automatic bill pay isn’t a feature of all accounting software. Some require you to send the payment manually through the software.
App Integration: Integration eliminates the need to monitor different platforms to manage your business. You may be using apps to manage payroll, bookkeeping, and payments. Check the software for integration compatibility.
Additional features take over the responsibility of apps you may be using. Compare prices and if it’s worth adding the feature over finding software to integrate those apps.
Usability: Life is easier when all your information is in one spot. Accounting software typically organizes financials and transactions on one home page. But, some software requires a few click-throughs to find your needed information.
Everyone uses a smartphone or portable smart devices like an Ipad or tablet. Check for mobile app availability if you work outside of the office regularly.
Every accounting software has its strengths and downsides. You'll need to decide what features are essential to your startup's success.
What Is The Best Accounting Software For Startups?
There are many accounting software programs options to utilize. The choices are overwhelming when you start searching, but variety is good. You can be picky and compare every option before deciding.
To help you narrow down your search, here are six of our favorite best online accounting software.
Quickbooks has 28 years of experience and over seven million customers. Quickbooks offers all the features and support you need to help your startup succeed. The software uses cloud-based accounting to store all your financial data safely.
One of the reasons startups use Quickbooks is the optional add-ons. You can pay for features as needed and add more as you scale.
You can choose from three plans: Simple Start, Plus, and Advanced. Quickbooks Online offers expert real-time customer support, trusted by small business owners worldwide.
- Unlimited invoicing and payment
- Seamless integration with many popular apps, such as HubSpot, Bill.com, and Salesforce
- Tracks income, expenses, project profitability, billable hours, mileage, and inventory
- Ability to automate tasks and batch invoices and expenses
- Detailed reports to help you understand your startup's cash flow and enhance your decision-making
- Document management
- Receipt capture included with all plans
- Unlimited invoicing and payments with all plans
- Expert phone and live chat support included with all active subscriptions
- Free mobile app for iOS and Android devices
- Optional payroll add-on
- A limited number of users
- The advanced plan is more expensive than some other software subscriptions
- Lack of reports outside of accounting
- No consistent data backup
- No invoice design tools
- Missing industry-specific features such as barcode scanning and eCommerce
Try QuickBooks risk-free with a free 30-day trial. Plans start at $30 a month, and you may get an even better deal during one of the company's promotions. You can cancel or switch plans at any time. You can also opt to add on a payroll service. There are three payroll plans to choose from — Core, Premium, and Elite — starting at $45 per month.
Our software closes your books daily vs. once a month. All of your financials are up-to-date as they come in. Instantly pull financials for your investors or check your budget during lunch.
We pair our AI-powered accounting software and expert controllers together. Our teams provide each customer with financial support explicitly catered to startups.
We offer three plans: Full Service, Professional, or customized Enterprise plan.
- Access to a team of expert CPAs, controllers, tax experts, and bookkeepers
- AI-powered dashboard for 24/7 access to your financials
- Real-time accounting
- Investor-ready report ready when you need them
- Easy, guided onboarding process get your Zeni dashboard live on our first call
- Supports integrations with all central U.S. banks and credit cards.
- Supports popular finance tools such as Gusto, Bill.com, Stipe, Taxify, and more
- Fair and flexible pricing based on your expenses
- No free trial
- No promotional pricing
Zeni’s bases its plan pricing on your company’s total expenses. We know how important budgets are as a startup ourselves. Check out our price slider here.
Xero is an easy-to-use accounting software. Xero offers three plans — Early, Growing, and Established. Each plan scales to support your business as it expands. Xero allows you to send estimates and invoices, track your bills, and accept payments instantly.
Xero has an extensive collection of online support and customer service tools, including:
- Live-stream events
- Supports 160 currencies and converts between them instantly
- User-friendly mobile app and accounting dashboard
- Accepts online payments using Stripe, GoCardless, and more
- Reconciles bank account transactions daily
- Tracks project profitability
- Contact and document management
- Detailed reports and analytics
- Optional payroll add-on
- Email support and 24/7 online support
- No phone support
- Limited invoicing with the Early plan
- No integration services
- No freemium version
Xero offers a free 30-day no-obligation trial. To continue using Xero, you need to subscribe to one of the paid plans, costing between $13 and $70 a month.
Adding Gusto payroll service will cost an additional $40 monthly. You can cancel your subscription to Xero anytime with a month's notice. There is no option to pay annually.
Wave offers free invoicing and accounting services. However, there is a percentage charge on all transactions. Additional services at a charge include:
- Payroll services
- Payroll coaching
Their coaching course is a valuable tool for DIYers looking to learn more. Wave is a good option for low-invoice startups.
- Free accounting software with no ads
- User-friendly dashboard
- Unlimited users
- Unlimited invoicing and expense tracking
- Includes receipt scanning
- Basic reports, such as profit and loss, balance sheet, and cash flow
- Unlimited bank account and credit card connections
- Limited reports
- No project tracking option
- Only offers email support for users of the free platform
- Phone customer service is available with paid services
Wave's free platform is ideal for small-revenue startups. Wave makes quality and affordable accounting software. The payroll function costs $20 a month in self-service states. Tax service states cost $40 per month plus $6 per employee or contractor.
Wave also offers a 30-day payroll service free trial. Bookkeeping support costs $149 per month. Accounting and Payroll Coaching costs a one-time fee of $379.
FreshBooks is an invoicing and accounting software with three plan options: Lite, Premium, and Plus. Additionally, Freshbooks offers customizable packages. There are three optional add-ons: payroll service, advanced payments, and additional team members. Freshbooks has excellent features and is highly customizable.
- Unlimited invoices, estimates, and expense tracking with all plans
- Converts accepted estimates into ready-to-pay invoices
- User-friendly dashboard and mobile app
- Mileage-tracking and receipt scanning available with all plans
- Comprehensive reports
- Responsive email and phone support
- Only one user in the Lite and Plus plans, and 2 with Premium; each additional user costs $10 per month
- A limited number of clients with Lite and Plus plans
- Bank reconciliation and accountant access are not available with the Lite plan
You can try FreshBooks for free for 30 days. If you decide to keep using the software, plans cost between $15 and $55 a month. But, you can save an extra 10% by paying annually. They also offer promotions, so be on the lookout for those.
Kashoo is popular with founders of small-revenue startups for its simplicity. Kashoo offers a free invoicing service and two accounting service plans. Both plans perform essential functions like tracking income and expenses and accepting payments.
The website has a wealth of information to help you learn about startup accounting. Read through expert-written guides, articles, and sample invoice templates.
- Free invoicing service
- Unlimited users at no additional cost
- Easy-to-use interface
- Bank account reconciliation
- Receipt scanning included
- Detailed reporting
- Supports multiple currencies
- Payroll integration with Kashoo plan
- Mobile app available for iOS devices
- Phone, live chat, and email support are available
- No mobile app available for Android devices
- No client portal
- It doesn't offer inventory tracking, document management, or time tracking
- Kashoo offers users a free 14-day trial on either one of the paid plans.
Zoho has software for invoicing, accounting, and more. Zoho Invoice’s free service includes invoice creation and payroll services.
Zoho Books includes everything in Zoho Invoice plus many more features. There are six plans to choose from – Free, Standard, Professional, Premium, Elite, and Ultimate. Check out each option to see if any of them meet your requirements.
- Free invoicing service
- Free basic accounting plan for businesses with revenue under $50,000
- Six plans to move between as your business grows
- All plans come with email support; paid plans include phone and live chat support as well
- Self-serve client portal
- Clients can leave feedback about your business in the portal
- Converts accepted estimates into invoices
- Can automate invoicing, payment reminders, client payments, and bill pay
- Includes document management
- Bank account and PayPal reconciliation
- Comprehensive reports
- Supports multiple currencies and languages
- Limited third-party app integration
- Top plans are expensive compared to competitors
- Limits on invoices, bills, and reports
- The free trial only lasts two weeks
Try Zoho Books with its 14-day free trial. If you continue using the service, paid plans start at $20 monthly and up to $275 monthly. You'll receive a discount on these prices if you pay annually. You're also free to cancel your service at any time. You can add Advanced Autoscans at $8 per month for 50 statement uploads. Send snail mail at $2 a credit if you need to send paper estimates and invoices.
Sage Business Cloud Accounting
Sage Accounting is an essential accounting software best suited for very small-team startups. There are two plan options — Sage Accounting Start and Sage Accounting. Each plan offers:
- Automated invoicing
- Accounts receivable accounts payable functions,
- Real-time report creation.
- Low monthly cost
- Supports multiple currencies
- Automatic bank account reconciliation
- Free mobile app available for iOS and Android
- Comprehensive reports available in real-time
- Includes inventory tracking
- Integrates with many popular third-party apps
- Unlimited users with the Sage Accounting Plan
- Extensive collection of online learning resources
- 24/7 customer support
- Unable to track billable hours
- Receipt scanning is only available in the more expensive plan with an added cost after three months.
- Sage Accounting Start only allows one user
- Sage cannot handle more complex tasks, such as time-tracking.
Sage offers a 30-day free trial, so you can decide if it will meet your startup's needs. The Accounting Start plan costs $10 a month. The Sage Accounting plan regularly costs $25 monthly, with a 70% discount during the first six months. You can cancel or upgrade your plan at any time.
How To Choose The Right Accounting Software For Your Business
Startups need accounting software that handles rapid growth and changing criteria. That’s where additional features come in. You want to help your startup by choosing the best business accounting software, not adding another headache.
It all comes down to what you need and can afford when choosing. Thoroughly research all of your options and weigh the pros and cons. Some accounting software offers free demos or trial periods to see if it's compatible.
You’re spending good money on this software; choose wisely. Research and plan ahead before signing a contract.
Why Is Accounting Software Important?
Technology is a core part of our society. Startups use a variety of software applications to automate processes that were once manual, like payroll. Picking the best accounting software for your business offers the same benefits.
Financials are the foundation of startups. You base decisions on financials and projections; what happens if they’re inaccurate? Oversight snowballs into problems you might not be able to overcome.
Accounting software comes with an error net programmed into its core algorithm. Fast error reconciliation shields your startup from financial inaccuracy. Accounting software isn’t perfect, but human error is always higher.
Enhanced AP And AR Efficiency
Accounts payable and accounts receivable record transactions in and out. As your startup scales, so does your transaction number. Scalable software handles AP and AR transactions seamlessly. Monitoring both accounts comes easier when everything is in one place and up to date.
Doing your accounting takes time. The tasks are tedious but necessary. Without an accounting background, these responsibilities take time to understand. Accounting software automates and streamlines every task every day. Your interaction is minimal, at worst, outside of monitoring your finances.
Can’t Founders Do Their Accounting Themselves?
Many founders choose to do their accounting in the very beginning. With a small number of invoices and one or two members in the team, it's doable. Excel sheets are the go-to for many founders, but Excel can become messy quickly. There’s no proper tracking system outside of manual entry.
Financial data is the backbone of your startup. No matter how small your transactions are, they need to be accurate. Investors look for profitability and how efficiently the company is running. That data is dependent on your financial statements.
Humans are error-prone. We know firsthand how time-consuming and inaccurate DIY accounting can be. We’ve worked with plenty of startups struggling to keep up with their bookkeeping. They’ve missed critical financial data needed to make budget changes, which led to cash issues.
Accounting software covers the holes manual accounting creates. Automation covers the daily tasks required for accounting compliance. The right accounting software will scale along with your startup.
Yes, you can do your accounting. But, in our experience with our startups, we suggest using accounting software ASAP. Less error and less hassle.
Want to work through your accounting together? Schedule a free consultation.
*Zeni is a partner of QuickBooks
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