Whilst I do my best to prioritise tasks, many things get put to the side time and time again due to a lack of time. One aspect of my business I have continually put to the side is accounting. For over 20 years, I have had an extremely dated and impractical way of managing payments, invoices, income and expenditure.
I have handled most things manually. For example, I regularly create invoices in Microsoft Word Online and then download the invoice in PDF format and email it to clients. Likewise, when advertisers need to pay me, I just send them my PayPal email address or direct them to this blog's advertising area that displays simple PayPal buttons.
It's time to drag my ass into the 21st century. As such, I have been checking out many online invoice and billing services. My hope is that one of these services will reduce the time I manage invoices and payments and help me streamline tax returns every April.
In this article, I would like to share with you the best accounting, invoicing and billing services, that I have came across so far.
A Quick Word About Pricing
On this blog, I generally reference USD ($) whilst talking about products and services as its the de-facto currency of most online companies. A few of the accounting companies I have referenced in this article market their services differently in each region, which can lead to different prices across the globe.
Whilst it is not practical for me to reference pricing from every country, I have referenced GBP (£) prices for a few services as this helps paint a better picture as what you can expect to pay (in Europe (as UK prices tend to be a little higher!).
FreshBooks is undoubtedly one of the most recognised accounting services online. It's a modern solution that features a dedicated iOS and Android app for managing your business whilst on the move.
The service helps you manage invoices, payments, expenses, time tracking and project management. Proposal estimation software is also available together with a host of accounting tools to help you automate the financial side of your business. Their reports look fantastic too and each plan includes access for two staff members.
FreshBooks is an affordable solution and they frequently run offers to reduce prices further. The price you pay depends on the number of billable clients you need and if you choose to pay monthly rather than yearly, prices increase by 10%.
At the time of writing, they're running a three month 60% discount offer in the USA and a 70% discount in the UK. For example, with the FreshBooks entry-level Lite plan, the USA price drops from $15 to $6 and the UK price drops from £11 to £3.34. After three months, it reverts back to the regular price.
The FreshBooks Plus plan ($25/£19) will be a more practical option for most businesses as it increases the number of billable clients from five to 50.
As I tend to only work with two or three clients at the one time, the cheaper Lite plan should work for me as it works out at an effective rate of around £9 per month and gives me everything I need.
Another accounting service which has caught my attention is Xero. I like the look of its minimal styling and its mobile apps for smartphones and tablets look great too.
Xero can be used to accept payments online, display reports, manage assets, manage files, note expenses, produce invoices, pay bills, manage projects, send quotes and more.
The company has a simple pricing strategy with three plan options. In the USA, these are called Early, Growing and Established, and retail at $9 per month, $30 per month and $60 per month, respectively. In the UK, the plans are called Starter, Standard and Premium, and cost £10 per month, £24 per month and £30 per month.
Their cheapest plan limits you to 20 invoices and quotes and five bills. This restriction is lifted if you upgrade to the Growing/Standard plan. Unfortunately, you do need to upgrade to their top plan in order to charge in multiple currencies and gain access to expenses and project management features. This is a stumbling block for me as whilst I do charge clients in US dollars most of the time, there are occasions where I need to charge in Euros or Great British Pounds.
FreeAgent is an accounting service that helps you manage invoicing, expenses, time tracking and banking. It also offers a mobile app for checking everything on tablets and smartphones.
They are one of the few companies that do not try and tie customers into long-term contracts. All of their plans give you an unlimited number of users, clients and projects. A 30 day free trial is available and you can then select a monthly plan that can be cancelled at any time. The first six months of service are also charged at half the normal price.
In the USA, there is only one plan available and it is charged at $12 per month for six months and then $24 per month afterwards.
The company is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, so UK customers have a few more pricing options. It starts with their sole trader plan that costs £9.50 per month for six months and then £19 per month afterwards. There are additional plans for partnerships and limited companies that offer extra options for profit sharing, divideds and corporation tax .
4. Clear Books
Clear Books is a UK accounting service that supports invoices, bill and receipt tracking, payments, reporting, project management and integration with third-party services.
As you would expect from a company that focuses solely on the UK market, Clear Books tends to have better support than international companies for the UK's Inland Revenue.
A 30 day free trial is available for Clear Books to help you test their service. Afterwards, you can select either their Small plan or their Large plan. A 10% discount is applied if you pay annually and a 20% discount if you pay two years in advance. A 50% discount is also given for the first three months of your account.
The Small plan costs £5 per month for three months and then goes up to its usual price of £10 per month. The Large plan costs £11 per month for three months and then goes to £22 per month. Upgrading to the more expensive Large plan will give you support for multiple currencies, CIS accounting and digital tax reporting.
Invoicely is an attractive accounting solution that has mobile apps to help you use the service on smartphones and tablets. It lets you manage invoicing, online payments, time tracking, expenses, driving mileage tracking and dynamic reports.
With a name like Invoicely, it should be no surprise that the service helps you generate simple and colourful invoices.
Invoicely is one of the few companies that offer a 100% free plan. Their free plan allows three saved clients, five monthly bills, no additional team members and payments via PayPal. This is going to be restrictive for businesses, however it is perfect for anyone who just sends the odd invoice. Especially as multiple currencies are supported under the free plan.
Their premium plans retail at $9.99 per month, $19.99 per month and $29.99 per month, respectively. These plans expand your branding options, let you track things such as time and give you support for Stripe and other payment services. They also add team members and increase the total number of saved clients and total monthly invoices.
Due is a versatile accounting service and payment processor in one that offers unlimited invoices, expense tracking, time tracking, projects and reports.
At the heart of their service is the Due Digital Wallet. The wallet supports PayPal and Stripe and promises to help you get paid quicker. Only 2.8% fees are charged on transactions. That's not as low as the 2.49% fee that PayCafe lets you charge on your website, but Due isn't just a credit card processing company. It handles your bookkeeping too.
A 30 day free trial is available to help you test Due before you select one of three available plans: Basic, Pro or Premium. These plans are charged on a monthly basis at $7.99, $16.99 and $27.99, respectively. If you are happy to pay a year in advance, the effective rate drops to $6.99, $14.99 and $23.99.
Basic includes ten clients and three team members, Pro includes 75 clients and 15 team members and Premium has unlimited clients and 15 team members. All other features are unlimited across all plans.
ZarMoney is an affordable accounting service that lets you create and send invoices in a few seconds. It can be used to manage bills online, track inventory, accept payments online, send quotes and estimates, process purchase orders and sales orders, automatic sales tax calculations and more.
ZarMoney Insight gives you access to over 40 built-in reports and over 1,000 customisable reports. Several payment processing services are supported together with third-party services such as MailChimp, Zapier and Shopify.
What makes ZarMoney stand out for me is their pricing policy. It's simple and it's fairly priced and if it's only you or just a few staff members who need access to your company accounts, ZarMoney could prove to be your cheapest accounting solution.
All plans gain access to the same features and have unlimited transactions, but the cost depends on the number of users you need. It's $5 per user per month with all subsequent users charged at $7 per month. Therefore, it's $5 for one user, $14 for two users, $21 for three users, and so on.
There's also an Enterprise plan that starts from $350 per month for over 30 years. This is geared towards large companies and comes with priority support and a dedicated account representative.
Intuit QuickBooks is a popular accounting service that gives you an overview of your company's sales, banking, expenses, time, projects, workers, taxes and reports.
Beautiful invoices can be created quickly in Intuit QuickBooks and if you process payments through them, credit card and debit card transaction fees are reduced considerably.
During my research into accounting services, I noticed that some services that are available throughout the world do not cater their product for each region (beyond supporting local currencies etc). I cannot throw this criticiam at Intuit QuickBooks. If you're based in the USA, you will receive support for USA tax laws and rules. Here in the UK, the service is HMRC recognised due to its great support of UK tax laws.
Intuit QuickBooks is priced fairly, though I'm not sure I fully agree with their promotion to new customers as it's designed to encourage you to pass up a free trial. They offer a one month free trial to those who want to test their service, but if you are willing to forgo that free trial, you will get a 50% discount for three months (six months if you're in the UK).
In the USA, the available plans retail at $15 per month, $25 per month, $70 per month and $150 per month. Here in the UK, the plans are £12 per month, £20 per month and £30 per month. In all regions, payroll functionality is charged separately.
Each plan includes a different set of features and supports a different number of users, so be sure to review all plans so get access to the functionality you need.
9. Zoho Invoice
The last accounting service I want to talk about is Zoho Invoice. It boasts a clean user-interface, mobile apps for iOS and Android and great support for third-party products and services. It also has a highly competitive pricing structure.
Using Zoho Invoice, you can create customisable invoice templates, request payments online, send quotes and estimates, track expenses and use time tracking for projects to help you bill clients fairly and accurately.
For the most part, all Zoho Invoice plans include the same set of features. The more expensive plans simply increase the number of customers you can invoice, number of users and total number of automated workflows. Without doubt, I prefer this type of pricing structure as it means you are not forced to upgrade to a higher-tiered plan in order to get the functionality you need.
Like Invoicely, Zoho Invoice kindly offers customers a free plan. The free plan is suitable for one person and allows you to invoice up to five customers. The overall package of the free plan is quite generous as includes all the same features as the premium plans. This includes support for multiple payment currencies, time tracking, expense tracking, timesheets and recurring invoices.
Three premium plans are available: Basic (50 customers), Standard (500 customers) and Professional (unlimited customers). In the USA, they're priced at $9 per month, $19 per month and $29 per month, respectively. In the UK, the monthly cost is £6, £12 and £18. Two months of service is offered on all plans if you choose to pay annually instead of monthly, which effectively reduces the monthly cost of these plans to $7.5/£5, $15.83/£10 and $24.17/£15.
So What's the The Best Option for Me?
At the time of writing, I am still reviewing my options to see which service is best for me and what I do online.
In some respects, my requirements at this time are basic, however there are features in comprehensive services such as FreshBooks that are appealing.
I am primarily looking for a way to:
- Send a few invoices every month
- Track expenses
- Track affiliate commissions and other income
- Reduce the time I spend doing taxes at the end of the year
The free plan of Invoicely is attractive as its limitations of five monthly invoices, three clients and PayPal only payments, fit in with what I do most months. I would have to upgrade to their $9.99 per month plan to be able to do anything beyond invoicing though.
The free plan of Zoho Invoice is much more generous, allowing five customers and an unlimited number of invoices. It basically gives you access to their whole service free of charge if you stay under the five customer limit. At only $5 per month, ZarMoney is an attractive option too since no features are restrictred.
When I start to consider that I need to track income and expenditure, my attention turns to more advanced services again, particularly those that have good support for UK tax laws and regulations. This is where FreshBooks and services such as Clear Books and Intuit QuickBooks become more attractive.
I will be sure to let you all know which service I opted for in a future article :)
Writing this article pushed me to research accounting and invoicing services and helped me see what was available online. Whilst some of these cloud accounting services do stand out because of features or usability or pricing, there is no clear winner.
To make an informed decision, you need to review exactly what you and your business needs in order to operate efficiently and then see which service fits those requirements. As you can see from what I wrote about my own situation, this is not always easy to do, especially with every company charging different prices for different features.
So I recommend taking advantage of free trials and reviewing each service thoroughly. Using trial and error, you should be able to narrow down your best options.
Here's a quick summary of the services I included in my list:
- FreshBooks – A beautiful user-friendly service with many cool features
- Xero – A versatile service, however many key features are restricted to their most expensive plan
- FreeAgent – A UK based company that offers essential accounting tools and stylish reports
- Clear Books – An affordable UK accounting service that has great support for HM Revenue and Customs
- Invoicely – Lacks advanced features, but its simplicity and price make it an attractive option
- Due – An all-in-one service that offers invoicing, accounting and payment processing
- ZarMoney – A great collection of features and a sensible pricing structure
- Intuit QuickBooks – One of the most advanced solutions on the market
- Zoho Invoice – Easy to use, lots of great features and affordable pricing
Thanks for reading.