Small business accounting software: take the pain out of finance


Running your own business is difficult enough without being driven insane by the amount of bookkeeping you have to do. We guarantee these small business accounting tools will remove some of that pain and hassle.

From receipt scanning apps that automatically generate expense reports, to applications that will check how much to bill clients; accounting applications have revolutionized the most hated of tasks – bookkeeping admin.

How to stop under-quoting for work and accurately track how much to bill clients

How many times have you come to bill a client and had to ‘guesstimate’ how much time you really spent working on it? Wouldn’t it be better to know how long certain tasks usually take so you don’t under-quote in the future?

Time tracking is not about spying on employee productivity (although admittedly it can help) – instead it’s an antidote to logging time sheets. Let’s face it, no one ever fills out a timesheet accurately but under- or over-estimating labour costs hurts the business.

Install a time tracking tool into your PC like RescueTimeHarvest, and minutedock to keep track of exactly how you spend your time.

Don’t sit at a computer all day? No problem, you can log your time on the move. Harvest has a smartphone app you can use, or there are dedicated time tracking apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile smartphones, just go to your app store and search ‘time tracking’ to see what’s available.

If you have to log your time manually then logging time sheets doesn’t get more pleasurable (that’s right, pleasurable) than using Freckle. Once you see it you’ll ditch the homemade Excel sheets.

How to stop losing receipts and create expense reports more easily

Have you ever left expenses unclaimed simply because you couldn’t be bothered to fill out an expense report? Or do you carry receipts around for ages only to find they’ve mysteriously disappeared when it’s end of month and time to do the expense report?

Not managing expenses regularly can lose you money. It’s even worse when employees store up several months worth of expenses and submit them in one go, wreaking havoc with cashflow.

The good news is, you can now manage receipts more efficiently: digitally. Receipt processing services like ReceiptBank and Keebo take on the burden of processing your receipts and expense reports for less than a tenner a month.

How? First you send them all your receipts by scanning them yourself via a smartphone app, forwarding by email, or simply putting them into a postage paid envelope and sending them off to a scanning centre.

Then you log in to your account and all your receipts are there – VAT calculated, dated, and categorised. You can generate reports by supplier, category, account paid from, or even by employee (Receipt Bank only). You can even export those reports to compatible accounting packages.

Once you use the service you’ll never go back to manually entering receipts into an expense report again.

How to invoice faster and accept online payments from customers

There used to be only two options for invoicing – generate an invoice from a complicated accounting system (incurring fees from your accountants or simply annoying them with your questions) or create your own via a Word document or Excel sheet, which made it look like you were running a business from your kitchen table.

Invoicing systems like FreshBooks and QuickBooks Simple Start have stepped in to make it simple to create quotes, estimates, and issue invoices.

They also come with the added benefit of giving you a way to accept online payments for invoices, generate basic reports like a P&L, and automate the sending of reminder letters to chase late payments.

Why use a dedicated invoicing system? It’s ideal for sole-traders or those businesses just getting started who want some basic sales and record keeping rather than a complete accounting package.

And remember the time tracker tools mentioned earlier? Some of them work seamlessly with invoicing systems to create invoices per client, based on how much time was spent working on individual projects. Genius!

How to pick the Small Business Accounting Software for you

There’s a lot of crossover amongst the tools we’ve mentioned. For example Harvest can track time and manage small business accounting, and QuickBooks is better known for their complete accounting packages rather than their invoicing tool.

Traditionally an investment in accounting software was so expensive many businesses paid for whatever their bookkeeper or accountant had already licensed to use. But today, the cost has come way down, and many growing businesses know it makes sense to keep an eye on all their business financials themselves.

Sage used to be the bog standard option (which came with a hefty price tag and required a good level of accounting knowledge to navigate it). While your accountant might still use Sage, small businesses now have the option to use other systems which are user-friendly for the accounting novice and will integrate seamlessly with Sage software too.

In the UK there are a good range of options with XeroKashflow, and QuickBooks all receiving the most press and a lot of positive reviews online. Newcomer LessAccounting has also entered the market as the “anti-Quickbooks” option focussing exclusively on business with less than 20 employees.

Check them out to find the features relevant to you and a pricing package to suit your budget. Packages are monthly subscription based where you can expect to pay around £20 per month (less than you’d pay a bookkeeper).

Alternatively if you’re just getting started you might like to check out Crunch. These guys combine the type of online apps and tools we’ve discussed in this article with a ‘virtual team’ of accredited accountants for only £59.50 a month. We love that they’ll even contact the taxman on your behalf. No more time spent on hold to HMRC? Yes please.

What are your favourite small business accounting tools and apps?

– See more at:

7 compelling reasons for your small business to be on Google+

Google+ needs to be taken seriously by small businesses



Google+ is Google’s attempt to take on the likes of Facebook and Twitter in the battle of the social networks. When co-founder Larry Page took over as CEO in 2011, he challenged his company to go out and win battle of the social networks. From that, Google+ was born.

It’s useful to know the importance Google places on social because it’ll help you understand why they are throwing the full weight of it’s other titanic platforms behind the success of Google+. With this knowledge you can learn how best to leverage these efforts to the advantage of your business.

1. Visibility

Google+ business pages are now appearing in Google search results on the (previously) empty white space on the right. This is prime internet real estate and should get a lot of people into your company’s G+ circles.


2. Author rank

Author rank is a system that Google is developing to help verify the validity of content based on the reputation and identity of the author of that content. So if content is created by someone with a good author rank, it’s likely to be more prominent on Google search results pages than a piece of content without a ranked author. Up until this point, author rank hasn’t actually counted towards rankings but this is all about to change in Google’s next search engine algorithm update, know as Penguin 2.0. So now is definitely the time to get on board!

Google have had this idea for a while but they’ve had to wait for a tool to help them identify the validity of authors and this tool is Google+. Make sure whoever is writing your content knows about author rank and is properly set up for it. You can start by linking your personal G+ account to the content you create here:

3. Google+ is growing, while Facebook is faltering

Google+ has swiftly become the world’s second biggest social network after Facebook, while Facebook is starting to show signs of faltering and lack of a value offering to small businesses. The reported number varies but, anywhere between only 1% and 16% of your own Facebook fans see each post you publish to Facebook but if you want them all to see your updates, you have to pay for it. This obviously puts into question the true value of Facebook as a marketing channel as the key effort on Facebook for many marketers is to grow their likes/fans. What’s the point of this if most of them don’t see your posts? It makes your own email list more effective than Facebook.

Your Google+ content, however, is not limited by an algorithm and is also seen in Google search results. It’s worth noting that at this stage that 89% of web users in the UK use Google as their search engine.

4. There are some busy Google+ pages out there

There have been a lot of questions of the level of interaction experienced on Google+ and at this stage it’s safe to say that Facebook is still winning on this front but Google+ is definitely on the rise. If the basic signal of interaction is a +1 (Google+ equivalent of a like) then pages like The Economist with 3 million +1s, the Guardian with 1 million +1s and photographers Thomas Hawk and Trey Ratcliffe have a whopping 5 million fans each!

5. Google+ followers count on adwords

You can now add your business’s Google+ follower account to your adwords adverts. Google claims this increases click through rate on your ads by 5-10%.


6. Youtube and G+ channels starting to merge

Youtube is the 2nd biggest search engine in the world and Google now allows you to link your Google+ profile to your Youtube account. It’s early doors but the marriage can only be a good thing. It should bring more identity and credibility to your Youtube channel and more interaction to your Google+ page.

7. Google+ communities

In a bid for more interaction, Google+ launched communities which centre around a topic of interest. These have been well received and interaction has been good. The interesting part is that you can join communities as a brand. This is something you can’t do on Facebook. So if you go ahead and search the communities and there are people talking about topics that are relevant to your business, jump right in and get involved!

The top 10 British innovations in 2012: Part 3


Part 3: Hailo App

In the third instalment of our British innovation blog series we’ll be looking into the success of Hailo, the app that allows you to hail a cab from your mobile phone.

Having started off in a café in London in late 2011, it has experienced phenomenal success and now operates in 11 major cities worldwide. Hailo’s business model draws similarities to Funding Circle as it cuts out the middleman; by allowing passengers to connect with the taxi driver directly, rather than going through an operator.

What is Hailo?

Hailo provides a service to both cab drivers and customers. To get going with it, you can download the app onto your smartphone from your respective app store which will allow you to pick up a booking if you’re a cab driver or help you to book a taxi if you’re a passenger. Instead of braving the elements and searching the streets for a yellow light, the GPS on users’ phones pinpoint where both parties are; providing an estimate of when the taxi will collect their ride. As a passenger, you also have the option to pay by credit card for your journey, which is great for when you don’t have any cash.

Why has it been so successful?

Recognising that there were huge inefficiencies in the taxi market, three London cabbies teamed up with three technology entrepreneurs and together, their wealth of knowledge allowed them to create an easy-to-use app for the urban population. With figures suggesting that cabs can have between 30-60% downtime, there was a gap in the market to provide something that would ease the uncertainty of driving around and searching for a fare. The Hailo team also saw inefficiencies for the customer. Cash is being used less as people use electronic payments and credit cards more, and once you create a Hailo account you can pay electronically, add a tip and leave feedback for your driver.

Success despite the competition

At the time of launching Hailo, there were other taxi apps available to download, however their success can be attributed to building a happy community of drivers first, before it was offered to the public. They offered services to drivers, such as daily logs to improve efficiency and traffic sharing information which meant that as soon as Londoners started using Hailo, their service was already established enough to take off.

Their key London competitor is Get Taxi, which has 1,500 black-cab drivers registered, and apps for mini cab providers, such as Addison Lee or comparison taxi apps like Kabbee.

What’s next?

Currently Hailo operates in London and four other cities worldwide, and there are plans to expand to New York and another 5 cities this year with the $30 million they received in series B funding.


Although the app is free to download for drivers and passengers, the costs involved for a successful trip may act as a deterrent for users in the future. Drivers hand over 10% of their fare to Hailo, and they have recently introduced a minimum £10 fare for the passenger on a Friday and Saturday night; which has to be paid by card.

Hailo is an excellent example of British innovative thinking that can produce great success locally and internationally by solving everyday problems.