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?

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Jack Pritchett

Senior Communications Manager


2 thoughts on “Small business accounting software: take the pain out of finance

  1. Tried out GENIAC? They will do your accounting, legal documents, and HR. And have some nifty AXA Management Liability insurance thrown in!

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