Remember back in school when you were asked to solve basic formulas or plot a graph in math class? It could be a nightmarish time, particularly if you didn't really see the point in it all. Thing is, now you're all grown up some of those skills might actually be pretty useful. Whether you're a financial whiz, just someone who's trying to sort out their bills or you're running a small business, using accounting software can give you a great advantage.
So what is accounting software and who might use it? Well essentially it's a tool that helps you with your accounts. At the most basic level you tell it your income and outgoings, and it will keep track of them. But it can do so much more, helping you to predict your potential profits, send invoices, track your spending or even automatically upload your banking details so you don't have to. You'll probably be surprised how many tools are available, making accounting quicker, easier and more accurate.
Most of the accounting software packages we've reviewed are designed for small businesses. They help with the day to day running, tracking your costs, your unpaid invoices and other familiar tasks. However some of the websites we've reviewed do offer tools for larger companies and not-for-profit organizations, so it's worth taking a look through our lists to find the ones that will best suit you.
There are a few things to keep in mind when looking through our reviews, and we'd like to explain those so you can get the best start possible...
Tailoring - what's right for you?
It's important that you make sure a website is offering you what you need. Not every company is the same and some of these software packages are more suited towards helping you on the shop floor, whilst others are better suited to HR, providing support with payroll or working quietly behind the scenes. Some sites even offer packages that are uniquely tailored to your company, also allowing you branding options (to personalize invoices, for example) and features that other businesses won't use. If you're not sure what they can offer you in terms of tailored options, and you think you would benefit from some, we'd recommend giving them a call or winging an email their way.
Accounting & Business Features
This all depends on what you need. If you're just looking to send invoices, there are sites that will help you do that. However if you're more interested in converting raw data into graphs and printing out reports, there are software packages to help you too. We've considered the range and quality of the accounting features available, listing them briefly as well as discussing them in more detail in the “Editor's Verdict” section of each review. Think about what you need right now, and what you might potentially need in the future. Chances are that a growing business will need more sophisticated accounting tools as it develops.
As you might imagine, accounting isn't the easiest skill to pick up. Subsequently we've looked at the user interfaces provided by each software package. Basically we've considered how simple it is to use the software and how well organized it is onscreen. A complex user interface might not be particularly user friendly or may even require training to use.
We also think that being able to access your accounts using a variety of devices can be important. If you need to update your accounts when you're on the move you may wish to access them from a cell phone or mobile device, so we've taken this into account.
Value for Money
It can be easy to fall into this trap: you see a list of basic features, look at a low price tag and then jump right in. However, take your time to read through at least a few of our reviews before making any decisions. Your accounts are vitally important and making a poor choice to to save a few dollars at the beginning might have bigger financial impacts later on. Sometimes it can be worth spending a little extra to have a bit more support, or a few extra features that will take away some of the workload for you. We compare each of the products on sale in this category and consider whether or not they offer good value compared with others on the market. A more expensive package could actually save you more money in the long run!
As we've mentioned, some of this software can be tricky to use at times. You don't want to be stuck waiting for days on end for a solution when answers really matter. Some of the best websites will offer 1 on 1 support if you need it, whilst others contain great forums which provide most of the answers you'll need. If you are new to accounting software, or even just new to doing your own accounts, you may want to consider using a website that provides superior customer services.
The Bottom Line
Remember, accounting software is designed to save you time and money. If you're a little shaky with numbers then look for packages that offer a great user interface and superior customer support options. If you're an accountant in the making then you may wish to opt for something a little more complex. Either way, you're bound to benefit from the tools and resources on offer. Now go forth and do your math teacher proud! Maybe you can also make a bit more money at the same time.