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Best Free Bookkeeping Software: How To Decide Which One Will Meet Your Needs?

Category: Accounting Software

“I have to face two facts. One, I need accounting software. It’s essential for my small business, which is almost a one-man operation at the moment. I can’t work on my products and services and work on the bills at the same time. There’s just one of me. Two, I need the best free bookkeeping software. The operational word here is free. I don’t have the resources to pay for one. What’s the best free bookkeeping software available? How do I go about deciding which one is for me?”

–Dylan

If you are a small business owner, there is nothing more important than knowing whether you’re making more than you’re spending. Unless you have that information, you won’t be in you won’t be in business for long. Most businesses, even the tiniest ones, use some kind of computerized accounting software to keep their financial records in order.

The range of accounting software runs from the very simple to the extremely complex for large corporations. You definitely don’t want more features than you need but you do want everything that you need to be there. You need to know exactly what features you need from an accounting system. Do you sell products? If you do, you will need inventory tracking in your accounting software package. Do you have employees? If so, you will need a payroll system in your software.

To have a fair idea of what your options are, get a side-by-side comparison of the best accounting software for small businesses available today. You definitely will want to know what to look for in accounting software and how to find one that best suits your needs. Resources such as this short article by the Entrepreneur online magazine on “Accounting Apps for Your Number-Crunching Needs will also help you make up your mind.

If you’re not in a position to shell out cash, worry not. There really are free online bookkeeping software, they exist, and they’re good – easy to use, simple, and free or cheap if you choose to upgrade. Here are some of the things you need to keep in mind.

Price is always the primary concern of small businesses. Yes, you want the best free bookkeeping software available but you need to look at the fine print. You might be in a position to opt for a paid product later, and you don’t want to throw all the work you’ve done on the free product out the window. You will want to stay with the product as much as possible.

  • Is this a freemium product? Will it remain free forever?
  • If it’s a freemium product but you need to pay for extra features, how much do these features cost?
  • Are the prices fixed? Is your recurring monthly subscription safe from price increase?
  • Are the add-ons priced reasonably? You might want to do more than just basic bookkeeping.
  • Does it have a free trial period? This is important if you want to check whether the systems is simple and easy to use.
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Features. You will then want to make a quick check to see if the product has these:

  • Does it have all the basic bookkeeping functions and reports? Can you create journals, general ledgers and profit-loss statements with just a few clicks?
  • Does it allow quick and easy creation of estimates and invoices?
  • Can you track payments of due customer invoices?
  • How easy is expense tracking and mileage claims?

You will also want to check for compatibility and integration.

  • Does the online accounting system support mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets?
  • Will it work with the software that you currently use? You might want to make sure you can do extra work on your data in spreadsheets.
  • Can you import your banking transactions into the system?
  • Is it possible to back up your online data into a device that you own (your laptop, for example)?
  • Should you decided to cancel your subscription, is it possible download your data from the online servers?

Here are some of the best free accounting software systems currently in the market today.

FreshBooks is your most cost-effective choice if you run a small business. It allows small business owners to be up and running with invoices and estimates in just a few hours. You can set up late payment reminders so that your delinquent clients are reminded by email automatically. You can build tasks around projects and use this to log the time you’ve worked. This is very handy if you want to organize your activities around projects, and assign a cost to the time you’re spending on this project. And yes, FreshBooks is has a free trial period of 30 days, which is enough to let your explore all its functions. And it remains free forever for up to three clients. You only need to pay if your business grows and you need to add more clients.

Outright helps you tracks income and expenses, create reports, and it uses that data to give you an estimate of what you might owe in taxes. Outright does things for free, with a clean and uncluttered user interface that’s a joy to navigate.

GNUCash is an absolutely free program that’s great if you don’t mind importing some numbers into MS Excel to get the proper reports. Of course you will need some knowledge of spreadsheets to do this.

P.S. For further reading I recommend the following posts about: bookkeeping software for small business, is free online bookkeeping software for you? and what’s small business bookkeeping software online?

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By Louie Andre

B2B & SaaS market analyst and senior writer for FinancesOnline. He is most interested in project management solutions, believing all businesses are a work in progress. No stranger to small business hiccups and drama, having been involved in a few internet startups. Prior to his for-profit ventures, he has had managed corporate communications for a Kansas City-based Children International unit.

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