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The Best Small Business Accounting Software For 2020

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Your business is your baby, and like any proud parent, you want what’s best for your business — including the best accounting software.

That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the top five accounting programs for small businesses.

We’ve spent hours researching and testing the best small business accounting programs, so you don’t have to. We’ve evaluated each program on its features, accounting, pricing, ease of use, customer support, and overall value for small business owners. Only the best of the best made the cut. Read on to see which programs we recommend and why.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

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Best overall software for small to medium-sized businesses that are looking for the full accounting package.

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Best for freelancers and small business owners looking for full-featured and free accounting software.

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Best for small businesses in need of strong accounting at an affordable cost. Ideal for international invoicing.

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Best for small businesses looking for easy-to-use accounting software or that aren't ready for full accounting and would like an invoicing option.

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Best for freelancers and independent contractors who want strong tax support combined with basic accounting features.

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Other Featured Options:

  • QuickBooks Desktop Pro: Best for small to medium-sized businesses that need locally-installed software for complex accounting needs.

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

1. Quickbooks Online

QuickBooks Online



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Best overall software for small to medium-sized businesses.

Intuit QuickBooks has been one of the big names in accounting for decades — and for good reason. Its cloud-based software, QuickBooks Online, is used by over two million customers and is one of the top choices for accounting firms.

QuickBooks Online (QBO) offers robust accounting and numerous features, including invoicing, inventory, project management, accounts payable, over 80 reports, and more. While the software is not as intuitive as the other programs on this list, QBO’s features are far more developed. The customer support does leave something to be desired, but the software’s feature set, 590+ integrations, and built-in lending feature (QuickBooks Capital) make this software a great choice for many small businesses. QBO is ideal for small to medium businesses looking for ample features, strong accounting, and scalable monthly pricing plans.

QuickBooks Online Pricing

QuickBooks offers three plans ranging from $25-$70/month, with an additional QuickBooks Advanced plan available for larger businesses costing $150/month. The larger the plan, the more features as well as users you have access to. Each plan comes with unlimited invoicing and customers. Payroll can be added for an additional $45-$125/month plus $4/month per employee.

QuickBooks Online Features

Best Small Business Accounting Software

QuickBooks Online offers an impressive number of features. In terms of accounting, you’ll find bank reconciliation, a chart of accounts, accounts payable, journal entries, fixed asset management, and ample reports. QBO also has beautiful invoicing with an impressive number of invoice automations. Some of our other favorite features include:

  • Expense tracking
  • Contact management
  • Inventory
  • Project management
  • Time tracking
  • Budgeting
  • Purchase orders
  • Packing slips
  • Tax support

QuickBooks Online offers lots of time-saving automations, such as recurring invoices, default email messages, and inventory reorder points. Read our full QuickBooks Online review to learn more about the software’s features.

While QuickBooks Online comes loaded with great features, there are a few drawbacks to note. Despite a well-organized UI, navigating the software can be difficult at times — particularly for users that are new to accounting. As you learn the software, you’ll find that QBO is easy to use, although the amount of time it takes to learn varies based on your accounting experience.

Customer service is also a bit lacking, although the company has worked to shorten wait times and provide more support resources in recent years. While there has been some improvement, QuickBooks Online still has some work to do to improve its customer service and support.

When To Use QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online is a great option for small businesses. It offers strong accounting, well-developed features, 590+ integrations, and good mobile apps. While the pricing can be a bit spendy, you get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of features.

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2. Wave

Wave



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Best free software for freelancers and small business owners.

Wave is a free accounting software program designed specifically with small businesses in mind. There are no catches, gimmicks, or tricks. The software is actually free and has been so since its inception in 2010. Since then, the software has grown to support over 3.5 million users.

The company gains much of its popularity from its price tag, but Wave doesn’t sacrifice features for affordability. Wave offers an incredible number of features, including invoicing, expense tracking, contact management, inventory, and even lending. Add positive customer reviews and strong accounting to the mix, and it’s easy to see why users love this software. While the company does suffer from limited integrations and mobile apps, it’s still a competitive option for small business owners. Wave is ideal for freelancers and small business owners looking to save money without sacrificing functionality.

Wave Pricing

Wave’s pricing is entirely free. There are no monthly payments required and no artificial limits on feature availability. The only extra costs are payroll, payment processing, and professional bookkeeping assistance. Payroll costs $20-$35/month plus $4/month per employee, while payment processing is available as a pay-per-use feature.

Wave Features

The Best Free Small Business Software

For a free accounting solution, Wave offers an incredible number of features. In terms of accounting, Wave supports bank reconciliation, a chart of accounts, accounts payable, journal entries, and basic reporting. Here are some of the other features you can expect to find with Wave:

  • Invoicing
  • Estimates
  • Contact management
  • Expense tracking
  • Inventory
  • eCommerce checkouts

It’s worth noting that Wave doesn’t have project management capabilities. Read our complete Wave review to learn about everything else this software has to offer.

In addition to its many features, Wave is very user-friendly, even if you don’t have a background in accounting. One area where Wave falls short is its customer service and support. While Wave offers access to strong support resources and learning tools, email response times are quite slow. Phone and chat support are also only available to payroll and credit card processing customers.

When To Use Wave

If you’re looking for free accounting software, Wave is the cream of the crop. The software offers great features, strong accounting, and a user-friendly interface, all for $0/month, making it an affordable accounting solution for many small businesses.

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3. Zoho Books

Zoho Books



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Best for invoicing and international business.

Zoho Books is a cloud-based accounting solution. Although Zoho may be an underdog, this lesser-known accounting solution has been giving QuickBooks Online a run for its money since 2011.

Zoho Books offers almost all the same features as QuickBooks Online at half the cost. The software has some of the best invoicing on the market with multiple templates, many automations, and the ability to send international invoices. Top this with excellent customer support, strong mobile apps, and positive customer reviews, and it’s easy to see why Zoho is one of the best accounting options out there. Zoho Books is ideal for small businesses looking for the capabilities of QuickBooks without the expensive price tag and is a great fit for international business.

Zoho Books Pricing

Zoho Books offers three pricing plans ranging from $9-$29/month. You can save money by purchasing an annual membership upfront — pay for ten months and get two months free on all plans. The larger the plan, the more features, contacts, and users you have access to. Each plan comes with unlimited invoices and estimates. Additional users and auto-scans can be added to your plan for a monthly fee. You can try Zoho Books before you commit to a 14-day free trial.

Zoho Books Features

Zoho Books for Small Business Accounting Software

Zoho Books offers an impressive number of features, including the accounting staples you’d expect, such as bank reconciliation, a chart of accounts, journal entries, accounts payable, and reporting. The software shines where invoicing is concerned, offering 16 different customizable templates and ample automations. Here are some of the other features you’ll find with Zoho Books:

  • Estimates
  • Contact management
  • Expense tracking
  • Inventory
  • Project management
  • Time tracking
  • Mileage deductions
  • Tax support

The only downside is that there is no payroll option available and no payroll integrations. To learn all of the features Zoho Books supports, read our complete Zoho Books review.

In addition to its many features, Zoho Books also stands out for its ease of use and exceptional customer service. The software is intuitive and easy to learn. And if you get stuck, there are plenty of support resources at your disposal, including phone support, live chat, webinars, and a help center.

When To Use Zoho Books

Zoho Books is a great alternative to QuickBooks Online for small businesses looking for strong accounting, ample features, and beautiful invoicing at a more affordable cost. The software has great mobile apps and good customer support, although there is no payroll add-on. Read our full Zoho Books review to see if the pros outweigh the cons for your business.

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4. FreshBooks

FreshBooks



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Best for customers who want software with excellent customer support. 

Founded in 2003, FreshBooks has been a popular invoicing and finance management tool for years. The software used to be strictly an invoicing tool but has recently added double-entry accounting, making it a viable solution for small businesses.

FreshBooks is easy to use and offers excellent customer support and mobile apps. The software provides a good number of features, including a unique proposal feature as well as over 80 integrations. (These features do come at a steeper price.) FreshBooks is ideal for small business owners who value a user-friendly interface and excellent customer support over price.

FreshBooks Pricing

FreshBooks has three pricing plans ranging from $15-$50/month. Only the two most expensive plans include double-entry accounting; the smallest plan is simply an invoicing solution. The larger the plan, the more features you have access to. Each plan includes unlimited invoices and estimates. A 30-day free trial to test the software is available.

FreshBooks Features

FreshBooks offers a good set of features. The two more expensive plans include double-entry accounting and support bank reconciliation, journal entries, and basic reports. FreshBooks’ other features include:

  • Invoicing
  • Estimates and proposals
  • Contact management
  • Items
  • Project management
  • Time tracking

Like Zoho Books, there is no add-on payroll for FreshBooks; however, you can integrate the software with Gusto. Since double-entry accounting is still such a new feature, FreshBooks is not as developed as the other options on this list, as it lacks a customizable chart of accounts and accounts payable. There are also no inventory capabilities. Read our full FreshBooks review to learn more.

FreshBooks features a very intuitive interface and is easy to learn, even if you have no prior accounting experience. If you have any questions or find the software difficult to navigate, you can seek assistance from FreshBooks’ award-winning customer service team. Get a quick response by phone or email, or check out the help center or in-software help option.

When To Use FreshBooks

FreshBooks is on the spendier end of accounting software. Considering that the software is still missing features such as accounts payable and inventory, you may get more bang for your buck with QuickBooks Online or Wave. However, for small businesses that value excellent customer support and mobile apps — or that maybe don’t want the extra features and prefer simplicity — FreshBooks could still be a good option.

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5. QuickBooks Self-Employed

QuickBooks Self-Employed



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Best for independent contractors and freelancers.

If you’re an independent contractor or freelancer, full-fledged accounting software may be overkill. Fortunately, Intuit launched QuickBooks Self-Employed in 2014. QuickBooks Self-Employed is a little different than the other software on this list because it is a tax software that includes basic accounting features, making it ideal for freelancers.

While QuickBooks Self-Employed lacks many of the accounting features in other software offered by Intuit, one area where it stands out is its tax support. According to the company, QuickBooks Self-Employed users average over $4,600 per year in tax savings. Add in features such as basic invoicing, a reasonable monthly fee, and solid support options, and it’s easy to see why this software has received so many favorable reviews from its users.

QuickBooks Self-Employed Pricing

QuickBooks Self-Employed has three pricing plans ranging from $15/month to $35/month. As you would expect, the more expensive the plan, the more features you can access. For this specific software, additional features are tax-related. With the cheapest plan, you’ll be able to do things such as track mileage and estimate quarterly tax payments. With the more expensive plans, you’ll receive access to Intuit TurboTax and additional tax resources, including the ability to pay quarterly taxes directly from QuickBooks and get advice from a CPA. All plans include unlimited invoices.

QuickBooks Self-Employed Features

Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses

As previously mentioned, QuickBooks Self-Employed is tax software wth basic accounting features. While not as robust as other software on this list, independent contractors and freelancers will enjoy the features, including:

  • Invoicing
  • Expense tracking
  • Asset management
  • Mileage tracking

Of course, what truly stands out is the tax support offered by this software, helping self-employed users easily separate business and personal expenses and take advantage of money-saving deductions. To learn more about the features provided by this software, check out our full QuickBooks Self-Employed review.

QuickBooks Self-Employed has a user-friendly interface and is easy to navigate, even if you’re new to accounting. And if you run into a problem? Despite QuickBooks’ reputation for poor customer service, QuickBooks Self-Employed makes it quick and easy to get the help you need. Although phone support isn’t available, support resources, including a live chat, a community forum, and the help center, are all options for getting answers fast.

One drawback of this software is that it isn’t scalable. While QuickBooks Self-Employed may be ideal for independent contractors, eCommerce sellers, and freelancers, plans for expanding your business will have to include finding new software with additional accounting features. Another major drawback is that there is no state tax support.

When To Use QuickBooks Self-Employed

QuickBooks Self-Employed may be an ideal solution for individuals who need basic accounting features and excellent tax support at a reasonable price. However, small businesses that need more advanced accounting options may want to look elsewhere (such as QuickBooks Online).

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6. Honorable Mention: QuickBooks Pro

QuickBooks Desktop Pro



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Best for businesses that prefer locally-installed software.

Many small business owners choose cloud-based software for ease of use and convenience, but what if you prefer locally-installed software or a more sophisticated accounting solution? Enter QuickBooks Pro, desktop software that comes packed with advanced accounting features.

QuickBooks Pro is a great option if your business needs full accounting software. However, it’s important to note that there’s a steep learning curve, so this may not be the best option for beginners with no prior accounting experience. QuickBooks Pro is an ideal choice for small and medium-sized businesses that want a complete accounting solution.

QuickBooks Pro Pricing

QuickBooks Pro offers two pricing plans. You can purchase a licensed copy of the software for $299.95. While there are no annual fees with this option, QuickBooks stops offering product support after three years, requiring you to purchase another license.

The second option is to purchase QuickBooks Pro Plus, which costs $299.95 per year. With this plan, you’ll have access to phone support, automatic updates, and automated data backups. While you can also access these features as a licensed user, you will have to pay additional fees to do so. Payroll, hosting services, and additional users can be added to your plan for an extra cost.

QuickBooks Pro Features

Top Small Business Accounting and Bookkeeping Software

Compared to other accounting options on the market, QuickBooks Pro offers an incredible number of features. In addition to bank reconciliation, journal entries, 200+ integrations, and 120+ reports, QuickBooks Pro’s features include:

  • Invoicing
  • Estimates
  • Contact management
  • Lead management
  • Project management
  • Expense tracking
  • Inventory tracking
  • Time tracking

Check out our full QuickBook Pro review to learn more about all the features this software has to offer.

For advanced users with complex accounting needs, QuickBooks Pro is a great choice. However, these features may be unnecessary for smaller businesses or users with limited accounting experience (and no extra time to learn the software), particularly at this price point.

As mentioned with other QuickBooks products, customer support isn’t the company’s strong point. However, some improvements have been made recently, and there are several support options and resources available, including live chat, a help center, and in-software support. While a QuickBooks Pro Plus membership includes phone support, users with a QuickBooks Pro license must pay an additional fee to have access to this option.

When To Use QuickBooks Pro

If you are looking for locally-installed accounting software that offers advanced features, QuickBooks Pro may be the right option for you. This reliable software provides a plethora of tools you can use for your most in-depth accounting needs.

Get Started with QuickBooks Desktop Pro

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How To Choose Small Business Accounting Software

The good news is that there are plenty of accounting software options to choose from. But having so many choices can also be a bad thing. With so many choices, how could you possibly choose the right option for your business? Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer. What’s right for one business could be a complete mismatch for you.

However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to help narrow down your choices and learn which software is the perfect fit for your business. Keep these factors in mind when searching for accounting software.

Know Your Company’s Needs

Maybe your former employer used this software. Or your friend that owns a business uses that accounting software. While there’s nothing wrong with taking the advice of other business owners, it’s important to remember that what works for one business might not work for yours. Every business has its own specific needs to take into consideration before investing in accounting software.

The first consideration is the size of your business. If you’re a freelancer or own a very small business, then basic, low-cost (or even free!) software with features such as invoicing and estimates is likely all that you need. On the other hand, if you have a larger business with multiple employees, software with more advanced features, such as payroll, might be a better fit. Understand what features you want and need for your business and find software that fits those criteria.

Don’t just think about the present, either. If your business is small now, but you have plans to expand in the future, look for scalable software that can grow with your business.

Choose Between Locally-Installed Or Cloud-Based Software

One big decision to make when it comes to accounting software is whether you want cloud-based software or software that’s locally-installed. Locally-installed software doesn’t need to connect to the internet for most features, so your data may be more secure. Locally-installed software also has complex accounting features that you won’t find with most cloud-based software.

On the flip side, cloud-based software allows you to access your account from anywhere, such as your home office or even your smartphone — an advantage you won’t find with locally-installed software. Cloud-based software also typically has a more user-friendly interface, integrates with other software, and includes mobile apps.

Determine Your Budget

Before you start your search for accounting software, you must first set a budget. Your goal is to find software with the features you need at a price that your business can comfortably afford. In addition to a one-time licensing fee or monthly subscription fees, keep in mind added costs such as payroll or credit card processing.

With that said, price shouldn’t be the only factor driving your purchase. For instance, a free program may not offer everything you need, or the most expensive program may be overkill for your small business. Keep price in mind but also look carefully at factors including features and ease of use before investing in accounting software.

Know What To Look For In Good Accounting Software

When searching for the perfect accounting software, it’s important to know what good accounting software should bring to the table. You want an accounting solution that meets all of your small business needs, all while saving you time and stress. Here are some of the most crucial characteristics of good small business accounting software:

  • Strong Accounting: Strong accounting features help ensure you can balance the books correctly and can provide valuable insight into your company’s finances. Good software should include bank reconciliation, a customizable chart of accounts, accounts payable, journal entries, and key accounting reports, such as a Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet report. When it comes to reporting, the more the merrier, especially if you want extra insight into your sales, COGs, time tracking, etc.
  • Numerous Features: Many small businesses are looking for the basics: accounting, expense tracking, quotes, invoicing, and contact database management. However, good accounting software shouldn’t make you feel like you’re settling. What separates decent software apps from the best are additional features, such as inventory, project management, time tracking, and tax support.
  • Time-Saving Automations: Time is one thing small business owners can’t afford to lose. Accounting software with built-in automations (such as default email messages, automatic payment reminders, and transaction matching) is a must.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Good small business software should be easy to use so that the average small business owner can easily navigate the software — no matter how much (or how little) previous accounting experience they bring to the table.
  • Good Customer Support: Especially if you have minimal accounting experience, you’ll want a software company that provides good customer support and offers ample learning resources, such as getting started guides and training videos.
  • Affordability: Every penny counts as a small business owner, and you shouldn’t have to break the bank just to keep your finances in check. Most cloud-based SaaS software is broken down into more affordable monthly payments.
  • Mobile Apps: In today’s day and age, small businesses are often managed on the go, which is why functioning mobile apps are a vital characteristic of any good small business accounting software.
  • Integrations: Integrations are a great way to manage additional areas of your business, such as email marketing, scheduling, and online shopping. Good small business accounting software doesn’t need hundreds of integrations but should offer some basic integrations as well as multiple payment processing options.
  • Strong Security: Since so many small business accounting solutions are cloud-based, you’ll want to make sure a prospective company offers robust security. Look for security measures, such as data encryption, firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, and data backups on multiple servers, as well as physical security measures for data centers.

You may weigh the importance of each of the above characteristics differently, depending on your specific business needs. However, we find these to be the main characteristics that make up a strong small business accounting software.

Test The Software Options

While you should do your research, check out reviews, and compare accounting software, there’s nothing quite like digging in and getting your hands dirty by testing out your options. Fortunately, many software options have free trials, so you can test the software without investing any money. Other software may offer a money-back guarantee, so you can get a refund if you try it out and decide it’s not for you.

It’s not uncommon to miss the mark a time or two when choosing your software, so don’t be afraid to try multiple options before making your selection.

Want more great tips for choosing your accounting software? Check out our article How To Choose Accounting Software to learn more.

Which Accounting Software App Is Right For You?

With so many great accounting options to choose from, it can be challenging to know which accounting software is best. Sure, we gave QBO the title of best accounting software for small businesses overall, but which is the best option for your business in particular? Ask yourself these questions to help narrow down your choices:

  1. What features do I need to run my business well?
  2. How important are customer support and ease of use to me?
  3. What’s my budget?
  4. How many users do I need?
  5. Do I need the software to work with any existing integrations?
  6. What do existing customers say about the software?
  7. Does my accountant prefer one software over another?

The answers to these questions can help you narrow down which accounting software is the best choice for your business. And don’t forget to take advantage of any free trials the software companies offer.

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions you have along the way, and share which accounting software works best for your business. We’d love to hear from you!

A Last Look At Our Top Picks

  1. QuickBooks Online
    Summary - Best overall software for small to medium-sized businesses that are looking for the full accounting package.
  2. Wave
    Summary - Best for freelancers and small business owners looking for full-featured and free accounting software.
  3. Zoho Books
    Summary - Best for small businesses in need of strong accounting at an affordable cost. Ideal for international invoicing.
  4. FreshBooks
    Summary - Best for small businesses looking for easy-to-use accounting software or that aren't ready for full accounting and would like an invoicing option.
  5. QuickBooks Self-Employed
    Summary - Best for freelancers and independent contractors who want strong tax support combined with basic accounting features.
  6. QuickBooks Desktop Pro
    Summary - Best for small to medium-sized businesses that need locally-installed software for complex accounting needs.
Chelsea Krause

Chelsea Krause

Managing Editor - Accounting
Chelsea Krause is a writer who has specialized in accounting for over three years and is a QuickBooks Certified User. She has a BA in English & Creative Writing from George Fox University and studied at the University of Oxford as well. She has been quoted in Forbes and her work appears in Startup Nation, Small Business Bonfire, and Women on Business.
Chelsea Krause
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2 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Tori

    Very detailed blog. I choose the best software for small business, thanks for the review and full description!

      Chelsea Krause

      Hi Tori,

      I’m glad you found this article helpful! Best of luck in all of your business endeavors!

      -Chelsea Krause

      Leave a Reply

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