Zoho Books Review
- Competitive pricing
- Easy to use
- Unbeatable invoicing
- Beautiful UI
- Great client portal
With automized email templates, report generating, inventory tracking, billing, and scheduled invoicing (all for a very competitive monthly cost), it should come as no surprise that one of this software’s primary slogans is “Focus on work. Waste less time.” If you like the concept of automation, then you’ll like Zoho Books.
Zoho Books was created in 2011 by Sridhar Vembu–CEO and founder of the Zoho Suite line. Vembu’s business values are refreshingly centered around a strong business culture and constant improvements to Zoho products (rather than just on the bottom line). Vembu has accepted no outside capital and uses revenue to boost software development, not marketing strategies. Because of this, Zoho Books has only gotten better over the years.
Zoho Books is updated a couple times every month, which is always nice to see. In the past, this software had strong features but poor customer service, and hardly any third-party integrations. This is no longer a problem; Zoho Books has added a Zapier integration and made dramatic steps to improve customer support. The software still isn’t perfect: there is no payroll feature, no job costing capabilities, and the bank reconciliation feature lacks automation. However, Zoho Books could still be a good choice for small business looking for basic accounting features and very strong invoicing.
Continue reading to see if Zoho Books is a good fit for you, and check out this video to see how a business can benefit from the Zoho Books software.
Zoho Books provides a free 14-day trial with no credit card or banking information required. Subscription payments are made monthly; however, you can receive a discount – two months free service – if you commit to a year-long plan. It’s possible to cancel the service at any time (year-long users will receive a pro-rated refund.)
There are three pricing tiers.
- $9.00/mo ($90/year)
- 50 contacts
- Five automated workflows
- Custom invoices and bank reconciliation
- Expense, project, and time tracking
- Recurring transactions
- Two users (free accountant access)
- $19.00/mo ($190/year)
- 500 contacts
- 10 automated workflows
- Custom invoices and bank reconciliation
- Expense, project, and time tracking
- Bills, reporting tags, and vendor credits
- Three users (free accountant access)
- $29.00/mo ($290/year)
- Unlimited contacts
- 10 automated workflows
- Custom invoices and bank reconciliation
- Expense, project, and time tracking
- Recurring transactions and vendor credits
- Purchase orders and sales orders
- Unlimited users
Web-Hosted or Locally-Installed:
Web-hosted. No downloads or installation required.
Hardware or Software Requirements:
Since Zoho Books is a cloud-based software, all you need is one of the following web browsers (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, or Opera) and an Internet connection. Zoho Books also has an app for iPhones/iPads (iOS 7+), for Androids (4.1+), for Windows phones/tablets(8, 8.1, or 10), and for the Apple Watch.
Specific Size of Business:
Zoho Books is ideal for most small businesses. Scalable pricing plans make the product fitting for a wide market, from freelancers and micro businesses to potentially mid- to large-sized businesses. However, if you run a larger business you may suffer from a lack of payroll or job-costing support, and the accounting features may not be developed enough for your needs (in comparison to software companies like Xero and QuickBooks Pro). Nonetheless, Zoho Books has the potential to be a great option for smaller businesses with many, if not all, of the features necessary for most small businesses to run. And you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Both accrual and cash-basis accounting.
Ease of Use:
Many software companies claim that their software is so easy a non-accountant can use it, but Zoho’s claim is actually true. The set up is simple, the layout is generally intuitive, and there’s ample support to help you along the way. However, there are a couple of areas that could use a bit of streamlining.
- Set Up – Zoho Books is easy to use across the board, and especially easy to set up. You simply add you company’s details, set a tax default, enable the features you’d like, and determine a few quick preferences. (You can always alter these preferences at a later time.) After this, you verify your email address and are basically good to go. You’ll be directed first to a few how-to videos and demonstrations, though I recommend skipping these for the time being (they’ll still be there when you return, don’t worry) and go to settings instead so you can enable user permissions, set accounts and account balances, and customize invoice templates.
- Organization – I love the organization of Zoho Invoice; every feature has its own little dashboard (see projects and contacts below for more information and a picture as proof) and things are generally easy to find. Tabs on the left side of the screen are marked Dashboard, Contacts, Items, Banking, Sales, Purchases, Accountant, Timesheet, and Reports. You’ll probably use the Sales tab the most since that’s where the sub tabs for invoices, estimates, sales orders, etc. are located.
- Instructions and Guidance – After you set up your account, you get a video walkthrough of the software’s features. These can be helpful, as can the articles in the Zoho Books Help Center. However, the best support resource I found is the live chat feed on the Dashboard. It’s quick, easy, and effective. There is also a phone number and email address if you’d like to speak to a representative in more depth. In addition, you can check out this hour-long webinar demonstration on YouTube that demonstrates the entire software.
- Problems – For the most part, I encountered very few problems with Zoho Books. However, there were a few minor annoyances.
- Not Always Intuitive – Though I could generally navigate the software easily, it was sometimes hard to find what I was looking for. For example, in settings there appears to be only a single invoice template (until you somehow intuit that pressing +new gives you access to nine more).
- Limited Bank Reconciliation Feature –The bank reconciliation feature is incredibly outdated for a product that seems to have so many automated business features. You have to manually match transactions, which takes up a lot of time.
- Search Feature Lacking – The Zoho Books Help Center generally lives up to its name. However, more often than not, my search inquiries didn’t pull up any relevant articles, forcing me to sift through article categories until I found what I was looking for. This could definitely stand to be improved, as it would save a lot of time.
Zoho Books offers a robust set of features and quite a few unique touches that make the software a joy to use. While there are a few limited functions (like bank reconciliation), the majority of features work well for most small businesses. Click here to take a full feature tour.
- Dashboard – The Dashboard features graphs of total receivables, total payables, income and expense, projects, bank and credit cards, and a cash flow chart. The graphs are appealing and make it easy to view your financial state. Tabs for each function are listed on the left and are mentioned above. On the top right, there are notification, setting, and support buttons. In addition, there is a blue square on the bottom right that connects you to a live chat feed with a customer service representative.
- Invoicing – This is where Zoho Books shines brighter than all the rest. Zoho Books has 10 invoice templates, all of which are professional and business-worthy. Zoho Books even tells you what each template is ideal for (i.e. long lists of items, snail mail, etc.). There are many customization options as well. You can enter sales tax, add discounts, and record both shipping and billing addresses. Customer notes and terms and conditions can be set as defaults in settings or added manually. You can attach up to five files to each invoice. In addition, you can set payment reminders and record payments via, cash, check, bank transfer, etc. Another incredibly unique feature Zoho Books gives is the option to encrypt the invoices you send as pdfs so they cannot be edited or altered. Furthermore, Zoho Books supports retainer invoices and customer credit. The only thing I wished to see was the discount calculated with the total on the bottom rather than just deducted automatically (so customers can actually see the money they are saving). Invoices can be sent via email or traditional mail.
- Estimates – There are 10 estimate templates as well. The process for creating estimates is virtually the same as that for creating invoices. Converting estimates to invoices is easy as well. Just click the convert button and select the information you wish to leave the same, and you’re good to go.
- Sales Orders and Purchase Orders – Sales orders and purchase orders are created in an incredibly similar fashion as invoices and estimates—easily and without stress.
- Expense Tracking – Zoho Books offers basic expense tracking features, including receipt uploads. You can attach expenses to projects, tasks, and invoices.
- Accounts Payable – Through Zoho Books you can create bills and recurring bills. You can set payment reminders and save vendor information easily.
- Time Tracking – You can easily attach billable hours to invoices and estimates. To log hours, you may use a built-in timer or enter time manually (either with a start and end time or a total of hours worked). Once you activate the timer, it pops up in the bottom left corner of the screen. Simply click it to turn it off and the time will automatically be calculated and added to the preset project or task.
- Projects – The projects feature is one of the most beautifully designed I have seen. The UI makes it easy to create projects, tasks, and budgets. The budgeting feature is particularly developed, allowing you to budget by total project cost, total project hours, hours per task, or hours per staff. You can assign projects or specific tasks to staff members and set detailed user permissions for each member. When you click on each new project, you are taken to a project dashboard. This dashboard includes charts and graphs showing the real-time progress of your project. Tabs for attaching invoices, expenses, timesheets, and comments are found in a toolbar across the top of the screen. This feature is a joy to use and makes it easy to see how your projects and tasks are progressing. You can also request a weekly projects summary report.
- Email Customization – Zoho Books has one of the best email customization settings with over 15 different default email messages allowed. You can send custom messages for user invites, client portal invitation, customer statements, estimate notifications, invoice notifications, payment thank you, payments initiated, vendor statements, and more. You can also cc/bcc yourself in emails to receive additional data backups. Email alerts can be set as well.
- Contact Management – Zoho Books’ contact management is refreshingly advanced. You can display contacts by customer or company name, assign default sales taxes and currencies to contacts, and even send invoices and estimates to be set in a default foreign language. In addition to these little touches, the contacts dashboard is beautiful. Once you click on a contact name, you are taken to a dashboard overview with charts and graphs that show that specific contact’s activity, unused customer credits, outstanding receivables, payment due dates, and a timeline of their history. Even better, you can request reviews and testimonials directly from your clients.
- Client Portal – This is one of the best client portals out there; it is easy to use and has a very appealing UI. Clients have the options to view their home dashboard, estimates, invoices, and project details. Clients can make partial or full invoice payments directly through the portal. They can comment on estimates as well. The best part is, you get real-time notifications about when your invoices and estimates have been viewed and paid. In order to enable the client portal, makes sure to check the box “add portal access for this contact” when creating a new contact.
- Bank Reconciliation – Here is a function that could seriously stand some improvements. You cannot automatically match transactions. They have to be matched manually, which can be incredibly time-consuming. Zoho Books does offer suggestions for the best possible matches for a transaction, but you still have to manually approve them. The bulk categorization feature and custom automation rules can help alleviate this process a bit, but Zoho Books still has a ways to go there in terms of improvement. There is no duplicate transaction detection (unless you accidentally upload the same bank statement twice) and no way to split a transaction while categorizing. Bank statements can be imported via .csv file (which is a serious downgrade from the last time we reviewed the software when four file types were accepted). Zoho Book also offers live bank feeds for a real-time look at your business’s financial state. Note: Like all software using bank live feeds, Zoho Books partners with Yodlee, who may violate some banks’ Terms and Conditions. Consult with your bank to see whether live bank feeds are a good choice for you.
- Journal Entries – This is another aspect of Zoho Books that isn’t quite as strong as it could be. While there is a journal entry feature, journals against accounts payable and accounts receivables are not supported (transactions have to be entered as bills or invoices).
- Inventory (Professional Plan Only) – The Professional Plan offers inventory stock level tracking. You can set reorder levels and alerts for when stock reaches a certain minimum value. A detailed item list includes item name, unit, rate, sales cost, a link to a specific account, and whether or not the item is taxable. You can add both flat rate discounts and percentage discounts to any item (but not to an invoice total).
- Reports – Zoho Books offers an impressive amount of reports—46 to be exact. Most basic accounting reports are covered as well as a few extra surprises like portal activities, client reviews, and customer balances. In addition, you can opt to have a weekly summary report sent directly to your email. Zoho Books has also recently added report tags.
- Tax Forms – Zoho Books makes life a little easier and helps calculate 1099s for sub-contractors so you don’t lose sleep during tax season. You can’t file directly from Zoho Books, but you can export 1099s in a .csv file.
- Sales Tax – You can create as many sales tax settings (and sales exemptions) for your business as needed. An added bonus, Zoho Books lets you assign each customer a separate sales tax default. Zoho Books also integrates with an automated tax service called Avalara (for an additional cost).
- Multi-Currency – Zoho Books supports around 200 different currencies and each contact can be assigned a specific currency. For information about how Zoho Books automatically imports exchange rates, go here. Note: Bills and expenses cannot be entered in a foreign currency.
- API – API is available for developers.
Zoho products tend to have great features but poor customer service. So I was incredibly surprised not only by the amount of customer service options available for Zoho Books but by the quality of service. I was always responded to in a timely manner, and customer service representatives were invariably kind, informative, and authoritative.
Each time I called in, my phone call was answered on the first ring. My emails were also answered promptly (in anywhere from 6-12 hours). And as I mentioned above, the live chat option is beautiful. The support services still aren’t perfect (the Help Center search could be improved and the social media support is severely lacking), but it sure is better than it has been in years past.
Customer Service is available 24/5, Monday through Friday. Here are all of the customer service options Zoho Books offers:
- Phone –Zoho can be contacted at 888-900-9646 (for US users), +4 (20) 35647890 (for UK users), and +61-2-80662898 (for Australian users).
- Email – You can email a customer service representative at email@example.com or a sales representative at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Live Chat – For quick responses, use the live chat feature found on the Zoho Books site and within the Zoho Books software itself. I found myself using this resource most often. The responses are well-worded, informative, and quick—I mean can you beat a less than 60 second initial response time?
- Help Center – There is a detailed Help Center with step-by-step how-to articles and some troubleshooting advice. I found these articles to be helpful, and vast enough to cover most questions I had. However, the search feature could use some improvement.
- FAQ – Zoho books has the biggest FAQ section I have ever seen by far. If you have a question, I’m sure there’s an answer hiding somewhere in there.
- Webinars – You can sign up for weekly webinars on Zoho products in general, although they are not always pertinent to Zoho Books.
- YouTube – You’ll have better luck accessing the Zoho Books webinars and demonstrations on the Zoho YouTube channel. There are also how-to videos for specific features and a couple entertaining commercials.
- Blog – The Zoho Books blog mainly features Zoho Books updates and some business advice.
- Community Forum – You can ask questions here and receive answers from the Zoho Books community.
- Social Media – Zoho Books maintains a fairly active Twitter and Facebook. None of the tweets or posts are particularly outstanding, but there are some helpful business tips and Zoho updates. Zoho responds fairly quickly to customer questions and complaints. However, there is no separate Facebook or Twitter specifically for Zoho Books so much of the information may not be relevant to you.
- Feature Suggestion – There is a feature suggestion section where customers can tell Zoho Books what they want to see next. You can also vote for preexisting requests.
- Accountant Finder – Zoho Books provides an accountant finder resource to its customers.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
For the most part, Zoho Books customer reviews are positive, and the majority of negative reviews are outdated and have been resolved. However, there are still quite a few things customers would like to see improved:
- Downtime and Outages – There have been cases of server downtime and outages that a few users are not happy about.
- Poor Customer Service – Some users complain about poor customer service and incredibly slow response time.
- Lack of Integrations – This was the largest complaint for quite a while. And while there are a few users still begging for integrations, the new Zapier integration connects Zoho Books with over 500 other apps.
- Features Need Improvement – A few customers find features like journal entries and inventory limited and want them to be improved and expanded on. (I find myself agreeing, especially where journal entries are concerned.)
- Mobile App Bugs – The Zoho Books apps are generally very well liked, but there are a few reported bugs, especially from Windows users who rate the app lower than both Android and iPhone users.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Most Zoho Books reviews are positive. The software receives 4.4/5 stars on GetApp and is featured in the top 25 Accounting apps based in the cloud (with Zoho Books as number five). In addition, the mobile apps receive 4.5/5 stars in iTunes, 4.5/5 stars in the Google PlayStore, and 3.7/5 stars in the Windows Store.
Here are a few reasons people like the software so much:
- Easy to Use – This is by far the most common praise of Zoho Books. Users find the software easy to learn and easy to use.
- Save Time – In the same vein, users find that Zoho Books’ easy to use interface and many automated features save valuable time.
- Mobile Apps – Users love the mobility and robust feature set of Zoho Books’ mobile apps.
- Feature Updates – Many users are impressed by the updates Zoho Books has implemented because of customer suggestions. I myself am incredibly pleased by how frequently the software updates, and I’ve found that any weaknesses pointed out while reviewing this software are often resolved.
- Great Customer Service – Zoho Books has seriously improved by leaps and bounds in this area. Many users praise the customer service as being friendly and prompt in their responses.
Check out what a few users are saying:
“I’ve tried QuickBooks, Quicken, other expense and timeclock apps…Zoho Books is one app that has the ability to integrate with multiple features EASILY! My time is money and Zoho Books saves me money because it saves me time!” – Rachael Maddison, Rachael Maddison Creative
“I must say am very impressed with Zoho Books. It is an easy to use comprehensive platform. It is impressive how quick the system is and how quickly I can navigate the system from any screen to analyse data, reports and any information I need. This is an excellent Accounting System that doesn’t require being an accountant to understand and use it correctly.” – Jason Kimber, Solutions to Success
Integrations and Add-Ons:
- Zoho CRM – Strong customer management tool that features sales tracking, inventory management, and more. Read our full review here.
- Zoho Projects – A project management tool that offers time tracking, bug tracking, file management, and chat communication. Read our full review here.
- Zoho Subscriptions – Manages recurring bills and subscriptions so you don’t have to.
- Zoho Expense – Automated expense reporting tool that also provides expense analytics.
- Zoho Inventory – Inventory management software that integrates with eCommerce sites and over 25 shipping services.
- Zoho Reports – A strong reporting and analytics tool.
- Zoho Docs – A file storage solution that can be accessed anywhere.
- PayPal – Accept online payments and enable electronic payment of invoices. Read our full review here.
- WePay – Accept payments through personal merchant account.
- Zapier – Connects Zoho Books to over 500 other apps and add-ons.
- Slack – A powerful communication platform for business teams. (Here at Merchant Maverick we’re a little partial to Slack, since it’s our team’s main means of communication.)
- Avalara – Automated sales tax solution that automatically calculates sales tax from a customer’s address.
- Temponia – Time Tracking solution that utilizes calendar based scheduling to track projects and billable hours.
Zoho Books takes strong security measures including 256-bit SSL encryption, two-factor authentication, and regular intrusion/virus detection and prevention scanning. Additional physical measures are taken to ensure data security, such as 24/7/365 surveillance, video monitoring, bullet-resistant walls, and more. In addition, Zoho Books backs up data regularly onto multiple servers in undisclosed locations. For more information on Zoho’s security, go here.
Zoho Books offers a strong set of features that could be ideal for some small businesses. The client portal and the overall design of the UI make it a pleasure to use. Zoho Books’ invoices stand apart from other accounting software options in terms of customizability and professionalism. And the automation options in email templates, time tracking, and custom workflows save time and money.
However, the software isn’t perfect. The bank reconciliation feature is a serious drawback, and the Windows app could definitely stand to be improved. In addition, large companies looking for payroll, job costing, and fuller accounting packages may want to keep looking.
That being said, Zoho Books has become a huge contender again thanks to certain recent updates. With improved customer service and a huge choice of integrations now (via Zapier), Zoho Books could be a great option for many businesses. If you’re looking for robust accounting features at a competitive price point, consider giving Zoho Books a go with their free trial.