Top 4 Free Bookkeeping Tools For Small Businesses
As a small business owner, you work hard for every dollar you make. Especially when it comes to software, a penny saved is a penny earned. And free software, well that’s the goose that laid the golden egg!
Unfortunately, when we hear the word free, our natural excitement is usually followed closely by red flags and a little inner voice which screams “it’s too good to be true!” Free too often means fishy, unreliable. So free bookkeeping software, then? Can it really exist when freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners all over the world pay good money every month for accounting and invoicing software?
It can, and it does. What’s more, we’ve take time to honestly research and evaluate the free bookkeeping tools available to you. Keep reading for more information about our favorite free accounting and invoicing software.
Best Free Accounting Software
“Real accounting for non-accountants”–a catchy slogan for sure, and one CEO Kirk Simpson and CPO James Lochrie kept close in mind when they created Wave in 2009. Since then, Wave has caught the eye (and funding) of huge investors and generally charmed industry experts and the press, who have given Wave the title of “Best Free Accounting Software for Businesses.” Wave currently has 1.5 million users in over 200 different countries.
- Cloud-based software can be accessed anywhere, anytime
- Simple, easy to use interface
- Quick set-up
- Ability to create beautiful invoices – simple to make, with three templates to choose from, customizable with logos and colors; can set payment reminders and accept payments straight from the invoice
- Can convert estimates to invoices with a single click
- Includes nine accounting reports
- Keeps track of receipts, quick input with the mobile app Receipts by Wave
- Automatically imports and categorizes bank, credit card, and PayPal transactions
- Free personal accounting alongside business accounting
- Set sales tax(es) with ease
- Other functions include: journal entries, bill and invoice reminders, and expense tracking
- Scalability – as your business grows, the Payroll plan can be added for $19/mo
- Integrates with PayPal, Stripe, and more
- Multi-currency options
- 4.7/5 stars on G2Crowd
- Bank-grade 256bit SSL encryption security
- Best of all, it’s free – the only thing you have to pay for is a processing fee for accepting online payments (2.9% +$0.30 in the US, international rates here)
Wave (see our review) is a cloud-based, accrual accounting software that is geared toward small businesses of nine employees or fewer, and can work for sole proprietors, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and online sellers (Etsy, Amazon, eBay, etc.). Wave remains a popular choice for such small operations, not only because it is free, but because it is incredibly easy to use and has a very simple and appealing interface.
The dashboard lays out a clear picture of your business’s financial state with graphs showing Income and Expenses, Payables and Owing, Net Income, and Business Expenses.
Wave stays competitive because it rivals paid accounting software with invoice, estimate, report, automatic transaction import, receipt tracking, and contact management capabilities. And unlike many other free software programs, Wave does not put a limit on invoices, estimates, bank reconciliations, or customers. Everything is free, and everything is unlimited. In addition, Wave allows users to manage multiple small businesses if needed.
Wave is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux and offers mobile apps for both Android and iPhone. However, these apps are not complete versions of the desktop software. The Receipts by Wave app is available for both Android and iPhone, while the Invoice by Wave app is only available for the iPhone.
Account set-up is incredibly easy, taking only a few minutes, and many support options are available to aid this process. Wave University is particularly helpful for any set-up questions you may have. Wave’s YouTube account features informative how-to videos, and a detailed FAQ and Community Forum are available. Wave also offers email support, but this aspect of the company’s customer service could stand to be improved; free accounts only receive email answers after 2-3 days, while $9/mo plans and $19/mo plans receive 1-day email responses and live chat as well. Although slow, the customer service is still very helpful, kind, and–most importantly–free.
Most major user complaints regard mediocre customer support and the lack of a full-functioning mobile app. Not only are the current apps limited, but they also run slowly and there is no clear roadmap of declared update releases. Other drawbacks include the lack of cash-based accounting and the limited number of integrations. Also, if you’re running a larger company, Wave probably does not have the complete accounting capabilities you need, especially if you are looking for project/task managing functions or tax forms.
However, for small businesses who do not require these functions, Wave wins the title of best free accounting software. It even holds its own with some paid accounting software solutions. With a wide array of features (my favorite being the beautiful, easy to make invoices), Wave fits many accounting needs. In addition to saving you money, this simple, easy-to-use software will also save you time and a lot of frustration if you are unfamiliar with accounting.
Learn more about Wave in our full Wave Review.
Runner-Up for Best Free Accounting Software: SlickPie
SlickPie(see our review) is a cloud-based, double-entry accounting software geared toward small businesses. SlickPie has fewer features than Wave does, and limits its free version to 100 invoices a month, 100 bills a month, 5000 bank reconciliations, and 5GB of document storage (though it does allow for unlimited users). However, the company is growing, expanding, and updating its current software and may just become a force to be reckoned with a few years down the road.
- It’s absolutely free
- Includes 100 invoices/mo, 100 bills/mo, 5000 bank reconciliations/mo, and 5GB storage
- Unlimited users
- Beautiful interface, incredibly easy to use, perfect for non-accountants
- Open API
- Invoices are customizable with logos
- Track when your client has viewed an invoice, let customers pay directly online, and set recurring invoices and late payments reminders
- Import bank accounts, credit cards, and PayPal transactions automatically
- Includes twelve accounting reports
- Other features include journal entries, receipt management, contact overview, sales reports, and a well-organized dashboard showing you a financial overview
- Good customer service
- Integrates with 100+ banks
- 5/5 stars on G2Crowd
- Bank-grade security with 256bit SSL encryption
- Inventory feature *coming soon
Developed only in August 2015, SlickPie is a little late to the cloud-based accounting game. But for such a recent company, SlickPie is showing some promise—and it’s free, which makes it a decent option for many small businesses just starting out. The software was created to “provide small business owners with a simple and intuitive accounting experience that users can pick up and use right away; no headaches.” And I can successfully report no headaches on my end.
With an incredibly simple set-up process and an easy-to-understand interface, founder Nick Chandi has succeeded at creating a software both aesthetically appealing and unintimidating. On the main dashboard, available graphs include a Financial Overview, Sales Reports, Profit & Loss, and Contact Overview (noting customers’ upcoming and overdue invoices). A quick link button to nearly all functions is also found on the right hand corner of the dashboard.
SlickPie offers the ability to manage contacts, create invoices and estimates, manage bills, import bank transactions, create journal entries, and build accounting reports. By the end of the year, SlickPie also plans to have an inventory option available that will track products/services and calculate profits (by weighing purchase prices and sales prices, as well as purchases taxes and sales taxes). This update will also add fixed assets depreciation, and businesses will have the option to offer customers partial payment plans.
The major inconsistency and drawback of SlickPie is that they claim to have a “mobile-first” approach, and yet do not offer a mobile app. Yes, SlickPie can be opened on any mobile device through a web browser, and yes, mobile apps are on the soon-to-be-released docket. However, in this area, SlickPie does not live up to its desired image and is only truly supported on traditional desktop devices and internet browsers.
As the product is so new, there are very few available user reviews. The customer comments I did find were very positive, though some users did caution that the software might not be right for larger businesses, as, like Wave, it does not offer typical tax form functions or the kind of payroll capabilities found in fuller accounting software.
Ultimately, SlickPie comes with many useful accounting features and is incredibly easy to use; for some small businesses, this may be enough. The free cost and well-organized interface of this software make it simple to use. It just may be a big contender a few years down the road, but for now, the company needs to work out whatever glitches or bugs may arise over time, and build enough revenue to create mobile apps worth of the mantra “mobile-first.” SlickPie is still worth keeping an eye on though, and when the inventory function is added, it may be the best choice for small businesses and online sellers dependent on inventory.
For more information, check out SlickPie’s site here.
Best Free Invoicing Software
Winner: Zoho Invoice
Zoho Invoice (see our review) is the smaller, younger cousin of Zoho Books (Zoho Suite’s full, subscription accounting software). Indeed, some of the best features of Zoho Books are related to invoicing, and these features have now been condensed into a separate product, Zoho Invoice, a smaller-scale program focused specifically on invoicing and offered at no cost.
- Cloud-based software can be accessed anytime, anywhere
- Quick set-up, easy to use
- Seven professional, customizable invoice templates with recurring invoice option; send invoices by email or snail mail; accept payments directly from invoice or by cash/check
- Create estimates and convert them to invoices with a single click
- Add tasks and track time through the projects feature; easily convert timesheets into a billable invoices
- Record and track all expenses
- Manage receipts online or through mobile app
- Other features include: contact management, item management, credit notes, and sales tax functions with easy-to-set defaults
- Includes TWENTY-SEVEN financial reports
- Impressive amount of integrations for a Zoho Suite product, including Paypal, Stripe, and more
- Works well with existing Zoho Suite products
- Strong, highly praised mobile apps that offer the full functionality of the desktop software
- open API
- 128/256bit SSL encryption security
- It’s free – for businesses up to 25 clients and 1 user
Zoho Invoice is marketed toward (very) small businesses and sole proprietors. It features seven invoice templates to choose from, a significantly higher number than other free software programs, including Wave. Zoho Invoice even goes so far as to tell you which templates are ideal for the type of invoice you are sending (i.e. for displaying large logos, for long lists of expenses, for sending by snail mail, etc). I found these template designs underwhelmingly basic for a program that specializes in invoices, but they can be customized with logos, terms and agreements, and personalized notes to customers. Payment options may be included in the invoice design and payment can be accepted online, by cash, or by check.
Though primarily focused on creating effective invoices, this software is more than just an invoicing service. Zoho Invoice also allows users to create estimates, credit notes, projects (with timesheets), and 27 reports (an extremely vast amount that outranks even most paid software). Zoho Invoice also tracks payments received and expenses in order to quickly show a company’s financial state in the dashboard.
Zoho Invoice can be accessed on nearly any desktop or device that has an internet connection. Both the Android and iPhone app are strong and particularly valued by users. These apps have nearly the same functionality as the desktop version and allows businesses to keep up on their work no matter where they are. The Zoho Invoice set-up is simple and requires a brief preferences questionnaire. The interface is generally easy to use, but some users say it can be a little confusing at times. There are customer service options including email and phone support, in-program live chat, a YouTube channel, and an online help center. Unfortunately, many users complain about the quality of the customer service.
Before you get too attached, there is a potential drawback for Zoho Invoice users. For the service to remain free, your business can only have 25 customers and a single user. A $7/mo charge covers 50 customers, $15/mo covers 500, and $30/mo provides unlimited customers and users—though at that price point point, you may as well pay for a full accounting software like Zoho Books. (Or even just consider transitioning over to Wave, trading the large number of templates offered by Zoho Invoice for a smaller template selection but retaining decent invoicing and fuller accounting features).
However, for businesses looking specifically for invoice-focused software, and who have less than 25 customers, it would be hard to find a better invoicing software. The projects feature is particularly appealing as even some paid accounting software programs lack this function.
To learn more, read our full Zoho Invoice Review here.
Runner-Up: Invoice Ninja
It’s difficult to find much information about this runner-up for best free invoicing software, which seems rather fitting considering its name. Invoice Ninja (see our review) is an open source, cloud-hosted software (though there is a self-hosted option for those of you who know more about coding than I do). Invoice Ninja has been around since 2013 and is geared toward freelancers and other small business owners in need of a quick, simple invoicing software.
- Open source, cloud-based software can be accessed anywhere
- Simple to use
- It’s 100% free
- Supports 100 clients and includes four invoice templates
- Offers recurring invoices and online payment options
- Integrates with over 45 payment gateways
- Manages contact information, including personalized default currencies and payment terms; offers contact archive for inactive, former clients, so you can store their important information while keeping the interface clean
- Create tasks and projects, attach them directly to invoices
- Create quotes that can also be turned into invoices
- Track expenses
- Auto-billing and auto-calculation of average invoice income and total revenue
Invoice Ninja has a simple yet effective interface with almost everything necessary for invoices. Unlike Zoho Invoice, Invoice Ninja’s free invoicing option allows for one hundred customers, although it only provides four templates instead of seven (unless you opt for the paid $10/mo plan, which allows for ten templates). Templates can be branded with logos, although each invoice made with this software will also say “created by Invoice Ninja” unless you pay $5/mo or $50/year for a custom URL and custom invoice design. You can have your customers make full or partially and payments directly online with any of Invoice Ninja’s 45+ payment gateways. (Invoice Ninja also partners with Zapier; for a full list of integrations go here). Recurring invoices are included in the free payment option.
Other features include the ability to create projects and tasks, generate quotes and estimates, manage contacts, and calculate total revenue. Total revenue, along with information regarding recent, upcoming, and overdue invoices, can be found on the dashboard.
Invoice Ninja can be used on any device that has internet access. Its self-hosted option allows some people to recode the software to better fit their needs. However, most users stick to the original software. Currently, Invoice Ninja has no mobile apps (though they are on the list of upcoming features, along with additional accounting reports).
The main drawback of Invoice Ninja is lack of information regarding the business. It’s difficult to find any information online about the company’s history or practices (including security measures), and there are very few customer reviews. While this relative anonymity is not a deal breaker, it is worth keeping in mind. You should also note that as a relatively smaller company, Invoice Ninja offers fewer customer support options (though I always received quick customer email support and spoke to the company president personally). What Invoice Ninja does offer in terms of customer service is most often helpful and includes a support forum, an FAQ section, a blog featuring how-to’s and business advice, a user guide for set up, and direct email support.
Although the company is small, Invoice Ninja is still a viable option. In fact, Invoice Ninja beats Zoho Invoice when it comes to integrations, and allows users to have four times as many customers. But feature depth is limited compared to Zoho Invoice, and the company itself is less reliable than its better-known competitor.
To decide if Invoice Ninja is a good fit for your company, check out their site here.
So which free bookkeeping tools are most helpful for your small business? If you are looking for a full accounting software, Wave is the best option by far, and if strong invoicing features are what you need, Zoho Invoice is an excellent choice. While neither software is perfect and many lack a few features important for larger businesses, both give paid subscription software companies a run for their money.
For smaller companies who don’t need as many features and want to keep their interfaces clean and simple, SlickPie and Invoice Ninja can be good options as well. Though these two bookkeeping solutions are generally outranked by the category winners, both offer certain features that Wave and Zoho Invoice don’t have. For companies looking for project/task management and inventory (coming soon), SlickPie may be a good option. For companies with over 25 clients and with multiple users, Invoice Ninja could be much more effective.
Give one (or all) of these four programs a try and see if they are a good fit for your business. You have nothing to lose; after all, they are free.