Tag Archives: free agent

What is the Best Accounting Software?

So, what is the best accounting software? Well, there is no such thing. You could, of course, say what is the best accounting software for my particular business, to which there may well be a definitive answer, but on the whole there is no correct answer to this question.

 

What is evident, and we have found this from the accounting and bookkeeping software reviews that we have carried out, is that there are a lot of very good accounting and bookkeeping software applications on the market. Products such as KashFlow, Clear Books, FreeAgent, Xero, and the various offerings from Sage, all provide very viable, low-cost, solutions for sole traders and small limited companies.

Online (web-based/cloud) or installable software

In recent years there has been a move away from accounting software that you download (or buy on a CD/DVD) and install on your own computer towards accounting software that is provided online ie web-based / cloud solutions.

There are pros and cons for both approaches, but the recent Heart Bleed security issue that hit OpenSSL has highlighted the point that anything that is stored or used on the World Wide Web is not completely 100% secure. The Internet and World Wide Web are based on hardware and software developed by humans and as such will always be at risk of containing bugs or faults that could potentially be exploited by talented hackers. For years, we thought that SSL meant that a web site was completely secure – now we know that that was not the case.

Having said that, it is a fair assumption to make that online accounting solutions are pretty safe and offer a very convenient way of recording and maintaining your company accounts. For a start, web-based accounting software is normally available from any web-enabled device such as a PC, laptop, mobile phone or tablet. Of course, some online accounting software applications work better than others on, say, a mobile phone, so it’s best to try out a few possibilities if you think that this is a feature that might be useful for your business. Being able to access your accounts from virtually anywhere at anytime is a great advantage that online solutions offer though.

 

However, if you ask the question – which is the most secure – online or installable? I would have to opt for installable. After all, with installable software you have the option of installing it on a computer that is not connected to the Internet, making it completely safe from attacks from hackers. Of course, if your house gets burgled and your computer is stolen, or your computer’s hard disk crashes, you’ll lose everything unless you’ve remembered to back things up.

Also, with online solutions you are always using the latest version of the software/application. This is really good as it means that as new features become available, you will in general have access to them. With installable software, you may well be stuck with the version you bought, or you you may have to pay (probably will have to pay) to upgrade to the latest software version.

With online solutions there will probably be a monthly fee to pay, which is normally in the region of £15 to £20 per month, whereas with installable software there is normally a one-off payment, which varies dramatically depending on the software you go for, but is typically in the area of £250 to £300.

Online versions normally have free, ongoing, help available, whereas installable software comes with support that lasts for a limited period of time unless you buy a support package. The advantage with help that’s provided for online software is that the provider can, if necessary, assess your account and resolve any issues. This is not so straightforward for software that you have installed on your computer’s hard disk.

Free or paid for

So, is it worth paying for accounting software when there are plenty of free solutions available, for example, Quick File, Earnings Tracker, VT Cash Book, Adminsoft Accounts, TurboCash, GnuCash, and Brightbooks … to name but a few. Well, I guess it’s a case of whether you can find a free accounting software application that does the job for you – if you can then, yes, go for it, as there really is no point in paying for software when there’s a free alternative that does what you need it to.

It’s also worth remembering that although products like KashFlow, Xero, FreeAgent and Clear Books are all excellent solutions, it may well be that they offer functionality than you just don’t need – functionality that you would be paying for if you bought the software. For this reason it is always a good idea to take advantage of the free trials that all of these products offer, giving you the chance to evaluate them before handing over any money.

It’s also worth looking at whether a free bookkeeping spreadsheet will suffice. This really is the simplest solution and will be sufficient for some people that are running very basic businesses. Of course, this won’t be a sensible solution for most people, but it’s certainly worth looking at and may well form part of a larger accounting / bookkeeping solution for your business.

Conclusion

Whether you decide to go for a free product or a paid-for product, the essential thing is that you get the right product for your business. Take your time in choosing something and try out as many possibilities as you sensibly can. Don’t be tempted to go for the ‘all singing all dancing’ solution unless you really need it, otherwise you’ll just be paying for functionality and features that you don’t need.

Bear these pointers in mind when choosing accounting software for your business:

  • It needs to save you time so that you can concentrate on running your business
  • It needs to offer the right amount of functionality for your business
  • It needs to be easy to use
  • It needs to be affordable

… and here’s a few suggestions to look at

Free accounting / bookkeeping software:

AdminSoft Accounts

BrightBooks

Earnings Tracker

GnuCash

TurboCash

VT Cask Book

Paid for accounting / bookkeeping software:

AccountsPortal

Clear Books

FreeAgent

KashFlow

MyBookkeepingManager

Sage

Xero

FreeAgent Online Accounting Software Review

FreeAgent LogoFreeAgent (www.freeagent.com) is an online accounting solution for limited companies, partnerships, or sole traders, which is used by over 35,000 freelancers and small businesses. The software lets you keep on top of expenses, payroll, time tracking, estimates and invoices. You can also keep track of your businesses cashflow and project profitability, and check to see who owes you money. You can also see what your current tax situation is, and file VAT, RTI (Real Time Information) and Self Assessment returns directly to HMRC.

 

Features

Estimates (Quotes, Proposals)
The software lets you create estimates for potential work. The estimates can be combined to form a single invoice if necessary, they can be printed or emailed directly to clients. Multiple currencies and languages are supported.

Time Tracking
FreeAgent enables you to log timeslips for work done on active projects, and to switch between weeks and months so that you can see where your time is going. On project completion, you can generate an invoice for unbilled time and send this to the client. The software also lets you generate timesheets that can be printed or emailed to clients.

Invoices
Create professional invoices and emailed them to clients. You can also create recurring invoices. The software enables you to keep track of outstanding invoices and to send late payment reminders where necessary.

Part of the FreeAgent Add New Invoice page

Part of the FreeAgent Add New Invoice page

Expenses
The overview screen lets you view a list of your recent expenses, and to add a new one instantly. Where you have expenses that are repeated on a monthly basis, for example, you can set these up to automatically recur.

Banking
You can automatically import bank transactions or complete bank statements into the software, and reconcile invoices and bills with transactions made in FreeAgent. You can even import transaction data from PayPal.

Accounting
FreeAgent gives you access to monthly and quarterly accounting reports, providing you with a clear picture of your profit and loss at any time and helping you to track revenue and spending. To help you work more effectively with your accountant, you can give them access to your FreeAgent account. This will allow your accountant to provide you with advice throughout the financial year and not just at year end when they are producing your company accounts. The software is also able to produce a complete balance sheet for your business. For limited companies, FreeAgent keeps track of company profit from both the current year and previous years, ensuring that any dividends you take are legal.

Taxes
FreeAgent can work out your tax situation from both a personal and business perspective. The tax timeline tells you how much tax you have to pay and when you have to pay it. You can export the dates from the timeline to calendar software such as Google Calendar. The software can also work out all the figures for your quarterly VAT Returns, and is able to handle both invoice accounting and cash accounting, as well as the VAT Flat Rate Scheme. If you are a limited company, FreeAgent can also calculate how much corporation tax your business owes.

Secure, Web-Based Accounting
FreeAgent is a cloud (web-based) accounting solution that uses secure 256-bit SSL technology to encrypt all transactions between you and the FreeAgent servers. You can access your account from any web-enabled device that supports a web browser, for example, a PC, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone.

 

Free Trial

A 30 day free trial of the software is available. Although the initial setup is straightforward (I selected the limited company option), it does prompt you to enter a lot of details that you probably don’t want to at this early stage (bank account details, VAT registration number, etc). After all, you’re just trying out the software. Of course, you can just enter dummy data to get yourself up and running – which is what I did. You can update these settings later if you want to using the Settings menu bar option.

As with all software applications, it takes a bit of time to find your way around the software, but I have to say that the navigation in FreeAgent is easy to follow. It also has a Quick Links drop down list at the right of the screen that contains the most common tasks, such as, creating an invoice and adding a new expense.

Pricing

Three pricing models are available:

  • Sole Trader (£15+VAT per month)
  • Partnerships/LLP (£20+VAT per month)
  • Limited Company (£25+VAT per month)

If you pay for 12 months up front though, you can get two months for free, meaning that for the limited company option the price would work out at just under £21+VAT per month. Although slightly more expensive, this is similar to KashFlow and Clear Books.

Conclusion

I particularly like the fact that you can choose the accounting software that suits your particular company structure, for example, if you’re an IT contractor working through your own limited company, you choose the limited company solution, whereas if you’re a sole trader, you choose the sole trader solution. This makes everything tidier, when it comes to the functionality that is provided. You can also choose an account based on US company structures … nice!

FreeAgent is aimed at very small businesses that have just a few people. It offers plenty of functionality – probably as much as most one- or two-person enterprises would require. It doesn’t seem to handle stock control though, so it assumes that your business is a service-based one.

Other Accounting Software Reviews

You might also be interested in reading the following review(s):

Clear Books

KashFlow

Xero

All Accounting / Bookkeeping Software Reviews