If you are just starting out in business you may be considering whether or not you need accounting software. Now, our advice will always be ‘yes - and use a cloud based system!’ But those monthly costs may put you off. If you are a freelancer or running a small simple business then there are a number of free accounting packages which could get you started.
We love Brightbook; it's got a great design and a really simple and intuitive user interface. Best of all it is completely and utterly free. It's a really simple package and the functionality around sending invoices to customer is great. It records your purchase invoices easily and has some great simple reports.
It doesn't include some of the more advanced features you get in paid-for software; the biggest downside of Brightbook is that it doesn't automatically link to your bank account. For most people this makes doing a bank reconciliation a bit of a pain.
But for freelancers this is a way better option than muddling through using spreadsheets to do your invoices, record your expenses and track your VAT.
This is a really good option for businesses which are a little more complicated (20+ customers per year) - it has automatic bank feeds (yay!) and a stronger customer invoicing function than Brightbook (more customisation, embedded links on the invoice for a number of payment provider, autoreminders).
Reporting is relatively basic but in our opinion a bit stronger than Brightbook. Probably the best thing about Wave is the app which gives you most of the functionality of the system when you are on the go.
Again, Wave is completely free; it contains some adverts which really are unobtrusive and some paid for services if you are using the more advanced features.
Tide and Coconut
Tide and Coconut are both business bank accounts which are worth mentioning. We haven’t had any hands on experience with them and both are relatively new but they offer something a little bit different.
Using their apps, you can raise invoices to customers and pay supplier invoices. All your bank transactions are available through the app and these can be categorised into expenses giving you straight forward P&L reports.
Neither of these are completely free as the bank accounts come with charges, however these charges are not significantly different to what is offered by high street banks. In terms of an accounting system, it is a lighter touch than the others we have looked at and both are aimed primarily at sole traders / freelancers.
The downside of all this free stuff is that the list of features that they offer just isn’t that long - the leading cloud based solutions (Xero, Sage and Quickbooks) all have hundreds of connections to other apps and websites which can significantly improve what you are getting out of your numbers and reduce the time you spend on admin. Additionally, simple reporting is better than no reporting, but most business require more than the free options give you.
We think that if you can make the admin easier in your business you should do - spend more time on your business and less time shuffling paper. But whether or not you should go for something free or something paid for will really depend on your set up. If you want to chat this through, give us a call.
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