Not every small business needs a full-blown accounting system. Here are nine simpler, cheaper apps that may be all you need.
Don't get us wrong, there are many ways an accounting system can make businesses more productive and provide clearer insight into the state of play of your business. But maybe your biggest challenge is sending invoices and making sure they are paid.
Thankfuly, there are a number of simple, affordable cloud applications aimed at small businesses in that situation. Here we've updated and added to last year's feature, where we looked at several of those apps.
Billcue works on desktops and mobile devices, and handles quotes, invoices (including recurring), expenses, cash receipts, and payments via Paypal, Stripe, Securepay, Eway and Bpay.
Features include payment reminders, project/job tracking, recurring expenses and purchase orders are included, along with accounting basics such as profit and loss, balance sheet, aged creditors or debtors reports.
UPDATE: Billcue has had its first price increase in ten years, but still costs a modest $12 per month.
A few significant changes have been made. Billcue now handles bank reconciliations when statements are imported, invoices and invoice reminders can be sent via SMS (catering for customers that don't have email addresses or that don't want email notifications).
The user interface has also been redesigned. The same company recently launched Snap Invoicing (see below) for clients that need an even simpler system than Billcue.
Invoice2go provides simple to use invoicing and expense recording, with the ability to record time spent on activities and to pass on expenses to customers.
The entry price is only $30 a year, but that limits you to 50 invoices and five clients. Many small businesses will need to step up at least to the pro plan - $159 a year for unlimited invoices and estimates, and up to 25 clients.
UPDATE: Invoice2go has introduced a mobile point of sale feature powered by PayPal Here, allowing users to accept on the spot card payments from their customers.
“Tap and go is a ubiquitous way to pay now and we want to empower our customers, the majority of whom are one-man-bands, to also be able to leverage this trend,” said Invoice2go head of product Michael Ramsey.
“Now plumbers, florists, dog-walkers and accountants alike can have the same opportunities, and look just as professional, as the biggest retailers.”
The other recent changes are the ability to send invoices via SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other apps, improved business insights and reporting capabilities, and a client portal that simplifies common activities including calling, messaging and looking up directions.
Prices still start at $30 a year for up to 50 invoices and 5 clients. Plans allowing unlimited invoices and clients range from $159 to $549 a year.
Invoicely is free for unlimited invoices, but moving up to the $US9.99 plan adds several useful features including estimates, time and expenses tracking, and support for online payment processors other than via PayPal.
It doesn't explicitly support GST, but you can set up a 10 percent (or any other rate, for that matter) tax that's applied by default.
UPDATE: Invoicely tells us that there has been no change to the system during the last 12 months, but several minor upgrades, changes and new additions are planned during 2018.
QuickBooks Self-Employed is specifically aimed at freelancers and other self-employed people who aren't GST registered.
Available for mobile use (Android or iOS) and priced at $9.99 a month (Intuit currently offers a 50 percent discount for the life of the subscription if you sign up during your 30-day free trial period), QuickBooks Self-Employed covers invoicing, expense capture, bank feed, and vehicle use (kilometres).
UPDATE: The big change to QuickBooks Self-Employed is that it now supports GST. This video explains how to account for GST and generate a tax summary report:
Although Reckon One offers many of the bells and whistles associated with more advanced accounting software, you're only required to pay for the modules you actually need.
So the core system ($5 a month) plus invoicing ($3) may do the job for simple businesses. Even if you add bank feeds the total is still only $11 a month.
See our full review of Reckon One for more details.
Rounded's basic plan includes unlimited invoices and quotes, and expense and time tracking. It handles recurring invoices (such as for clients on retainer), shows how much income tax you owe the tax office, and integrates with Stripe so clients can pay you by credit card. The pro plan goes further by connecting your bank account to minimise data entry and producing BAS reports.
UPDATE: In the last year Rounded released a native Android app and rebuilt its iOS app.
The time tracking and project feature has been augmented with a dashboard to more easily show billable and unbillable work completed over time, along with reports showing actual time vs budgeted time for each project.
The most recent change is integration with PwC’s Airtax service. This will enable Rounded users to lodge their BAS online with a couple of clicks.
In the coming months Rounded plans to extend Airtax integration to income tax returns, make invoices more customisable: incorporating discount rates; allowing changes to fonts, images and layout; accommodating terms and conditions boilerplate; and making provision for files to be attached alongside invoices. It also plans to overhaul the Bank Connect feature so that it can automatically categorise transactions, and split payments over multiple invoices.
“The integration with Airtax is the first step in building out a marketplace for Rounded users to access a whole range of value add services,” said Rounded co-founder and COO Oliver Garside.
“For many of our users doing BAS and income tax is very painful and often costly. The integration with Airtax can solve both of those problems by streamlining and automating much of the process. Submitting your BAS is now no more difficult than a couple of clicks of a mouse”
The forthcoming Accountant Portal will let users to invite their accountants into their Rounded account, and allow accountants to manage multiple Rounded users on their own platform.
In March, Rounded subscriptions increased by around 17 percent, from $14.95 to $16.95 for the starter plan and from $19.95 to $22.95 for the pro plan. You still get 12 months for roughly the price of 10 if you pay annually.
With prices starting at $20 a month (less if you pay annually), Sage One is a complete accounting system including bank feeds, BAS reports, and time tracking, yet costs about the same as some invoicing systems.
Mobile apps are available for quoting and invoicing on the spot. See our full review of Sage One for more details.
NEW: It’s a funny old world: small business accounting systems were too complicated for many of the smallest businesses, so we saw the introduction of invoicing applications such as Billcue that concentrated on the essentials. But over time – just as with other types of software - features have been added.
Now, the company behind Billcue has spotted an opportunity go back to basics with Snap Invoicing, which focuses once again on quoting and invoicing.
For just $6 per month – regardless of how many customers you have or the number of invoices you send – Snap lets you send quotes and invoices (including recurrent invoices) with the option of SMS notifications, and accept online payments via Paypal, Stripe, Securepay, Eway, Pay ID or Bpay. It even handles cash receipts.
Snap automatically generates reminders when invoices are overdue (just one reminder per client, even if they haven't paid several invoices) and is able to add a late feel.
You can't get cheaper than free, and that's Wave's price tag, regardless of the number of customers you have or how many invoices you send. Its invoicing module is part of a larger suite, but may suffice if you just need to send invoices and keep track of whether they've been paid.
Features include recurring invoices, automatic reminders, customer statements, mobile apps for Android and iOS, and optional card payment processing (from 1.75 percent plus 30c per transaction). Again, GST isn't explicitly supported but Wave does let you set up a 'recoverable sales tax' which amounts to the same thing.
UPDATE: Various changes have been made in the last 12 months. The invoice list has been enhanced so that the most likely action is available with a single click. For example, if an invoice is overdue, the Actions column shows "Send a Reminder". Improved filtering of the invoice list makes it easier to home in on the one you want.
Invoice templates allow for customised column headings (such “Quantities” or “Hours”) and for the suppression of unwanted columns, as well as the usual ability to add logos and select colours.
Various minor improvements have been made to the Android and iOS apps to simplify workflows. There's also a Receipts app to capture paper receipts, invoices and bills, extract the data, and feed it into Wave.
On Wave’s recurring invoices feature, Wave vice president of communications, Rob Maurin added: “In addition to amazing flexibility – daily, weekly, monthly or super-custom like ‘the 22nd of every month’ – you can also set your customer’s time zone.
“Why? Wave will deliver your invoice during your customer's business hours, to make it more likely that they will see it immediately, and pay it promptly. If they receive an invoice in the middle of their night, it will be one of several emails they get when they turn on their computer, increasing the chance that it goes into a to-do pile that doesn't get addressed for a while. By setting a time zone, you deliver the invoice to the customer when they're ready to deal with it,” he explained.
Maurin also highlighted the way Wave supports estimates (quotes), which can be turned into invoices with a single click.
In addition, he pointed out that Wave is actually a complete accounting system, and its broader improvements include additional reports including cash flow and comparing one period with another. As we observed last year, Wave provides for a generic ‘recoverable sales tax’ rather than GST explicitly, so it does not generate BAS reports. That is one of the main reasons why we didn't include it in our review of cloud accounting systems, but it could be worth a look if your accountant or bookkeeper is happy to work with Wave.
Coming soon: Invoice8
NEW: Invoice8 is a new product under development at Saasu and planned for release later this year. Details are still sketchy, but the idea is to deliver invoicing and expenses through a mobile app. There will be no need for web access, even for paying for the service as that will be handled through in-app purchases or subscriptions.
“It's standalone, cheaper and designed for the section of the market not supported well by the larger online accounting businesses like Intuit, Xero, MYOB, etc that require you to use their web apps in conjunction with the mobile app,” Saasu CEO Marc Lehmann told Business IT. “The market we are addressing sees all these products as too complicated, more than they need for their simple needs.”
Making your choice
If you use an accountant or bookkeeper, we would suggest you talk to them before making a choice. It could be that they can more easily accept data from some systems than others, and that any saving you might make by choosing a particular invoicing system could be offset by increased fees.
On the other hand, you might like a particular system so much that you're willing to switch to an accountant or bookkeeper that's happy to work with it.
We'd also suggest that you read our cloud accounting feature which has advice for all small businesses, as well as reviews of accounting systems, which might be more expensive and more complex than these invoicing apps but can grow with your business and potentially give you greater business insights.
Note that we have not reviewed or tested – and therefore do not necessarily endorse – any of the applications described here. While we’ve endeavoured to provide a comprehensive roundup of invoicing apps, there may be other suitable options available for you.