One of your top priorities as a business owner is to keep a close eye on the money you bring in and pay out. To do this effectively, it's critical to have the right accounting software.
There are many factors to consider when choosing accounting software, especially if you need a program that helps you accomplish your daily accounting tasks, such as recording payments, tracking expenses, invoicing customers and billing.
Using accounting software to track these functions gives you insight into your business' financial health and analyze performance from multiple angles.
But choosing the best accounting software for your business can be challenging. Features vary between programs and pricing can be confusing.
After 24 years of experience in the accounting software space, we’ve found these factors to consider when choosing accounting software for your business can be the most important:
- Cost - Would you prefer inexpensive, basic accounting software or an application with extra features?
- Usability - How many users need to access the software? Do you prefer a cloud-based system that you can access anywhere? Do you need a mobile app? What capabilities should the mobile app have?
- Features - What do you need the accounting software to do? Do you need both accounts receivable and accounts payable tools? Which reports do you need it to generate? Do you need it to include ancillary services, like time and expense tracking, and project management?
How Much Does Accounting Software Cost?
Accounting software varies in cost depending on the features included, the number of users supported, and other such factors. But most companies offer multiple plans.
Paid packages range from $8 to $60 per month. And high-end programs can cost much more. If you're willing to pay for the software annually, rather than monthly, discounted rates are often available.
Many of the best accounting software companies offer cloud-based software, which dramatically reduces the cost. Other advanced features you should look for in a comprehensive plan include:
- Time and expense tracking
- Recurring invoicing
- Project tracking and billing
- Full accounting
- Advanced reporting capabilities
Companies will also often offer integrations to augment the software's capabilities or to connect it to other business programs.
When considering the cost of accounting software, ask yourself these key questions:
- Is this a cloud provider?
- Does this cost cover everything I will need now and in the future? Or will I have to change software down the line?
- Does this software include training options so I can maximize my ROI?
Factors to Consider When Choosing Accounting Software
To find the best accounting software for your business, you need to decide how and where you want to use it and if anyone else will be using the system.
Here are some factors to consider:
Most accounting programs allow you to invite other users to the system. And you can often control what data users can see and the tasks they can access.
This multi-user access is helpful when dealing with varying levels of hierarchy. For instance, you may wish to give your partner full access, while only allowing your employees to use the system to track their time and invoice customers.
Some systems allow you to invite multiple users at no additional cost. Others provide free accountant access but require you to subscribe to a higher pricing plan or pay extra for each additional user.
Cloud-Based Software and Mobile Access
Most of the top accounting systems are cloud-based, which means you can access your account anytime and anywhere.
Some software companies also offer a mobile app. Apps can help you monitor key information and accomplish tasks on the go.
Try to avoid software that requires multiple apps or has limited features. Upgrading the apps and switching between platforms is a time-suck.
Mobile app capabilities vary, so if this is an important feature for you, you'll want to ensure it has the functionality you need.
You'll also want to ensure it works on your preferred platform, as some are compatible only with iOS and others can be used with smartwatches in addition to phones and tablets.
When considering accessibility, key questions to ask yourself include:
- How many users do I need?
- Does this have a mobile app?
- Does it give me functionality anywhere, anytime using a computer or a mobile phone?
Which Accounting Features Do You Need?
Accounting software should cater to your business's individual needs, make it easy to accomplish routine tasks and help you see the big picture of how your business is performing.
Many business owners we spoke with said that ease of use and timesaving features are the top two things they look for in a program. Look for these features to help you save time and better manage your finances:
Basic Accounting Features
Most small businesses can make do with accounting software that offers basic functions, like invoicing, for only a short time. So, make sure you pick something that will work in the long term.
Look for features such as:
- Income, time and expense tracking
- Financial report generation
When considering time-saving features, automation is key. Some accounting software can automatically:
- Send recurring invoices
- Send past-due notifications
- Suggest transaction matched
Reducing the time you spend on invoicing and accounts receivable tasks will free up your time for other, more important tasks.
Accounting software add-ons, such as payment processing, CRM, HR and payroll services, make it easy to accept invoice payments online and pay employees.
Some software may even include an option for Artificial Intelligence, which means you can talk to your business and get insights just as you would with Siri or Alexa.
Questions to Ask When Choosing Accounting Software
Once you've narrowed your choices to your top three options, sign up for the free trials. This will help you get a feel for the accounting software and make it meets all of your requirements.
You should also call the software companies to get a feel for their customer service. Many of our customers mention poor customer service from their previous provider as a reason for switching to CORE.
If you’re still not sure what software to pick, that’s okay! Finding the perfect software will take a little bit of research on your park.
Here's a list of questions to get you started:
- Is your software a good fit for my industry?
- Do you offer customized solutions to fit my business's needs?
- How many employees and clients can your software accommodate?
- How is my data backed up? Can access be restored immediately after an outage?
- What security measures do you have in place to keep business and customers' data secure?
- What is the total cost? Are there any setup or cloud storage fees?
- What types of tech support and customer service do you provide?
Finding the right software takes time and a little bit of work upfront. But it’s better to do your research now than to face more issues down the road.