For the better part of my career, I have relied on big name software companies for work. I have always run Windows, almost always had a copy of Office installed on that Windows box, and had either MYOB, Simply Accounting, or QuickBooks for my bookkeeping needs.
Doing this Freshbooks experiment has been enlightening. Whether or not I end up choosing to stick with it, it’s been liberating realizing that I can get a lot of work done without the usual suspects. I’m tempted to try this theory out with Office and Windows as well. Unfortunately, since I need QuickBooks for my client work, I couldn’t abandon the big names entirely, but for my day to day computer use, it might be worth a shot.
In light of this epiphany, I thought I’d highlight some of your options, if you are wanting to do your own bookkeeping on the cheap. I tracked down 3 free options. For all 3 of them, there are paid versions if your needs extend past the free accounts limitations.
Note: I know, there are tons of Open-Source options for bookkeeping that are completely free. Gnu-Cash seems to be a popular one. However, my goal is to find apps for people who don’t normally enjoy doing bookkeeping, and who need a really simple user interface. In my experience, most free bookkeeping apps are not that user friendly.
Freshbooks (Free Account)
Ok, this one is a no brainer given my ongoing experiment. For free, you can handle unlimited invoicing every month, and up to 3 clients. It offers time tracking, expense tracking, works with a lot of 3rd party apps like Basecamp and Salesforce, and generates some very useful reports to export out to more robust applications.
Zoho Invoice (Free Account)
Zoho is easily the most under hyped suite of apps out there today. It offers all of the same apps as Google Apps, and then piles on tons more on top of that, including Zoho Invoice. The free account’s limitation are the complete opposite to Freshbooks. Instead of limiting your clients (you can have unlimited clients in the free version), you have a limit of only 5 invoices you can generate per month. It also ties in nicely with Zoho’s other products. Unfortunately, I don’t see any built in time tracking, although I haven’t had any hands on experience.
Finally, I couldn’t leave out the free edition of the software I love/hate/have to use. Unlike Freshbooks and Zoho, this is not a cloud app. If you are used to the QuickBooks interface, but have limited needs and budget, this might be a great option for you. You can track up to 20 contacts, which include vendors and customers. You can create as many invoices as you’d like. Like the others, you don’t have any inventory or payroll functionality.
If you are a small business owner, and need to do some basic bookkeeping, I think any one of these would be good. I’d prefer you contact me, as I’d be glad to do your books for you. However, if that’s not an option, then I’d be happy knowing you’re using a good product. Plus, if/when you outgrow these apps, then I’d be glad to help you with the transition. As boring as bookkeeping can be for some business owners out there, it really can make the difference between failure and success. If you aren’t going to hire someone, you owe it to yourself to use something you’ll be comfortable with.
If you have tried other apps, and think you know of one that’s better, please let me know in the comments. This list was not meant to be comprehensive, only a list of ones I’m familiar with. Also, if you have used any of these, please let me know your thoughts.