When we started Capterra in 1999, the very first business software purchase I made was QuickBooks. Spreadsheets were good enough to track our revenue and expenses in the early years (we hardly had any of the former), so the main reason we needed QuickBooks was for invoicing.
I remember standing in Staples and doing a quick comparison of QuickBooks versus Peachtree. Peachtree was the very first business software product developed for the desktop back in 1977, but with just 10% market share, it was a distant #2 to QuickBooks. Intuit launched QuickBooks in 1992, and it quickly became the de facto small business choice with a market share over 80%. So I did what any new business owner would do— I followed the crowd and bought QuickBooks. It cost a couple hundred dollars and was supposed to be easy to use, so we took the plunge and never looked back.
Over a decade later, with about 30 employees and over 1,000 customers that we bill monthly, we’re still using it. And we’ve had very few hiccups along the way. (That’s a successful software purchase by any measure, but in retrospect, I’m slightly embarrassed about that rash decision making process given Capterra’s business.)
Now, in 2013, it’s amazing to see what has happened in the accounting software market. More than a handful of online software products with names like FreshBooks, Xero and Kashoo have become notable QuickBooks competitors by focusing on user friendliness, price and other factors. And while QuickBooks still has millions of customers and dominates the category, these up-and comers appear to be slowly chipping away at their market share. The real question is, are they different enough to make it worth your time and effort to evaluate them before making a decision? Is there really much difference between these options and how they help you manage your books and invoice your customers? Laurie McCabe, a technology industry veteran and partner at SMB Group, believes so. “QuickBooks didn’t get to where it is by accident, and it is a great solution for many small businesses. But it may be too much for some people, while others may need specific, advanced capabilities that it doesn’t have.”
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most popular alternatives to QuickBooks:
If you have history with Peachtree (which was recently rebranded as Sage 50) or prefer an on-premises solution – which you may if you ever perform work without a great Internet connection – then Sage 50 is a viable alternative for a one-time fee of $369 for one user. That compares to $250 for QuickBooks Pro or $400 for QuickBooks Premier. QuickBooks and Sage 50 are the two main options left for inexpensive, on-premises accounting, and they’re both worth a demo since their reported features are very similar, but their user experiences are known to be quite different.
FreshBooks is generally regarded as the #1 web-based competitor to QuickBooks Online. If you’re the only user, and you only bill one client each month, then you can use this product for free. If you have a bunch of clients, then the monthly fee rises to $30, which is more than double the $13 you would pay for the entry level version of QuickBooks Online. What do you get with that? A product that is extremely focused on invoicing for small service-based businesses.
QuickBooks is known for managing all accounting-related tasks, whether you’re a small business or have hundreds of employees, which means it can be cumbersome. FreshBooks is known for being very simple-to-use, which means fewer headaches for the busy, small business owner who’s still doing invoicing. Ease of use should never be underestimated. Time is precious, and any time saved learning and dealing with your billing software is more time you can spend on your customers. It also integrates easily with Basecamp Classic, Zendesk, Salesforce, MailChimp, Constant Contact and many others.
For $36/month and unlimited users and transactions, LessAccounting gives you an easy-to-use accounting system that automates bookkeeping, proposals, expense tracking, invoicing and even contact management. It integrates with Basecamp, Shopify, Zencash, and a few other products. They also have a sense of humor – instead of saying “Contact Us” on their website, they opted for “Mail us a gift.” Nice.
Xero focuses on ease of use, especially when it comes to importing bank transactions on a daily basis. It also integrates with third party applications such as CRM, payroll, and other critical software products. While Xero offers a starting price point of $19/month, that only includes up to five invoices. After five, the price climbs to $29/month, and that allows for unlimited users. Very reasonable.
Outright may be the cheapest bookkeeping solution on the market given that it’s free, and you can upgrade to a $10/month plan if you want to track sales taxes. The catch is that it’s just for bookkeeping. No invoicing or time tracking, but it does integrate with FreshBooks, which handles both.
The reason why I said “may” regarding Outright being the cheapest is that Wave is actually free. 100% free regardless of number of users. It targets companies with less than 10 employees, and includes bookkeeping, invoicing, expense tracking and payroll. The catch is that you’ll be exposed to ads while you’re in the system. I’ve seen this model with a few other successful software companies – Spiceworks for network monitoring and Practice Fusion for electronic medical records – and of course, those of us who use Google Apps are somewhat used to it, although I imagine the promotional offers in Wave are a little more difficult to ignore. Doesn’t seem like a bad catch!
Very targeted toward freelancers and small business owners, FreeAgent is $24/month, and that includes unlimited invoicing and users. It integrates with Basecamp, Capsule CRM, RightSignature and quite a few other products. It is known for being user friendly.
Based out of Ireland, Yendo offers accounting software that includes basic CRM functionality for $9/month for one user. Pricing moves to $26/month for 2-5 users and $52/month beyond 5 users. I believe this could be an interesting tool for the founder/owner who wears multiple hats, but I have a hard time imagining much use for combining accounting and CRM for that many users.
Kashoo places a strong emphasis on their ease of use, even claiming that they save users 5-10 hours per month – a very compelling value proposition. They focus on invoicing and offer multi-currency capabilities, all for one simple price of $20/month.
If you use Salesforce as your CRM, want a tight integration between accounting and your customer communication, and don’t mind paying a premium at $65/user/month, FinancialForce is certainly worth considering. It is built on the Salesforce platform, is multicurrency and multicultural, and can scale significantly as you grow your business.
That’s ten solid alternatives to QuickBooks, and there really are many more, particularly if you’re in an industry such as construction or nonprofit that has unique accounting needs. All ten have a reputation for being user friendly, relatively inexpensive and geared toward small business. Some of these only cater to very small businesses with one or a few employees, while others will grow with you as you hire dozens or even hundreds of employees. In most circumstances, you won’t need to consider a more robust accounting solution such as NetSuite or Intacct until you reach a much larger size. And then Oracle Financials and SAP are ready and waiting for when you’ve taken over the world! In the meantime, enjoy having relatively easy financials to deal with…as well as many great accounting software alternatives.
Looking for Accounting software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Accounting software solutions.