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Best accounting software for startups

Susan Honea

Susan Honea – 8 years experience helping businesses with bookkeeping, tax preparation and auditing

Last updated: August 20, 2021

Choosing the right accounting software is an important step for any start-up. We review the best accounting software for start-up businesses to help you decide which has the right features for you. 

Best accounting software for startups

Finding the right accounting software might have been a difficult proposition just a decade ago; however, the growth of cloud-based accounting software options provides startups with many cost-effective, easy-to-use choices. We examine a host of accounting products that are appropriate for a wide variety of startups in many industries.

Recent months have been difficult and often even devastating to businesses of all sizes. However, few things can extinguish the entrepreneurial spirit. Even as fiscal difficulties continue for some organizations, other hearty souls have decided that now is the best time to pursue their business dreams.

But whatever the economy’s current condition, no business can survive long without tracking every expense and billing for every product. Businesspeople require a reliable accounting application that allows them to download transactions and reconcile their accounts. They may need to manage payroll and track bills to be paid. Startups need solid reporting features, so they understand their business’s financial metrics. And, most of all, startup business owners need to be able to send estimates and invoices and receive payments against them—all in an easy-to-use software platform.

Best accounting software for startups: the snapshot

The following are the best accounting options we identified for a variety of startups.

  1. FreshBooks. Best overall accounting software for startups. FreshBooks is a popular simple accounting software option that still brings plenty of power for the smaller business. Ticking all the boxes for essential accounting needs, it’s especially well known for its strong invoicing and expense tracking functionality.
  2. QuickBooks Online. Best accounting software for quickly-growing startups. One reason QuickBooks Online turns up on just about any best accounting software list is its flexibility, coming in a variety of iterations as it does to meet the needs of just about any business type. This flexibility brings with it scalability, too, making it a good choice for a startup geared toward expansion.
  3. Wave. Best accounting software for startups on a budget. Let’s face it, most startups are on a strict budget and looking to save money where they can. Those who don’t want to spend money on accounting software but still want something strong, rich with features, and reliable can look to Wave for an accounting software solution.
  4. Xero. Best accounting software for startups that need a variety of integrations. Another popular accounting software option, Xero is known for enabling hundreds of third party app integrations. Its customizability and robust accounting functionality make it a good option for growing businesses.
  5. Sage 50 Cloud Accounting. Best accounting software for startups that prefer a desktop product. Sage 50cloud is a desktop option that does allow remote access. A powerful and versatile product, it can be used by many different types of businesses. It’s a powerhouse known for its strong inventory management, multi-entity support, client relationship management (CRM), and reporting capabilities.
  6. Oracle NetSuite. Best accounting software for large startups that need ERP functionality. This sophisticated option is a full enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform that includes all the accounting features most any business would need—and certainly enough for a startup. Oracle NetSuite integrates accounting functionality with CRM, inventory management, HR, and even e-commerce platforms.
  7. Zoho Books. Best accounting software for small startups that need ERP functionality. If Oracle NetSuite is too much software for you, but you want an ERP solution, Zoho Books may be the answer. Zoho provides access to an entire ecosystem of modules from Zoho CRM to Zoho Inventory to Zoho People (HR) and more.
  8. GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping. Best accounting software for small retail startups. Syncing easily with all the major e-commerce platforms, GoDaddy is a good option for not only online sellers but any retail sellers, including sole proprietors or freelancers. While it’s not a double-entry accounting solution, it does enable credit card and debit card payment processing (even by smartphone), invoicing, and reporting.
  9. Kashoo. Best accounting software for startups with no accounting experience. Kashoo was designed for simplicity yet provides the reassurance of double-entry accounting. It’s a basic and straightforward option that features the key accounting functions most startups will need at a single price point.
  10. Sage Business Cloud Accounting. Best accounting software for large retail startups. Known for its rich invoicing capabilities, Sage Business Cloud Accounting is a good choice for the larger retail startup. It also includes accounts payable and receivable, as well as robust reporting and helpful integrations.

Best accounting software for Startups

1. FreshBooks

Price from $15/mo
Free Trial 30 days

Best overall accounting software for startups.

Best for:
FreshBooks is cloud-based accounting software that provides a feature-rich platform including modules for project management, tracking time, and tracking profit and loss. Startups in any industry will find the features in FreshBooks helpful, indeed it ranks highly in our list of overall best accounting software.

Key functionality:
FreshBooks offers general ledger-based double-entry accounting functionality in a simple, straightforward way. Its clean, intuitive dashboard provides startups with a central location to see income and expense quickly and easily.

Capturing expenses is exceptionally easy using the FreshBooks mobile apps. Instead of manually entering receipt data, the transaction download feature pulls in expense data. Then, users can snap images of their receipts using mobile devices with a camera and attach the documentation to their specific expense transactions.

Expenses can be stored and used later in the FreshBooks report generator. FreshBooks offers a variety of reports ranging from the basics—profit and loss, balance sheet, and similar—to more detailed reports, including payroll, deduction information, sales tax summaries, and project profit and loss.

Time is money for any business, and one of FreshBooks’ most impressive features is the easy-to-use Time Tracker. Startups working project-based jobs can easily start the time tracker using either the web portal or the FreshBooks mobile app. Managers can apply tracked time to users or projects to monitor project costs without missing a single billable minute.

Data collected using the time tracker can be imported into the FreshBooks invoicing module by the application administrator. The invoice module allows administrators to create invoices with their company branding and send them electronically, via email (in PDF), and by mail (printed). Invoices sent electronically include the “Pay Now” link allowing customers to pay online using a credit or debit card, PayPal, or ACH. And, FreshBooks offers multi-currency support for businesses with customers outside the US.

Payroll isn’t native to FreshBooks, but its direct integration with Gusto (or PaymentEvolution) makes running weekly, biweekly, or monthly payroll a breeze. And, all of the tax liabilities and other reporting elements are tracked automatically within FreshBooks.

Access & users:
FreshBooks is a cloud-based application accessible on any web-enabled device. Business owners on the go will appreciate the iOS and Android mobile apps that allow invoices, quotes, or expenses to be updated quickly and facilitate mobile time tracking and automatic mileage tracking. While the apps don’t support all of FreshBooks’ features, users can see when invoices have been paid and when clients post comments or questions in the client portal. The three most popular subscription plans include a single user, but team members can be added for a modest monthly fee; however, user-level permissions cannot be set, and there’s not a true audit trail to track user activity.

Ease of use:
FreshBooks’ web interface is intuitive and easy to use, which is what should be expected from a company that touts itself as “Ridiculously Easy to Use.” The menu-driven dashboard makes adding data very simple in either the web-based or mobile app version. Users can be up and running quickly, and no accounting experience is required to get started. Plus, customers can count on FreshBooks to provide excellent customer support if it’s required.

FreshBooks employs a tiered subscription pricing model, and each tier expands the functionality to which the user has access. The “Lite” subscription, while very cost effective, limits users to no more than five billable clients and does not provide double-entry accounting functionality. The “Plus” subscription is available for a very low monthly fee, and it allows up to 50 billable clients and adds double-entry accounting capability, along with access for an accountant. The “Premium” subscription increases the client limit to 500 and adds tons of additional features, including recurring transactions and customizable email templates, and the price is still cost effective for any startup.

Startups needing more functionality or flexibility to invoice more than 500 clients will need to reach out to FreshBooks for information about the “Select” subscription. Plus, customers who pay for the annual plan instead of a monthly subscription can save even more on costs, and sales are frequently offered. Startups needing to offer payroll will incur an additional cost for the Gusto integration, but the pricing is still quite affordable.

Things we liked:

  • Cost effective
  • Very easy to use
  • Exceptional customer support
  • Excellent mobile apps
  • Multi-currency support

Things we didn’t like:

  • Limited to a single user
  • No audit trail functionality
  • Limited functionality for larger startups

2. QuickBooks Online

Price from $25.00/mo
Free Trial 30 Days

Best accounting software for quickly-growing startups.

Best for:
QuickBooks Online is a perennial favorite accounting software regardless of the industry. Because QuickBooks offers a variety of versions with increasing features, it is an ideal package for startups of any size, but especially those that expect to grow quickly and need a long-term, sustainable solution.

Key functionality:
QuickBooks Online is a comprehensive double-entry accounting platform. Designed with bookkeepers in mind, it’s a simple accounting software that packs a huge punch of functionality, including full-fledged accounts payable (with receipt capture in the mobile apps) and bank feeds with AI-powered categorization and automated reconciliations.

Companies can ensure a constant revenue stream through the easy-to-use invoice function, which allows an invoice to be emailed directly from QuickBooks Online. Better still, application administrators can configure recurring invoices and even progress invoicing (based on estimates), allowing companies to “set it and forget it.”

Getting paychecks into the hands and accounts of employees is a critical part of any company. There are varied payroll options available in QuickBooks Online, including Intuit’s native QuickBooks Payroll option. QuickBooks Online calculates employee paychecks, deductions, benefit costs, 1099s for contractors, and payroll taxes. Payment by direct deposit or paper check is available, and managers can review and submit payroll through the online version of QuickBooks or using the mobile iOS or Android app. Users who prefer an outside payroll vendor will appreciate the number of available integrations, including Gusto, Patriot, Wagepoint, Paychex, and SurePayroll. And, QuickBooks Online still tracks all the information from these third party vendors—automatically.

QuickBooks Online comes equipped with robust reporting capabilities even at its least expensive subscription. Basic reports include profit and loss and balance sheet options with period comparisons (e.g., year over year, current and prior quarter, and so forth), and all reports can be customized within QuickBooks and exported to Excel for further analysis.

Bigger startups will love how QuickBooks Online allows users to create projects and manage project income and expenses. Reports then show profitability at the individual project level, so it’s easy to see what’s making money and what’s not and make decisions accordingly.

Access & users:
Accessing QuickBooks Online is simple: a user needs only an Internet-connected device with a web browser. Plus, QuickBooks Online provides iOS and Android apps for users on the go, and while the app functionality isn’t as robust as the web-based version, most key tasks can be accomplished from anywhere. The subscription version determines the number of users who can access QuickBooks Online’s tools and functions; the lowest-priced tier allows only a single user, and the most expensive allows 25. User-based permissions are available, as well.

Ease of use:
Ease of use is an essential factor for any startup, regardless of the industry. Entrepreneurs wishing to avoid a learning curve will appreciate the intuitive navigation and easy-to-use menu-driven interface. A plethora of technical support options are available as well. In addition to easy-to-use documentation, Intuit provides chat, email, and telephone support. QuickBooks Online also boasts a significant community forum offering peer-to-peer assistance with any QuickBooks Online issues. And, QuickBooks Online employees monitor the forums and correct misconceptions quickly.

QuickBooks Online offers tier-based pricing options increasingly common with accounting packages. This structure does allow a startup to grow with QuickBooks instead of migrating to another application as revenues increase. The four tiers are “Simple Start,” “Essentials,” “Plus,” and “Advanced,” and while the monthly costs may seem high at first glance, QuickBooks offers significant discounts fairly regularly, and the time saved as a result of good bookkeeping practices should help offset the monthly fee.

Things we liked:

  • Excellent automation features
  • Strong payroll options—native and integrated
  • Comprehensive reports features
  • User-based permissions
  • Intuitive interface

Things we didn’t like:

  • Not the most cost-effective option
  • May be too robust for brand new startups
  • Payroll incurs extra costs

3. Wave

Price from FREE/mo

Best accounting software for startups on a budget.

Best for:
Reducing expenses is critical to business profitability—and nothing reduces costs like free. This no-cost solution is perfect for small startups watching every cent to reduce costs and increase the profit margin.

Key functionality:
It would seem logical that free software might not contain an extensive feature set. However, this is not the case with Wave. Users will love this double-entry platform that can easily handle invoicing, log vendors, and track payments, and even allow Wave to be used as their merchant account.

Small startups will find an impressive number of invoice templates, as well as the ability to scan receipts and invoices for easy tracking. This feature significantly reduces input errors. Wave users can also configure automatic reminders to send payments or invoice customers.

Remarkably, even though Wave is a free application, users can create and use an unlimited number of bank and credit card connections. Transactions download directly into Wave, and then rules help streamline the categorization process. Plus, monthly reconciliations are a breeze.

Additionally, Wave offers limitless expense and income tracking. Small startups using other services such as PayPal can seamlessly integrate the backend connection into Wave. Wave also enables integrations with a variety of other platforms via Zapier and Workato, including CRM and time tracking solutions.

While the payroll module does incur a cost, it facilitates direct deposit and provides employees immediate access to their pay stubs and Form W-2. Plus, Wave can automate tax payments to a number of states, and the company is working to increase that functionality (likely due to Wave’s 2019 acquisition by H&R Block, which can only strengthen its built-in tax offerings).

Compared to other products on this list, Wave’s reporting feature is a bit limited; however, the available reports still provide plenty of information for most smaller startups (e.g., cash flow statement, balance sheet, sales tax report). And, the reports are available in both cash and accrual formats.

Access & users:
Wave is cloud-based and, thus, is accessible anywhere a user has a web browser and an Internet connection. In addition, Wave offers multiple users per account, and user-level permissions can be set (view-only, editor, payroll manager, and admin). Wave also allows for multiple entities to be managed under a single user login, which is uncommon and could be helpful for entrepreneurs running several businesses concurrently. And, iOS and Android apps are available to manage invoicing and expense capture, but they’re not as full-featured as the browser-based option.

Ease of use:
Business owners initially attracted to Wave because of the price will also be pleased by easy application navigation and a detailed dashboard. Users with no accounting experience at all will have no issues using Wave. Its comprehensive dashboard provides a snapshot view of key business metrics and facilitates the main accounting functions—adding customers and vendors, sending invoices, and viewing reports—from that central location. However, customer support could be improved. While the Help Center is available, getting real-time help can be a challenge.

Wave is absolutely and entirely free. Startups can create an account and begin using Wave right away. Payroll will incur an extra cost, but given the money saved on the accounting platform, that shouldn’t be a deterrent.

Things we liked:

  • It’s free—need we say more?
  • Multi-entity support
  • Limitless bank and credit card connections
  • Excellent payables and receivables features
  • Native payroll with good tax reporting functionality

Things we didn’t like:

  • Feature set can be outgrown
  • Mobile apps aren’t the best
  • Customer support needs to be improved

4. Xero

Website www.xero.com
Price from $12/mo
Free Trial 30 days

Best accounting software for startups that need a variety of integrations.

Best for:
Xero is a web-based accounting software ideal for small startups in any industry. An easy-to-use application, Xero can manage any startup’s banking, billing, and cash flow analysis, and its unmatched variety of integrations makes Xero a flexible and comprehensive solution.

Key functionality:
Xero’s ease of use is likely to be the critical feature appealing to entrepreneurs, especially those working on getting a fledgling business off the ground. Users do not need to have an accounting background because Xero does not use standard accounting language. For instance, Xero does not use Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable but instead uses the terms “Invoices Owed To You” and “Bills You Need To Pay. ” Xero also provides an easy-to-read chart as part of the accounting module to allow entrepreneurs a visual representation of their status.

Users can manage and configure multiple bank accounts, allowing specific vendor or customer payments to be deposited in separate accounts as needed. The download feature, as with many web-based accounting software, makes end-of-month reconciliations easy and fast since it suggests categories and learns as users verify their accuracy.

One of the more advanced dashboards in Xero is the Sales module, which facilitates accounts receivable. Users can generate invoices, and with a drop-down option, determine if the invoice should be printed, converted to a .pdf, or emailed. Recurring invoices can be set up, and there’s also an option to provide reminders to send invoices in the future. The Sales Overview dashboard also presents the user with a detailed snapshot of how the business is doing. A graph indicating all sales, the status of all open invoices, estimated money coming in, and even which customers currently owe the company the most money is provided—consolidating lots of important information into a single location. Multi-currency support is built in.

Similarly, Xero’s accounts payable functionality allows bill payments to be scheduled. There’s even a handy feature that allows the user to email bills to an inbox for later retrieval and processing.

Xero also provides lots of reports—more than any startup would require, at least at first. Some of the reports are even consolidated into a handy Management Report that can be run at any time or set to publish automatically at the end of a reporting period. Reports can even be customized using a drag-and-drop feature.

Thanks to its 800+ integrations, time tracking, payroll, and many other features can be set up quickly and easily. And, while many of these add-ons will incur extra costs, the customization and scalability that the vast assortment of integrations affords makes Xero a great choice for startups that don’t yet know exactly what functionality they require.

Access & users:
Xero users can access the cloud-based application on any device with a web browser and Internet access. Additionally, Xero offers an iOS and Android app for mobile devices making access to Xero virtually ubiquitous. Permissions can be configured to ensure users only access dashboards or information required to perform their jobs, and as many users as necessary can be added at no additional cost to the subscriber.

Ease of use:
Xero is generally considered exceptionally easy to use between the easy-to-navigate menus and the use of plain language instead of accounting terms. Xero also provides excellent customer support. Users with a simple question will likely find a solution in the detailed FAQ. However, if a question or concern is not entirely addressed in the article, users can select the “Get in Touch” option located on each FAQ article. Plus, there is a comprehensive support area called Xero Central where answers to many questions can be found. Currently, there is no way to speak to a support representative.

Potential Xero customers can use Xero free of charge for 30-days while deciding which tier is best for them. Currently, Xero offers three tiers: “Early,” “Growing,” and “Established.” The tiered approach allows users to start with the lowest-cost option and then upgrade as they grow and need additional functionality. Pricing is comparable with other similar products, such as QuickBooks Online, but new users should keep in mind that integrations may drive up the monthly fees fairly quickly.

Things we liked:

  • Exceptionally easy to use
  • Excellent mobile apps
  • Detailed cash flow monitoring
  • Tiered pricing for new and growing startups
  • More available integrations than any competitor

Things we didn’t like:

  • No phone number for customer support
  • No native payroll
  • Integration costs can be substantial

5. Sage 50cloud Accounting

Price from $50.58/mo

Best accounting software for startups that prefer a desktop product.

Best for:
With more than four decades of experience in the accounting space, hybrid Sage 50cloud Accounting is a platform that users in any industry can trust. Users who prefer a desktop software will appreciate the powerful, traditional accounting approach that Sage 50cloud Accounting offers while still providing remote access to some functions.

Key functionality:
Sage 50cloud Accounting is the hybrid version (desktop install with remote access) of what used to be known as Peachtree Accounting. It’s designed primarily for businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Users should keep in mind that it’s primarily a desktop software with cloud-based access to some functionality, but some of its features, particularly its integration with Microsoft Office 365, make it an attractive option for a lot of startups.

Sage 50cloud Accounting’s banking module makes it exceptionally easy to maintain the books and reconcile accounts. Sage 50cloud Accounting connects to the merchant bank, and the application flags in red all transactions imported from the bank that aren’t already entered, allowing users to know which transactions require categorization. Users should note that there is no machine learning built in, so all transactions must be categorized manually.

Creating and managing invoices can be time-consuming, and falling behind on generating them can cause a cash crunch. However, Sage 50cloud Accounting users will find invoice generation to be quick and straightforward using the invoice module. The invoice creation dashboard provides a drop-down menu that can prepopulate the invoice with a customer’s contact information. Sage 50cloud Accounting offers the option to print the invoice or send the invoice electronically. The customer receives the invoice with a “Pay Now” option for easy online payments, and Sage 50cloud Accounting will post the fund to the merchant’s account within minutes. The invoicing workflow also includes proposal and quote functionality for businesses that need that extra layer of flexibility.

Sage 50cloud Accounting offers a unique set of analysis tools, including a helpful Cashflow Manager. Startups that need to determine if there will be sufficient cash flow for a large purchase or capital improvement can import data into the Cashflow Manager and analyze possible income and expenses over the next 30 days. Sage 50cloud Accounting also includes multi-entity support.

In addition, the Sage 50cloud Accounting dashboard, while dated, allows entrepreneurs easy access to key performance indicators in a single pane. The dashboard provides graphs on Revenue Year to Date, Account Balances and Aged Receivables, and various other charts. The graphs allow for drill-down inspection of the data, and the built-in reporting function makes exporting the information for later analysis simple.

And, Sage’s native payroll option is fully integrated with Sage 50cloud Accounting. While it does cost extra, as do additional users, knowing that the payroll module is built right in may be enough to convince users in larger startups with significant payroll needs that Sage 50cloud Accounting is the right choice for them.

Access & users:
Sage 50cloud Accounting is a hybrid application that is installed on a desktop and partially accessible on any device with an Internet connection and a web browser. The number of available users depends upon the subscription selected. The “Pro Accounting” tier allows only a single user, while the “Quantum Accounting” tier allows 11+, but at a cost for each user. Currently, there are no mobile apps for Sage 50cloud Accounting, which isn’t terribly surprising given its desktop focus.

Ease of use:
Wizards walk the user through the setup and usage of Sage 50cloud Accounting, and it’s not terribly challenging to get up and running, but some accounting or bookkeeping experience would be helpful for less routine tasks. There are some online learning tools available, but customer support in this area could be better.

Companies must consider the number of users requiring access to the application when determining the cost of using Sage 50cloud Accounting. The “Pro Accounting” tier allows only a single user and carries a bit higher monthly pricing than other accounting software on this list. The “Premium Accounting” allows anywhere from one to five users, but pricing varies based on how many users are required and is substantially more expensive than its competitors (even QuickBooks Desktop). Finally, “Quantum Accounting” allows anywhere from one to unlimited users, but the monthly subscription fee may be cost prohibitive to all but the largest startups. That said, Sage 50cloud Accounting is a powerful hybrid accounting solution, and startups needing that extra functionality may consider the cost worthwhile.

Things we liked:

  • Outstanding invoicing functionality
  • Excellent accounting platform
  • Strong cash flow analysis
  • Longevity and experience
  • Integrated, native payroll

Things we didn’t like:

  • Expensive compared to other options
  • Not the most up-to-date user interface
  • Not fully cloud-based

6. Oracle NetSuite

Best accounting software for large startups that need ERP functionality.

Best for:
Larger startups and those that require inventory management will love Oracle NetSuite. It’s an all-in-one ERP solution that includes supply chain and order management processes—and it’s cloud based and customizable.

Key functionality:
Oracle NetSuite includes the full range of double-entry accounting features that any business requires. It’s a dashboard-driven platform with strong reporting capabilities designed to help startup business owners monitor their KPIs quickly and easily.

One of Oracle NetSuite’s best features is its SuiteBilling module, which supports a variety of invoicing models (single transactions, subscriptions, usage-based, or a combination). Startups with high volume invoicing requirements will find that Oracle NetSuite can handle anything, including recurring and automatic billing. Plus, it facilitates cross-departmental communication between sales, fulfillment, and accounting, which improves productivity and reduces error rates.

Accounts payable functionality in Oracle NetSuite includes online bill pay, and it facilitates financial management for multiple entities and subsidiaries, as well as transactions in multiple currencies. In addition, the reporting module in Oracle NetSuite is the most powerful of the products on this list, boasting more than 100 standard reports and an ad hoc report builder for fully custom analytics.

Payroll is also fully integrated in the ERP platform, so no additional products are necessary. The data from the payroll module flow directly to the right accounts in the accounting module, and all payroll liabilities (including multi-state support) are tracked for later reporting and end-of-year filings.

Because Oracle NetSuite is really designed to be used in manufacturing and inventory-driven organizations, users will find that those aspects of the platform outperform all other products on this list. Plus, those types of businesses experience additional regulatory compliance challenges, and Oracle NetSuite has built-in support for ASC 606, GAAP, SOX, and complex revenue recognition rules.

Access & users:
Oracle NetSuite is a cloud-based platform, and it offers an option to add as many users as necessary; however, those users will incur additional monthly fees. And, there are mobile apps for both Android and iOS, which are designed specifically to complete a variety of tasks while out and about. Users should note that the apps aren’t intended to be fully functioning versions of Oracle NetSuite, though.

Ease of use:
Because it is a complex ERP platform, a learning curve should be expected; however, the ability to streamline a wide range of business processes makes Oracle NetSuite an attractive option for large and inventory-based startups. The Oracle NetSuite Success Services Team is available to help with implementation and, if necessary, customization. Oracle provides additional learning options, too—for an extra fee. Customer support, however, is very limited except for users who subscribe to the Premium option.

Oracle NetSuite pricing isn’t currently available online, but research suggests that it is quite costly. There is a free demo available to users who want to look at the platform, and Oracle’s helpful sales team is available to answer questions and provide quotes, as necessary.

Things we liked:

  • Comprehensive ERP solution
  • Strong regulatory compliance support
  • Scalable and flexible
  • Best in class automation features
  • Very good core accounting features and analytics

Things we didn’t like:

  • Expensive, especially if customization is required
  • Challenging to implement and learn to use
  • Limited customer support without paying extra

7. Zoho Books

Website www.zoho.com
Price from $12/mo

Best accounting software for small startups that need ERP functionality.

Best for:
Zoho Books is part of the comprehensive Zoho business ecosystem, which is perfect for any small to medium-sized startup that needs fully integrated ERP functionality on a budget.

Key functionality:
Like most of the products on this list, Zoho Books is a double-entry accounting software that offers full general ledger, accounts payable, and accounts receivable functionality. Its dashboard view means that essential data are displayed in real-time as transactions are entered—or downloaded using the bank and credit card feeds.

Zoho Books offers lots of invoice and estimate templates, and all of the templates are customizable. Users can send estimates that then convert to invoices. Plus, recurring and pre-scheduled invoices can be set up, and automatic reminders mean that startup business owners can focus on their business activities, not on collections. Payment processing is automatic; once users submit payment, the receipt is generated, and the funds are posted to the proper account in the general ledger.

Accounts payable functions in Zoho Books are just as comprehensive as accounts receivable. The handy dashboard view shows what bills are due and allows users to enter new bills quickly. Plus, receipts and invoices can be attached for documentation purposes, and recurring bills can be set up for expenses that occur regularly. Billable expenses can be tracked easily and then transferred automatically to invoices that are sent after the fact. Machine learning helps with expense categorization, as well, and speeds up the reconciliation process.

Because Zoho Payroll is part of the Zoho ecosystem, users never have to worry whether their payroll information is tracked properly. Though there is an additional cost for Zoho Payroll, there’s no additional learning curve, and all data transfer into Zoho Books seamlessly.

Zoho Books also has strong reporting capabilities. With more than 50 standard reports, including the typical profit and loss, cash flow statement, and balance sheet, users are provided a comprehensive view of the business at any time—including tax reports that other products don’t offer. Plus, all reports can be customized, and users can schedule them to run at a late date or even on a recurring, regular basis.

Startups needing additional ERP functionality can integrate the other modules as needed or in a variety of bundles that are based on specific needs. Startups that need comprehensive ERP functionality should consider Zoho One, which bundles more than 45 integrated applications into one platform.

Access & users:
Zoho Books—and in fact the entire Zoho ecosystem—is cloud-based, so access is available anywhere the user has an internet connection. Subscriptions offer as few as two users (one in-company and one accountant) and as many as 10 users. Plus, Zoho Books offers robust mobile apps and is well-known for its Apple ecosystem app, which even works on the Apple Watch.

Ease of use:
Zoho Books is fairly easy to set up and use, and while it may have a bit of a learning curve for someone with no prior bookkeeping or accounting experience, Zoho provides excellent learning materials to help users get started. Zoho Books is meant to be used within the Zoho ecosystem. While it definitely can be used in conjunction with other products, integrations can be challenging, and users considering mixing and matching outside of the Zoho ecosystem should be aware of potential customization costs that may be incurred.

For the basic version of Zoho Books, users will find pricing to be quite affordable, no matter the subscription level (“Basic,” “Standard,” and “Professional”). Costs can start to add up when additional Zoho modules are integrated since they’re all subscription-based. Startups that are interested in more than Zoho Books and one or two other elements should really look at Zoho One as their best option from a cost perspective.

Things we liked:

  • Generally affordable
  • Integrated ecosystem approach is appealing
  • Highly-rated mobile apps
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Good customer support

Things we didn’t like:

  • Customization can be difficult
  • May be too feature-rich for a small startup
  • Single entity support

8. GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping

Price from $4.99/mo

Best accounting software for small retail startups.

Best for:
Online retailers wishing to avoid significant overhead expenses should consider GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping, which is an affordable basic option for online retail startups needing to focus on growing a business and not learning a software package.

Key functionality:
Previously known as Outright, GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping provides many tools retailers require to pursue their startup enterprise’s profitability without requiring a background in accounting. It’s not a double-entry accounting platform, but its feature set is plenty for a variety of online retailers, including those who sell via Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Shopify.

Tracking profit and loss is exceptionally simple in GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping software. At each login (browser-based or through the mobile app), GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping provides the user with current information phrased in a way that makes sense to everyone: “Money I have” and “Money I owe,” for instance. Selecting the expenses tab provides details on all business, non-business, or uncategorized expenses from the main screen. Additionally, GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping automates the creation of Schedule C Worksheets and quarterly tax calculations, which is a huge benefit for sole proprietor startups.

Additionally, GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping simplifies the invoicing process. Application administrators can schedule recurring invoices and, by easily connecting the application to the merchant bank, customer payments can be automatically deposited and reflected in the profit and loss report.

Plus, all transactions can be imported from both bank and credit card accounts, meaning that data entry requirements are reduced—and so are errors. Users can also track mileage manually, ensuring that all relevant expense information is captured and stored in a single location.

Reporting features are limited to profit and loss, sales, income, customers, vendors, and expense reports, as well as several specific reports related to invoicing and time tracking. While this may seem like a downside, small retailers don’t necessarily need comprehensive reporting features, so what GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping offers may be enough.

Access & users:
GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping is a single-user web-based application. Users can access the application from any device with a web browser or using the iOS or Android app. Because GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping is designed primarily for sole proprietors and smaller businesses, only a single user can log in.

Ease of use:
Whether a retailer uses the web-based application or a mobile app, GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping is intuitive and easy to use. It is a menu-driven app, and each tab explicitly indicates its purpose. Users with any experience with a web browser will find the application painless. Perhaps the critical feature appealing to retailers trying to get a business going is how simple GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping is to get up and running with a minimum upfront effort. After the initial login, the application displays a “Get Started” checklist to guide startups through every step.

GoDaddy does not currently offer a free trial version of GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping; however, the three subscription tiers—“Get Paid,” “Essentials,” and “Premium”—are all very cost-effective for even the smallest startup companies.

Things we liked:

  • Very affordable
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Excellent mobile apps
  • Includes quarterly tax calculations
  • Designed for online retailers

Things we didn’t like:

  • No free trial
  • Easy to outgrow the functionality
  • Very limited reporting

9. Kashoo

Website www.kashoo.com
Price from $24/mo
Free Trial 14 days

Best accounting software for startups with no accounting experience.

Best for:
Its developers publicize Kashoo as “The World’s Simplest Accounting Software.” Despite Kashoo’s ease of use, it is a fully functional and mature application that startups of any size can use.

Key functionality:
Startups with no accountant on staff—or those who want to manage finances on their own but lack bookkeeping or accounting experience—will find Kashoo to be a fantastic choice. Its dashboard and sidebars provide real-time summary data that are not only easy to see but also easy to understand.

Successfully tracking expenses is a requirement for a startup to reach profitability. One of the critical functions of Kashoo is the detailed expense tracking module. Startup entrepreneurs do not have to enter receipt information manually; the bank download feature, powered by Yodlee, automatically records the transactions and categorizes them without any manual intervention. Users can also quickly upload receipts using the iPad or iPhone app. Additionally, users can painlessly set up recurring monthly or weekly fees, manage unpaid bills, and even print checks when needed.

The Kashoo Invoice Module provides critical functionality. After the user enters the data, Kashoo creates invoices and sends them electronically. Users can brand the invoice with their company logo, and customers can click a link in the email and quickly pay the invoice via Kashoo’s credit card processing, powered by KashooPay or Stripe. Kashoo users are notified immediately when invoices are paid.

Kashoo users will appreciate the almost limitless number of banking accounts which they can add to Kashoo. This feature permits easy transfer of funds between accounts when required. Additionally, Kashoo provides complete bank reconciliation and includes the end of quarter or end of year (calendar or fiscal) numbers. Multi-entity support isn’t available, though.

Payroll is also integrated through a partnership with Paychex (and PaymentEvolution in Canada). Kashoo users can choose whether to use Paychex’s SurePayroll or Paychex Payroll and trust that all transaction information will be posted in Kashoo correctly. As with most payroll products, users who need this functionality should expect to incur additional monthly fees.

And, while reporting overall is limited and customization within Kashoo is not available, users can create the essential reports that any startup business owner will require, including income statements, balance sheets, reconciliation reports, and sales tax summaries. All reports can be exported to Excel, PDF, HTML, or CSV for further analysis.

Access & users:
Kashoo is a web-based accounting application that allows users access from any browser. Kashoo allows the creation of multiple users without additional monthly fees. Also, Kashoo offers an easy-to-use iOS application with all the functionality of the browser-based version. Currently, however, there is no Android app.

Ease of use:
One of Kashoo’s selling points is just how easy it is to set up and use. Both the browser-based and iOS applications are intuitive as the developers of Kashoo focused on simplicity and functionality. Plus, Kashoo publishes user guides and hosts a help center, and users who need extra help can chat with customer support within the software itself.

Kashoo allows users to try the software for 14 days before deciding to purchase. That said, Kashoo is available for a very low monthly fee. While other products may be less expensive, Kashoo is perhaps the best value for its subscription fee, especially given how easy it is to use. Larger startups needing payroll will need to budget for those costs, however.

Things we liked:

  • Very easy to set up and use
  • Excellent iOS app
  • Flat, no surprises pricing
  • Exceptional customer support
  • Unlimited users are allowed

Things we didn’t like:

  • Android app is not available
  • Limited reporting capabilities
  • Users may outgrow feature set quickly

10. Sage Business Cloud Accounting

Price from $25.00/mo
Free Trial 30 Days

Best accounting software for large retail startups.

Best for:
Sage Business Cloud Accounting is a good choice for large retail startups, especially those selling their products on more than one channel. Though the feature set might be a bit much, smaller retail startups may also enjoy Sage Business Cloud Accounting’s comprehensive approach.

Key functionality:
As are most Sage products, Sage Business Cloud Accounting, which was formerly called Sage One, is a double-entry accounting software with tons of helpful features. Though it was originally designed for small businesses, the simplicity that comes with that focus actually makes Sage Business Cloud Accounting a fantastic product for businesses of all sizes, especially startups.

Within Sage Business Cloud Accounting, users can create and send customized invoices automatically. Plus, Sage Business Cloud Accounting tracks open invoices, allowing users to see when invoices have been sent and viewed, and users can pay immediately from the invoice. Sage Business Cloud Accounting also facilitates an estimate to invoice or quote to invoice process. Users can set up recurring invoices, as well.

Expenses are quite easy to track in Sage Business Cloud Accounting. Users can set up as many bank connections as they want, and the transactions can be downloaded and categorized quickly. AutoEntry is a feature in Sage Business Cloud Accounting that reduces user workload even further in that users can capture a picture of an invoice—or drag and drop a digital invoice—upload it, categorize it, and save it. Sage Business Cloud Accounting remembers the categorization the next time an expense from that vendor is downloaded.

The bank connections in Sage Business Cloud Accounting also facilitate quick and painless reconciliations each month. Plus, as transactions are downloaded, the dashboard is automatically updated to reflect the business’s current cash flow status. Compared to other products, however, time-saving features are a bit limited. In addition, Sage Business Cloud Accounting includes all the basic financial reports (more than 20) to ensure that startups have the information they need to make decisions.

Sage Business Cloud Accounting does not offer an integrated payroll option. Users who need payroll functionality will need to look elsewhere and then track paychecks and liabilities manually.

Access & users:
Sage Business Cloud Accounting is a cloud accounting program, and there are also iOS and Android mobile apps. The apps aren’t meant to be full-featured, but users can send invoice reminders and track expenses easily while on the go. Startups needing only one user and limited functionality may prefer to purchase the “Sage Accounting Start” tier, while startups needing more than one user will need to choose the “Sage Accounting” tier, which allows unlimited users.

Ease of use:
Sage Business Cloud Accounting is fairly easy to set up and use, and while it may feel a bit dated to some, the interface is clean and straightforward. There’s a handy “Getting Started” checklist that walks users through the setup process, and Sage provides documentation, an online knowledge base, and a live chat support option to help users who need a little more hand-holding.

The “Sage Accounting Start” subscription tier is the least expensive of the two options, and it includes limited functionality—creating and sending invoices, tracking unpaid invoices, and reconciling bank accounts. Users needing more robust features will want to look at “Sage Accounting,” which is a bit more expensive each month but includes such features as unlimited users, quotes and estimates, cash flow forecasting, and AutoEntry integration. Sage frequently offers discounts, and there is a free trial available for startups that want to try before buying.

Things we liked:

  • Excellent invoicing module
  • Good reporting for the price
  • Affordable
  • Excellent support options
  • Easy to set up and navigate

Things we didn’t like:

  • Limited feature set compared to other products
  • Dated user interface
  • No payroll option


Shepherding a startup to a profitable business is a risky and time-consuming effort. Each accounting platform in this list endeavors to mitigate the day-to-day accounting tasks required for a business to survive so entrepreneurs can focus on success.

Accounting platforms offer a similar slate of features, from connecting merchant bank accounts to efficiently setting up recurring invoices. However, startup business owners have to determine several things early to avoid settling on the wrong accounting application.

First, how many users need access to the application? A specific cloud-based application may seem like a logical choice and be fiscally viable. If additional users are required, the cost can increase dramatically enough to reduce profits if the margin is razor-thin.

Likewise, a business owner must consider the number of billable clients they are likely to win. Just as an application can eat away at profits because of the need for access by additional users, some applications charge based on billable clients. If not planned for properly, what should be positive can also result in profit gobbling costs.


Do I really need accounting software if I’m just getting started with my business?

That depends on how much time you want to spend working the numbers on pen and paper or how adept you are with spreadsheets. Accounting software should be considered a “must have,” even for the newest and smallest business. For one thing, it reduces the likelihood of errors. In conjunction with that, it helps you remain compliant with taxes. And, consider that the accounting tasks are only going to grow more complex as the business evolves, so trying to implement it later could be an expensive headache. It’s better to implement it at the beginning and focus on your business.

What should a startup consider when deciding on accounting software?

It really depends upon your business, but one important consideration for a startup will be cost. What can you afford with your current budget? If cost is a concern, consider how many people in your business will need to access the software (which could end up costing more!). Some software charge based on number invoices or number of billable clients, both of which could add up and might affect your choice. How much experience do you have with accounting or even bookkeeping? You will want something easy to use. Also, if you expect your business to grow quickly, you might want to think about how scalable the software is.

What if I don’t know a lot about accounting?

Accounting software companies are way ahead of you here. They know their consumers, and they know most are not accountants but business owners looking for an easy to use solution for accounting needs. It helps to acquaint yourself with some basic knowledge of accounting terms, of course, but you don’t need to study accounting to use modern accounting software effectively. Look for products with free trials, training materials and tutorials, website support, and a community of users, too.

See also: 35 Useful small business resources

Should I be concerned about having my data “in the cloud” with modern cloud-based accounting software? Wouldn’t a desktop application be better?

It’s going to be increasingly difficult to find desktop-based accounting software in the future because cloud-based software is the future. As far as security goes, accounting software vendors stake their reputations on the quality of their security. They are committed to maintaining it. Besides, laptops and even desktops are vulnerable to theft. Aside from security, cloud-based accounting software users appreciate the easy accessibility of their “books” on the go; they’re not tied to a desk somewhere. In addition, when the software is in the cloud, upgrades and updates can be implemented easily.