Xero, QuickBooks Online, FreshBooks … oh my.
It’s time. Well, it’s been time. But it’s time to head to the cloud with my accounting.
But it’s that same old cliche: the more I learn, the less I know.
How to find the best product for my business? Should I just take a weekend (a what?) and do my research? Should I hire someone to figure it out? Or just jump into a product and see how it goes? Ugh.
I’m pretty sure it’s down to QuickBooks Online and Xero. I think FreshBooks doesn’t have as many tools or features and is more of an invoicing tool, but then you still need QuickBooks for the actual accounting. Hmm, that seems like a big downside.
As I went through the products, I realized I needed to list my requirements, both Must Haves and Nice to Haves. So here goes.
- Accounts: I need to reconcile my accounts. Well, don’t I? Do I? I don’t even know. I do it in QuickBooks now. I mention this as, for example, FreshBooks is more of an invoicing and time-tracking tool and doesn’t, for example, manage your business checking account. I think …
- Recurring invoices: I have several services that require automated recurring payments. Currently, I do PayPal and Subscriptions, which works OK. But maybe it could be improved? The worst is when their credit card expires, unless they know how to change it, it cancels the subscription and they have to resubscribe.
- Automatic invoice send: related to Recurring invoices above, if an invoice is ready (especially if it’s for something monthly), then it should just go out to the client without having to click send.
- Online payment: I think this is a given, but what are the options for payment from clients? PayPal? Other?
- Time tracking: the team member puts in an hour for client X, it would be great if there were an online tool to make that easy. It would also tally the hours for that person for the month making it easy to pay them for their time. See the next point about that time going right into an invoice.
- Time tracking to invoice: I (or someone) puts in an hour for client X in the time tracker, that should then be applied to the actual invoice that the client will get. Ideally, the person gets paid their hour (at their hourly rate) and the client is billed an hour (at the client rate).
- Estimates to invoices: Can estimates be automatically switched to invoices if approved?
- Monthly fees: is the service billed by the number of projects? (I have lots of little projects … ) Or by users accessing the system? Or something else? Are there all kinds of add-ons? Do they also have monthly fees? Do they have a free trial?
- Accountant friendly: will my accountant be able to take the file(s) at the end of the year and use them easily?
- Future proof: will the company behind the product be around in 5 years?
- Integration: if I do have to use some other tools (e.g. project management, email, tasks, etc.), does it integrate?
- Data transfer: I currently use QuickBooks for the desktop (Windows). Can I export my data into this new service?
Nice to Haves
- Project management: I’m probably asking too much here, but if there were even something of a task manager, that would be nice.
- Mobile: would be great if the tool had an app so at least some things could be taken care of (or managed or at least viewed) from an app.
- Client access: could a client view an invoice online? Or maybe review estimates? Or see what they’ve paid over the past year?
- Interface: it is nice if the interface is friendly, intuitive, and easy on the eyes.
- Print 1099s: I do have to do 1099s at the end of the year. Helps if it’s semi-automated.
- Inventory: I don’t have physical products or things like that I need to keep track of.
- Payroll processing: my business bank account does a good job of this. Simple, easy, done, already working fine.
What else am I missing from the equation?
I forgot to put this one into the mix, but I think I’m just done with it. For one thing, it’s on my Windows computer and I’m slowly moving over to the Mac. Talked with a tech buddy of mine and he said I could have a dedicated simple computer sitting in a closet that we could VPN into and use that for QB desktop, but … ugh, sounds like a hassle to me. It also kind of defeats the purpose of being in the cloud if we’re not really in the cloud. I get it that it would save money, but I think the hassle factor would be quite a bit larger, even just the thought of the VPN, a dedicated laptop or simple box always on, Internet connectivity always on, what if it went down? What if the computer needed a reboot and I wasn’t going to be home for a while? Nah, I think I’m ready for the cloud.