5. How many users and clients can this software accommodate? Can user access be restricted?
Different software is built with different-sized businesses in mind. While some cater to a broad user base, many of the best platforms target one end of the spectrum.
If you are the sole user interacting with the software, look for the platforms that give you the most streamlined experience. If you need software that will accommodate several team members and an accountant at once, then look for a more comprehensive solution.
If restricted user access is something you require so that not everyone in your company has access to your finances, prioritize this feature. Some platforms offer role-based access for different team members. For example, you can allow employees to access the time tracking or expense reporting features without granting permission to create invoices.
Also, keep in mind that you may or may not need a client portal. Do you need to provide clients access to their payment records within the app? Only some platforms offer dedicated support for this feature, so plan accordingly.
6. What type of support does this software provide?
There’s a very good chance that you will need to contact customer support at some point. You should be sure that they’ll be able to help you answer your questions – before you run into problems.
Smaller software providers often put a lot of effort into self-service troubleshooting guides and community forums. Browse these resources and see if people are running into the same issues time and time again. Larger companies should have a team of dedicated support agents. Reach out to them for any questions you have about their platform, and gauge the quality of their responses.
Finally, make sure to read through positive and negative reviews of the software online. The last thing you want is to be surprised by a glaring weakness in the accounting software after you’ve already invested hours into getting it set up.
7. Will this accounting software scale with the growth of my small business?
Perhaps you’re a freelancer who needs to invoice customers for your side hustle. In that case, focus on an option that gives you all the features you need for the lowest price possible.
However, if you’re planning to scale your business and want your software to grow with you, then make sure the platform can accommodate your future needs as well. Do the premium price tiers include the advanced capabilities you’ll need? Many software providers also offer customized solutions for when you outgrow their basic subscription models. Do some digging into what these custom solutions are and if they will help you scale or hold you back.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind. Does your small business use cash-based or accrual-based accounting? Small businesses will often start by recording transactions based on cash flow. However, as you scale, you will likely be switching to an accrual-based system. You’ll need to handle more sophisticated data related to buying and selling on credit and recording payable and receivable accounts. Be aware that some of the more basic platforms are only geared towards cash-based accounting.
8. Do I have the knowledge required to use it?
Most software these days is built to provide a very intuitive user experience. However, some platforms cater more towards the professional accounting industry. Others direct their efforts to users with no accounting or tech backgrounds at all. You know which category you fall into, so make sure you consider this during your selection process.
Furthermore, don’t be distracted by deep functionality if you won’t be able to use it to your advantage. For example, if your software has the capability for a wide variety of automation processes, but you can’t program them, then it’s not going to do you much good.
Some other key features to look out for in a small business accounting software
Does it offer customizable templates and other customization tools so that you can adjust documents like invoices or e-mails to fit your branding?
- Multicurrency and multilanguage support
If your business operates across different countries or serves a multi-lingual community, then you need a platform with these features built in. That way, you can customize your invoices and payment preferences appropriately.
Check to ensure that proper security measures are followed to protect both you and your clients’ data. Two-factor authentication and data encryption should be pre-requisites.
Does the platform enable the correct type of tax customization on the invoices? Can it generate the relevant tax reports?
If your business is subject to any specific reporting requirements, then make sure you can easily create the appropriate documents. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time generating them manually.
- Bank and payment gateway support
Can you conveniently link your software to your bank and preferred payment processors? Are you able to reconcile accounts by fetching bank statements? If your bank doesn’t support the software, then you should look for something else.
Some accounting software platforms are integrated into a linked ecosystem of CRM software, e-mail management, inventory management apps, etc. Others offer the ability to connect to dozens or hundreds of third-party apps. If you already rely on a particular app to run your business, check if it integrates with your accounting software.
- Project management and time tracking
You may already be using a dedicated app for these tasks. If so, check if they can be integrated into your accounting software of choice. If not, consider looking for a platform that does both. After all, billing for project expenses and time is directly linked to your accounting workflow. Therefore, it makes sense to bring them into the same system.
Get a second opinion
Talk to your accountant and staff
If your accountant or other staff members are going to be the primary users interacting with this software, then make sure you involve them in the selection process. Your accountant will likely have specific requirements in mind or is already accustomed to working with a particular program. Your IT support staff can help you evaluate the different tech capabilities and advise your data management strategy.
Reach out to your network
Ask around for other opinions from people in your network, especially from people in similar industries. Chances are, they’re using accounting software and can give you first-hand experience on its suitability for your needs.
Make a shortlist, and try out your options
Now that you know what you want, you can narrow down the numerous options into three or four of the standout contenders. Then, compare them against each other, read positive and negative reviews online, and reach out to their support teams about any questions you might have.
As a final step, take advantage of their free trials or limited free plans. Create some invoices, play around with the reporting features, and input some expenses. If something doesn’t feel right, or it seems to be missing a key component, then move on.
After navigating the different user interfaces on your shortlist, you’ll understand what excites you or disappoints you about a platform, and you can make your decision accordingly.
A final question: do you need accounting software after all?
There’s a chance that you’ve gotten to the end of this guide and are thinking: maybe I don’t need accounting software after all.
Perhaps you’ve realized that the extensive functionality of accounting software platforms is just going to overcomplicate things. What if you won’t be able to take advantage of all the features you’re paying for? Maybe you simply don’t have the budget at the moment because you’re just starting out and only have a couple of clients.
If that describes you, then consider an alternative that isn’t full-scale accounting software but still handles all your small business needs.
Billdu – your small business accounting software alternative
We built Billdu with people just like you in mind. It’s perfectly fine to hold off on advanced accounting software until further down the line. Most of our customers do. Partly, that’s because once they’ve tried our platform, they realize they didn’t need accounting software to begin with.
By now, it might have struck you that all you’re looking for is a simple, user-centric platform that ‘only’ makes the invoicing process easy and helps you get paid faster. As a bonus, it tracks expenses, manages customer communications, and facilitates online booking without cluttering the user interface.
This platform is Billdu, and while it isn’t accounting software per se, we know that most of our happy customers would rather keep it that way. After all, we built it specifically for freelancers and small businesses like you.