Baffled by the choices? Here's my roadmap to choosing the right accounting software

I know how challenging it can be choosing the right accounting software - navigating the universe of the various accounting software providers and their unique features can be a daunting prospect!

Thankfully you can now stop wasting your precious time searching through volumes of random webpages about how to choose the right accounting software!

Follow my road map to find everything you need to know to get started!

Step #1

Decide if a cloud or desktop solution is right for your business

I won't get into too much detail on the debate of cloud vs desktop since there are already a number of great articles online, but from my experience cloud solutions generally offer the better proposition for freelancers and SMBs:

  • Setup time - Cloud software can generally be set up quickly and without too much stress.
  • Access - The great thing about cloud is the ability to access your information freely from any location and at any time, which is especially convenient if you're travelling or your accountant works remotely.
  • Pricing - Cloud solutions charge a monthly subscription, which is much less cash intensive than the desktop option (usually requires a large upfront payment). Also all updates, maintenance and support are usually included in this monthly subscription.
  • Updates and support - Cloud software is updated automatically at no cost and the support is generally smoother if you run into any issues, which gives you a lot less to worry about. This is not always the case for desktop software.

Step #2

Understand what features you need 

Following from Step #1, you will now be in a position to list out the exact features and functionality you will require from your accounting software. To get you started, I’ve put together a practical checklist below, which covers all aspects you should be thinking about around accounting features, levels of user access and much more.

It’s also worth thinking about what features you anticipate you will require in the next few months and possibly years - changing accounting software providers can be a time consuming and stressful project, so it’s worth looking for software which is scalable. An easy way to tell is to see what functionality is offered in higher tier packages by providers, in addition to any other modules they may advertise.

If relevant, it’s also worth mapping out how you expect the accounting software will integrate with your existing infrastructure and business procedures (e.g. payroll and CRM).

Step #3

Calculate your budget

At the outset its useful to calculate what budget you’re willing to allocate to this project. Though its always sensible to be realistic - cheaper options are likely to be basic and lack the wealth of features that you may require!

Step #4

Research potential solutions and make a shortlist 

Aren’t you tired of reading laundry list after laundry list of different accounting software providers? They all look the same and don’t actually show you how you should pick one that works for you.

To help you save time (and your sanity), I’ve produced a comparison chart to help you filter through the clutter. This chart will break down how accounting software propositions compare with each other across different categories. This chart works really well if you already have an idea which software you are interested in, but need a bit more guidance on which one is better.

Step #5

Make use of the free trials 

When you’ve narrowed down your options to a couple, I’d recommend diving in and making use of the free trials that are on offer. There's no point of spending your hard-earned money on accounting software that doesn't fit your needs, right?

Whilst demos, videos and screenshots are useful, they are no substitute for using the software first hand. Trialing will allow you to build up an understanding of the interface, ease of use, functionality, time saving potential etc. In particular focus on the following to make sure they suit the needs of your business:

  • Quality and speed of customer service
  • Reconciliation tool supports your particular bank 
  • Customization options for quotes and invoices 
  • Customization options for dashboards and reports 

Helpful tip: If you come across providers that require a credit card to sign up to their free trials, don't forget to cancel within the trial period to prevent the trial automatically rolling into a paid subscription!

Step #6

Choose your provider 

Now that you’ve trialled each provider and decided which one is best for your business, it’s time to sign up to your preferred one. Though before you do, make sure to read the Terms of Service / Terms of Use to understand fully what is being provided and the protection you have in case the agreed services are not delivered or you run into issues with the software.

It’s worth noting that from my experience, the larger accounting software providers are generally pretty efficient at dealing with most issues that you’re likely to face!


Any questions? Frequently Asked Questions About Accounting Software