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Small business accounting software has changed massively in recent years. Thankfully, the advent of cloud computing has consigned the days of buying book-keeping software in a box and installing it on your own computer to history. Nowadays, start-ups and small business can choose from a whole host of online accounts software packages. The technology helps to ease the pain of book-keeping and accounts for small business owners and provides a range of other benefits too. But with so many different web-based accounting solutions out there, how do you choose the right system for you and your business?
If you follow the advice, and ask these questions, you should be able to quickly narrow down the field, and ultimately choose the best online accounting software for your needs. In most cases, you just pay a small monthly fee — which is great for cash flow in the early days. As a start-up you are often trying to do everything yourself, so having an online accounting system which lets you raise invoices, update your bookkeeping, look at the list of outstanding debtors and creditors, analyse profits and cash flow — all from anywhere you have Internet access — can really help you save time and manage your business more effectively.
Many online accounting packages have emerged in the past five years. They all have their merits and limitations. Some were designed with a focus on sales invoices and others provide a more complete bookkeeping system.
To help you work out which of the web-based accounting options is best for your business, you should ask these questions before deciding which solution to go with. Not all online accounting packages implement Reverse Charge calculations automatically, so if your business has slightly complicated VAT rules to follow, you should check whether this feature is included. You may end up making mistakes on your VAT return without this feature.
If your business requires you to have multi-currency accounts, this is a deal-breaker. Not every software can handle this. For you to measure performance and manage your business more effectively, most accounting software will produce a range of reports.
Can the software link to your bank account? Some require you to upload bank statements, where others allow you to set up an automatic feed from your bank account and credit cards so all banking transactions are detailed automatically.
An automatic feed is definitely better as it will save you precious time and mean your figures are always up to date. If you trade in products, this will be an essential feature for you.
Most online accounting packages allow you to customise your Invoice templates, but you often get limited flexibility. So if this is an important part of your business, you should check it out. If you are working with a team and want to give limited access to sales team vs finance team, make sure the software you are choosing will allow that. Many of these accounting entries, such as year-end adjustments of accruals, prepayments or monthly wages are done through journals — but some accounting systems have a poorly designed module to enter Journals, which can make it hard for your Accountant to match your system figures to the Final Accounts.
Some online accounts options can take the information about the salary and dividend payments you have received from your business and link these to your personal tax return. FreeAgent even has the facility for you to submit your annual tax return directly through its software.
This can save you time and also cut the chances of manual errors on your self assessment tax return. This is something that you will only be able to gauge when you are using the system for yourself. So take a trial or a demo of your favourites to see which you prefer. Find out what level of support is available. You will, without doubt, have some questions that need answering and problems to overcome at some point, so ask what help is provided.
Most online accounting options also offer a mobile version, allowing you to access your accounts through your smartphone. Bearing in mind these questions, a couple of top online accounting software systems, in my opinion, are.
Once you have decided which online accounts system to go with, there are some key things to think about with the initial set-up process. If you really are starting on day one of your business then you need to consider the nature of your business activities and how you would like the reports to look.
Alternatively, if you are planning on exporting you might want to categorise sales into regions, e. You can categorise in any way suitable for your business. The exact steps will depend on your business type, but you can likely expect to do the following:. If you are not good with accounting, hire someone to do it and allow a reasonable amount of time and budget to get set up properly. For a new start-up this will not cost much — but it will be a good investment to get things set up properly from the beginning.
Once you have chosen your system, there is a learning curve involved. Do not assume everything will go as easily as the advert predicted! There will be several ways of working within your chosen system, so find out by trial what works best for you, and when in doubt, seek advice. Getting advice at the start can save you hours in both the short- and long-term.
Going back to correct previous mistakes is costly and time consuming — and can, potentially, damage your business. By using an online accounting software package you can save yourself considerable time, keep your records up to date wherever you are, and ensure you have all the correct information recorded — both for your own use and for filing VAT returns and company accounts.
This article has been written for ByteStart by Riz Wasti, principal of 2E Accountants a London based Management Accounting practice specialising in working with small businesses. ByteStart is packed with help and tips on all aspects of starting and running a small business.
Check out some of our most popular guides. Content strictly protected by Copyscape. How to set up and run a small business. How to choose the best online accounting software for your business November 4, Each online accounting system has its pros and cons Many online accounting packages have emerged in the past five years. Does it automatically produce a VAT return? Does it offer multi-currencies? Can it link to your personal annual tax return? Does it have a good interface?
Is there a good level of support available? Is there a mobile version on offer? Find out more here. More details on this offer here. Getting your chosen system set-up Once you have decided which online accounts system to go with, there are some key things to think about with the initial set-up process.
Cost of Sales There could be one cost or a number of direct costs that are linked with sales. The exact steps will depend on your business type, but you can likely expect to do the following: Set all required nominal codes and project codes Set accounting periods Set VAT periods, and VAT schemes Confirm the right depreciation rates for the asset register and Customise the sales invoice template with your logo and design If you are not good with accounting, hire someone to do it and allow a reasonable amount of time and budget to get set up properly.
Start using it — practice makes it perfect! With your accounting solution sorted — you can now focus on building your business. About the author This article has been written for ByteStart by Riz Wasti, principal of 2E Accountants a London based Management Accounting practice specialising in working with small businesses. More help on understanding and doing your accounts For more help on book-keeping and accounting matters try these guides; Guide to Bookkeeping for new business owners 15 Questions to ask when hiring an accountant for your small business Book-keeping basics every new business owner must know How switching from spreadsheets to cloud accounting can help small business owners How to choose an accountant for your small business More on starting and running your own business ByteStart is packed with help and tips on all aspects of starting and running a small business.
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