Managing your small business finances doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. As you’ll find in our review, even the cheapest Quickbooks option can be a valuable business investment.
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I remember glancing over my dad’s shoulder when I was a kid and he was working on bills and budgeting. He’s always, as far as I know, used Quicken to manage the family finances. And it always looked overwhelming to me. How much more so would QuickBooks, Intuit’s flagship financial management product for businesses, look overwhelming?
But to write this review, I started a 30-day free trial of QuickBooks. And it’s actually not so scary looking at all. The interface has gotten a significant upgrade in recent years. And even though it’s still got a lot going on, it’s much more intuitive than it used to be.
I am checking out the Self-Employed version of QuickBooks for this review, as I wanted to see what the absolute lightest version has to offer. The software is cheap for even side-gig freelancers without a ton of expenses to track. And the features are well worth the cost.
We’ll talk later in the review about the additional features you can get with the other versions of QuickBooks. But let’s start with the basics.
The core of QuickBooks is its ability to track business income and expenses. Tracking your transactions is simple, too.
When you first open QuickBooks, it gives you a couple of options for tracking transactions. You can link it up to your bank account or PayPal account. Then it will track the transactions for you. This is similar to Intuit’s personal budgeting software that I use, Mint.com. It pulls in your transactions automatically, and then all you have to do is categorize them.
The other option is, of course, to enter transactions manually. This can be a good option if you don’t have business income and expenses often.
Either way you track your expenses, you can add images of receipts to them. This way if the IRS comes knocking, you have all your receipts for that year’s transactions in one place. Then you can get rid of all those paper receipts cluttering up your office. The IRS has accepted scanned receipts since the mid-90’s. So you don’t have to keep the originals when you log your transactions and save your receipts in QuickBooks.
As a freelancer, I’m terrible about tracking my mileage. And that’s not great because those miles could save me a bundle of cash come tax time. QuickBooks has a special tab for entering mileage. Again, you can do it manually. But there’s an easier way.
Instead of manually tracking your miles, you can download the QuickBooks app on your Android or iPhone. Once you set up the app, it will log mileage for you. You’ll just need to tag the trips that are business-related, and you’ll automatically rack up those mileage deductions.
Quarterly and annual taxes are, of course, the bane of any freelancer’s or business owner’s existence. But QuickBooks makes those fairly easy to handle, too. I mean, you still have to write that big, fat check to Uncle Sam. But you at least know what you’re in for.
As it tracks your income and expenses, QuickBooks will also estimate your quarterly and annual taxes. Then you can fill out the 1040-ES payment voucher form right in QuickBooks. With the standard self-employed QuickBooks version, you’ll need to print out the voucher and send it in with your check manually. If you upgrade to the Tax Bundle, you can send your voucher and payment online.
At the end of the year, QuickBooks will also help you automatically fill out the Schedule C you’ll need to pay your annual taxes. This is one area where the more expensive versions of QuickBooks stand apart. They’ll help you fill out the forms for your more complex tax situation, though you’ll still likely want to tag in a tax professional.
But if you’re self-employed with straightforward business expenses and income and no employees, QuickBooks may be the only tool you’ll need to fill out your business taxes.
As you might expect, QuickBooks comes with a series of standard reports, which make it easy to see exactly what your business income and expenses look like. There’s a profit and loss report, a receipt report, a tax summary, and tax details. You can run these reports for different time frames, making it easy to get exactly the information you need.
Invoicing clients can be a headache. You want your invoices to look professional so they reflect well on your business. But you don’t want to spend a ton of time making them. QuickBooks lets you create professional-looking invoices quickly. And you can accept online payment, too.
Of course, the online payment option may include some fees. But there’s no ongoing cost for the service. Clients can pay via credit card or via ACH transfer, which is free. The fees are as follows:
One nice thing about invoicing with QuickBooks is that it lets you track your accounts receivable. So you can have a clearer picture of not only what income you’ve already made, but what income you should be bringing in, as well.
The features we’ve talked about so far are all available on the most affordable version of QuickBooks, the Self-Employed version. And all of the options work well in mobile, as well. But if you need additional features, you may need to upgrade to one of the other versions. Here’s what you’ll get with these versions:
Editor’s note: Pricing listed in this article are correct as of the date of this article’s publishing.
Simple Start ($10 per month)
- Everything above plus:
- Send estimates to potential clients
- Track sales and sales tax
Essentials ($17 per month)
- Everything above plus:
- Manage bills
- Allow multiple users to log in
- Track time spent on work
Plus ($30 per month)
- Everything above plus:
- Track projects
- Create and manage budgets
- Manage 1099 contractors
Advanced ($60 per month)
- Everything above plus:
- Allow up to 10 employees to log in
- Get access to customized support from QuickBooks
- Have startup and ongoing QuickBooks training for you and your team
In short, the Simple Start version is similar to the Self-Employed version, but it’s better for businesses providing an actual product that would include sales taxes. Essentials is great if you’re running a larger business with employees, and Plus is perfect for those with a more robust business that may include both employees and contractors.
QuickBooks also comes with a series of add-ons so that you can customize the product to work well for you. These add-ons include:
- Enhanced Payroll: You can pay your workers easily and e-file your employment taxes for federal and state right from QuickBooks. You can also print year-end W-2s right from the program.
- Full Service Payroll: For a higher price, you can also get experts to set up, file, and pay payroll taxes for you. This comes with a no penalty guarantee, so you aren’t liable if it isn’t done right. And you can have same-day direct deposit to pay your employees more quickly.
- Point of Sale Tools: With QuickBooks’s point-of-sale tools you can let customers pay easily on-site. Then you can capture that transaction data right in QuickBooks.
One of the great things about QuickBooks is that there are so many outside services and integrations that use it. You can connect it to your CRM for more robust client and sales management. Or you can connect it to tools to help you collect on outstanding debts or do any number of other useful tasks. The great thing is that you can start small, but get your bookkeeping right from the start. Then as you grow, you can slowly upgrade QuickBooks or add additional integrations that make it even more useful for your business.
You can contact Intuit through its online help portal, which you can access from the help button right inside your QuickBooks interface. Intuit has decent customer service reviews, especially for customers who use their paid products. You can also get lots of information on the basics of Intuit’s products online, including QuickBooks.
QuickBooks has an online app for each of its online versions. With the mobile app, you don’t get 100% of the online functionality, but it does let you do most things you can do online. For instance, you can enter expenses right into the app as you spend, which is nice. You can also check up on your annual and quarterly taxes.
One thing you can do on the QuickBooks app that you can’t do online is track your mileage directly. Simply turn on the location on your phone, and the app can track where you are and when you go on a trip. Then you can get into the app and mark each trip as personal or business-related. Those tagged as business related will get totaled up so you know how many miles you can deduct on your taxes that year.
Every app like this has its pros and cons. Here’s what you should know about QuickBooks:
- Easy to use: QuickBooks is simple to use even for those who don’t have a degree in accounting, at least if your business’s account is simple.
- Good out-of-the-box reports: The standard reports QuickBooks uses are great for many small businesses.
- Connects to your business account: If you’re keeping all your business’s money in one place, as you should be, then you can connect QuickBooks to that account and track your income and expenses seamlessly. It’s just a matter of tagging your transactions as they pass through, and you’re good to go.
- Allows for additional applications: QuickBooks connects well with apps that you might use for other parts of your business, which just keeps things easier to use.
- Affordable: For what it is, QuickBooks really doesn’t cost much money. You can get a streamlined version of the app for as little as $10 per month.
- Invoicing and payment features: You can send invoices that look nice directly from QuickBooks. And you can allow your customers to pay you through the app, too, which eliminates the need to deal with paper checks.
- May not be complex enough: If your business is more complicated, QuickBooks may not be the best option for you. It doesn’t offer lots of customization on reporting, and it doesn’t have some industry-specific features like lot tracking.
- No direct professional support: You can use QuickBooks without an accountant to a point, but once your business gets more complicated, you may need a real bookkeeper.
- Limited number of users: You can’t let an unlimited number of people log into QuickBooks, which could be a problem if your business grows and has multiple departments.
If you’re looking for a super-scalable accounting software for your business, you may want to look into alternatives. And one place to begin looking is with your bookkeeper. If you’re hiring a professional, even part-time, to manage your business’s books, you may just ask them which software they prefer.
QuickBooks is the most well-known name in bookkeeping for small businesses for a reason. It still offers more traditional desktop tools, but it’s changed with the times to upgrade to cloud-based services. Along with these changes, it’s gained a slick interface that’s intuitive to use, even for people who aren’t great with numbers. And with all the room for growth, it’s nice to know that you won’t have to jump to a new tool as your business grows. Instead, QuickBooks can grow with you.
If you want to give QuickBooks a try for your business, anyone can get a 30-day free trial. Then you can decide if you want to continue using it, at which point you can pay a relatively small monthly fee for the QuickBooks product that best suits your needs.Topics: Budget • Money Management Tools • Reviews