The idea of starting a business is filled with a bittersweet mix of excitement and nausea-inducing anxiety.

What keeps us awake at night isn’t often the premises, fixtures and fittings, or even the concept but all the penny pinching, filing and financial paperwork that comes with launching an enterprise.

It doesn’t have to be all night sweats and bad dreams though – help is at hand. In fact, it’s in the palm of your hand. Here’s a snapshot of five talked-about accounting softwares that are particularly well-pitched for startups and SMEs – with an objective view of both the bits people liked, and didn’t like.

FreshBooks

Good for

FreshBooks is a one-stop shop for invoicing, expensing, time-tracking, raising payments and providing detailed financial reporting.

Usability

Ultimate simplicity. This software was designed specifically to meet the needs of small businesses, so it doesn’t leave the user feeling like they should’ve taken an Honours degree in accounting. There’s no endless list of menu options to deal with, and it’s quick.

As with so many things these days, it’s cloud-based and so it’s easy to access from a number of devices, anywhere – using a simple to read dashboard of top line information.

Value

Lite comes in at around £12 per month, Plus around £20 and Premium around £40 – with a 30 day free trial.

Reviews

Trustpilot gives an impressive score of 9 out of 10 based on 162 reviewers. Winner of Best Accounting Software Award 2016 and Supreme Software Award 2016.

Cons

Reporting is a little lacking, and metrics and goal setting could be better but a few minor tweaks and you’ve got a pretty good all-rounder.

Kashoo Online Accounting

Good for

Accounting and general bookkeeping.

Usability

Kashoo is a simple accounting tool and so it isn’t filled with thousands of options to allow for lots of digging down. This means that it should be fairly straightforward to get to grips with, even for the most novice of business newbies.

The dashboard takes a little getting used to, as it’s not in the generic graph and top line info format we’re used to seeing. That said, it’s got a handy quick-entry fields for expenses and income, which are really the main features that this is aimed at.

Value

Around £16 per month but a host of free workshops are available, and there’s free support with every subscription.

Reviews

The slick website doesn’t necessarily carry through, sadly. The software itself felt a little clunky in places and, as we’ve already mentioned, it had few features compared with the competition.

The really good thing about Kashoo though was its support offering. Telephone and email help is on hand and there’s a wealth of information archived on the Kashoo site. There’s also a very handy “getting started” video which is easy to follow.

Cons

Not so great for more in-depth needs and VAT handling is lacking, with flat rate VAT not supported. This really is a basic accounting tool for keeping track of incomings and outgoings, but if your business isn’t dealing with a huge amount of transactions, perhaps that’s OK.

FreeAgent

Good for

Freelancers/ contractors and SMEs whose work is primarily project-based – since it allows you to set up expenses, outgoings and income by project.

Usability

Easy to set up, and with step by step video instructions along the way. Once activated, you can rearrange the dashboard to your liking – making it all feel very customised to what you want to see. The dashboard itself feels very well designed and is easy to navigate.

Value

Three tiers; Sole Trader £19, Partnership/ LLP £24 and Limited Company £29.

Reviews

FreeAgent is generally well thought of amongst the freelancers and small businesses who’ve used it. VAT and tax handling is very good but it’s lacking ease and speed of entering transactions and the wage journals are very confusing.

Cons

Doesn’t have any purchase order generating capability, nor does it track stock, so it’s less of an ideal tool for startups and SMEs who sell goods.

Sage One Accounts

Good for

Support. As a new business owner, it can be nerve-racking dealing with the financial aspects of running a company. Sage offer 24/7 online and telephone support, for free, to all subscribers.

The package offers invoicing, tax assistance and profit and loss information, so a good basic package for startups and SMEs.

Usability

Can be accessed from anywhere, as the software is online. Sage has a bit of a rep for being over-complicated and inflexible however. The software isn’t as easy to use as others on the market.

Value

£10 a month, so this is a real plus.

Reviews

9/10 on Trustpilot. Users rate the service they’ve received whenever they’ve called on Sage’s help, with 24/7 support available.

Cons

As mentioned previously, they’ve over-egged the pudding compared with some of the competition.

This version of Sage also doesn’t support transactions in foreign currency which, in this day and age, doesn’t bode well. There’s an updated version (Sage One Accounts Extra) which was launched in November 2016, but that will set you back an extra £15 a month as its monthly fee is £25.

 

KashFlow

Good for

Ease of payments and VAT processing – every VAT rate combination is given in this program. All the basics are covered and there is diverse reporting available.

Usability

Easy on the eye and easy on the mind. KashFlow is a well designed piece of software that gets straight to the nitty gritty with its dashboard. It’s also really easy to enter transactional information, compared with most of the competition. That ease and speed will certainly come in handy during those first time-precious months and years of your startup. Perfect for those who have little experience with accounting.

Value

£18 per month flat rate with a two week free trial.

Reviews

No Trustpilot reviews yet but a host of other sites quoting a pretty decent score, and KashFlow is a market leader in the UK.

Cons

Though the flat rate VAT scheme is accounted for in the KashFlow software, there’s a fly in the ointment. The switch over from accruals to accounting means that VAT is accidentally included twice, and this is obviously far from ideal! No doubt a fix will be along any day now.

 

So there you have it. Restless nights might be a thing of the past after all! If the mind is still left boggling, comparison sites are often a great way to negotiate the minefield of different products and services out there.

And if you’re still not sure which accounting software is for you, perhaps take advantage of the many free trial offers that are out there until you find the one that fits your business best.