Updated: May 29
The tricky thing with figuring out which software is the right fit for you, is that there are so many of them! And with all those bells and whistles, you're not even sure what they are, let alone if you need them or not!
Just like buying a car or a mobile, they will always try to upsell you to a fancier model than you currently need. And when we're all jazzed up about this new business idea but not quite sure how to implement it, we have a tendency to spend hours (read: days, weeks!) obsessing over details that aren't the critical factors in getting a business going - getting paid customers!
So rather than randomly traipse through all the different options, get overwhelmed and have a Netflix sesh to recover,
do a hit list of your musts (and keep your future growth in mind),
then narrow your choice down to a couple based on these criteria.
Use them within the trial period, and watch the tutorials to get a "feel" for them. All of their websites are really comprehensive and user friendly with demonstrations etc.
Here are some quick pointers to help you decide. There are three things we want to consider:
Avoid unnecessary spending on functions you don't need until the business grows
Choose a package that has the additional functional options that you will want when you expand (and that enables you to upgrade). For example, app integration, ability to receive credit card payments etc.
Think about what is important to you as an individual. Are you on the road a lot, so a good mobile interface is a critical factor? Do you use other applications that it must integrate with? Do you hold many different stock lines, so need a sturdy inventory system?
Once you get to the standard packages, they all pretty much do the same thing, it's just about finding the right one to support your smaller budget (and requirements) while you are growing.
I often get asked my opinion of the various packages, so I've listed below what I use and why. The things that irk me you mightn't even notice and vice versa - no one knows you or your business as well as you do, so it makes sense for you to make this decision and not outsource it to some random article writer who knows nothing about your business!
A little plug for using Excel while you are getting setup...
This is a good starting point when you think it's going to take several months before you are in a position to make that first sale. Say you've still got your day job, and as time permits, you are buying the stock you need, or building your product/service menu etc. No point in paying for a monthly subscription when all you're doing is clocking up a few expenses here and there. Just keep a really simple running list in Excel (and the receipts/invoices scanned or saved neatly in a folder).
There are stacks of free Excel templates out there, but just keep it simple. Don't fall into the oh so easy trap of deluding yourself that those three hours looking for the perfect template were well spent! Progress beats perfection every time! Here is an example of one, just make it work for you, then move on to more important tasks.
Then when you are ready to start selling, it's probably time to go to the next step so you can produce a professional looking invoice and keep track of everything in one place. By all means, there are some great free invoice templates out there too. But cloud based software is so affordable now - if you are so strapped for cash that you can't afford ten dollars a month, it's probably not the right time for you to begin a business. 60% of Australian small businesses go belly up within the first three years - you need to be in this for the long haul.
WHAT I CURRENTLY USE - RECKON - THE BASICS (CORE) - $7 a month
This is the one I personally use at the moment. You can add on bits and bobs for a few extra bucks as you need them so it can grow as your business does. Good if you have few expenses (ie. service driven) and you don't have a separate business account.
For ten bucks a month, I can:
generate a nice looking invoice, receipt & statement
easily see outstanding invoices
track my GST and calculate my BAS
see how I'm tracking (P&L)
Others That Were Considered But Didn't Make the Cut (& Why)
QUICKBOOKS LITE - $7.50 a month
This is similar to the Reckon Basics option, except with a few BIG limitations so I choose to avoid this one altogether.
you cannot upgrade it with more functionality as needed
it does not allow for accrual accounting
the support functionality for this option is woeful - the only option is to really email their forum, no phone support (although it takes a lot of running around cursing to figure that out!)
It does have a cool mileage function, but there are plenty of free apps that offer same, so lack of support was a deal breaker for me.
You could use their Simple Start option at $10 a month, but it's 50% off at the moment, so you may get slugged with twenty bucks a month for functionality you don't need. To be fair, their system is pretty good.
MYOB ACCOUNTING STARTER - $13.50 a month
I quite like MYOB but this one has a ridiculous limit of 5 invoices per month!!
And the next tier up is $24 a month, so clearly MYOB aren't focusing on sole traders as an ideal customer segment. Disappointing.
XERO STARTER - $25 a month
I think Xero is great for business owners, as it presents things in a much more intuitive way for non-accountants/bookkeepers.
Disappointingly though, they are also ridiculously expensive. Twenty five bucks a month limits you to 5 invoices, and then it jumps to $50!
ROUNDED - $16.95 a month
An Aussie business which is exciting, and seems to be built primarily for small biz! This option seems good, and interface is lovely, but no good if you plan on registering for GST. If you do, you'd need to upgrade to the $22.95 a month option. Exciting to see one designed for small business though - if I end up going off Reckon, I think I shall give this one a go.
Did you find this article useful? Or not? Just like you, I'm trying my best to fulfil my client's needs, so please let me know if I am missing the mark! firstname.lastname@example.org