The availability of accounting software for business seems to grow almost daily – for those just starting out in business the choices can be overwhelming. However, finding good software that can handle the requirements of your business is essential, allowing you to keep track of cash flow, present a professional image for your business and can even help to encourage banks to make funding available to you. For more complex VAT and payroll calculations, finding a good software package will be a worthwhile investment; but where to start? You can Google the subject and then click and buy in an instant but this is not necessarily the best approach, although alarmingly it is one that many small businesses have taken in the past. Before going near Google, or your search engine of choice, it’s worth listing the features or processes that you will need from your accounting system. This can help to compare features of the various packages available and eliminate those that are not suitable. It’s important to get things right at an early stage, because although it is possible to switch to new systems, that is usually time consuming and a downright hassle of a process.
The main factors to consider
- Two important considerations are who is going to be using the software and what size of business do you run. Accounting packages do come in all shapes and sizes to suit just about any budget, but while the cost is an important factor it shouldn’t be the only or main consideration. While many packages are becoming extremely user friendly not all those aimed at smaller firms are designed on the principle that the end user is not likely to be an accountant. User friendly packages are essential if the user has limited experience in book keeping, VAT calculations and payroll management. Support, back up and help lines can be useful in a crisis, so see what’s on offer.
- Future proofing shouldn’t be a case of consulting a crystal ball; if you are starting out as a sole trader what are your plans for the future? Do you intend the business to grow and eventually become an employer, or to remain solo for good? In the latter case you’re unlikely to need payroll elements of any accounting package, but if future growth is likely it’s an option to consider at the outset – even if this is in terms of how easy/flexible add-ons will be. Online accounting packages may well be a suitable approach – as these can offer great future flexibility.
- The majority of the software packages available are designed for the Windows PC environment and this can be a big factor if you work on Macs. However, with the increasing popularity of Macs there is a corresponding growth in desktop and online accounting software packages that are compatible with them and the range available is growing all the time.
The key advantage to accounting software and online accounting software are simply that they take the hassle out of accounting – especially for the inexperienced. Affordable software is now available that allows you to present a professional invoicing impression, calculate VAT, manage payroll and payslips in the most cost effective and time efficient way possible. For smaller businesses the advantages of accounting packages also include a considerable cost saving on accountancy bills allowing you and your accountant to work more efficiently.
Neil works in digital marketing for an online accounting software provider, when he is not online he is an avid film fan and enjoys good food.