My first brush with accounting came right out of college when I joined a small family business.
I was the office manager and had to quickly learn how to wear many different hats. One of my roles was to assist with payroll, accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP).
The software I learned how to use on the job was QuickBooks. It was simple and straightforward even for someone like me who had no prior experience with accounting.
When I started my own business years later, I naturally turned to QuickBooks, specifically QuickBooks Online, to handle my business' accounting needs. I still use QuickBooks Online today, ten years later and counting.
Many small businesses like mine also use QuickBooks Online – there are over 4.3 million customers! QuickBooks Online is flexible, conveniently cloud based and also more affordable and practical than the desktop edition.
QuickBooks Online: Easy Accounting For Small Businesses
Although QuickBooks Online is easy to use and is great fit for most small business owners, it doesn’t follow full GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) accounting standards. This isn't an issue for most small business owners however, since we don't have complex books. We're focused on cash flow, basic reporting, tracking expenses and generating invoices.
If your business revenue is off the charts, however, and you're planning on becoming a publicly traded company or getting acquired then QuickBooks Online could be overly simplified for your needs. GAAP gets super complicated after all and Intuit chose to prioritize ease-of-use in the platform's functionalities instead of meeting all the complexities of GAAP.
QuickBooks Online Key Features
Plans start as low as $5 a month! That's great if you're a freelancer or on a tight budget. I currently use the PLUS edition at $30 a month, which is the most popular option. Choose the plan that best fits your needs right now – explore the plans here. You can upgrade or downgrade your plan anytime. Just note that the Self-Employed plan, aka Freelancer plan, currently does not upgrade to the small business versions.
Here are some of the available features in QuickBooks Online:
- Bank Reconciliation
- Import various file types including QFX, QIF
- Cloud based access
- Mobile apps for iOS and Android
- Expense Tracking
- Payroll (optional)
- Inventory Management
- Client Portal
- Contact Management
- Bill Pay
- Point of Sale
- Third Party Integration
- Multiple currency Support
- Two-Factor Authentication
And there's more!
- Fast, automatic and secure synching to your bank and credit card accounts
- Over 18,000 financial institutions are supported through their online banking synchronization
- Automatic categorization when transactions are imported
- Realtime AR and AP unlike the desktop version
- Third-party app integration such as Gusto or ADP payroll
- Track and manage date on your employees, clients, and vendors
- Pay bills, print checks and track expenses
- Send unlimited invoices by email so you can save time and postage
Unlike the desktop editions, you can try out QuickBooks online without any obligation. Intuit offers a free 30-day trial if you’re still on the fence about whether this product is right for you. It's always nice to try before you buy with no obligations. If you have previous experience with other editions, you’ll find that the online edition functions very similarly. If you’ve been using another version of QuickBooks, you can import your previous data. If you have complex books or multiple years of records you should test this thoroughly since some users have reported issues with importing large sets of data. Sign up here.
Multi-user support is available in the Essentials and Plus versions of QuickBooks. Service supports up to five users, which should be enough for most small businesses. It’s very easy to grant access as well. This is a convenient feature if you hire an outside accountant. He or she can have their own login to access and review your entries and reporting. This is a great benefit over the desktop edition.
Access your data on the go, anywhere! Unlike the desktop edition, you can easily access your accounting data remotely using the mobile apps or anywhere you have internet access. QuickBooks Online supports Apple’s iPad and iPhone and Google’s Android operating system. I've been quite pleased with the iPhone app and use it frequently.
Pay as you go. Unlike traditional desktop software, QuickBooks charges a flat monthly fee so you don't have to pay a ton of money up front. Flexibility and cloud based access are the way to go today. Desktop software isn't that practical anymore. You can also purchase additional features such as employee payroll, tax filing and credit card acceptance. Plans currently start as low as $5 a month for the Self-Employed plan up to $30 a month for the Plus edition.
Pros and Cons
PRO User Friendly — QuickBooks Online is easy for any small business owner to use, no CPA experience needed! You can focus on your business rather than accounting.
PRO Online Bank Synching — Link your bank accounts and credit cards and let the data flow in automatically.
PRO Access It Anywhere — Access your account from any Apple or Android smartphone or tablet on the go.
PRO Third-Party App Integration — If you can't find a feature you want, QuickBooks Online will integrate with many third-party apps for added functionality.
CON Customer Service Is Hit Or Miss — I've had both good and terrible experience with QuickBooks Online customer service. The bad experiences can be super frustrating, especially when the rep is just reading from a script and really has no idea how to help you.
CON Importing Data Can Get Buggy – Some users have difficulty importing data from a previous QuickBooks account. I also ran into a widespread system bug when my credit card switched from MasterCard to Visa that halted my automatic transaction synching for several weeks. But at least that's fixed now!
The highlights of QuickBooks Online are it's flexibility, cloud based access, online bank synchronization, reporting and invoicing. It's got lots of day-to-day business functions covered and is designed to match the needs of todays small business owners. Although it's not perfect for everything, it's got everything I need and many other small business owners agree.
The nice thing about the 30-day trial is you can try it out for free and figure out which plan works best for you. I used the Essentials plan for several years before I needed to upgrade to Plus. You may find that the Simple Start or Self-Employed plan are more than enough for your accounting needs.
Since QuickBooksOnline is cloud based, it's fast and easy to switch from one plan to another. Try it out today.
About the Author: Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 as a way to make sense of the financial crisis. He proceeded to spend the next 13 years after attending The College of William & Mary and UC Berkeley for b-school working at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse. He owns properties in San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Honolulu and has a total of $810,000 invested in real estate crowdfunding.
In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $260,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, consulting for leading fintech companies and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.