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Accounting Software for Small Business: Top 10 Useful Features

accounting software for small businessAccounting software for small business is useful from the moment your start up.  Why is that? Can you really afford to pay a bookkeeper? If not, it is likely that you will have to do your books yourself, and accounting software for small business will keep you in control of your finances.This is so important. However good you are at what you do, being in control of the cash flow could make the difference between whether you succeed or fail.

If you take the plunge and start off using accounting software for small business, you will be able to use your valuable time to run your business and make it flourish, instead of struggling with your books. Which accounting software for small business should you use? Will it meet your needs?

Just because your business is small, don’t feel you have to compromise.  There is a myriad of software companies out there fighting over the accounting software for small business market.  This competition is good for the consumer.  It means that there is a product out there which will meet your needs, at a price you can afford. Here are our top ten things to think about when choosing your accounting software for small business:

1. Features

Cash accounting tells you what you have been paid and what you have received, but to really be in control you will also need to know what you owe and are owed.   This is vital for projecting your cash flow.  It is called a full accrual accounting system.  This should include branded invoices, an easy way of managing the invoices you owe, banking, reporting, sales tax returns if you are registered for VAT, expense claims, credit notes and managing contacts.

2. Direct Daily Banking

Avoid the stress of not knowing what has been received and what has been paid.  Look for a system that connects to a range of banks so you can enjoy seeing your bank transactions automatically appear every day, saving you time, and taking away the chore of manual data entry.  With automatic bank feeds, it’s easy to keep the books up to date regularly, proving a real time view of the business, so that you are always in control.

3. Safe and Secure

Security is always a big issue, but especially with accounting software for small business.  It goes without saying that it is a big issue for software developers too, and will always be at the top of their list of features.

4. Easy To Install and No Messy Updates

If this is a feature you are looking for, look to the cloud! If you don’t want a package installed on your computer or laptop, technological advances mean that you can enjoy the same levels of security over the internet.  This also means that the accounting software for small business developers take care of all the messy updates, so you never have to worry again whether you are using the most up to date version.

5. Accessible

accounting software for small businessWith home working becoming more and more popular, many businesses require access to their financial information to be available from a variety of locations.  Several people may also need access to the information, and buying multiple licences can get expensive.  This is where online accounting software really comes into its own.  Secure access at anytime and anywhere that has an internet connection.

6. Easy to Use

accounting software for small businessLook out for an intuitive, easy to use dashboard or home page.  This should tell you at a glance what your bank balance is, what you are owed and what you owe, any expense claims that are outstanding.  Ideally there should be an area which you can flag up accounts which you always want to see, such as your year to date sales.

This will give you an up to date snapshot of your business. Navigation should be easy.  You should be able to find your way round easily to the features you need to use, after all, the whole idea is for the accounting software to free up your time for running your business. If you make a mistake, will it be easy to correct? Check this before you buy in!

7. Support

This is also an area which you need to check.  Who is there to support you when things don’t go right? Is it a telephone number? Will you need to send an email and wait for the response? Some systems have a support forum where you can post questions.  Another option is to contact your accountant directly from your software.  The main thing is that you are satisfied before you have a problem with how it will be dealt with.

8. Handy App

accounting software for small businessApps are now being developed to use for bank reconciliations, creating your branded invoices and doing expenses.  What do you think of the idea of being able to check your up to date bank balance every day from your phone? This may be something you would like, or not important at all.

9. Reporting

Easy to use reporting is needed so you can see how your business is doing, so you can easily spot mistakes, and so you don’t have to use too much paper.  For this, reports should be available in a format that you can easily see on the screen.

10. Audit trail

Your accounting software for small business should make accounting transparent and provide a clear audit trail available at the click of a button.  This saves storing all the physical documents, and saves time sifting through the paper trail.

This is why we are a Xero Certified Partner!  Xero does everything on this checklist, and is accredited by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB).  We also love the Xero Community, a forum where you can post questions, and get an immediate answer from an expert.  Because Xero works with accounting and bookkeeping partners, we are kept to date with all the latest improvements, and our clients can contact us directly if they have a problem.

Hopefully you have found a solution that you love as much as we love Xero! Good luck if this is something you are looking into, choosing your accounting software for small business, and getting it right the first time will save you time and money in the long run!

By FCA, Co-Founder of Accounts Resource.

Accounts Resource is a pro-active accountancy practice based in South West London. Accounts Resource are specialists in providing Accounting and Tax solutions to small and startup businesses and won The Best New Startup Award at the Richmond Business Awards 2012.

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