Here at Cloudwards.net, we’re all about making life easier through cloud-based computing. Since many people would like to make running a business part of their life, we’ve decided to do a series of reviews about the best accounting software.
After all, once you have your own business, why shell out hundreds of hard-earned dollars to an accountant? Some of the run-of-the-mill tasks these professionals perform you can easily do yourself using an online accounting app. When tax time rolls around all you need to do is hand some reports over and let them do the truly heavy lifting.
Once you’ve made the choice to do your own books, another choice awaits: which of the many programs will work best? We’ve given you an overview of your options in our earlier article, but for those who’ve already narrowed it down a bit we’ll go a little further and discuss the differences between FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online.
The first problem we’re going to run into with that is a bit of false advertising on FreshBooks’ part: it is not a full accounting solution. If you want to do more than basic bookkeeping, very basic, in fact, do not consider FreshBooks as an option but rather look at one of its competitors, such as Xero or QuickBooks Online.
With that said, FreshBooks is great for people who take a more laid-back approach to doing their books and we’ll compare only the functions it shares with QuickBooks Online, a full accounting suite that has defined the market in the last few decades.
Table of Contents:
FreshBooks was started as an invoicing tool and it shows: few accounting programs can rival the ease and speed with which you can send out invoices to clients. Just fill out their data from your address book, fill in what they’re being billed for and you’re done.
Not that QuickBooks Online does it any differently, it’s just that FreshBooks has a slightly smoother interface and experience.
Customization options are also a little better in FreshBooks, with more options to put logos in certain places and the ability to change colors and all that. It’s not a huge deal for most, but it’s nice for those who want it. Having invoices stand out visually can be something that works in your favor and we welcome any program that lets you do that.
Keeping time is also a little easier with FreshBooks as you can export your billable hours directly into an invoice through a single screen. QuickBooks Online has much the same functionality, but you need to enter a bit more information to get where you need to be.
When it comes to invoicing, FreshBooks is a better deal than QuickBooks Online, if only just because the experience will be a little better and will go with just a little less fuss.
If you don’t like the way QuickBooks Online throws information at you, FreshBooks may be a better solution thanks to its simple interface. However, if you need to do more than just invoice clients and apply credits and such, FreshBooks won’t be as good a fit as those functions pretty much don’t exist.
QuickBooks Online has had the option to accept payments directly through your invoice, either by credit card or PayPal, for years now and it’s a great addition to the field.
By attaching a link directly into an invoice, you’re giving clients that extra bit incentive to pay on time. Since all payments are automatically exported to your general ledge, you’ll also have less data entry and paperwork to deal with.
FreshBooks offers much the same service except it only caters to users in North America.
If you’re based anywhere else, you can send payment links through third-party provider Stripe. Considering many of our readers reside outside the U.S. and Canada we recommend QuickBooks Online purely by virtue of having this feature accessible from anywhere.
In the end, this is why you’ll often end up using an online accounting program. The ability to send invoices is great, of course, but many programs offer that. When running a business, you need to be able to get a decent idea of how much money is coming in and QuickBooks is just better at that task.
Then again, if you have a manageable amount of invoices to deal with every month, FreshBooks is just fine. Small companies with a limited amount of clients will be able to keep the chaos at bay easily enough and as a bonus won’t suffer from the information overload more advanced programs can cause.
The winner in the invoicing category, even if just by a hair, is FreshBooks thanks to its friendly interface.
The necessary evil: paying the bills. In some ways even more important than keeping track of revenue is making sure you have enough to cover outgoing money.
In FreshBooks, you can find accounts payable under the “expenses” tab and offers some of the smoothest data entry around.
In this case, though, smooth equals simple, so if you want to be able to enter or access advanced information, you’re best off trying out QuickBooks Online.
The winner in this round is QuickBooks Online, but only just.
Though FreshBooks is a little easier to use, it may soon feel too basic for even novice users. QuickBooks Online offers a little more room for growth in this area. As a bonus, QuickBooks Online also lets you pay your bills through their program if you live in the U.S. or Canada.
A major advantage to doing your books online is the ability to link your ledger to your bank account. These feeds make not only checking the numbers a lot easier, but also reduce data entry. As time-savers go, bank feeds may be the most important feature of an online accounting program and we’re happy to report that both contenders score well here.
Recently, FreshBooks went through a major update where they added full functionality to their bank feeds.The result is a system that is equal to the one offered by QuickBooks Online, making this category a tie.
Not the least of your concerns, how much are these two programs going to cost you? For starters, both offer a 30-day trial so you can check them out at your leisure, though QuickBooks Online gives you a 30 percent discount for the first six months if you skip the test drive.
QuickBooks Online’s pricing plans
$ 15 00monthly
$ 30 00monthly
$ 50 00monthly
Features tailored to U.S. sole proprietors, such as:
- Track income and expenses;
- Track income and expenses;
FreshBooks’ pricing plans
$ 15 00monthly
$ 180 00yearly
$ 25 00monthly
$ 300 00yearly
$ 50 00monthly
$ 600 00yearly
- Unlimited invoices;
- Unlimited invoices;
- Unlimited invoices;
FreshBooks offers the same functions but limits the amounts of clients you can send invoices to depending on the package, while QuickBooks Online limits its features.
The thing is, most small companies will most likely be perfectly happy only using the features the “simple start” plan has to offer.
The $15 that “simple start” costs will get you only five billable clients with FreshBooks, and with fewer options, to boot. Unless your company is truly tiny or only has a handful of clients, you’re going to have to pay $25 per month.
For $5 more per month, you could use even more of QuickBooks Online’s features.
QuickBooks Online is most likely the better deal here. Business owners that insist on a slimmed-down online accounting program, and I can think of several legitimate reasons for that, can most likely justify the expense of FreshBooks.
People worried about getting the best deal will most likely not feel the same way. When it comes to value for money, QuickBooks Online has our vote.
Then again, if you decide to go with FreshBooks, you’ll probably enjoy the experience more than you would with QuickBooks Online, if only slightly.
QuickBooks Online has, for example, replaced all accounting jargon with more easy-to-understand terms, but just by being a full accounting suite throws up more barriers than FreshBooks.
FreshBooks, by its simplicity, is just a lot easier to use. The program uses mostly regular language to describe actions and navigation consists of clicking a button just once.
If you don’t want to invest too much time and effort into doing the books, FreshBooks is the cloud accounting program for you.
QuickBooks Online offers one of the most user-friendly interfaces in the business; buttons are where you’d expect them to be and the information you need is never more than a single click away. By comparison, FreshBooks’ interface seems a bit too simple.
This lack of features, however, also makes FreshBooks a lot more pleasant for beginners as this group can just get to work even without any bookkeeping knowledge.
The lack of advanced features means that you can always find what you’re looking for in a second or two and there is no information bombardment caused by having a different graph for each feature.
Information is presented elegantly and concisely, making FreshBooks a great fit for business owners seeking a simple solution.
When starting out with a new online accounting program, users will need some help understanding how it works. Both QuickBooks Online as well as FreshBooks have you covered here.
Tutorials pop up whenever you access a page for the first time, explaining how it works and what’s possible.
The thing about pop-ups is that it’s a fine line to tread between helpful and annoying; QuickBooks Online has erred on the side of caution with that which is pleasant for most, but not for the beginners FreshBooks sees as its target audience.
FreshBooks’ tutorials are both on-screen as well as on YouTube, so there is little chance of business owners making any capital errors. They’re short, a big plus, but extensive, so you can be up and running within just a few minutes of signing up.
For beginners, FreshBooks is the better option when it comes to learning the ins and outs of your bookkeeping program, QuickBooks Online’s learning curve is just that little bit steeper.
When using a program, any program, there’s going to be a chance that you get into a situation where even the greatest Google-fu doesn’t help. That’s not a big deal with some applications, but when it’s your books and you have an accountant calling to turn them in, you need to be able to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
FreshBooks and Intuit, QuickBooks Online’s parent company, both offer 24-hour helplines for exactly this reason. Personal experience has shown that both operate efficiently, but a web search shows that FreshBooks customer service is rated a little higher overall.
The shortest paragraph in this review as FreshBooks offers little in the way of more advanced features, though it does support a wealth of plug-ins. If, however, you prefer to have these functions integrated, QuickBooks Online is the way to go.
As said in the introduction, comparing FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online as full accounting suites are rather unfair to the former, despite their advertising as one. However, when judged on its merits, FreshBooks is a great choice for absolute beginners with little interest in growing their bookkeeping skills.
If you are very proactive and want to grip the reins firmly, QuickBooks Online will be a great fit as it has just that bit more power and versatility and will, with some investment of time and effort, carry your business to the next level.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave any questions in the comments.