25 Best Small-Business Apps

These apps can help you with accounting, point-of-sale, payroll, project management and communication.

Claire TsosieMay 25, 2021
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The best small-business apps can help you run your company, startup or side hustle more efficiently, saving you time and money. Here are NerdWallet's top picks for accounting, point-of-sale, payroll, project management, videoconferencing and instant messaging software.

Accounting

With careful bookkeeping and good accounting software, you can access information about your business's revenue, profit margins and overall financial health. It can also help you answer important questions, like, "How much can I afford to spend on marketing this month?"

QuickBooks Online

Cost: $25 and up (50% off for first three months).

Why we like it: Because QuickBooks is the industry leader for small-business accounting software, it’s easy to find an accountant or bookkeeper who will support it. Its multiple tiers of service can easily scale with your company, too. QuickBooks Online, the cloud-based version, can also be accessed anywhere. Read the full review.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks
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on QuickBooks's website

Xero

Cost: $11 and up per month (50% off for first two months).

Why we like it: Xero is easy to use, rich with features and also widely supported by bookkeepers and accountants. Unlike some competitors, it doesn’t place any limit on the number of users you can add. Read the full review.

FreshBooks

Cost: $4.50 per month and up (billed annually).

Why we like it: With FreshBooks’ mobile app, you can complete basic accounting functions and send messages to clients to remind them about invoices or late payments. It’s a helpful feature for entrepreneurs on the go. Read the full review.

FreshBooks Accounting

FreshBooks
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on FreshBooks's website

Wave

Cost: Free (Wave makes money through payment processing).

Why we like it: Unlike its competitors, Wave's accounting software is completely free. With it, you can add unlimited users and unlimited bank and credit card connections. It’s also possible to run multiple businesses from the same account. Read the full review.

Zoho Books

Cost: $10 per month and up (with discounts for annual billing).

Why we like it: Zoho Books offers plenty of useful features at an affordable price. It also gives you the option to set up automated workflows, for example, if you want to send email notifications to yourself when a bill the business receives exceeds a certain amount. Read the full review.

Point-of-sale

Point-of-sale software allows you to ring up customers and complete sales and can be customized to fit your business needs. Restaurants, for example, need POS systems that allow for table management and coordination. Retail shops, meanwhile, require robust inventory management features.

Square

Software cost: Free and up. (Additional hardware and payment processing are additional costs.)

Why we like it: Square features transparent pricing, live support and easy-to-use flows. It’s also mobile-friendly and works on iPhones, iPads and Androids. For small businesses that don’t need advanced functionality, there’s also a free plan. Read the full review.

Square POS

Square
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on Square's website

Toast

Software cost: Free and up. (Additional hardware and payment processing are additional costs.)

Why we like it: Toast’s restaurant-specific design prioritizes features that make the back-of-house and front-of-house operate smoothly. You can manage menus and tables easily, get useful reporting and analytics and accept orders from multiple platforms. Read the full review.

Lightspeed

Software cost: $69 per month (billed annually) and up. (Hardware and payment processing are additional costs.)

Why we like it: Lightspeed’s inventory management system sets it apart from the competition. That makes it an ideal choice for large businesses with complicated inventory management needs — for example, businesses with inventory in multiple locations, with various discount rules or tax classes. Read the full review.

Shopify

Software cost: $29 per month and up. (Hardware and payment processing are additional costs.)

Why we like it: Shopify makes it possible to almost instantly set up and run an e-commerce store. It also offers helpful features, such as a way to email shoppers who abandon their virtual shopping carts. It also offers software and hardware for accepting payments in store.

Vend

Software cost: $99 per month (billed annually) and up. (Hardware and payment processing are additional costs.)

Why we like it: Vend is a retail-specific POS that allows you to set sales targets for your team, manage inventory easily and forecast purchasing trends. It also doesn’t come bundled with hardware and payment processing services; you can select these separately from a variety of compatible options.

Payroll

Paying your employees is a must, and good payroll software can make it easier to manage and track wages, withholdings and tax filings. Many programs also give employees access to a portal so they can view their pay history.

Gusto

Cost: $39 per month plus $6 per person for the basic package, which includes tax filings and payments.

Why we like it: Gusto gives employees access to self-service portals for payroll- and benefit-related information that’s accessible even after they leave a company, unlike most competitors. It also administers full-service payroll across 50 states and offers phone support. Read the full review.

Gusto Payroll

Gusto
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on Gusto's website

QuickBooks Payroll

Cost: $45 per month (50% off for first three months) plus $4 per employee per month for the basic package, which includes tax filings and payments.

Why we like it: QuickBooks Payroll offers full-service payroll services in all 50 states with a direct connection to QuickBooks Online, unlimited payroll runs and next-day or same-day deposits. Also nice: Employees can view pay stubs, withholdings and remaining vacation day balances.

QuickBooks Payroll

QuickBooks
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on QuickBooks's website

Patriot Payroll

Cost: $10 per month plus $4 per employee or contractor for basic payroll (tax filings and payments not included).

Why we like it: Patriot's payroll software is a relatively affordable payroll option that offers direct deposits, employee portals, unlimited payrolls and multiple locations and pay frequencies. There’s also phone support available.

Payroll4Free

Cost: Free (a monthly fee applies for making tax filings on your behalf and year-end processing such as W-2s).

Why we like it: Payroll4Free is one of the few payroll companies that allows you to run payroll at no cost — though you’ll have to pay extra for additional services such as tax filing and W-2 processing. It supports vacation time-tracking, direct deposit and paper checks. It also offers live support and employee portals. Read the full review.

RUN Powered by ADP

Cost: Prices begin at $59 per month plus $4 per employee for basic payroll, which includes tax filings and payments.

Why we like it: ADP has long been an industry leader in payroll software, and RUN Powered by ADP is its cloud-based payroll software for businesses with up to 49 employees. This app allows you to automate payroll, enter data online or by mobile app and, in more advanced subscription tiers, manage certain human resources tasks such as background checks. Read the full review.

ADP Payroll

ADP
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on ADP's website

Project management

For projects and campaigns, it helps to have software to keep track of the status of proposals, drafts, edits, approvals and finished products. These apps can help you plan ahead and budget resources.

Asana

Cost: Free and up.

Why we like it: Asana allows you to assign and track unlimited projects on a dashboard. You can add assignees, due dates and comments to cards. There’s also unlimited file storage for files up to 100MB each, even on the free version.

Jira

Cost: Free and up.

Why we like it: Jira is designed for managing software development workflows and product roadmaps. It also comes with agile reporting capabilities and can easily scale with growing businesses.

Trello

Cost: Free and up.

Why we like it: In addition to useful project management features, Trello allows you to automate certain tasks to save you time. For example, you can automatically add a certain person as a collaborator when a card is moved to a given column or set up a board to add recurring tasks on a weekly or monthly basis.

Monday.com

Cost: $8 per seat per month (billed annually) and up.

Why we like it: Monday.com gives you access to over 200 templates for managing various workflows, including ones for software development, construction and sales. The more expensive subscriptions also allow you to add formulas, dependencies and time-tracking to tasks.

Wrike

Cost: Free and up.

Why we like it: In addition to several useful project management features, Wrike allows you to request changes and make comments on image, video or PDF files. You can also track which items have been approved or are waiting on changes.

Videoconferencing and messaging

For growing companies — especially those with remote employees or multiple locations — having access to quality videoconference software and instant messaging platforms can make the whole business run more smoothly and keep everyone in the loop.

Zoom

Cost: Free and up.

Why we like it: Zoom is ideal for hosting large meetings via videoconference. With an add-on to some of the paid business subscriptions, you can host meetings of up to 1,000. The free version can also host up to 100 participants, though meetings are capped at 40 minutes. Read the full review.

Slack

Cost: Free and up; for large companies, it’s quote-based.

Why we like it: Slack supports instant messaging, group video calls and unlimited apps. You can also use it to message people from other companies. Paid versions can also archive an unlimited number of messages.

Microsoft Teams

Cost: Free and up.

Why we like it: Microsoft Teams — which is replacing Skype for Business — comes with a suite of services, including videoconferencing, instant messaging and access to applications like Word, PowerPoint and Excel. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the free version now supports videoconference meetings for up to 24 hours for a maximum of 300 people (previously, the limit was 60 minutes for a maximum of 100 participants).

Google Meet

Cost: Free and up.

Why we like it: For those who already use Google for email, calendars and collaborative documents, Google Meet is an easily accessible videoconferencing solution. Businesses that get Google Workplace Essentials can also get advanced Meet features and access to Google Drive and documents.

GoToMeeting

Cost: $14 per organizer per month and up.

Why we like it: GoToMeeting offers videoconferencing for up to 3,000 participants on its enterprise plan, which is more than what most competitors can support. The company also offers training and live support. Participants aren’t required to have a GoToMeeting account to join.