Accounting software can help automate your small business’s financial processes and reduce the amount of time you have to spend managing the books. There’s a wide variety of options — both in terms of price and features — but newer operations especially may be interested in finding the best free accounting software for small businesses.
There are pros and cons to using even the best free accounting software tools. The obvious advantage here is price: Going with a free program means you’ll save money. The drawbacks, however, may limit what you can do with the tool without paying for upgrades.
Here are our top picks for free accounting software for small businesses.
Unlimited bank and credit card account connections, income and expense tracking and guest logins.
Allows you to invoice from within the platform itself and supports receipt scanning.
May not be powerful and feature-rich enough for large or fast-growing businesses.
Charges per-transaction fees for payment processing.
Payroll product is separate and requires a subscription.
Why we like it:
Wave is by far one of the most robust and well-designed free accounting software tools for small businesses. Instead of charging users to generate revenue, Wave makes money through fees on payments made within the platform. That means you’ll likely save money in the long run depending on how you intend to use the platform to collect ACH, debit or credit card payments from clients. Visa, Mastercard and Discover come with a 2.9% fee, plus 30 cents, on each transaction. American Express is 3.4% plus 30 cents. ACH bank transfers only come with a 1% fee (or a $1 minimum fee, depending on the size of the transaction).
With Wave, you’ll get unlimited income and expense tracking, sales tax tracking and double-entry functionality, as well as reports on cash flow, profit and loss, and overdue invoices and bills. You can also use Wave’s invoicing tools for free. This includes unlimited invoices, automated invoice reminders, invoice and accounting synchronization and the acceptance of both credit card and bank payments.
Ability to send unlimited invoices, manage unlimited vendors and accept digital payments.
Task, time and project tracking.
Can work with third-party online payment platforms.
Payments and payroll integrations cost extra.
Overall lack of integrations with other platforms.
Lack of advanced features.
Why we like it:
ZipBooks provides a great set of features at a price that works for small-scale businesses or companies in their early stages that don’t necessarily need much in order to manage their finances. ZipBooks’ Starter plan is free, with two higher-level tiers that include more sophisticated features for a flat monthly fee, as well as a custom-priced Accountant plan. The ZipBooks Starter plan includes unlimited and customizable invoices, estimates and price quotes. You’ll also get a virtual dashboard to keep track of your business’s outstanding and paid invoices, as well as your overall finances. Plus, if you like ZipBooks Starter, you can always upgrade to a more feature-laden plan as your business grows.
There are a few downsides to ZipBooks, however. You’re limited to one bank account connection, unlike other free accounting software platforms that are more generous. If you want to use ZipBooks’ integration with Square and PayPal, you’ll have to pay credit card processing fees, just as you would with Wave.
Open-source software means you can customize however you want.
Extensive library of integrations.
Robust user support via online forums.
Design is not as intuitive as other platforms.
Advanced features cost extra.
Not as ready-to-use as other options.
Why we like it:
Akaunting is an open-source accounting platform that has the capability for customization, primarily through its library of add-ons. The primary features are available right out of the box: You can invoice, track receipts and take care of the everyday needs of your company’s finances. Plus, with a robust library of integrations, you can build your own Akaunting setup with a degree of customization other free platforms don’t provide. However, you or someone on your team will likely need some coding knowledge to use this software to its full potential.
Free version is feature-packed.
Easy to upgrade to paid versions as your business grows.
Easy to use.
Free plan available only for businesses with annual revenue of less than $50,000.
Limits on the number of users, contacts and workflows for free plan.
Free plan provides email support only. (Paid plans include email, voice and chat support.)
Why we like it:
Zoho Books provides an easy way to manage your business's books from anywhere. This software allows you to handle a variety of accounting tasks, including creating and sending customized invoices and estimates, plus reminder emails for overdue invoices and simple conversion from estimate to invoice. As long as your business’s annual revenue is less than $50,000, you can use the free version for as long as it makes sense for your business. And if you use Zoho’s other business apps, you can integrate them all seamlessly. Outside of those, though, you are somewhat limited in terms of third-party integrations.
How to compare accounting software options for small businesses
Even though you’re not investing money when picking a free accounting software platform, you are investing your time. Plus, changing apps may mean inputting your financial data each time. Consider these questions when deciding which accounting software is best for your business.
How accessible is it?
You won’t always be in front of a computer, which means that on-the-go accessibility is a must. Look for platforms that have robust mobile sites or apps, when possible, to help you manage your money from wherever you are.
Can it scale?
Your bookkeeping needs may be modest today, but they may not stay that way forever. That’s why it’s important to pick a platform that accommodates your changing needs.
Is it compatible with your bookkeeper or accountant’s software?
Your financial professionals need to be able to access your books easily and with minimal risk of error. Check with your bookkeeper or accountant before choosing software.
Does it include must-have features?
If you have specific needs for your business’s financial management, you may find that some of these free options don’t have everything you’re looking for. That means you’ll need to consider add-ons or upgraded, paid versions of these apps.
Is there a paid option that better fits your needs?
Free accounting tools are great when they cover your requirements. If a tool doesn’t make it easy for you to manage your money, however, then it may save you time and headaches to go with a paid option instead. You can usually opt for free trials before committing to a platform, too.