Your business accounting software can make your life as a business owner exponentially easier — the hard part is choosing the right one for your business in the first place. Two popular options are FreshBooks and Zoho Books, which share many similarities — meaning it can be even harder to choose which is best for your needs.
It’s a good idea to take a moment to decide what you’re hoping to get out of your accounting software, how many people will need access to it and how much you want to spend. Deciding between the two will likely come down to how much you want to spend, the third-party integrations you want to take advantage of and how many users and clients you want to be attached to your account.
FreshBooks plans and pricing
FreshBooks is a web-based accounting software solution with a range of plan options to serve varying needs. The main differentiator between these different plans is the number of billable clients they allow.
The FreshBooks Lite plan is the most basic of FreshBooks' plans and costs $15 per month. While this may sound like a great price for your budget, keep in mind this plan only allows you to have five billable clients. Unless you’re a part-time freelancer or only work with a handful of clients, this limit may be a dealbreaker for you.
Here’s a rundown of the features you can also expect with this FreshBooks plan:
Unlimited and customized invoices.
Unlimited expense entries.
Accept credit card payments online.
Accept ACH bank transfers online.
Automated bank import.
Unlimited time tracking.
Insightful tax time reports.
Custom functionality and workflows with 200-plus integrations.
You’ll also get access to FreshBooks customer service Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET via email or phone.
An important thing to note with this and all other FreshBooks plans is that only one user is included in the monthly cost. If you need more than one person to have access to your accounting software, you’ll have to pay an additional $10 per month per user.
For business owners who work with more than five clients, your next option is the Plus plan for $25 per month. This plan includes everything in the Lite plan plus some additional features. First of all, you’ll have 50 billable clients.
The other additional features are:
Automated recurring invoices.
Double-entry accounting reports.
Scheduled late fees.
Automated late payment reminders.
Option to buy Advanced Payments add-on for an additional $20 per month.
This is FreshBooks’ most popular plan and is suitable for many small businesses. Remember, any additional users (beyond the one included in your plan) will cost you another $10 per user per month.
For even more client allowances, you can turn to the FreshBooks Premium plan. The only differences between Plus and Premium are the number of clients you’re allowed — 500 with Premium — and the cost — $50 per month. All other features are the same.
If you’re a larger company with hundreds of clients, Premium would be the plan for you. However, you may not want to pay double the price simply to bill additional clients, with no real difference in overall capabilities and features.
If you’re business bills more than 500 clients, none of the previous three plans will work for you. That’s where FreshBooks Select comes in. Select is a custom plan for your business. You’ll get all of the features of the previous Plus and Premium plans, but you’ll also receive a personal account manager, custom training for you and the team, “super-low” credit card transaction rates and QuickBooks and Xero integrations.
Pricing for this plan is quote-based, so contact FreshBooks directly to determine the price based on your business’s number of clients and accounting needs.
Zoho Books plans and pricing
Like FreshBooks, Zoho Books is web-based and has tiered plans offering varying features. Its plans are also differentiated by how many billable clients you can access.
Zoho Books is a less expensive option, though. Its highest-level plan, which allows for over 500 billable clients, is $29 per month.
Zoho Books is also part of the larger Zoho One Suite, so if you already use Zoho for other aspects of your business (i.e. CRM, IT, HR, etc.), you can enjoy the convenience of having all of your systems synced on one platform.
Zoho Books Basic
First up is the Zoho Books Basic plan, which costs $9 per month and allows you to bill up to 50 clients. You’ll also have access for two users included in this plan.
Other features of the Zoho Books Basic plan are:
Projects and timesheets.
Zoho Sign integration.
With Zoho Books, you’ll have the opportunity to add on other features. Each additional user is $2 per month or $20 per year per user; snail mail credits to mail paper invoices are $2 per credit, which equates to one invoice sent in the U.S.; and lastly, you can get 50 auto-scans for $5 per month or $50 per year. The auto-scan feature allows you to scan your documents and automatically import the information to your account.
Zoho Books Standard
The mid-level plan from Zoho Books is its Standard plan. For $19 per month, you’ll receive 500 billable contacts and three account users. With the Standard plan, you get everything the Basic plan has to offer and the same add-on options, but you’ll also get a few more features.
Standard plan features:
Zoho Books Professional
Lastly, the Zoho Books Professional plan includes 10 users and over 500 billable contacts. This plan costs $29 per month and comes with everything that the Basic and Standard plans come with, as well as:
FreshBooks: Pros and cons
Other highlights of FreshBooks are that it’s an intuitive and highly usable software that almost anyone can figure out. It also syncs across different platforms so you can have real-time numbers on your phone, computer or tablet — wherever you are.
Compared to Zoho Books, FreshBooks offers greater options for integrations and workflows, as well as time-tracking.
The fact that you only get one user included with any of the FreshBooks plans can be a big drawback for some. If you’re a business owner who likes to have another co-owner or an accountant share your account with you, you’ll end up paying extra — which might end up making FreshBooks an expensive option.
The way FreshBooks breaks down its plans by clients may also be a drawback, since its Lite plan, while affordable, only allows for five clients — meaning most businesses will have to jump to the Plus plan. The fact that the Plus and Premium plans are identical except for client allowance, but Premium is twice the cost, is another downside.
Zoho Books: Pros and cons
If you use other Zoho products, using Zoho Books will likely be a great fit for your business and help streamline your processes with seamless integration. Therefore, for existing Zoho customers, this is a big pro.
Compared to FreshBooks, Zoho also stands out for the number of users it allows in each plan, as well as its client allowances and cost. The most expensive Zoho Books plan is $29 and allows for over 500 clients, while you’ll need to work with FreshBooks to receive custom pricing for the same client volume. Considering the FreshBooks plan for 500 or fewer clients is $50 per month, it seems a safe assumption that it will cost more than $50 (not counting the cost for any additional users).
While Zoho’s integrations with its own tools may be a pro, its lack of integrations with third-party tools can be a significant downside. If you use other third-party products, such as payroll services, you won’t be able to integrate them with Zoho, leaving you with a lot of manual data entry.
If neither Zoho Books nor FreshBooks is sounding like the right option for your business, there are some alternatives for you to consider.
If you’re looking for more established software from a widely recognized and trusted brand, then check out QuickBooks Online. It’s a cloud-based option from Intuit. While its plans are a bit more expensive, it also has fewer restrictions than Zoho or FreshBooks.
With any QuickBooks Online plan, you get income and expense tracking, receipt capture, invoice tracking, check printing, reports, data backups and access for at least two users. Its least expensive plan starts at $25 per month but comes with many of the features you’d expect to get from a mid-level plan from another provider. You’ll also get the option to sign up for add-ons like expert setup or payroll.
Wave is one of the few free accounting software options out there for business accounting. It allows unlimited bank and credit card connections, unlimited income and expense tracking and unlimited guest collaborators.
Beyond these basics, Wave accounting comes with more to help you keep your business accounting in order — which is pretty impressive for free software. You’ll be able to connect to sites like PayPal or Etsy and implement bill and invoice reminders when necessary. You won’t have the most robust feature set, and its customer service is limited to online methods. However, it is still a comprehensive solution, and the price can make it an excellent choice for newer businesses or those on a strict budget.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.