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21-11-2014 2:25:22

Bringing clarity to accounting: a comparison of 6 online software services


Accounting software for freelancers might not be the most glamorous topic in the world but it has important benefits and can help you live and work more efficiently. And that, of course, means freeing up more time to do those things which do get you going.

If sales are the ‘engine room’ of your business, cash flow is the fuel: without it, you’re stationary.

When it comes to organising the cash in your business, you could probably benefit from using one of the many online accountancy services. But with so many available, you may end up choosing one that might not be the most suitable for you.

Managing your accounts is no longer a straight choice between hiring an accountant and doing it yourself.

You may want a combination of the two, in which case consider a package that allows free access to your figures to your accountant.


Online accounting and bookkeeping – the benefits

It’s worth noting is that many online accounting services are not designed to replace accountants, but make their job easier…which will lower your bill should you hire one.

There are many other reasons why online accounting software is useful for freelancers (and why such solutions make accountants’ jobs easier), such as:

  • Easily creating and sending professional invoices
  • Automated payment reminders can be set up efficiently (although this is not an issue for freelancers operating through Frame 25 as we pay you directly and promptly ourselves. If you’re not currently on our books but would like to be, get in touch here)
  • Straightforward analysis of your business’s accounts to monitor cash flow and make better decisions
  • Automated regular recurring invoices
  • The ability to access your accounts from your laptop or mobile anywhere with an internet connection
  • Automatic back-up of your information


What you’ll want your online accounting service to do

First and foremost, choose a service that’s right for your business. Your aim is to streamline what you do and to make more efficient and effective use of your time.

It sounds obvious, but some services offer solutions that allow you to track a project’s progress, for example. If you don’t need a package that does this, why pay for it?

All tools compared below provide basic accounting capabilities, such as invoicing, expense admin and client contact information management.

Also – and this clearly depends on your preference – you might want to choose a service that allows you to access and manage your accounts from your smartphone. All the options below are browser-based, but only those indicated feature applications for mobile use.

Comparison of Online Accounting Services

(all prices correct at the time of writing)

Free Agent


  • Limited Company: £25/month + VAT
  • Partnership/LLP: £20/month + VAT
  • Sole Trader: £15/month + VAT
  • Free trial option? Yes (30 days)

Standard features:

  • Send estimates & proposals
  • Invoicing
  • Manage expenses
  • Reconcile money in and out of your business
  • Visual Profit and Loss statements
  • Tax timeline (shows you what you owe the taxman and when, with the option to export to Outlook or Google calendar)
  • Free support

Additional features:

Limited company:

  • Corporation Tax
  • Dividend Vouchers


  • Profit Share Calculation

Sole trader:

  • Self Assessment filing

Anything else?

  • Unlimited users, clients and projects at no extra cost




  • Starter: Free
  • Plus: $7.99 month
  • Biz: $14.99/month
  • Free trial option? Yes (14 days with Plus / 30 days with Biz)

Standard features:

  • invoiceASAP mobile app
  • Create and send unlimited invoices
  • Create and send unlimited estimates

Additional features:

Plus and Biz:

  • Attach Pictures & Audio Files (Cloud Storage)
  • Add Your Logos to Invoices (Cloud Storage)
  • Accept Credit Cards For Invoice Payment
  • Import Customers (Cloud Storage)
  • Upload Inventory (Cloud Storage)
  • Capture Signatures (Cloud Storage)
  • Document storage (cloud storage)

Biz only:

  • Sync to QuickBooks or Xero
  • Add Multiple Users



  • Starter: £9/month
  • Standard: £20/month
  • Premium: £25/month
  • Free trial option? Yes (30 days)

Standard features:

  • Unlimited users
  • Bank feeds
  • Bank transactions reconciled
  • Invoicing
  • Billing
  • Unlimited support
  • Regular free updates
  • Anywhere, anytime access
  • Automatic backups
  • Access to 300+ Add-ons
  • Mobile apps
  • Secure data protection
  • No contracts
  • No software install

Additional features:

  • Increased storage
  • Multi-currency (Premium only)

Anything else?

  • Some UK banks levy additional charges for bank feeds




  • Free
  • Premium: £4.90/month
  • Premium Plus: £9.90/month
  • Free trial option? Yes (30 days)


Standard features:

  • Unlimited invoices
  • Quotes
  • Invoice template
  • Credit notes
  • Unlimited expenses
  • Expenses overview
  • Free support
  • iPhone app
  • Android app (as of June 30th 2014)
  • Export data
  • Open API (enabling interaction with other websites)

Additional features:

  • Invoice designer (Premium and Premium Plus)
  • Reminders (Premium and Premium Plus)
  • Debitoor branding removed (Premium and Premium Plus)
  • Document storage (Premium Plus only)
  • VAT reports (Premium Plus only)
  • Profit & Loss reports (Premium Plus only)
  • Bank data import (Premium Plus only)
  • Expense matching (Premium Plus only)
  • Invoice matching (Premium Plus only)

Anything else?

  • ‘Cash book’ is a coming feature


QuickBooks Online


  • Simple Start: £7.20/month
  • Essentials: £13.30/month
  • Plus; £17.40
  • Free trial option? Yes (30 days)

Standard features:

  • Import customer & supplier details from Excel, Outlook and .csv
  • Accept card payments (in QuickBooks Online)
  • Free support
  • Strong encryption
  • Automatic data backups
  • Sign in from your smartphone or tablet, Mac or PC
  • Free mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices
  • Free access for your accountant
  • Track sales, expenses and profit
  • Design and create professional invoices and sales receipts
  • Design and create professional quotes and estimates
  • Track cash flow with reports — includes P&L and balance sheet (number of reports varies by package chosen)
  • Online banking — automatically import transactions from your bank
  • Track VAT (Standard, Cash and Flat Rate schemes)
  • VAT exception report
  • Free payroll for up to five employees
  • Run payroll as often as you need to
  • Always uses up-to-date tax tables
  • Calculate PAYE and National Insurance
  • Submit Real Time PAYE (RTI) data to HMRC
  • Easily create payslips and view them at any time
  • Generate P45s and P60s for your staff
  • Payroll figures flow into your accounts
  • Record one-off payments

Additional features:

Essentials and Plus:

  • Company Snapshot: see the state of your business on one screen
  • Schedule repeat items like invoices or other transactions
  • Manage supplier bills and payments
  • Handle multiple currencies and track currency gains and losses

Plus only:

  • Track stock levels
  • Automatically pass expenses on to customers
  • Allow employees and subcontractors to log their time
  • Track and bill for employee time
  • Create budgets and compare to actual performance
  • Classify transactions by business area

Anything else?

  • The prices quoted above are discounted and not available after the free trial, should you take one
  • Number of users of your account varies by package chosen

Fresh Books


  • Free
  • Seedling: $19.95/month
  • Evergreen: $29.95/month
  • Mighty Oak: $39.95/month
  • Free trial option? Yes (14 days)

Standard features:

  • Free support (Mon-Fri, 9am–6pm EDT)
  • Easy import and export of data
  • Backup procedures
  • Integration with popular online payment gateways like PayPal, Authorize.Net and more

Additional features:

Seedling, Evergreen and Mighty Oak:

  • Hide FreshBooks branding on emails to clients
  • Automatic expense imports from bank accounts and credit cards
  • Automatic late fees on overdue invoices

Evergreen and Mighty Oak only:

  • Project Managers, Team Timesheets, Team Expense Reporting


Do you already use one of these services? Perhaps you use one we haven’t featured here. Either way, get in touch and let us know your thoughts.

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