All of the services are internet-based. No software to install and update. Most of the services have more than one plan. For comparison the least expensive plan that allowed unlimited clients was selected for comparison. A general problem with these bookkeeping services is that the content/layout of the invoice is pretty static. You can customize the look but not the fundamental way the invoice works. None have a layout that supports a fee as a percentage of construction cost. You can 'trick' some layouts into showing phases and decimal quantities with unit cost equal to the value of the phase's fee, but you are on your own and may as well be using a spreadsheet invoice.
Here is the list of services and a brief statement about each of them. Bear in mind that I am an architect and not an accountant, and this is pretty subjective.
- LessAccounting - Overall a pretty nice solution. As usual certain types of invoicing will be quirky to get it to represent your agreement, but better than most. They bill themselves as the antidote to Quickbooks.
- QuickBooks Online - This is an accounting package, not just bookkeeping. It can do a lot and will take a lot of time for you to get it set up and to keep up with it. For example you can add payroll to the service.
- Accounting ASAP - Without any project recognition, it is almost too simple. You will need to keep part of your home made simple system.
- Big 4 - The lack of time entry and integration with another time entry application means you will need parts of your simple system.
- Cobalt - I've used Cobalt and it does a descent job except for invoicing and time entry. So we had to do those things with the simple system I described in Part 3.
- IAC-EZ - Invoicing is pretty inflexible and no time entry.
- Pulse - I really like this service because it tracks cash flow. The downside is that it only tracks cash flow. You will need another system for invoicing and time entry.
- Wave - This is a very nice service and it is FREE. Unfortunately it doesn't do time entry or projects. Invoicing looks workable with a bit of tweaking. Maybe combine this with Pulse...
- Working Point - This is a pretty nice service - if only it could deal with projects.
- Xero - This is very similar to QuickBooks Online.
- FreshBooks - This is a very popular service and has been around for a while - long enough that the options in invoicing have gotten more flexible. This is a pretty good choice.
- Kashoo - This service doesn't have robust invoicing, time entry or projects. If you are selling widgets, it is great.
- FreeAgent - If you only bill by the hour, this will work very nicely. Or you could send home made invoices to supplement the lack of flexibility.
- B2Bee - We are using this service now. The only three things we do outside the service is accounts payable, assigning a share of general office expenses to each project, and breaking down payroll per project. These last two are only needed for projects with lump sum or percentage fees.
Nearly all of these services has some sort of limited free version or a trial version that allows you to try it out before having to commit. Even- after signing up, the majority allow cancellation at any time.
The table below is downloadable as a PDF which has hyperlinks to the services compared.