Open Thread: Keeping accounting easy


Being a web worker, or a self employed individual, the time to do any accounting might not always be in the mix. Concentrating on work, and sales are number one. Investigating and trying out the available software on the market can be extremely timely and shifts your focus away from the core of your business.

Accounting does have to get done, and there are software packages out there that make it easier and fit nicely into your daily routines. The top accounting software package out there seems to be QuickBooks. This powerful application may have very easy to use billing, invoicing, payment and reports. It does seem a bit of an overkill, so we decided to ask you what are your feelings about Quickbooks? Are there other packages out there that you would recommend to fellow web workers?


Seth David

When you use an accounting/bookkeeping package – especially if you are not a bookkeeper, or accounant yourself, it is probably best to stick with a program like quickbooks because you are bound to need help with it at some point. Since QuickBooks is the most widely used program out there, it is the easiest to get support for. It really is not a complicated program to use, especially if all you need to use it for is to post checks and invoices!


I have been using NolaPro accounting software for just over a year and love it. It is free and has a lot of great features. I can even access my information securely over the internet. The video training library on their website is great if their is a certain area you need help with. They also keep it updated and offer customizations and add-ons if you so choose.


@McDerment: This whole “un-accounting” thing is so ridiculously cliche. Mike, you have an ok app and seem like a good guy, but cut the cool, hip crap.

@Bex: Lets be clear: freshbooks is NOT an accounting app, so moving data from a fully fledged, double-entry accounting app like quickbooks online doesn’t really translate. You loose easily 75% or more of the functionality and are left with accounts receivable, timesheets, and a few other minor things. missing is accounts payable, banking, employee mgmt and payroll, vendor management, inventory, etc.


John Turner, I would stay away from QB Online. They make no bones about the fact that you will NEVER get all of your data out of their system. I am a MAC user, but I am using the windows product in Virtual PC for now. I don’t particularly love QB, but it meets the needs. I stick with the windows product because the Mac one is busted and the online one is more evil than the windows one.

Mike McDerment’s comments are awesome and I really like the fact that he is willing to define the FB market and not try and be all things for all people (despite the fact that my needs don’t make the cut :D). It seems that if you can get the reporting you need out of freshbooks that it may be a valid way to go.

Alternately Mike McDerment might find it better to figure out the import scheme of one of the two biggies and give people an out. Accounting systems are scary enough without worrying that committing to a smaller player will cost you later. While few people would ever migrate away from FB (I am guessing here), having the ability to may help boost usage.


I’m on a Mac, and for most of my work, I use Daylite. Its a CRM thing, but does a good job of tracking time, project activities, communications, etc. It’s not too hot on the actual counting the money side though, and like many others, given the scale of my business, we use Excel for this – including invoicing and debtor control.

I’ve looked at various accounts packages, but have been generally a little disappointed, in terms of what you get for the amount of hassle in the learning – most seem to be geared to folks who speak that strange language, Accountant.

I have PC-using friends who swear by Mamut – an all-in workflow, accounts, suply chain, and documentation package. It does much of what SAP does, but at the price of Sage. I’ve seen what can be done with this, and the extent to which it can automate both the ‘B’ category procedures (the things that enable us to do business – sales, finance, HR, etc), and the ‘A’ category procedures (the things that generate what our customers buy), and I’m REALLY impressed.

Unfortunately it’s not yet on a Mac platform, and there’s no way I’m ever going back! There’s an ASP version coming out soon, but my experiences of webmail leave me less than hopeful about this. How have people who’ve used on-line packages found the experience – is it better than webmail?


Mike McDerment

I think there are a number of things to consider…BEX did a great job of outlining them, I’d just like to add this – we built FreshBooks because we loathe accounting software. All the services we build (timesheets [redesign coming soon], work order management, etc.) are designed to be “UnAccounting” services: quick and simple to use, and specifically designed for one person shops and small teams.

So, I think another question worth asking is “Are you part of, or managing, teams?” Many web professionals are, and as a result need something that suits their needs better.

In the New Year FreshBooks is going to be solving one of our biggest pains with respect to team work – the pain of not knowing who has done what (time) and how much you owe one another (money). Because web professionals frequently take turns bringing client work into a team, knowing who owes how much to whom can get very confusing very quickly. That’s the pain. So we are going to be opening the door to something we think is really exciting for small teams and firms that use freelancers. We’re going to be allowing people to add other FreshBooks accounts to projects. Anyone who is inside their FreshBooks account, and tracking time or money on a project with another FreshBooks user will know exactly where their finances stand at all times.

Again…this was a huge pain for us for years at our consultancy and if you are a freelancer or small firm who uses contractors, we think you will really benefit from it. Also, it might interest you to know that shortly thereafter we will be adding expenses and some other UnAccounting pieces you might find useful.


John Turner

Is QuickBooks online the best option for online business finances?

Basically, I have little use for invoicing at this time…I am a one-man shop. I earn revenue off of online advertising campaigns, auctions, web site portfolio sales, and affiliate networks. No, I am not a spammer.

I’m all Mac at home, but everywhere else is Windows, unfortunately.

I want to be able to update and review my business finances whether I’m using OS X or Windows…basically wherever I can find a net connection, regardless of platform.

It sounds like all of the effort has been devoted to the independent professional that needs to invoice clients and track payments. That’s not me…I just need to track expenses and revenues online.

Is QuickBooks Online my only option?

Jacob Bohall

I am using quickbooks ’06. The hurdle with quickbooks, is getting the accounts and categories set up.. (I sat down with the accountant for about 2 hours) once I had done this, the program has been extremely simple to use.


I did a post a while ago about Freshbooks as well as a few alternatives and found it to be a really handy way of doing billing. I have Quickbooks for my main business and while it is a powerful and all-encompassing software package, it is a little too confusing for me (I don’t have a financial background) and I would be far happier with something like Freshbooks for my billing and Excel (or some other spreadsheet program) for keeping track of expenses and other items.


I believe that you need to consider several points to make your decision on accounting procedures:

1 – What does your accountant want/desire? If you do your own tax work, this is easy. If you don’t, you may be adding a lot bookeeping costs to your tax presentation for giving your accountant non-standard books. You can fix that by adopting their standard, or changing accountants.

2 – Do you have employees? If you are processing a formal payroll with withholdings on anyone (including just yourself) you may find it a ton easier to use a software package or service. The tables and methods are all published by the various state and federal agencies, but I don’t know of many non-accountant types who enjoy hand calculating payroll. Additionally you may find that a software package or service lets you easily convert your time-based billing records into payroll records.

3 – How much is your time worth? What do you do well? While everything in small business accounting can be done by hand. Is it worth it to learn to do it? True, most all of the rules, math, methods, and tables are provided for free to you by the various government organizations, however you will have to learn to use them. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. You may be the greatest graphic artist to ever draw electronically, but you may not be the best at keeping books!

To put these in perspective, here is a bit about me:

1 – I do my own taxes, generally by hand first, and then by machine for the ease of e-filing. I track my daily personal finance information in Microsoft Money (despite using a Mac!)

2 – I prepare taxes professionally with a CPA firm on a seasonal basis

3 – I keep my own side business records by hand or in excel (however my side work is extraordinarily limited)

4 – I do the books for both a small for-profit and a non-profit. I track both of these in Quickbooks because it makes some annoying things easier, despite the annoyances it introduces. It also has a decent payroll module that is cheap enough.

5 – I am pursuing a Masters in IS (with an accounting emphasis) and may get a PhD in Accounting.

J Lane

It’s all about Blinksale ( I’ve found QuickBooks overcomplicated for my needs, I just need to be able to track in progress/open/closed invoices. Of course, being a one man show, there’s no employees to pay or anything like that — so it suits my needs nicely.

The added bonus is that because I do relatively low volume (being my part-time job), the free plan is more than enough for me.


I’m with Emil on this, after playing with a range of different online, offline and paid services I ended up back where I stated, using Excel where I can have total control over everything and expand what I have as I need it. Having no “automated” billing like Al it works fine, if I had a lot of small hosting invoices I would probably want something that could handle the monthly automation of those bills



K. Halim

Quickbooks Online Version maybe what you need. It does not have all the features of the full version, but it is web based so you can access it from anywhere.

Dale Cruse

iBank and iWork for me also.

Let’s be honest: iBank is just a fresher remix of Quicken, which is a scaled-down QuickBooks. This software category is a bit stale, IMO.

I think it would be interesting to see a “Web 2.0” (god I hate that term) version of record keeping that utilized tags instead of categories. One could the use a cloud tag to visually represent how much money was being spent in any given area.


I suppose the solution would vary depending on the workload, the amount of invoicing, and other factors. Personally, I’m a freelance translator and interpreter (like ALEX above), so I do little more than regular invoicing, and trying not to get all my accounts into the red.

Personally, I’ve used GnuCash on Linux and Mac (though it’s not a native Mac app, and is a bit of a hurdle to use).

For Mac, IGG softrare’s ( iBank and iWork do a great job of time-tracking, invoicing, and account management.

None of the above, though, are capable of online banking operations, etc., so, once again, it all depends on the kind of demands one has regarding the subject. But they’re fine for my personal needs.

Now, if I had to start a company, I’d probably go for the kind of solution Adrian suggests: Netaccounts, or some other online service.

Or, guess what? I could simply ooutsource accounting. Period. It’s a webworker, distributed, outsourced world out there, isn’t it?


I’ve used Quickbooks for many years, but recently switched to iBiz and iBank on my macs. There were many functions in Quickbooks that I didn’t use. iBiz is trimmed down to just the necessary features and allows me to use it’s built in timeclock to bill retainer projects. At this point there are a few features I would like to see but the developer seems to be receptive to feature requests and I’ve already seen some listed in the current version 3 beta.


I am a freelance interpreter and translator and have been using QuickBooks for quite some time now. I’m absolutely happy with it. As far as I know, MS Office Accounting – which is available for free – interacts with QB as well. Some German web workers use Studiometry, which is available for PC and Mac.
By the way – does anyone know how to bring QB data to a PDA?

Adrian Lynch

We evaluated MYOB and Quickbooks but decided on using “Netaccounts” – an online webservice:

After 9 months of use we have never regretted the choice once – it allows me to do invoicing from anywhere I can get net access – without the need to have access to my own machine.

Scheduled invoicing is also fantastic – all my client hosting fees are compeletely automated.

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