Back in the old days, businesses did the books by painstakingly recording their numbers in a big old leather-bound ledger. These days, it’s all at the click of a button. And in this world of technology where the options are – if not endless – at least bewildering to the uninitiated business owner, the tech-savvy accountant really is king.

When it comes to accounting packages, you need to know it all

Becoming the undisputed expert on a particular accounting package may be tempting. You’ll save time, pick up all the shortcuts, be more efficient, run a smooth and streamlined operation… but is that what your clients really need? And before you say “Duh!”, just think about it. Do your clients need you to be the accounting package guru or do they need you to be the accounting guru?

If you’re the accounting guru, one thing’s for sure – you’re not running a single-platform business.

As you well know, businesses are spoiled for choice when it comes to accounting packages. It would be wonderful if you could consult with your clients as they embark on their business venture and guide them on finding the right one for them, but chances are most of your clients will have already made the choice. And you have to make it work for both of you.

There are typically four main types of accounting packages:

  1. Free accounting packages – usually provide the basics for free but you have to buy upgrades for added features
  2. Accounting and payroll packages – designed to do standard business accounting tasks such as keep customer and supplier records, create invoices, perform bank reconciliations, and process VAT
  3. Advanced accounting packages – usually include all the bells and whistles and can be quite pricey
  4. Cloud-based accounting packages – usually provide all the typical functions a business will need and it’s all delivered online

The key to claiming the accounting crown is knowing your way around all of them.

Be the Jack of all accounting packages

Here are the key features and benefits of some of the most popular accounting packages available at the moment. If these platforms aren’t already the tools of your trade, you might want to do something about that.


Xero is an easy-to-use online accounting package that’s available anywhere, anytime, and on mobile devices.

The pros:

  • Good for small businesses with a low number of transactions
  • Multi-user access makes it easy to collaborate online with employees and advisors
  • Everything is run online, so there’s nothing to install and everything is backed up automatically
  • Updates are free and instantly available

The cons:

  • The basic options don’t handle multiple currencies
  • Slow with high numbers of transactions
  • Can be pricey

Sage Business Cloud Accounting

This accounting package allows you to manage your invoicing, cash flow, payments and VAT, and because it’s cloud-based it’s available on all devices at any time.

The pros:

  • Real-time bank feed and dashboards
  • Works well for small- to medium-sized businesses
  • Simple and straightforward to use
  • Supports multi-currencies

The cons:

  • Pay for the payroll module on top of the basic package
  • You sign up for an optional support package


QuickBooks has been a popular small-business accounting package since the 1990s and specialises in bookkeeping functionality.

The pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Efficient
  • Good accounting reports
  • Flexible with 3rd party applications
  • Affordable

The cons:

  • Lack of custom reports
  • Limitations on the number of users
  • Lacks integration with and automation between other systems
  • Generic and impersonal support


As their website says: FreeAgent’s online accounting package is made specifically for freelancers, small business owners and their accountants.

The pros:

  • Great for freelancers
  • Highly intuitive and easy to use
  • Businesses based in the UK also get VAT support
  • Unlimited users

The cons:

  • Limited invoice customisations
  • No payroll
  • Limited reports
  • No cash-basis accounting


A cloud-based accounting package designed to help business owners manage their business finances.

The pros:

  • Great for UK businesses
  • Numerous features
  • Numerous integrations
  • VAT support

The cons:

  • Tricky to navigate
  • Payroll is only available in the UK
  • Customer service could be better
  • Difficult to set up

Accounting packages: how do you choose?

If you’re in the fortunate position of being able to advise your clients on finding the best accounting packages for them, here are some tips on what they need to consider:

  1. What are their business needs?
  2. What kind of accounting skills and computer skills does the client have?
  3. What are the ‘must-have’ features for now and the ‘might-need’ features for the future?
  4. Would a cloud-based option or desk-based option work best?
  5. What’s the budget?
  6. What support and back-up are available?

The best advice you could give your clients is to try before they buy; many accounting packages have free trials available. And they often run special offers, so keep an eye out for those too.

Great accounting is more than just number crunching A client will never forget the accountant that helped them access funding to scale their business, take on game-changing projects or develop innovative new products. That’s why we partner with hundreds of accountants to make business finance quick and easy for their clients.

Click here to find out how we can work with you and your clients to unlock working capital, boost cash flow and accelerate growth.