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Accounting software - which is right for you?

Before long, most small businesses find themselves looking around for accounting software. All types of businesses, from corner stores to lawnmowing rounds, self-published authors to patio installers, find life easier when their computers take care of tricky financials.

However, many people rush out and buy the first software recommended to them, even though it might not be ideal for their situation. For example, if your accountant uses one particular brand of software they'll almost certainly recommend it, even if it has ten times the features you need.

So, the first thing you need to do is identify your needs. If you only have one supplier, do you really need a suppliers database? If you have three customers, do you need complicated invoicing and statement printing? If you don't have physical stocks, why pay for an inventory component with stock-taking and price list printing?

Next is the capacity of the software. Weigh up different versions of the same software, because some companies offer cheaper versions which have limited features. For example, a limit of twenty customers and twenty suppliers may not be a problem for your business, and could save you hundreds over a more expensive version.

It's also important to check the localisation of the software. E.g. if you live in the UK or Australia, a package tailored to the US or Canadian market probably won't be suitable. Taxes have different names, for example, and there are different accounting standards.

In summary, it's worth doing some research before you splash out. When starting a new business it's easy to go crazy buying big-ticket items like new computers, software and office equipment, but it's a much better idea to start with lower expenses and upgrade IF the business starts turning a profit. Consider second-hand hardware and furniture, for example - you can save thousands, and every dollar saved can be spent on advertising your new business!