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Best Free Accounting Software for SMBs

John Ferguson
March 9, 2020
Finance & Accounting

Best Free Accounting Software for SMBs

As a small business owner, it can be frustrating and somewhat self-defeating to make money just to turn around and spend it on a tool to help you manage that same money. Fortunately, there are some free accounting tools that will provide the basic functions you need without costing an arm and a leg. 

Free accounting software will lack many of the more advanced features that paid products offer. They may also feature paid capabilities behind paywalls if you want to upgrade to a paid tier. However, for small businesses with straightforward accounting needs, the free products or versions can still meet your needs. If you own or work for a small business, some of the leading free accounting software are: 

  • Wave
  • Zoho Invoice
  • Zipbooks
  • SlickPie
  • GnuCash

Some of these products are limited free versions of larger paid products, while others monetize specific add-on features. Others are free, open source software available to anyone. Find out which one is right for you!

5 free accounting software tools for small businesses


Wave

Wave Accounting trScore

Wave is an accounting software targeting micro-businesses (1-10 employees). They provide fundamental accounting features, such as income and expense tracking, invoicing, and receipt tracking. 

Pros

In addition to being praised for its (free) price point, users also give Wave high marks for its invoicing capabilities. Wave’s invoice management, as well as the broader platform, are also recognized for their ease of use. For small businesses with less access to accounting specialists, Wave’s usability can be a strong differentiator. 

Cons

Wave’s users find the main tradeoff for “free” is less robust connections with their banks. While Wave integrates smoothly with some banks, you may experience some setup hassles if your bank isn’t on their list. Wave’s mobile app, which may be more heavily used among small business owners in particular, has also been criticized for its more limited functionality. 

Paid Capabilities

Payroll, online payments.

Best For

Wave is the best product on this list for 1-10 employee businesses who need a cleaner look for invoicing clients and lack in-house accounting expertise. 

“Wave Accounting is a great accounting software to start using because it is very affordable and a basic accounting software. Another cool thing about Wave Accounting is that it is completely online which means that you can access it anywhere you have internet and that your data is saved in the cloud.”

JaCoby M. | Chief Financial Officer | Trust Brands | Computer Software | 11-50 employees

Zoho Invoice

Zoho Invoice trScore

Zoho Invoice is a specific invoicing tool, rather than a full accounting software. For invoice-heavy businesses, Zoho’s point solution can deliver the basic functionality to make invoicing a more manageable process when you have limited resources.

Pros

Zoho Invoice excels in its payment management capabilities. In particular, Invoice allows users to automate the most repetitive payment or invoicing tasks, which can give you valuable time back in your schedule. 

Cons

Unlike some of the other products on this list, Zoho Invoice is not a free version of a full accounting package, so don’t expect this product to be a one-stop-shop for your accounting needs. There are also ceilings on the customizability available, and Zoho Invoice becomes less user-friendly the more you need to deviate from the standard templates and reports available. 

Paid Capabilities

More customers, users, and automated workflows.

Best For

Zoho Invoice is ideal for businesses that are exceptionally invoice-reliant, particularly those that work primarily with repeat clients/invoices that could be automated. 

“Zoho Invoice is great for business owners who have to collect and organize a lot of payments and would like the process to be fast and effortless. Payment management, including payment tracking, is very easy without any type of steep learning curve.”

Kim M. | Owner | Designz23 | Internet | 1-10 employees

Zipbooks

Zipbooks trScore

Zipbooks is an accounting tool that can serve as a middle point between products like Zoho Invoice and Wave. Zipbooks’s free version offers invoicing, payment reception, vendor/customer management, and basic reporting, and allows you to connect one bank account. 

Pros

Zipbooks receives high marks for its reporting and analytics capabilities, with a feature rating of 9.9. Its time tracking feature is also frequently mentioned as a pro, but is gated behind a $15/month plan. 

Cons

Zipbooks receives lower scores for its General Ledger capabilities compared to its other features. The weaker reviewer feedback likely results from less fully-featured functionality and customizability, especially among the free and lower-tier plans. 

Paid Capabilities

Additional core accounting features, more seats, connect multiple bank accounts.

Best For

Businesses who are particularly reliant on reporting. For instance, businesses that need to report on the business to external investors or leaders could benefit from Zipbooks’s strengths. 

“The tool is incredibly easy to use, very affordable, and accessible everywhere. I recommend it to small and growing businesses alike.”

Nicole R. | Owner | The MOD Pros | Marketing & Advertising | 1-10 employees

SlickPie

SlickPie is a full accounting software targeting the same group of “micro-businesses” as Wave Accounting. It provides its full set of capabilities for free, with additional volume of customers available to purchase as your business scales. SlickPie offers automated receipt entry in additional to more standard expense and invoice management, bank feeds, payment processing, and multi-currency support. 

Pros

SlickPie stands out for the accessibility of its capabilities. While most vendors paywall more advanced features, SlickPie opens up its entire feature set for free users. Its feature list is also surprisingly comprehensive for a free product, featuring mobile accessibility and recurring invoicing. 

Cons

SlickPie’s user base is smaller than other well-known products, so the level of community support and insights may be comparatively lacking. Some users have also struggled with the software’s reporting capabilities. 

Paid Capabilities

More customers that can be managed in your account (10 in free version vs. 50 in paid version).

Best For

SlickPie is ideal if you need a wider range of accounting capabilities than what most free software offers and have a small, but consistent, client base that constitutes most of your business.

GnuCash

GnuCash is an open source accounting software. It provides core accounting functionality, including a General Ledger, reporting, transaction management, and payroll. It is free under the GNU GPL license. 

Pros

GnuCash is as free as free gets in the accounting market. It also provides extensive documentation and community support for implementing and managing the software.

Cons

The user interface looks more at home in the early 2000’s than 2020, and can detract from the user experience, particularly if your users are used to more modern and intuitive interfaces. It also requires a higher level of technical expertise to install and manage, and you won’t have a customer support person to turn to for help with troubleshooting. It also lacks many of the peripheral bells and whistles that freemium products are starting to offer. 

Paid Capabilities

Due to the GNU GPL license, it’s completely free.

Best for

GnuCash is great for users who are advocates for the GNU ecosystem in general and are familiar with working on open source software. It’s also a good option for businesses that have absolutely no budget for accounting software and just need basic functionality. 

What you miss with free accounting software

While free accounting software can deliver some basic functions, there are more in-depth features that you will likely find insufficient, or lacking entirely. For instance, fully featured payroll capabilities at scale are rare to impossible to find at a free price point, as well as reporting, inventory, and order management. Eventually, as your business grows, you will almost certainly benefit from investing in a paid platform. Check out what other users have to say about paid accounting software who have already gone through the process, and when transitioning will be right for you!

About the Author

John Ferguson
John is a Research Associate at TrustRadius, focusing on content development and buyer-guided research. His goal is to support and enable better software buying decisions, with an eye towards helping people from all backgrounds navigate the world of business software. He has a BA in Politics from Centre College.

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