The Freelancer’s 4-Point Guide to Buying Accounting Software

January 8, 2015

Picking a restaurant with a group of friends can be tough enough – imagine choosing new accounting software. Bigger businesses rely on an array of steps to help make the right call on software, including process evaluations, selection teams, meeting planning and more. You, however, only need to follow 4 key steps to make a good software choice:

Step 1: define your requirements

It’s easy to be overly influenced by an immediate issue when seeking new software. Pause for a moment to consider other issues that may have arisen since the last time you bought software. Making a great software decision depends on factoring in these considerations.

To expand the scope of your needs, try brainstorming lists and sketching out simple process maps. These are time-tested project management techniques that can help you easily outline your requirements without the input of numerous people.

Step 2: identify your options

Once you’ve developed a solid set of requirements for your business, you’re ready to begin researching software. Here are 3 research techniques, each with their own pros and cons:

Recommendations from colleagues and family

  • Pro: a recommendation from a close source increases the chances that you are going to get an unbiased, accurate opinion
  • Con: the source may have limited product knowledge and thus, is unable to assess whether or not a software suits your needs

Best practice: try to find someone who works at a business with needs similar to yours.

Independent online research

  • Pro: searching reviews, product sites and user forums will provide you with many software options
  • Con: online research can be tedious. It’s easy to spend a lot of time reviewing software, only to find it doesn’t meet your fundamental requirements

Best practice: once you’ve located the websites of a few products you’re interested in, use a search engine like Google to refine your key needs.

Third party software matching services

  • Pro: using a third party matching service, which offers recommendations of software to businesses, provides a quick and accurate match for your needs
  • Con: some services have costs or obligations

Best practice: when talking to someone from the service, verify that you can choose the number of product referrals and ask specifically how recommendations are determined.

Step 3: evaluate your choices

Evaluate your choices by asking each potential software provider how their program meets your needs. This should immediately disqualify a number of options. Once you’ve narrowed your pool down to 2-3 choices, you should then:

  • Demo the software before investing or signing any contracts
  • Use social media and online forums to find product reviews, if you haven’t already

Step 4: make a cost-conscious decision

This means you should be conscious of all the costs, rather than just the purchase price. Potential software costs to consider include:

  • Licensing
  • Support
  • Version updates
  • Hosting

With many software solutions, especially SaaS or “software as a service” choices, these costs are bundled together. Cost savings need to be considered, as well. In order to do a simple ROI calculation on each software option’s specific value proposition, consider the following:

Follow these 4 steps, and you’ll be able to select the product that is right for your business. What do you look for in an accounting software? Tell us in the comments below.

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about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.