As a small business owner, myself I had always stressed about accounting, back when I started out I used PC based software that was clunky and confusing to use. I am also not the most organised when it comes to the accounting side of things, so when the yearly accounts were due it was a very stressful time. Thankfully I was wise enough to always employ an accountant for that part, but I am sure he was less than happy with the quality of information I provided him.
A lot of that changed when I moved to FreshBooks; the whole process was far more straightforward, I could just print off the yearly accounts and pass them on. Unfortunately, that service never really moved with the times for me, and I had to look elsewhere.
I have tried out a few products in the past, and this year I am giving Sage Business Cloud Accounting a go. Sage is possibly the most well know brand in Accounting and the Sage Business Cloud Accounting software is used by over 6 million UK businesses. It is generally suited to small businesses and this can include sole proprietors or those who are self-employed.
Their small business online software costs between £3 and £10 per month for 3 months then £6 and £20 thereafter. As my accounting needs are not very complicated I was able to go for the cheapest £3 option, and with this, I can:
- Create sales invoices
- Track what is owed
- Connect to my bank
- Real-time reporting
- VAT returns
- Cash Flow statement
- Mobile access.
The more expensive plan offers things like inventory, multi-user access, quotes, multi-company and much more. Apart from perhaps the quotes, these were mostly unneeded features for me.
With the basic plan, the 2 features that really stood out for me that my old system did not have were the connection to my bank account and VAT Returns.
Setting up the system is very simple, you can trial the service for 30 days with no card, so there is no harm in just signing up yourself and seeing what the system is like. The process took me less than 5 minutes.
When set up I found the interface to be very user-friendly, the website appears to run quickly, and doing all the necessary tasks requires no knowledge just some common sense.
I was able to import all my contacts via CSV, their system requires you to use their template layout, but it was effortless to export my current contacts then just modify the header for import.
Day to day use
Once you have all your contacts set up, you can go into each contact and see a detailed report of them, including sales, payments, contact details, options for their bank details (useful for suppliers), and notes. I particularly like the activity feed, one of the other systems I have used in the past didn’t offer much of a client overview; so, it was sometimes hard to make sure their account was up to date, or if I had forgotten to send an invoice on a specific date.
When you send an invoice out there is a PDF copy attached, this is another feature I particularly like as I have some old-fashioned clients that insist on paper copies, so a PDF makes that much easier.
Tracking purchases are just as easy as creating invoices. Within the money out section, you can add a contact if need, where the payment came from, the date, reference, amount, and also the option to attach a file. I always attached the invoice so if I do get an inspection of some form all my data is in one place.
Using the bank connection function, you can automate a lot of your accounting. It will import all your transactions which you can then use to mark as payments made on the invoice, or for accurate purchase tracking. This is great as each year I always have my accountant asking me what certain transactions are for and it takes me quite long time to track down the receipts. With this everything is reconciled which saves us both a lot of time.
I used to be VAT registered, and that was the most stressful part of my accounting, making sure it is all done and submitted on time, always paranoid I would get some inspection. Granted, when I started there were no online returns, so the process was a little more complicated. I plan to be VAT registered again shortly, and this system makes it much easier. Assuming you track everything accurately the system can calculate and submit your VAT Returns to HMRC with no hassle.
Online Payments & Third-Party Apps
The Sage Business Cloud Accounting system doesn’t offer payment options within the software itself, but it does allow third party access, and there is a marketplace that can exponentially improve the functionality of the online system. Primarily for me, being able to take online payments is useful. Most of the time I get BACs payments, but the option to take card payments is important. There is a third-party vendor called Bolt which allows you to accept payments via Stripe, Braintree, Worldpay and more. It can then mark the payments in your Sage Business Cloud Accounting system. You can use this service free of charge if you are happy with the Bolt branding on the payment screens.
Some of the other third-party options that I intend to integrate in the future are MyDocSafe which can be used to acquire electronic signatures for contracts and Expensify so I can track all my business travel expensive easily.
Sage Business Cloud Accounting doesn’t do anything particularly revolutionary in regards to online accounting services, but it does all the things you need to very well in a user-friendly interface that is fast and responsive.
The marketplace allows you to expand the functionality of the system far beyond what competing services can offer, and this is likely the reason why I will continue to use Sage Business Cloud Accounting as my accounting solution.