This article is part of a larger series on Accounting Software.
The best accounting software for consultants offers robust features, such as project-based invoicing, time tracking, and client management, tailored to a consultant’s specific requirements. We evaluated several solutions to help you manage finances and stay on top of invoicing and expenses. Here are our top five accounting software for consultants:
- FreshBooks: Best overall accounting software for consultants
- QuickBooks Online: Best for growing consulting businesses
- QuickBooks Desktop Premier Professional Services Edition: Best desktop accounting software for consultants
- Zoho Books: Best mobile app for consultants
- AccountSight: Best free time tracking software for consultants
Comparison of Best Accounting Software for Consultants
FreshBooks: Best Overall Accounting Software for Consultants
- Can’t monitor income or expense by class
- Fee charged for additional users
- Unable to track and reconcile bank accounts without a live bank connection
- Limits the number of users and billable clients with Lite and Plus plans
FreshBooks offers a choice of four plans, and pricing is based on the number of billable clients. Each plan allows for one user, though you can add more for $11 per person, per month:
- Lite: $17 per month for up to five billable clients
- Plus: $30 per month for up to 50 billable clients
- Premium: $55 per month for unlimited billable clients
- Select: Custom pricing for unlimited billable clients and specialized features
The provider also offers a 30-day free trial.
We chose FreshBooks as the best accounting software for independent consultants because of its robust project management and time tracking features. It can compare estimated and actual project costs, which helps with determining whether you are over or under budget.
What’s more, it allows you to accept online payments and create recurring invoices, two features that will help your cash flow. It calculates late fees automatically, and you can print a list of outstanding invoices. FreshBooks is also extremely easy to use, with intuitive navigation and a clean user interface.
QuickBooks Online: Best Accounting Software for Growing Consulting Businesses
- Unable to compare estimated to actual project costs
- Mobile app can’t record time worked
- No industry-specific features
- Must subscribe to Plus or Advanced plan to track project profitability
QuickBooks Online offers four plans. You must subscribe to the Essentials plan or higher for access to time and expense tracking—and only the Plus and Advanced plans offer the ability to track project profitability:
- Simple Start: $30 per month for one user
- Essentials: $60 per month for up to three users
- Plus: $90 per month for up to five users
- Advanced: $200 per month for up to 25 users
A 30-day free trial is available. You can also opt to subscribe now to get 50% off for three months.
QuickBooks Online is our best accounting software for growing consulting businesses largely because of its ability to scale as your business grows. It can accommodate up to 25 users and offers strong invoicing and time tracking features for consultants.
It also integrates with useful tools, such as QuickBooks Time, which simplifies time tracking and offers additional features, such as GPS tracking and geofencing. AccountSight has limited mobile app functionality, and it doesn’t provide GPS tracking and geofencing. QuickBooks Online also has strong invoicing capabilities and lets you track income and expenses by location and class.
QuickBooks Desktop Premier Professional Services Edition: Best Desktop Accounting Software for Consultants
- Mileage tracking app only for iOS devices
- Not able to track billing adjustments for fixed-fee engagements
- License allows for only up to five users or computers
QuickBooks Desktop Premier Professional Services Edition has the same prices as the general business edition of QuickBooks Desktop Premier:
- One user: $799 per year
- Two users: $1,099 per year
- Three users: $1,399 per year
- Four users: $1,699 per year
- Five users: $1,999 per year
Businesses requiring more than five users must upgrade to QuickBooks Enterprise, which supports up to 40 seats. You can head over to our review of QuickBooks Enterprise to get more insight into the platform’s features and pricing.
QuickBooks Desktop Premier Professional Services Edition is the best desktop accounting software for consultants. Its features are ideal for businesses that bill by the hour—you can create both proposals and estimates, track unbilled time and expenses by project, client, employee, or service and also have access to project costing and batch invoicing tools. The edition also lets you generate professional service-specific reports that relate to project hours and expenses.
Zoho Books: Best Mobile App for Consultants
- Project accounting only in paid plans
- Additional fee for more users
- Limited invoicing for the Free and Standard plans
- Requires Professional plan or higher to manage and track unpaid bills
Zoho Books offers a free plan for businesses that earn $50,000 or less in annual revenue and five paid subscription plan options with project accounting features:
- Standard: $20 per month for up to three users and 5,000 invoices
- Professional: $50 per month for up to five users and unlimited invoices
- Premium: $70 per month for up to 10 users and unlimited invoices
- Elite: $150 per month for up to 10 users, unlimited invoices, and advanced inventory
- Ultimate: $275 per month for up to 15 users, unlimited invoices, and advanced inventory.
It also has several add-ons:
- Additional users: $3 per user, per month
- Receipt scanning: $10 for 50 scans per month
- Snail mail credits for sending invoices: $2 per credit
We selected Zoho Books as the best mobile app for consultants because of its excellent functionality for both iOS and Android devices, which is why it also tops our list of the leading mobile accounting apps. Its integration with the Apple Watch is a bonus.
On the app, you can perform all the same functions as the web-based interface, including sending invoices, receiving payments, entering bills, uploading receipts, and recording time worked. The app also allows you to assign expenses to customers or projects and time worked to customers or projects.
AccountSight: Best Free Time Tracking Software for Consultants
- Lacks employee productivity tools
- Number of clients and projects are limited with Free plan
- Limited mobile app functionalities
- Limited third-party integrations
AccountSight offers a free plan, and its three paid plans allow for unlimited clients, invoicing, and projects, and charge per person, per month. Prices are based on user packs, which give volume discounts based on the number of users required:
- Free: $0 for one user, five clients, and five projects
- Basic: $10 per user, per month; comes with a 2- to 5-user pack
- Small Group: $9 per user, per month; comes with a 6- to 20-user pack
- Enterprise: $8 per user, per month; comes with a 21- to 100-user pack
AccountSight is one of our best accounting software for consultants, given its comprehensive time tracking and billing software. It earned a spot in our roundup of the best free time tracking software.
It offers various features to help businesses streamline their time and expense management processes. It can also be integrated with QuickBooks Online to give you access to other accounting features, such as creating customized invoices and tracking and paying bills.
How We Evaluated the Best Accounting Software for Consultants
Evaluating the best accounting software for consultants requires careful consideration of various factors that are crucial to the specific needs and preferences of consultants. Here are the features we looked for when evaluating providers:
- Consultant-specific features: One of the most important features for consultants is the ability to track time, so we evaluated the extent to which you can do so and how time tracking can help with invoicing as well.
- User-friendliness: We evaluated each software’s user interface and overall user experience. An intuitive and easy-to-use interface can save time and reduce the potential learning curve.
- Integrations: If you already use other software or tools in your consulting business, it is helpful to know if the accounting software can integrate seamlessly with them. Common integrations include CRM systems, project management tools, and payment gateways.
- Customer support: We looked for software providers that provide reliable customer support, preferably with multiple channels like email, phone, and live chat. Prompt and helpful support can be critical when you encounter issues or have questions.
- Mobile accessibility: For users that often work on the go, we evaluated whether the software has a mobile app that allows you to manage your finances from a smartphone or tablet.
- Scalability: We determined whether the software can grow with your consulting business since you don’t want to outgrow it too quickly.
- Cloud-based vs desktop software: We looked at the benefits and limitations of both cloud-based and desktop software to help you determine if it’s a fit for your business.
- Cost: Cost is an important factor, especially if you’re seeking an affordable option. We looked at the software’s different pricing plans and what is included, as well as extra charges for additional features.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When selecting accounting software for consultants, consider features such as time tracking, invoicing capabilities, expense tracking, project management integration, financial reporting, customer support, and data security.
Yes—as long as the software you select provides time tracking functionality. Some examples include AccountSight, FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online, and Zoho Books.
To choose the right accounting software, consider factors like your business size, your budget, the features you require, ease of use, scalability, customer support, and compatibility with other tools you use. Reading user reviews and seeking recommendations from other consultants can provide valuable insights.
The best accounting software for your consulting business depends on your specific needs. FreshBooks is an affordable option for independent consultants, while QuickBooks Online is scalable and better suited for small consulting businesses. QuickBooks Desktop Premier Professional Services Edition is ideal for desktop users, and Zoho Books has both a robust mobile app and general accounting features. If you’re seeking an advanced time tracking and billing solution, AccountSight is an excellent option.