The best small business accounting software for freelancers should include invoicing, payment collection features, and expense tracking. Powerful time tracking and project tracking are two key components we used in our assessment and tools to facilitate getting paid faster. We looked at several accounting software products and narrowed it down to our top six.
Top Accounting Software for Freelancers 2019
|Top Accounting Software for Freelancers||Best For|
|QuickBooks Online||(Best Overall) Freelancers needing an accounting software that tracks all income and expenses.|
|FreshBooks||Freelancers looking for a robust invoicing software with features that streamline the payment process.|
|Xero||Freelance companies with a team of employees or looking to begin hiring employees.|
|ZipBooks||Solo freelancers with no accounting experience looking to gain insights from business intelligence features.|
|Zoho Books||Freelancers using Zoho apps wanting easy accounting software integration.|
|Wave||Freelancers looking for an accounting software they can use for free.|
How We Evaluated Freelance Accounting Software
Keeping track of the number of hours worked on a project or job is crucial to freelancers who typically charge their customers by the hour or a flat rate by project. The best accounting software for freelancers must include the ability to track income and expenses, but it must also include a few unique features that will ensure accurate and timely billing as well as tools to facilitate getting paid faster.
We determined which accounting software is best for freelancers based on cost, ease of use, customer reviews, and the following key features:
- Cost: Provide affordable pricing plans for small and large businesses.
- General accounting: Able to keep track of all income and expenses and generate basic financial statements such as profit and loss, balance sheet, and cash flow.
- Time tracker: Users can log hours worked for each project. This will ensure that hours worked are always up to date so you can make sure you stay within the budgeted hours.
- Project tracking: Ability to create projects and track the status of assigned tasks within a project. Stay on top of tasks that have been completed versus incomplete tasks.
- Recurring invoices: Put billing for clients who pay you every week, month, or quarter on autopilot. Set up invoices to automatically go out the day or week you specify.
- Accept payments online: Clients should have the option to pay their invoices online using a debit or credit card.
- Progress invoicing: Able to bill clients in installments after a milestone has been completed. Also need the ability to run a billed versus unbilled report by project.
- Give access to multiple users: Each person working on a project must have access to the system so that they can review and update their tasks and log hours worked.
Based on our assessment of each of the features outlined above, QuickBooks Online is our choice for best freelance accounting software. In addition to including the key features noted above, it includes accounts payable management, inventory, and budgeting, which none of the other providers on our list offered.
The six best accounting software for freelancers are:
QuickBooks Online: Best Overall Accounting Software for Freelancers
QuickBooks is the top accounting software used by most small businesses, especially freelancers. It’s a robust program that is ideal for web designers and bookkeepers who bill by the hour, and it works well for businesses that sell products. Pricing plans start at $20 per month. Most accountants use QuickBooks, which makes it easy to find a QuickBooks expert to help you get started. Whether you are a freelancer or a small business with employees, QuickBooks Online (QBO) will work for you.
QuickBooks Online Pricing & Features
QuickBooks Online comes in three pricing tiers that run between $20 and $60 per month versus $15 to $50 per month for FreshBooks plans. Unfortunately, only the Essentials and Plus plans are ideal for freelancers. The primary differences between the Essentials and the Plus plans are the number of users you can give access to and the ability to create budgets and track inventory. Check out our QuickBooks Online Comparison guide to learn more.
QuickBooks Online Tiered Pricing & Features
|Number of Users Included|
|Accept Online Payments|
The QuickBooks Online pricing plans are:
QuickBooks Simple Start
QuickBooks Simple Start is the least expensive of the three QBO tiers at $20 per month, but it’s the most expensive starter plan of all the providers on our list. It includes one user plus one accountant user, the ability to invoice customers, create recurring invoices, accept online payments, and manage progress invoicing. Unfortunately, it does not have the ability to track and pay bills, track projects, or keep track of hours worked by subcontractors.
Unfortunately, the Simple Start plan is not ideal for freelancers for a number of reasons. The inability to track and pay vendor bills, track projects, and track hours worked by subcontractors are the main reasons why we do not recommend QuickBooks Simple Start.
QuickBooks Essentials is the middle tier plan at $35 per month, which is $10 more per month than the FreshBooks mid-tier plan at $25 per month. For the extra money, you get additional features such as the ability to track and pay vendor bills and bill an unlimited number of customers versus no accounts payable in FreshBooks and a limit of 50 customer billings per month.
QuickBooks Essentials is ideal for solo freelancers or those with a team of employees or subcontractors; whether you are working on one big project or several projects, you can keep track of hours, income, and expenses by project with QuickBooks Essentials.
QuickBooks Plus is the top tier plan; it runs $60 per month, which is three times the cost of QuickBooks Simple Start. For the additional cost, QuickBooks Plus includes five users plus two accountants versus the three users plus two accountants that Essentials has. You can also create budgets and run budget versus actuals reports and track inventory with QBO Plus.
QuickBooks Plus is ideal for freelancers with both employees and subcontractors. If you need the ability to give more than three users access to your data and you can benefit from using the budgeting feature, or you have products in inventory, then this plan is ideal for you.
What QuickBooks Online Is Missing
The one downside to QuickBooks Online is that the most affordable plan, Simple Start, is not ideal for freelancers who need to keep track of accounts payable; this feature is not available in the QBO Simple Start plan. However, both QuickBooks Essentials and Plus go beyond the key features we have identified as important to freelancers who are looking for the best accounting software for their business.
QuickBooks Online User Reviews
Customers who use QuickBooks Online like how user-friendly the program is, and they also like being able to stay on top of their data on-the-go by using the mobile app. On the downside, good customer service tends to be hit or miss at best. To learn more, check out our QuickBooks Online reviews page.
FreshBooks: Best Accounting Software for Freelancers to Help Streamline Billing & Payment Process
FreshBooks is best known for its ability to create professional invoices and streamline the payment process so that you can get paid by your customers faster. FreshBooks was created for freelancers like PR agencies, accounting firms, and consultants who get paid based on billable hours and need a reliable accounting software to help streamline the process.
FreshBooks Pricing & Features
FreshBooks has three pricing tiers that run between $15 and $50 per month. They differ in two primary ways: maximum customers that you can invoice and recurring invoices. Unlike the other providers on our list, FreshBooks is the only one that limits the number of customers you can bill monthly for the low and mid-tier plans. All plans include the ability to track time and projects, give access to multiple users, and track accounts receivable balances to ensure timely payment.
FreshBooks Tiered Pricing & Features
|Number of Users Included|
|Accept Online Payments|
The pricing plans for FreshBooks are:
FreshBooks Lite is the least expensive of the three tiers at $15 per month ($180 per year). It includes a maximum of five customers versus unlimited customer billings for all of the other providers on our list. FreshBooks Lite also allows you to track hours worked by employees and subcontractors. You can easily create invoices and stay on top of unpaid invoices. While you can’t create recurring invoices, you can accept online payments with this plan.
FreshBooks Lite is ideal for freelancers who are just starting out and have five or fewer customers to bill each month. Since you can’t print checks through FreshBooks, it’s best if you pay most of your bills with a debit or credit card or through online banking. Being limited to five customers a month means that you will outgrow this plan quickly and will need to upgrade to the Plus plan.
FreshBooks Plus is the next tier up from Lite and runs $25 per month ($300 per year). It includes a maximum of 50 customers (ten times the Lite plan), and in addition to all of the features that the Lite plan has, it also allows you to create recurring invoices for customers who pay you on a periodic basis (e.g., weekly, monthly, or quarterly).
FreshBooks Plus is ideal for freelancers who need the ability to invoice more than five customers and stay on top of hours worked by employees and subcontractors. FreshBooks also makes it easy to bill customers for hours worked on a project and to manage budgeted hours versus actual hours by project.
FreshBooks Premium is the top tier plan at $50 per month ($600 per year), which is double the cost of the Plus plan. At this steep rate, you can bill an unlimited number of customers (versus 500 for the Plus plan) and you can create recurring invoices like you can with the Plus plan.
FreshBooks Premium is ideal for seasoned freelancers who employ a team of people. Similar to the Lite and Plus plans, the only limitation with this plan is that you cannot print checks to pay vendor bills like you can with all QBO plans. However, you can manually keep track of your bills and then mark them paid when the payment has been made.
FreshBooks Select has customized pricing and is for users who have more than 500 clients or bill over $150,000/year.
Select is not different from a feature perspective – the benefit of it is lower payment processing fees (which is why it’s better for high volume clients) and white glove customer support.
What FreshBooks Is Missing
FreshBooks is missing one key component: the ability to pay vendor bills within the program. Unlike QuickBooks, you can’t pay bills via check, debit card, or credit card within FreshBooks, which means that your accounts payable balances will not automatically update until you manually mark your bills as paid.
FreshBooks User Reviews
FreshBooks users like how streamlined the invoicing and payment capabilities are in the program. However, customers do not like the fact that FreshBooks is missing key accounting functionality like the ability to reconcile bank and credit card accounts. Check out our FreshBooks user reviews to see all of our reviews.
Xero: Best Accounting Software With Unlimited Users
Xero is the most affordable accounting software for freelancers who need to give access to other users. With the exception of Wave, Xero is the only product on our list that does not charge you to add additional users. All three Xero plans (Early, Growing, Established) allow you to add an unlimited number of users at no additional cost.
Xero Pricing & Features
Xero includes three pricing plans between $9 and $60 per month versus $20 to $60 per month for QuickBooks plans. All plans include an unlimited number of users, the ability to manage accounts payable, accounts receivable, recurring invoicing, and the ability to accept online payments from customers. While Xero does have the ability to track hours and projects, it is an additional feature that you will have to pay for, whereas it is included in the mid- and top-tier QuickBooks plans.
Xero Tiered Pricing & Features
|Number of Users Included|
|Accept Online Payments|
The pricing plans for Xero are:
Xero Early is the most affordable plan at $9 per month ($108 per year). As a result, it has limited features like the QBO Simple Start plan. Xero Early allows you to manage up to five bills each month, bill up to five customers, and create recurring invoices as long as you have not reached the five-bill limit. Similar to all Xero plans, you can try the project and time tracking feature for free for the first 30 days; after that, a monthly fee of approximately $25 will apply.
Xero Early is ideal for freelancers who are just starting out and have fewer than five customers and vendors. However, I recommend that you purchase the project and time tracking feature so that you and your team can track hours worked by project. More than likely, you will outgrow this plan pretty quickly and need to upgrade to the Growing plan, which does not have any limitations on accounts payable and accounts receivable.
The Xero Growing plan is the middle plan at $30 per month ($360 per year). Unlike the Early plan, it allows you to invoice an unlimited number of customers and you can pay an unlimited number of vendor bills. If you have repeat customers who need a recurring invoice, you can schedule an unlimited number.
Xero Growing is ideal for a freelancer who has a number of customers that they need to invoice and vendor bills that they need to manage and pay. I recommend that you include the project and time tracking feature so that you can easily track the hours worked by subcontractors and employees for each project.
Xero Established is the most expensive plan, at $60 per month ($720 per year), and it includes all of the features that both the Early and Growing plans come with. This plan has a multicurrency feature that allows you to invoice customers in their native currency as well as accept payments in a foreign currency.
Xero Established is ideal for a freelancer who has customers located all over the globe, and who would appreciate the flexibility to pay invoices in their native currency. Similar to the other Xero plans, you will need to add on the time and project tracking feature so that you can keep track of hours worked by employees and subcontractors on all projects.
What Xero Is Missing
The one downside to using Xero is that you have to pay an additional fee to access the time tracking and project tracking features, whereas ZipBooks, QuickBooks, and FreshBooks include this feature at no additional cost.
Xero User Reviews
Xero users like how user-friendly it is for someone with no accounting background. Some areas that users feel Xero need to improve are centered around adding inventory management, which many small businesses need, and adding a comprehensive search tool and integration with a tax software. You can read all reviews on our Xero user reviews page.
ZipBooks: Best Freelance Accounting Software With Advanced Business Intelligence Features
Out of our top six picks, ZipBooks is the only accounting software that has built-in business intelligence to provide you with a business health and invoice quality score and suggestions on how you can improve your invoices. In addition, it uses machine learning to auto-categorize transactions and make recommendations based on best practice, industry trends, and analysis.
ZipBooks Pricing & Features
ZipBooks has four pricing tiers between $0 and $125 per month. The Starter tier is 100% free but is limited in the features it includes. All plans include accounts receivable management and the ability to accept online payments. The paid plans include time tracking, project tracking, and recurring invoicing plus other great features like bank reconciliations, and one plan even includes your very own dedicated bookkeeper.
ZipBooks Tiered Pricing & Features
|Number of Users Included||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Accept Online Payments|
|Smart Tagging Transactions by location, project|
|Dedicated ZipBooks In-house Bookkeeper|
The pricing plans for ZipBooks are:
ZipBooks Starter plan is 100% free and comes with a limited number of features compared to the other three ZipBooks plans. The Starter plan allows you to invoice customers and keep track of open accounts receivable balances. You can also accept online payments from customers by signing up for ZipBooks Payments (additional fees will apply).
Similar to QuickBooks Simple Start, we do not recommend ZipBooks Starter for freelancers. There are three primary reasons for this: first, you cannot keep track of the hours worked by your team; second, there is no way to keep track of projects; and finally, you can’t give additional users access to your data. Check out our best free accounting software guide to find a free accounting software that is ideal for freelancers.
ZipBooks Smarter is the next plan up from the Starter plan, at $15 per month ($180 per year). Unlike the Starter plan, you get access to a lot more features. You can give an unlimited number of users access to your data, you can keep track of hours worked for all team members, and you can track projects. It also includes unlimited recurring invoicing and basic business intelligence features.
ZipBooks Smarter is ideal for freelancers who have a team of people who need to access the system to log hours worked on projects. In addition, you need the ability to run reports by project and stay on top of all income and expenses to ensure that you stay on budget.
ZipBooks Sophisticated is the third pricing plan; it runs $35 per month ($420 per year) like QuickBooks Essentials. This plan includes all of the features that the previous plans include plus advanced business intelligence, smart tagging transactions by location or project, the ability to upload documents securely, and generation of bank reconciliations.
ZipBooks Sophisticated is ideal for a freelance business that has multiple locations, departments, or segments that they need to track and provide detailed reporting for individually. In addition, if you have multiple bank and credit card accounts connected to ZipBooks, the advanced business intelligence will automatically categorize transactions based on similar transactions previously recorded, which will save you the time of having to do it manually.
ZipBooks Services is the top-tier pricing plan that starts at $125 per month ($1,500 per year). ZipBooks Services includes all of the features that the Sophisticated plan has, plus you get a dedicated in-house ZipBooks bookkeeper who will take care of your books for you. This is something that is not offered by any of the competitors that we have discussed.
ZipBooks Services is ideal for a fast-growing freelance business that needs the expertise of an experienced bookkeeper who can take care of the books so that the owner can focus on other aspects of the business.
What ZipBooks Is Missing
Unfortunately, none of the ZipBooks plans includes the ability to manage accounts payable. Staying on top of your outstanding vendor bills is important so that you are aware of the money that you owe to your vendor suppliers. This will help you when it comes to managing your cash flow as well as assist you with maintaining good credit history by paying your bills on time. Choose QuickBooks Online Essentials or Plus instead so you can manage unpaid bills.
ZipBooks User Reviews
Positive user reviews centered around the number of features included in the Starter plan, free of charge. Many small businesses appreciate the fact that they can keep track of their income and expenses even if they can’t afford to purchase an accounting software. Unlike QuickBooks, ZipBooks does not offer live customer support, and the response time to emails is slow. To read all customer reviews, visit our ZipBooks user reviews page.
Zoho Books: Best Accounting Software for Existing Zoho Users
Zoho Books has what no other competitor that we have discussed has: a whole suite of Zoho apps that it integrates seamlessly with. If you currently use a Zoho app and you are looking for an accounting software that will work with it, then Zoho Books might the right fit for your freelance business.
Zoho Books Pricing & Features
Zoho Books has three pricing plans. The Basic plan is priced the same as Xero prices its Starter plan, at $9 per month, and the top-tier plan is the most affordable of all paid plans at $29 per month. The main differences in the Zoho plans are the number of customers you can invoice, the number of users you can give access to, and several advanced features like reporting tags and inventory management that are included in the Standard and Professional plans but not the Basic plan.
Zoho Books Tiered Pricing & Features
|Number of Contacts|
|Number of Users Included|
|Accept Online Payments|
The pricing plans for Zoho Books are:
Zoho Books Basic
Zoho Books Basic is the most budget-friendly out of the three tiers at $9 per month ($108 per year). Similar to the Xero Early and FreshBooks Lite plans, it is limited in the number of features included. With this plan, you can invoice up to 50 customers each month, give two additional users access to your data, track hours worked by project, and track income and expenses for all projects. It also allows you to schedule recurring invoices and accept online payments from customers.
Zoho Books Basic is ideal for a freelancer business that has no more than 50 customers they need to invoice each month. Unfortunately, you cannot track your unpaid vendor bills (i.e., accounts payable) with this plan, so if you do have a lot of bills that you need to pay, you need to purchase the Zoho Books Standard plan.
Zoho Books Standard
Zoho Books Standard is the middle tier plan that is $10 more per month than the Basic plan at $19 per month ($228 per year). This plan includes ten times the number of customers you can invoice than the Zoho Books Basic plan includes (500 versus 50). It also comes with three users versus the two that the Basic plan includes, and it also includes double the automated workflows that the Basic plan includes.
Zoho Books Standard is ideal for a freelance business that has no more than 500 customers to invoice each month and heavy accounts payable. If you need the ability to tag transactions by project, department, or location, or you could benefit from a purchase approval process, this plan is ideal for you.
Zoho Books Professional
Zoho Books Professional is the high-end plan at $29 per month ($348 per year), which is $240 per year more than the Basic plan and $120 per year more than the Standard plan. For the additional cost, you get all of the features in the Standard plan plus you can invoice an unlimited number of customers and give access to ten additional users. If you sell products, you can track sales orders and inventory as well.
Zoho Books Professional is ideal for a freelancer who sells products and services. The ability to create sales orders, track inventory quantities and costs, and create unlimited customers will come in handy with this plan.
What Zoho Books Is Missing
Unlike its competitors, Zoho Books does not include a built-in payments feature. To accept credit card payments from customers, you must connect your Zoho Books to a payment app like Stripe. Fees will generally vary based on transaction amount and type of credit card used. If you prefer a software with built-in credit card processing, choose QuickBooks Online. You can turn the Intuit payments feature on any time.
Zoho Books User Reviews
To summarize Zoho Books users, they feel that the product is very intuitive and easy to use. In addition, the ability to automate tasks like recurring invoices and invoicing is a huge plus. However, there is room for improvement in the area of customer support. There were some complaints that the support reps always struggle to resolve the customer’s issue.
Wave: Best Budget-Friendly Accounting Software for Freelancers
Wave is a feature-rich accounting software that is 100% free to use. It allows you to perform general accounting like managing accounts payable and accounts receivable. You can also create estimates, set up recurring invoices, and accept online payments from customers (additional fees will apply). Wave is ideal for freelancers who have outgrown Excel spreadsheets and need a more robust accounting software but can’t afford to purchase one.
Out of all six companies that we looked at, Wave is the only one that is 100% free to use. However, if you decide to add on payroll or accept customer payments online, additional fees will apply. Below are the fees you will pay to accept online payments through your Wave account.
Wave Fee Structure for Online Payments
|Credit Card Payments|
|Bank Payments (ACH)|
When it comes to the number of features for the price, no accounting software can beat Wave. You can manage income and expenses, accept online payments, and schedule recurring payments in Wave. Similar to QuickBooks, you can do progress invoicing, which allows you to create multiple invoices for the same job, and keep track of the billed versus unbilled amounts against the original estimate.
Some of the features you will find in Wave include:
Wave is an accounting program that allows you to invoice customers and track your accounts receivable balances. While you can’t pay your bills through Wave, you can manually keep track of your bills by entering them into the system so you can run an accounts payable aging report to stay on top of your accounts payable balances; once payment clears the bank, you can mark the bill as paid.
You can schedule invoices to automatically go out to your customers on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis, or you could set up a custom schedule that allows you to select a specific day of the week. You can set an end date or just leave it open-ended. One of the unique things about Wave is you can even set the time zone for those customers who live in a different time zone from you. By doing this, the customer will receive the invoice within the normal business hours of their time zone, which is when they are more likely to see it.
While you can definitely create multiple invoices for the same project and job, Wave does not keep track of how much you have billed versus the amount that remains unbilled. However, you can get to this amount by simply looking at your total estimate for a project and manually subtracting all invoices that you have billed to get to the remaining amount that you need to invoice a customer for (i.e., unbilled amount).
Give Access to Multiple Users
Wave allows you to give other users access to all aspects of your Wave account, except for bank account information and credit card payments; that information is limited to the owner’s eyes only. You can give users view-only access, view and edit access, or view, edit, and send access
What Wave Is Missing
Unfortunately, there are two key features that Wave is missing. You cannot keep track of hours worked by subcontractors and employees, and project tracking is not currently available in Wave. We recommend FreshBooks, which includes time tracking and project management in all of their pricing plans
Wave User Reviews
Wave customers like that they can use an accounting software to keep their books for free. Customers also like that Wave goes beyond accounting to allow them to create estimates and contact lists instead of having to use an Excel spreadsheet to do this. On the con side, customers don’t like that there is no automatic categorization of imported transactions from your bank and credit card account, which means that you have to do it manually.
Additional Accounting Resources for Freelancers
If you’re currently using Word or Excel invoice templates to create invoices and you can’t afford to purchase an accounting software program, you should read our guide on free invoice generators. In this guide, we cover the top five programs that allow you to create and send invoices at no charge. In addition, you can accept online payments from customers, subject to a payment processing fee.
Looking for a way to streamline your billing and payment process? If so, check out our best invoice software guide. Invoicing software helps you to get paid faster by including features like recurring invoices, automatic payment reminders, and the ability to accept online payments from customers.
Whether you decide to use an invoice generator, an invoicing software, or accounting software, there are best practices that you should implement when it comes to managing your accounts receivable. Incorporating these invoicing guidelines will help to improve your cash flow and ensure you get paid faster. The five best practices you should implement into your invoicing process are:
- Generate invoices within one to two days after providing services: The longer it takes you to invoice your clients, the longer it will take for you to get paid. Therefore, invoice your clients immediately after you have provided services or the products.
- Email invoices to customers: The faster your customers receive their invoices, the faster you will get paid. Email all invoices to customers instead of sending them via snail mail.
- Accept online payments: People are using fewer checks these days, so it makes sense to offer customers the option to pay their invoices online. Online payments allow customers pay with a debit card, credit card, or ACH.
- Create automatic payment reminders: Send a friendly reminder one to two days prior to an invoice due date and no later than one week after an invoice due date has passed.
- Review your accounts receivable aging report: You should review your accounts receivable aging report on a weekly basis and follow-up with your customers.
For additional tips and resources, read our small business invoicing guide.
Still Have Questions?
Have a question about choosing the right freelance accounting software your business? Our analysts are standing by to answer!
Now that we have shared our top six freelance accounting software products with you, it’s time for you to decide which is best for your freelance business. You can’t go wrong with our top pick, QuickBooks Online. It works great if you are a solo freelancer with no staff as well as for a fast-growing business with a staff of employees and subcontractors.
If you’re not sure whether QuickBooks is right for you, don’t take our word for it. Instead, sign up for a discount on your paid subscription and try it out. QuickBooks offers a 60-day money back guarantee, so if you decide that you don’t like it, you can cancel your subscription anytime—no questions asked.