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Best Accounting Software for Self-Employed Business Owners

Find the right accounting software as a self-employed business owner

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Accounting software is designed to help businesses track their revenue and expenses. In addition to tracking transactions, many programs calculate tax liability as well as streamline federal and state filings. The best accounting software for self-employed business owners will offer specific software options to help business owners meet the unique needs that they have, such as calculating quarterly tax requirements. In fact, the IRS’s biggest internal team is the one that works with audits of self-employed individuals, with over 47,000 people looking for mistakes you’ve made.

The needs of business owners vary based on the business entity they use, but generally, all business owners need to do certain things like capturing receipts, tracking miles, and managing other expenses that may be tax-deductible later. Most self-employed business owners are required to keep track of all these things, and accounting software helps save time, avoid confusion, and keep you out of tax trouble by properly calculating what you owe.

With this in mind, we researched more than 15 of the best accounting software options nationwide and narrowed down the list based on factors such as ease of use, self-employed options, and cost. Check out our top picks.

The 6 Best Accounting Software for Self-Employed Business Owners of 2023

Best Overall : QuickBooks



Why We Chose It

QuickBooks made our pick as the best accounting software for small business owners because it offers four plans that should suit just about any business's needs.

It's an industry-leading accounting software, and even its most affordable plan, the Simple plan, should provide everything a self-employed business owner might need, including the ability to track expenses and potential tax write-offs and calculate what your quarterly tax obligations. This package, combined with its ease of use and competitive pricing, makes QuickBooks our best overall accounting software.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of QuickBooks’ software:

Plan Cost Features
Simple $30/month Income and expenses, invoices and payments, tax deductions, general reports, receipt capture, mileage tracking, cash flow, sales and sales tax, estimates, contractors
Essentials $55/month All Simple plan features plus 3 users, bill management, enter time
Plus $85/month All Essential plan features plus 5 users, inventory, project profitability
Advanced $200/month All Plus plan features plus more than 5 users, business analytics with Excel, employee expenses, batch invoices and expenses, customized access, exclusive premium apps, dedicated account team, on-demand training, workflow automation, data restoration

Each plan features a 30-day free trial, and you can add on payroll for an additional charge.

QuickBooks reviews are mixed online. Many small business owners love the software but struggle with its customer service. If you know you’re going to need customer help based on your accounting or software experience, you might consider other options on the list that have a better customer support reputation.

Pros & Cons
  • Four plans that feature robust accounting capabilities

  • Expense and mileage tracking

  • Calculate quarterly tax obligations

  • Lackluster customer service

Runner-Up : Xero



Why We Chose It

Xero is a solid alternative to QuickBooks, but it is not quite as good for those who have little to no accounting experience. Xero is our runner-up because it’s a great overall solution with strong business accounting offerings, smart features to capture receipts, and helpful invoicing options. Xero can be more difficult to use for those who are inexperienced at keeping their own books, but overall it’s a good solution for most small business owners.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of Xero’s accounting software:

Plan Cost Features
Early $12/month Send quotes and 20 invoices, enter five bills, reconcile bank transactions, capture bills and receipts with Hubdoc, short-term cash flow and business snapshot
Growing $34/month Send unlimited quotes and invoices, enter unlimited bills, reconcile bank transactions, capture bills and receipts with Hubdoc, bulk reconcile transactions, short-term cash flow and business snapshot
Established $65/month Everything in the Growing plan plus multiple currencies, track projects, claim expenses, view in-depth analytics

You can also add payroll through Gusto starting at $40 per month. Gusto was our top pick for best payroll for small businesses. And all the plans feature a 30-day free trial.

Xero’s customer service is more highly rated than QuickBooks', and experienced bookkeepers find the software easier to use than much of the competition. But some users report that the pricing for Xero's plans has consistently gone up.

Pros & Cons
  • Strong business accounting features

  • Inexpensive

  • All plans feature a 30-day free trial

  • Difficult to navigate for those with little to no bookkeeping experience

  • Customers note that price increases are common

Best for Value : Wave



Why We Chose It

Wave is the best accounting software for value on our list because it’s a very good and useful platform, and three of its plans are completely free.

If you’re not sure whether you can do your accounting and taxes for your business on your own, Wave is the perfect option to try while you learn. It’s solid accounting software that many self-employed business owners use because of the many features they offer combined with their promise of it being completely free forever.

If you do need to upgrade, there are two plans to help you manage payroll and get bookkeeping support, as well as a plan for payment processing.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of Wave’s accounting software:

Plan Cost Features
Invoicing Free Custom invoices to reflect your brand; automated payment reminders; enable credit card payments, bank payments; and Apple Pay directly from invoices
Accounting  Free Unlimited income and expense tracking; unlimited partners, collaborators, or accountants; at-a-glance dashboard to determine how much to charge clients; unlimited bank and credit card connections; access to reports
Banking Free Separate business and personal expenses; instant payouts; Wave debit card; deposit checks and track income with mobile app
Payroll $35/month + $6 per employee and $6 per independent contractor for tax service states; $20/month + $6 per employee and $6 per independent contractor for self-service tax states  Pay employees and contractors directly with one click; employee portal access to pay stubs and tax forms; easy access to tax forms and documents; guaranteed accuracy 
Advisors $149/month for bookkeeping support; $329 one-time fee for accounting and payroll coaching Support from accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll experts; support available year-round 
Payments 2.9% + $0.60 per transaction; 3.4% + $0.60 per AMEX transaction; 1% per bank account transaction Flexibility for clients to pay by credit card, bank deposit, and Apple Pay; invoice payments sync automatically to accounting dashboard; money in 1 business day for Canadian businesses and 2 business days for U.S. businesses; recurring billing and payments for retainer clients 

Wave has average customer service reviews online, but most negative reviews have nothing to do with their accounting software. The free version offers a customer support team, which is a very good deal, even if it has an average overall satisfaction rating. Its software is well-liked for the most part.

Pros & Cons
  • Three free accounting programs

  • Great way to learn how to do business accounting and bookkeeping

  • Customer support is average

  • Payroll and bookkeeping services are costly

Best for Bookkeepers : FreshBooks



Why We Chose It

FreshBooks is our best accounting software for bookkeepers because the software is designed for bookkeepers. The software provides a number of great features self-employed business owners will use and appreciate.

You can track your time, invoice clients, and keep track of all appropriate business expenses so tax time becomes easier.

Customers online rate FreshBooks as average to use and below average when it comes to their customer support team. This is a middle-of-the-road solution that is best used by a niche group of bookkeepers or other small business owners who have billable clients.

Here's how FreshBook's four plans shake out in terms of cost and
features. It's important to note that we provided the regular monthly
pricing, but each plan except for the Select plan are discounted by 50%
for the first four months and includes a 30-day free trial. Each plan
also lets you add an additional user for $10 per month per user.

Plan Cost Features
Lite $15/month 5 billable clients, client profiles and account statements, clients can store credit card information, client self-service portal, client credits, automated recurring invoices, unlimited estimates, unlimited and customized invoices, scheduled late fees, automated late payment reminders, accepts deposits, manage budget and billing, online credit card payments, online ACH bank transfers, checkout links, unlimited time tracking, unlimited expenses, automated bank import, mobile mileage tracking, tax time reports, business health reports, at-a-glance dashboards
Plus $30/month All Lite plan features plus 50 billable clients, e-signatures accepted, unlimited proposals, client retainers, automated expense receipt data capture, double-entry accounting reports, advanced accounting (in beta), bank reconciliation, accountant access
Premium $55/month All Plus plan features plus unlimited billable clients, customized email templates and signatures, automated client emails with dynamic fields,customized email templates and signatures, automated client emails with dynamic fields, remove FreshBooks branding from client emails, automatic bills receipt data capture, project profitability, accounts payable
Select Custom All Premium plan features plus 2 team member accounts included, dedicated account manager, customized onboarding services, data migration services
Pros & Cons
  • Designed for experienced bookkeepers and small business owners who have accounting experience

  • Not intended for inexperienced bookkeepers

  • Below average customer service

Best for Very Small Businesses : Zoho Books



Why We Chose It

Zoho Books is best for very small businesses to use because it seamlessly works with the other affordable software Zoho makes. Zoho does not offer a specialized option for self-employed business owners, but its accounting software can do most things the other products on our list can do. If you need to save money on your entire software package from accounting to CRM, this might be the best option for you.

Where Zoho stands out for very small businesses is its time-tracking and invoice management capabilities. Plus, you have six subscription options to choose from, including a robust free package that allows you to manage up to 1,000 invoices a year, something that might be just right for a very small business. And each plan comes with a 14-day free trial.

In addition to the accounting software, you can add on CRM, inventory, project management, and other Zoho software options.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of Zoho’s accounting software:

Plan Cost Features
Free Free 1 user + 1 accountant; manage clients; manage up to 1,000 invoices per year; client portal; online/offline payments; automated payment reminders; multilingual invoicing; credit notices; recurring invoices; expense and mileage tracking; add multiple bank accounts and credit cards; import bank and credit card statements; bank rules and reconciliation; account and sub-account charts; manual journals; reports; invoice customization; manage 1099 contractors; payment gateways; integrate Zoho apps; integrate G-Suite, Office 365, Slack, Zapier, Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, and OneDrive
Standard $15/month Everything in the Free plan plus 3 users; manage up to 5,000 invoices per year; recurring expenses; connect and fetch bank and credit card feeds via bank feeds provider; predefined user roles; track project expenses and invoices; project tasks; bulk updates; transaction locking; custom views; custom fields; reporting tags; time sheet and billing; track sales tax; payment gateways; integrate Avalara and Zendesk; email, voice, and chat support
Professional $40/month Everything in the Standard plan plus 5 users; sales approval; retainer invoices; bills; payments made; vendor credits; recurring bills; sales orders; purchase orders; purchase approvals; multi-currency handling; automated exchange rates; currency adjustments; stock tracking; price lists; landed costs; custom roles; time sheet approval; time sheet client approval; contextual chat; retainer invoices for projects; project profitability; journal templates; tasks; up to 10 workflow rules; email, voice, and chat support
Premium $60/month Everything in the Professional plan plus 10 users; custom domain; vendor portal; multi-transaction number series; budgeting; custom buttons; validation rules; related lists; web tabs; up to 200 workflow rules; custom reports; 10 custom modules; integrations with Zoho Sign and Twilio; email, voice, and chat support
Elite $120/month  Everything in the Elite plan plus cash flow forecasting report; integrate up to 2 Shopify stores; warehouse management for up to 5 warehouses; serial number tracking; batch tracking; print shipping labels; shipment tracking; email, voice, and chat support
Ultimate  $240/month Everything in the Elite plan plus 15 users; 25 custom modules; view real-time dashboards and reports; analyze and track key financial reports; customize reports and dashboards; analyze Zoho Books and other data; collaboratively create reports with colleagues; export and print reports as Excel or PDF files; embed reports in websites/applications; up to 5 million records/rows; email, voice, and chat support

Zoho Books has high customer ratings online, but some reviews claim the product is difficult to use and mention bad experiences with the customer support team. Zoho Books isn’t one of the best options out there, but it is a good choice for small business owners who need an all-in-one solution with an easy-to-integrate CRM and help desk software offerings.

Pros & Cons
  • Works well with Zoho's other software options

  • Zoho Books' free plan offers almost everything a very small business would need

  • Some users claim the software is difficult to use

  • Customers report problems with Zoho's support team

Best for Small Sales Teams : OneUp

OneUp Logo

OneUp Logo

Why We Chose It

OneUp offers accounting software that integrates a free CRM and invoicing option, which is why we chose it as the best option for small sales teams. OneUp has a mobile-first solution that many on-the-go self-employed business owners will love, and you can close your books in as little as a minute.

There are some drawbacks. For example, the software doesn’t focus on some of the most important features for the self-employed, such as calculating quarterly tax obligations. And unless you subscribe to the Pro or higher tiers, there's no customer support. But you can try each of the plans for free for 30 days.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of OneUp’s accounting software:

Plan Cost Features
Self $9/month Invoicing, accounting, inventory, customer relationship management for one user with no customer support
Pro $19/month Add on an accountant or business partner, all Self plan features, one-on-one customer support
Plus $29/month Add on three users, all Pro plan features, one-on-one customer support
Team $69/month Add on seven users, all Plus plan features, one-on-one customer support
Unlimited $169/month Add unlimited users, all Team plan features, one-on-one customer support

OneUp has one of the best customer review ratings of all the options on our list. When the automation features work, customers seem very pleased with the software. Customers also like their interactions with the customer support team overall. This is a solid option that’s a good fit if you need an integrated CRM.

Pros & Cons
  • Affordable option for small teams

  • Excellent customer satisfaction ratings

  • Least-expensive plan does not offer customer support

  • Doesn't calculate quarterly tax obligations

Final Verdict

Self-employed business owners need accounting software to manage their businesses. Whether it's invoicing clients or getting your quarterly taxes squared away, finding a software program that it powerful but affordable is critical.

QuickBooks made the cut as our top pick for self-employed business owners because it's easy to use, affordable, and easy to integrate with other programs.

Every self-employed small business owner is different, so your company may have special needs. Check out the other accounting software programs on our list to find the one that will work best for your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Accounting Software for Self-Employed Business Owners?

Accounting software helps self-employed business owners abide by all of their tax obligations while also giving them detailed financial data that can help them run an efficient business. Self-employed business owners have unique needs for account software, because it’s so important for them to keep their business finances separate from their personal finances. The way in which they pay themselves and account for these payments via their accounting software will dictate whether they are in compliance with various tax rules or not.

Why Do Self-Employed People Need Accounting Software?

Self-employed individuals need accounting software for many of the same reasons any business needs it, to manage and keep track of the finances of their business. However, self-employed individuals also have an extra responsibility to make sure their personal finances are separate from their business finances or they could find themselves putting their personal assets at risk. So the right accounting software is even more important for someone who is self-employed.

Depending on how your business is structured and what your tax treatment is, there will be certain tax rules that you’ll need to follow. Most self-employed business owners end up paying a self-employment tax. Proper accounting is important to make sure that all tax laws are followed. Accounting software can automate most financial obligations for the business owner.

How Much Does Accounting Software Cost?

Accounting software for self-employed business owners costs about the same as regular accounting software for small businesses. Prices range from $9 to $180 per month. Some software has specific solutions for self-employed business owners, which are often cheaper than many of the other business accounting plans.

These specialized plans will help you organize receipts and keep track of miles or other expenses, estimate your quarterly taxes, and invoice or accept payments from customers. The best accounting software typically requires a monthly or yearly subscription so that you’ll be eligible to receive any updates the software requires.

How Is Accounting Software Different for the Self-Employed?

Accounting software is similar for all types of businesses, regardless of whether you’re a self-employed business owner or not. You’ll still need to book journal entries, keep track of business expenses, and make sure you know the level of profitability of your business. The major differences for self-employed business owners are almost entirely tax-related. You’ll end up paying a different type of tax if you are required to pay the self-employment tax, and you’ll have different deduction opportunities. How your business is structured legally will determine what your obligations are.

How We Chose the Best Accounting Software for Self-Employed Business Owners

We looked at more than 15 of the leading accounting software options available on the market and narrowed our list down to the top six. The most important features for self-employed business owners include ease of use, pricing, customer reviews, self-employed options, and how the software calculates taxes. The ideal software will automate as much as possible for business owners.


Getty Images / Rasi Bhadramani

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