For a lot of businesses, and especially freelancers and solopreneurs, bookkeeping is a job that only a chosen few ever feel like sitting down to do. But there are free bookkeeping apps for freelancers that will actually help you streamline the process of tracking the income and expenses for your business! Without the jargon. Without the time-consuming learning curve. And without the costly trips to see your accountant.
I think I’m like most freelancers when I say that I had no idea that performing basic accounting tasks would be such a big part of running a freelance business.
You can get away with winging it for a while, but once you start attracting high-end clients, you have to start getting your books in order. And I’ll be honest with you- for me, tax seasons were the most disconcerting periods of my budding freelance business.
Luckily, I came across a few free and low-cost bookkeeping apps that were great for freelancers like me. I swiftly transitioned from being a clueless freelancer trying to fit into big accounting shoes (goodbye garbage bag full of receipts, goodbye spreadsheets) to understanding how to keep tabs on my growing freelance business, and in the simplest way possible.
And painless. It’s pretty painless when there’s an app doing most of the hardest work for you. ?
In this blog post, I’ll take you through 10 low-cost and free bookkeeping apps for freelancers. Test them out and choose one that you can use to simplify the accounting thing for you.
- Why Freelancers Need Accounting Software (and Not Spreadsheets)
- Here are my Top 3 Picks for Bookkeeping Apps for Freelancers
- Here Are 7 More Accounting Software Options That Are Great for Freelancers
- A Few Final Words About Bookkeeping Apps and Freelancing
Why Freelancers Need Accounting Software (and Not Spreadsheets)
So, you’re probably wondering, “why do I need a bookkeeping app when I can just have my customers Cash-App me their payment?” Or maybe, there’s a voice in your head trying to convince you bookkeeping is beyond your grasp. Read on.
Because the Cash Apps of the World Mess with Your Credibility
Uh, save Cash App and Apple Pay for those times when you’re sending your teenage nephew his birthday money. Or if you absolutely don’t want to formalize anything, maybe use PayPal to send simple invoices if you’re making money at home but not necessarily freelancing. Use actual bookkeeping software for your business, that’s if you want to make money as a freelancer.
Using money apps like these can mess with your reputation as a serious and trust-worthy service provider. It can also limit how much people are willing to pay you because who wants to pay you a $6,000 retailer through Cash App? Nah, sis. Only those $50 clients are going to be Cash Apping that payment to you.
Well, if you’re going to go through the trouble of setting your rates and marketing yourself, you should also set up a proper invoicing that allows your clients to itemize their invoices and a bookkeeping system that helps you track how you’re spending your time and what your most lucrative services really are.
Because Accountants Can Be Expensive
Hiring an external accountant isn’t a very pocket-friendly experience. The last thing you want is someone squirreling away your hard-earned money If you must hire an accountant to help you with taxes, wait until you’ve organized your financial records (put in the receipts, categorize your expenses). You don’t want an accountant doing that part.
And Because There Are Some Compelling Benefits for Doing the Bookkeeping In-House
Right? Because most of the time we do stuff because we get something out of it. In this case, the benefits of using accounting and bookkeeping Apps include:
- Jargon-free and user-friendly; they don’t require you to have any accounting background
- Affordable, even for budding freelance businesses
- They allow you to send professional-looking invoices to your clients
- Most of them accept payments for you, so your clients can pay your invoices by clicking a Pay button that automatically adds that payment to your bookkeeping system
- You can track paid and unpaid invoices, because believe it or not, sometimes you may forget to follow up on unpaid invoices
- Some accounting programs will allow you to send payments received from your clients directly to your bank instantly for a small fee
- They help freelancers to draw defined boundaries between their freelance and personal accounts.
- You can track the hours you spend on your projects, including the costs incurred while attending to those projects.
- These apps are digitized, meaning that you can store all your records online.
- Well-kept records will keep you out of the IRS’s crosshairs
Here are my Top 3 Picks for Bookkeeping Apps for Freelancers
My favorite app, and the one I use is Wave. Wave is the most popular free accounting app online, because who doesn’t love a good deal? The app is super user-friendly and easy to use even for freelancers whose accounting knowledge matches that of a public school fifth grader.
What makes this app a gem is that it’s an all-in-one package. The app covers all your business needs including; accounting, payments, invoicing, and receipts.
The app also offers functions such as sending automated reminders when the invoices are overdue. You will also receive useful insights on income and expenses, upcoming deadlines, and expected payments.
You will love the simple and clean dashboard the app offers. The app is also improved and updated every few months so it can keep offering outstanding services to its massive number of users. And did I mention that you can add collaborators or oversee multiple businesses with one wave account?
But just like any other application, Wave apps has its fair share of downsides. For example, its features may play out to be too basic for a freelancer looking for a free app that is a little bit more sophisticated, which was my thinking after using QuickBooks since the late 1990s (back then, the program came with an accounting manual that was hundreds and hundreds of pages long, if you can believe that!).
There are also services you need to pay for such as payroll services (only available in Canada and the USA), taking payments online, and live chat support.
But overall, this is one of the best low-cost bookkeeping apps for freelancers.
FreshBooks is another loved-up web-based accounting software for freelancers and small businesses. The app can perform a variety of accounting functions, including expense tracking, invoicing, drawing business reports, tracking, and much more. I particularly love this bookkeeping app for freelancers because it’s exceptionally simple to use especially for freelancers with zero accounting knowledge.
I also appreciate the fact that this app easily integrates with third-party apps such as MailChimp, Gusto, WordPress, and PayPal- for those looking to perform more complex functions. It also allows you to collaborate with an accountant.
In term of pricing, FreshBooks has a couple of payment tiers, including;
- Free plan- you can use the app for 30 days free of charge without adding your credit details.
- The lite plan- this plan goes for $15 a month. The plan gives you time tracking, expenses, and invoices. With the plan, you can also accept credit card payments and allows you to import your expenses from the bank account. The plan is however limited to 5 clients only.
- The plus plan- this plan costs $25 per month. It gives you access to everything the lite plan does but with 50 clients limit. The plan also adds the ability to send proposals and the option to send payment reminders automatically. It also helps you save time as the plan provides recurrent invoices.
- Premium plan- this plan costs $50 per month, but hands down worth your scratch. The plan allows up to 500 clients, although you can add more clients for an extra $10 per month. More so if you charge by billable hours, you’ll love this one.
My third pick is for anyone who has some accounting knowledge because QuickBooks can be tough to navigate if you’re trying to use it without previous bookkeeping knowledge. The good news is you can increase your bookkeeping skills with free and low-cost certifications (there’s the magic word in upskilling) that are specifically for QuickBooks users.
Quick Books is COMPREHENSIVE! This accounting software is cloud-based and perfect for small and large businesses as well as freelancers.
QuickBooks allows you to choose from QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks desktop pro, QuickBooks Premier, QuickBooks Enterprise, and QuickBooks self-employed. The application has a vast variety of features depending on the type of business you are running. You can use the app to view easy-to-read financial reports, send invoices, track expenses automatically, accept payments, transfer payments to the bank among others.
QuickBooks has several pricing plans to accommodate all freelancers and small business needs. Some plans include;
- Free trial- before you pay for QuickBooks, the app allows you to have a free trial period to test out different features before making a financial commitment.
- QuickBooks simple start- this plan costs $10 per month.
- QuickBooks essential- the plan goes for $17 per month
- Quick Books plus- the plan costs $30 per month.
If you’re someone who wants to see all the deets, Quickbooks may be your jam. You can check it out here (<– affiliate link (which means if you sign up for Quickbooks using that link, the company pays me a small commission)
Here Are 7 More Accounting Software Options That Are Great for Freelancers
ZipBooks is another free bookkeeping app that offers excellent features considering it’s a free app. The star ratings on Google play store and app store may be a downer but after reading this review, you may agree that ZipBooks deserves a second chance.
ZipBooks comes with a free accounting plan that’s bound to steal your heart. The free plan offers everything a freelancer looking for, from quick and easy invoicing to bookkeeping.
The app allows you to seamlessly send invoices to your clients and add an unlimited number of vendors. Although the mobile app version is a bit limiting, you’ll still be able to perform simple, on-the-go access tasks such as financing invoices, making multi-currency payments, editing expenses, and emailing clients. You can always switch to the software for more tasks and features.
The app accepts payments from credit cards and PayPal, in case you choose the priced option. For $15 per month, you will get access to the additional features you need in your business
For advanced features such as smart tagging and advanced reporting, you can opt for the premium version that goes for $35 per month.
5. Zoho Books
Zoho Books is a fully equipped automated bookkeeping app that takes all bookkeeping tasks off your plate so you can focus on other aspects of your business. Although most accounting apps automatically sync your data across all connected devices, Zoho takes automation a notch higher. The app syncs any new customer to your devices including your desktop and goes a step further to automate workflow into each plan.
You can choose billing customers, sending out payment reminders to clients that have not paid or create recurring payments. We love that the app allows you to automate all your least favorite tasks. The best thing about Zoho is that you can easily send out multi-currency invoices and manage accounts with multiple banks.
The app has a few downsides but the biggest is that it doesn’t have payroll services.
The app offers three payments plans;
- Zoho books basic which costs $9 per month. The app allows a max of 50 contacts and only 2 users. You can enjoy up to 5 automated workflows.
- Zoho books standard, which goes for $19 per month. The plan allows you up to 500 contacts, 3 users, and a max of 10 automated workflows.
- Zoho also offers additional addons for freelancers who need more features. You can start with a 14-day free trial before making a monetary commitment.
In case you’ve always fancied yourself as a seasoned traveller, this is the bookkeeping app for you. Xero is a low-cost bookkeeping app fit for freelancers running small businesses on the go. It offers excellent features such as bank reconciliation, expense management and tracking, simple budgeting and configured reports.
The app comes with several pricing plans including the $9 only early plan account.
The only limitation is that you can only send a maximum of 5 invoices, 20 bank reconciliation statements, and enter five bills. If these limitations don’t bother you at all, then Xero is a viable option.
However, if you need tools that are more sophisticated for your invoices and billing issues, go for the Xero growing plan, which costs $30 per month. The plan allows you to issue as many invoices and bills as you would like.
If you are looking for software to help you with miniature tasks such as account balances, Go Daddy is a great option. The app is an excellent idea for freelancers on a budget. It can perform functions such as checking balances, tracking your profits, and checking your expenses for better accounting.
Keep in mind that GoDaddy restricts you to basic bookkeeping functions, unlike the other apps. One of the reasons why I would vouch for the app is because the price is simply unbeatable. GoDaddy charges $4.99 per month, which is a win for freelancers with shoestring budget.
If you are a freelancer who does not need full-service accounting, then this app is for you!
It comes as no surprise that freelancers hold Upwork in high esteem. Apart from being a popular hub for freelance jobs, Upwork also offers in-bound bookkeeping services, making it a gem for freelancers.
Personally, I’ve used Upwork long enough to acknowledge its top-notch bookkeeping properties. Besides, a platform that helps you earn money, while assisting you to automate your financial processes isn’t easy to come by.
The software provides several reports that help in tracking income and expenses. From weekly billings and invoices, to life-time billing reports, Upwork helps keep your accounting on its toes.
The best thing about this platform is that it offers payment protection services. This means that they’ll follow up payments on your behalf and make sure that you’re paid your dues.
The app is free, and you can even use it to keep tabs of projects completed outside!
If you thought PayPal is simply for sending and receiving money, here’s a pleasant surprise. PayPal can be a solution for your basic bookkeeping needs as the app allows you to review and track your business and personal transactions. If you especially transact via PayPal a lot, the PayPal monthly statements help you manage your bookkeeping needs. The statement is concise and easy to understand, making it easy for you to keep track of your expenses, incomes, and invoices.
You can also use PaySketch, software specially built for tracking sales, customers, products, and payments for merchants using PayPal.
I saved another best for last; GnuCash is a free, open-source accounting software that has been serving freelancers around the world for over two decades. I admit that the app does not have the best user interface but it still stands out for some reasons.
First, the software hinges on double-entry bookkeeping to ensure that your accounts are always balanced. The app also works completely offline for users who do not fancy storing their data on the cloud.
GnuCash has a wide variety of features given that its free software. You can seamlessly track your customers and vendors, enjoy invoicing, together with bill management.
The software also allows users to customize their graphs and reports, hence making financial documents like balance sheets and profit and loss statements more detailed.
A Few Final Words About Bookkeeping Apps and Freelancing
Here are some important bookkeeping tips that will help keep your freelance business afloat:
- Stay on top of your bookkeeping. For most of us, that’s really as simple as making sure you mark invoices paid and hanging on to receipts where you buy stuff for your business. So, it’s okay to try to do it yourself if you have the time.
- You can use accounting software or simply hire a bookkeeper to handle your finances. Which brings us to the next tip;
- Get real bookkeeping software. You can get free bookkeeping software that’s perfect for freelancers, so you don’t have to use a money-sending app.
- Money apps SCREAM side hustle. If you’re building a business or you’re trying to land high-ticket clients, that’s not the message you want to send.
If you are still typing numbers into Google Sheets you’re wasting precious time. But it’s never too late to course-correct. My top three recommendations are Wave Apps, Freshbooks and Quickbooks. And there are seven other options listed in this post.
** Low-key I’ve been using PayPal for years and I’ve watched the business app get better and better, so if you’re not quite ready to apply for a merchant account that will allow you to accept payments through some of the other bookkeeping apps, PayPal is a solid choice if you want to receive instant payment and be able to track your sales month-by-month and even year over year. **
Accounting software is not just designed for big businesses and corporations. Even freelancers can benefit immensely from bookkeeping software and applications. Whether you are a freelance creative, owner of an e-commerce store, or digital consultant, the low cost and free bookkeeping apps we have reviewed above have got you! Try one today!