It's amazing to think that just five years ago this page would have been unnecessary. Back then, I was doing accounting on desktop software — in one application. I had no apps to recommend!
Since then, an incredible thing has happened. An "ecosystem" of literally hundreds of cloud accounting apps has sprung up, and more and more keep being added.
Due to the rapid pace of development in this new world of cloud accounting, it can be difficult to stay on top of all these apps and what they're good for.
I often get asked by other accountants and bookkeepers for recommendations, so I started keeping this list. I hope you find it useful!
Most of these apps I've used personally with clients. A few of these apps I've tested enough to be able to recommend, but haven't yet deployed "in the field". Either way, I'm confident that they'll serve you well as an accountant, bookkeeper, or small business owner.
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- Apps for Your Firm
- Apps for Your Clients
Apps for Your Firm
There are great apps that you can use internally to effectively run and promote your firm.
Employees and Contractors
Accountingfly - Accountingfly is a job site specifically designed for the accounting industry. We started using Accountingfly in 2015 for recruiting at HPC.
UpWork - If you need a contractor to help out with your social media, marketing, website, admin, etc, you can find some really good (and affordable) workers through this site. UpWork handles all payment processes — just enter your credit card number and you're good to go.
There's a nifty feature where you can require your workers to be logged into UpWork's time tracking, and UpWork will take screenshots periodically, which you can then view to ensure that the time you are being billed for is accurate.
Canva — Adding images to your posts is one surefire way to increase audience engagement. If you're going to spend time on content marketing, make sure to create graphics to go with your copy. Canva is an easy and free way to do it. For more, and to see a sample blog title graphic I created, read my blog post about Canva.
Zapier - Zapier is one of the best tools for integrating accounting applications that don't have their own native connection.
I use Zapier with one particular client who needs invoices synced from Infusionsoft to Xero. Zapier can make this happen, even though Infusionsoft doesn't have its own Xero integration.
Zapier is also handy for automating marketing and social media tasks. For example, you can use Zapier to automatically repost content from Instagram to Facebook and Twitter. I also use Zapier to sync filtered social media posts into Slack for monitoring what's going on in the world of cloud accounting.
Google Sites - It's really important to write down your internal processes and procedures if you want to scale your practice. One of the hardest things (other than writing it down) is finding a place to store and organize all that knowledge. Google Sites is included in any Google Apps subscription and is also available free for users with a Gmail account.
Whenever you get a business card from a prospective client, make sure to ask for their permission and add them to your mailing list. Send them useful, relevant content from time to time (such as your latest blog post). You may be surprised how effective this can be at nurturing leads (and stimulating existing clients to ask for help with additional projects).
The thing I love about Mailchimp is that you can save time by setting up an RSS-to-Email campaign. Once you set it up, this type of campaign automatically turns your latest blog post into an email that goes out to subscribers on a set schedule.
LastPass - This is the best way to securely share logins in your firm and with clients. I couldn't survive online without it. Mac users may also want to check out 1Password, now that they have a sharing feature. However if you manage a large team, you will probably prefer LastPass due to the very detailed administrator controls under its Enterprise plan.
Grasshopper - Grasshopper is an easy way of getting an 800 number for your firm with an automated phone tree, just like the big boys. No special hardware is required — calls are being forwarded to mobile phones. You can make outgoing calls from your 800 number using the iOS and Android mobile apps. Grasshopper offers unlimited extensions, so it is built to scale.
Asana - I often use Asana for tracking non-client work and internal projects. It’s great for projects such as website development or marketing initiatives.
Basecamp - I frequently use Basecamp for personal projects.
The new Basecamp 3 looks awesome and has some really neat client communication features, plus is really affordable. It might be worth a look for a small practice looking for something dead simple to manage both client and non-client work.
Karbon (formerly PracticeIQ) - Stuart McLeod, who sold Paycycle to Xero, is behind this new venture. He's aiming to build the ultimate practice management app specifically for accountants. As of January it's in beta and should be released to the public in early 2016. From the demos I've seen, it looks like it could be a game changer for accounting practice management.
Slack - Slack is an awesome internal team chat tool. In my experience, it can cut down on internal email by 50% or more.
I love setting up integrations to automatically sync important information into Slack channels.
For example, you can set up an RSS feed for the Google Apps status page to go into a Slack channel so the whole team gets notifications of any service disruptions.
Sales / CRM
Practice Ignition — This app does a LOT: online proposals, digital signatures, contracts, invoicing, payments, scope changes, client re-engagements, and more. So much that I can't decide if it should go in this section or under Practice Management. If you're looking for a total client management solution on the sales side of your practice, look no further. For more, read my blog post detailing all the features of Practice Ignition to learn how it can transform your firm's client engagement workflow.
HubSpot CRM - One thing that stops a lot of small firms from using a CRM is the cost. Good CRMs can get pricey, but with HubSpot CRM you don't have to worry about that because it’s completely free. How is that possible? Well, HubSpot is hoping that you'll also want to sign up for their integrated marketing platform. If you decide to use it, it makes keeping the CRM up to date really easy because the leads flow in directly from the marketing side of the software (email, landing pages, website, etc.)
Buffer - I use Buffer to manage posting for my personal social media accounts.
Having a social media presence is important, but without the right tools it can take way too much time to manage. As a rule of thumb, you should post on Twitter daily, and on LinkedIn and Facebook at least once per week.
Keeping that schedule can be tough, and this is is where Buffer comes in handy. You can connect Buffer to your social media accounts and then schedule your posts for the future, all in one place.
There's also useful Chrome extension that lets you quickly curate content you find online, and a similar sharing tool on iOS.
BizInk - A website is only the beginning of developing an online presence. Curating content is also a must, but takes a lot of time, so most accountants don't do it. BizInk is unique among web developers as it helps with the content piece of the puzzle. If you want someone to create your website for you AND help you populate it with new content on a regular basis, check out BizInk.
Squarespace - Squarespace is the easiest way to make and manage a beautiful website without the help of a web developer. I use Squarespace for this website.
Apps for Your Clients
There are many great apps that you can use to do outsourced accounting for your clients, or you can simply set up these apps as add-ons to Xero. This will help your clients run their businesses more efficiently.
Xero - About four years ago, I switched nearly all of my clients from desktop accounting software to Xero.
Here are my top three reasons why:
- Excellent design — Xero is well-designed and easy to use for both accountants and clients.
- Unlimited users — You get unlimited users per organization. In other apps that charge per user, you often have to share a single login among several people. This is a significant security risk.
- The add-on marketplace — Xero's growing add-on ecosystem gives me lots of opportunities to help my clients increase productivity and decrease costs by integrating the front-end systems they use to run their businesses with the back-end accounting system.
For more about the benefits of using Xero, read my post "Why Xero is great for startups."
Bill.com - This was the first accounting add-on I ever implemented and is still one of the most valuable to my clients.
Bill.com allows you to become the outsourced accounts payable department for your clients. If you have a client who is manually paying 15 bills or more per month, it's likely that implementing Bill.com will make a significant difference.
uCollect - uCollect syncs with your Xero invoices to automatically collect payments. It is great for both the use in your own firm's billing and for setting up for your clients.
For more information about uCollect, check out this case study: Maui Magazines recovers over $100,000 with HPC + Xero add-ons
Hubdoc - Hubdoc securely connects to your bank accounts to download bank statements and check images automatically. It even extracts monthly PayPal CSV files for you without any effort on your part.
The more clients you have, the more time you save. Plus, you don't have to ask your clients to set up read-only access to their bank accounts — they can set up the HubDoc connection by entering their regular banking logins from their computer.
The app also handles receipts, invoices, and bills. You can sync these documents into other accounting apps including Xero, QuickBooks, and Bill.com.
LedgerSync — Unfortunately, not every client is a good fit for cloud accounting software. If you need to stick with a desktop accounting package a while longer, LedgerSync can give you some of the benefits of cloud accounting via its collaborative bank feeds. For details, read my review of LedgerSync.
Deputy - Deputy is an amazing online employee scheduling software. It will replace your time clock and so much more. It integrates with Xero, QuickBooks, Vend, Gusto, etc. You can sync employee time sheets directly into the payroll system, and forget about manual payroll time entry!
Expensify - If you have clients with staff who do frequent expense reports, implementing Expensify will change their lives. It saves them so much time.
MileIQ - This app for iOS and Android tracks your location in the background and automatically logs drives for you. Periodically, you go into the app and classify drives as business or personal with a swipe right or left.
You can track 40 drives per month for free. Beyond that, it's $5.99/month or $59.99/year. Totally worth it for the time and money you can save with this app versus manually tracking mileage!
Better yet, if you're an accountant or tax pro, you can apply to get a free premium account and 20% off for your clients.
Receipt Bank - Receipt Bank is a very simple way for clients to scan their receipts/supplier invoices for processing into Xero.
I love that Receipt Bank syncs in the image of the receipt as well as the transaction. This way I know the backup in case of an audit is always in Xero.
Time Tracking and Invoicing
TSheets — TSheets is an easy-to-use but powerful app that does time tracking, scheduling, time sheets, and invoicing.
One feature in particular to point out is the mobile time tracking — staff can track time from iPhone and Android (in addition to the web). You can require GPS tracking for mobile devices so you finally know where your employees are clocking in from.
After time has been tracked, you can use that data to create invoices and send them from TSheets, or you can sync draft invoices to Xero via the excellent integration. Additionally, you can sync time sheets directly to Xero Payroll, Gusto, or Square. No more keying in payroll numbers!
The Xero integration is really good — it even syncs tracking categories. This means that you can use your tracking categories for locations and job codes and require that every time sheet be tracked in that way. If you're using Xero Payroll, all the time sheets sync into Xero with the tracking information assigned and your payroll is automatically costed out. No more journal entries to break out payroll. That's a huge timesaver.
Harvest - Harvest is very popular time tracking and invoicing software. It integrates to sync invoices into Xero with the click of a button. It also has some nifty job costing and budgeting tools, such as Forecast. It's a good solution for professional services firms. For something more lightweight, check out MinuteDock below.
MinuteDock - MinuteDock is a simple and elegant time tracking app that can use your time entries to generate invoices in Xero.
I used MinuteDock for two years while growing my online bookkeeping company, Cloudsourced Accounting. Our bookkeepers loved it, which is high praise given that tracking time is one of the least favorite things bookkeepers do as part of their jobs.
Square - Square is best known for mobile payments using its magstripe reader that plugs into the headphone jack on your phone. From those humble beginnings, Square has morphed into much more than just a cheap credit card processing terminal. Now you can send invoices and get paid online via Square's web app (for the same flat 2.75% fee). You can also schedule appointments and run payroll using Square. It has even expanded into small business loans with Square Capital.
Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll) - I've had high satisfaction with clients using Gusto. It’s now offering workers’ comp insurance and employee health benefits.
One thing I love about Gusto is that it automatically impounds and remits payroll taxes. It also files the payroll tax returns without any additional effort on the part of the user. This makes it great for accounting firms, since we absolutely don't want to be on the hook for a staff member forgetting to do these things!
Xero Payroll - Xero Payroll is included for no additional charge in the Xero Standard subscription for up to 5 employees. This makes Xero Payroll a great deal.
If you're going to use Xero Payroll you need to be aware that at this time Xero does NOT automatically process any payments or payroll tax filings (like Gusto does). You have to remember to log in and schedule the electronic payments and payroll tax returns. If you don't, your client will get hit with penalties and interest, and you'll probably be on the hook for those fees and the time to sort it out. I'm hoping that Xero will enable an automatic payment and filing option in the future.
Spotlight Reporting - Spotlight hooks up to Xero (and QuickBooks) to generate really beautiful dashboards and visual reports for your clients. The updated Forecasting tool lets you do valuable cash flow projections for your clients. Spotlight can also consolidate up to 25 Xero files instantly, and the Multi tool can benchmark up to 500 organizations. It's a great option for virtual CFO types. If you're interested in using Spotlight for all your clients, ask them about their unlimited Super vCFO plan.
LivePlan - LivePlan is a tool designed to take the user all the way from a business idea to a formal business plan, and finally a set of financial projections. Then you can connect your LivePlan account to the accounting system and see if you're meeting your projections.
Kounta - This point of sale is geared for the hospitality industry with a robust Xero integration.