One of the most important things to consider when launching and running your business, is how you’ll go about managing your books and accounts. Thankfully, there are a host of amazing accounting software packages and platforms that you can take full advantage of, making your businesses’ operations, and your life, a whole lot easier.
Accounting software is increasingly important as more and more of the small business finance industry starts to move to digital-first decisions. This means that your ability to access unsecured finance will rely mostly on your accounting records.
This article is an overview of the accounting software options in South Africa so that you can choose which is best suited for your business. This is what we will be getting into:
Let’s get into it.
Do I need accounting software?
Firstly, why should you consider accounting software for your business?
While scribbling down business finances on the back of a napkin seems like a romanticized idea, the reality is that your business’ accounting needs to be in order. Not only is this a requirement in terms of South African tax regulations and abiding by them, but you can also save a lot of money, time, and boost your business’ productivity and efficiency by streamlining your bookkeeping and accounting process.
By having clear and up-to-date bookkeeping, you can see where your business can save money, what’s working and what isn’t, and keep on top of payments and clients or customers.
Not to mention that most small business lenders rely heavily on your accounting records when making a decision on what amount (and at what price) of finance they will extend your company.
The simple answer is yes, you absolutely need accounting records. The online software that we are about to compare is a simple and easy way to make sure your records are up to industry standards.
What should I look for when selecting an accounting software?
Like with most decisions in your business, finding the right software or platform for your SME will come down to what your unique needs are. Do you need something that’s more report-based or better at automating invoices? These are questions to ask yourself, and below are some things to consider to help guide your decision on the best accounting solution for your business:
Number of users
Consider how many users will need access to the accounting software. For example, certain solutions provide access for one user per license, whereas some allow for more collaborative interaction and allow as many people as needed to log-in to the service.
Desktop or mobile
Is your business primarily run off mobile applications? Perhaps you’re a barber or small store which needs its accounting software on mobile, so opting for a solution which is more geared towards mobile usage (or has that feature) is recommended.
Capturing of inventory
Is your business a stock-based business, i.e. do you sell goods? If so, this could affect your choice of accounting software, as some are more specialised in handling inventory value, depreciation, and other variables regarding managing goods.
Of course, your budget plays a huge role. Many accounting solutions are very cost-efficient these days (a few hundred Rand a month), but depending on how much you’re willing to spend monthly, this can determine what options you can go for.
Do you need a simple bookkeeping and accounts service, or do you require other features, like assisting with company claims, tax returns, custom invoices, etc? Consider what special needs your business has outside of accounting, and there may be solutions which provide those as well, saving you the need to sign-up for an additional software package.
An important element to consider is whether there is ample support for the platform or accounting product you choose. Do they have a South African based helpline? Is free customer support, or do you need to pay for it? The amount of help and customer support you need (and in turn, will get) can determine your decision.
The great thing is that the days of expensive disc-based software platforms are over. With cloud accounting services, signing-up and getting started can be done within a few minutes, and there are a handful of great options on offer.
Cost: starting from $10 p/m (around R160 p/m)
Open-source accounting platform Xero is becoming more and more popular with business owners globally, and many South African SMEs are adopting the easy-to-use system.
Xero essentially streamlines all your accounting and bookkeeping procedures, allowing you to keep tabs on your bottom-line, paid and unpaid invoices, and even automate the process, allowing you to keep your accounting in order while you focus on your business itself. You can even use Xero to calculate your sales tax, claim expenses, accept payments, send invoice reminders, and connect with your business’ bank for real-time analytics on how things are going.
Xero also has arguably the most intuitive and clean user-interface, which makes navigating around the numbers behind your businesses a pleasure rather than a chore.
Cost: starting from R115 p/m
To get your business’ books in order, Quickbooks is another favourite of SME owners.
Quickbooks can track your expenses, produce detailed reports on your finances, and make getting your taxes in order a breeze; but one of the standout features is the customised built-in invoicing system.
Custom templates, scheduled reminders to clients, and even a fully automated invoicing procedure can be set up, where you can sit back, relax, and let Quickbooks do the grunt work for you. Quickbooks also offers a free 30-day trial, which allows you to get familiar with the tools and benefits before committing to the platform.
Cost: starting from R100 p/m
And if you’re looking for a more ‘business-in-a-box’ type solution, the locally developed SME Snapshot is a great product, which provides a comprehensive A-Z overview for your company.
With all the various things you need to keep an eye on as a business owner, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks, but SME Snapshot puts all your critical to-do and to-watch priorities in one place. The easy-to-read interface allows you to get a quick look at operating statistics and financials, like real-time turnover, cost of sales, net profit, and other crucial info, but also important elements like VAT, income tax, annual returns, and other facets.
It’s also only R1,000 a year, or R100 monthly, making it an incredibly affordable compliment to your business that’s worth its weight in gold.
Cost: starting from R99 p/m
If you want to take your accounting (and general business management) to a new level, Zoho Books provides a great platform to do so thanks to the core functions of the service, as well as the impressive add-on features.
Not only can you customise invoices, allow for more payment solutions (such as check, web, and cash) on top of more common options, and send detailed quote estimates, but you can also use a digital signature system to approve all transactions and deals to avoid forgery and tampering. In terms of stock management, you can even implement reorder level notifications, so that you will go a heads-up on your inventory levels to remind you to reorder more stock and avoid any supply problems.
Cost: starting from R3,220 p/a
Whether you’re a one-man band or larger SME, Sage accounting software is designed specifically to assist all types of businesses. With Sage, you can easily create reports, view your finances, process VAT and international payments, stay up-to-date on the latest financial legislation and much more. Because it’s based on the cloud too, you can share a lot of information and detailed reports with your clients and customers thanks to a wealth of great reporting tools that outshine some other services. Another big draw is that Sage is quick and easy to set-up and use, and that Sage is known to have great customer service — which is a huge bonus.
The best way to make your accounting software decision is through thorough research and weighing up the pros and cons of each platform or service. This will allow you to assess which features and tools will compliment your business best and essentially help your bottom-line. Whichever option you device to go for, it’s good to note that accounting solutions are often worth their weight in gold, as having your finances and business operations in order will save you more money and time in the long-run.