If you are after the Referral Code that gives 10% off then see the bottom of this post.
I wasn’t sure about doing this blog post as many will just see it as an advert. Yes that’s what made me think of doing the post but I must admit I am completely sold on FreeAgent and should really do more articles about the tools I find in setting up my own company.
First, some history. Since incorporating Dogsbody Technology Ltd. I have been looking for an accounts package that can keep track of all my accounts, pretty simple I thought as there are plenty out there. I wasn’t after anything specific, extra points for being open, cheap and working on more than one operating system but wasn’t going to let that stop me using a package.
Spreadsheets: I started off this way and half way through this process went back to it. I don’t exactly have a complex set of accounts but the bit that actually caused me the most trouble was duplication and the invoices. I know it sounds silly but doing invoicing with a spreadsheet was a pain, you had the pretty version that you sent out which was linked to the invoices summary sheet showing which had been pain which was linked to the banking records. With expenses, credit cards, PayPal etc. it quickly became spreadsheet hell.
GNUcash: This ticked a lot of boxes as it was free, open source and ran on almost any operating system. Unfortunately it was also too… monolithic! Very powerful but every part of the program looks the same, it’s impossible to tell if you are cutting an invoice or filling out expenses. I would actually use GNUcash for my home accounts but for me, with a new business and not knowing what I was doing, I needed some hand holding.
Sage: I’ll be honest, I didn’t try this but I did a lot of research into it as it comes very recommended. Unfortunately nearly all the people recommending it were accountants or knew what they were doing, reading reviews from other small businesses was very different and did not read well. I tend to tinker with my accounts, create a blank invoice one day, add some data to it the next and finalise it another day. This isn’t really possible in Sage, well, it is but you end up duplicating and cancelling the old one each time. With any edit you do being a cancel and resubmit I could see things getting very messy very quickly. Sage is probably great for big business but not for me!
QuickBooks: Now, I actually paid out for this! And I admit that cutting invoices was very nice an easy but everything else wasn’t. I wanted to do a mileage claim for 48 miles at 40p per mile. In QuickBooks this requires me to use a calculator to work out that this is £19.20 and enter it against petrol. No, I can’t just type in “=48*0.4”, this is a step back from spreadsheets! There is also no sorting, if you want to enter a new line on an expenses sheet or invoice it could only be at the bottom which makes the accounts of sporadic updater’s like my myself very messy. The final straw was the lack of support for Credit Card accounts. Needless to say, I got a refund!
FreeAgent: And now the hero of our story. I’m not sure I can do this justice without sounding sycophantic! I had actually looked at FreeAgent a couple of months earlier and dismissed it as I’m not a fan of subscription based software. It does however do exactly what I want out of the box. It’s a web (cloud) service so no software to install which means I can literally do my accounts anywhere (there is also an API with with some fantastic integration tools too). The interface is very clean and when you start out every page has a little video showing you how to use that function correctly. The two things that sold it for me are the support and the ability to automatically email invoices to customers as a PDFs as well as automatically send them chase up mails. Support is done via email or GetSatisfaction although every question I have had so far has already been answered which has certainly saved time.
The bank account tracking is lovely too. Instead of you having to type in every bank statement you receive they have developed an uploader so you can upload electronic statements that most banks provide. The system then automatically tries to match up money in and out with invoices and expenses making the entire process a few clicks. Credit Card accounts are supported as well as PayPal and any receipts can be photographed or scanned and uploaded against that bill, instantly keeping everything paperless and together.
Mileage is done properly, not only that but it’s automatically linked to the AMAP rate so you don’t even have to enter the 40p. The only issue I have have had was entering expenses for things before my company was officially formed and that was a simple fix to change the dates. While FreeAgent is a subscription piece of software it also has a lovely referral model. For each person you refer you both get 10% off your bill. That is, use a code to sign up,refer 9 people and it’s free!
So, if you want to register for a FreeAgent account which will give us both 10% off then use code 3flvybs4.