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Looking for an alternative to QuickBooks self-employed software? Try these 8 bookkeeping apps

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Updated on:
December 12, 2022
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Many independent contractors, freelancers, and other self-employed workers are waking up to the fact that, in order to run their operations smoothly and to their greatest financial potential, they need to employ the help of a bookkeeping and accounting software that will simplify, organize, and streamline those tasks.

The QuickBooks software is one of the oldest, best-known brands of its kind, which is how it becomes many freelancers' first online accounting system. Some end up loving it and sticking with it, while others realize that the features they have with QuickBooks are either too inflexible or simply not the right fit for their particular needs and start looking for something "similar but different".

If you're considering alternatives to your "QuickBooks Self-Employed" subscription, read on to see how other top brands -- Bonsai, FreshBooks, Xero, Expensify, Zoho Books, Sage, Wave, and ZipBooks -- stack up  against the competition.

Note: If you want to try the top rated alternative to QuickBooks self-employed, try Bonsai Tax. Our software typically saves users $5,600 from their tax bill by automatically recording and tracking their tax deductions. Try a 7-day free trial today.

The QuickBooks Online Service Is Good -- But So Are Its Competitors

There's no denying it: QuickBooks is one of the "granddaddies" of accounting/bookkeeping software in the industry, with four million accounts around the globe. Its popularity makes sense, as the software has been around in some form since 1983 (developed by Intuit financial software company in California).

In the modern world, however, the range of accounting software consumers is so great that one bookkeeping tool, however solid, cannot serve the needs and interests of every single customer. Different online tools cater to different business demographics and, hence, prioritize different features,  interfaces, scalability,  integrations, and price points, depending on the size, nature, and industry of the businesses targeted by each service.

Do I Need QuickBooks Self-Employed As A Freelancer?

Well, as a busy freelancer, you certainly need the help of some accounting software!

Now, whether it's QuickBooks, Bonsai, or any other competitors offering analogous digital online tools for accounting for freelancers is up to you to decide, depending on your unique entrepreneurial needs.

QuickBooks Self Employed Has Its Limitations

QuickBooks is a solid, time-tested choice of accounting software, but it's not equally well-suited for every individual contractor's business needs.

Furthermore, while QuickBooks Self Employed is primarily a bookkeeping/accounting software: it does not offer the same array of freelancer-centric "customer relationship management" (CRM) tools and templates, project management capabilities, or time-tracking aides offered by other software on the market -- ones specifically designed to let freelancers get all their accounting and administrative tasks handled in a single space.

QuickBooks Self Employed offers basic accounting software for self-employed (1099) workers, with basic income and expenses tracking tools (e.g. tax receipt organizing, business mileage tracking, calculating Schedule C deductions, generating expense and financial reports, calculating quarterly tax estimates, etc.) but it is mostly limited to finances, without much to offer in the way of assisting with the workload and the workflow of a small business.

Accounting Features To Look For In An Online Accounting App For Independent Contractors

If you are looking to switch from QuickBooks Self Employed to a similar software that's a better fit for your business dealings and challenges, take into consideration both, what's missing from your current software as well as the general concerns in shopping for accounting/bookkeeping solutions.

QuickBooks-Alternative Features

Some of QuickBooks Self Employed software's weaknesses include:

  • too basic/limited invoicing templates/options
  • online customer support lacking in solutions/usefulness
  • project management and team collaboration capabilities are not offered
  • difficulty in upgrading the existing QuickBooks Self Employed to the next-tier package (which would be to QuickBooks Online)
  • no general ledger/no system for double-entry accounting (to balance the debit/credit state of budget)
  • no ability to reconcile credit card/bank account data
  • while QuickBooks Online does offer a desktop version, QuickBooks Self Employed is only available in mobile/smartphone version.

So, if you have been missing those features in your QuickBooks experience, look for them in different accounting/bookkeeping apps -- just make sure that if you switch, you do not compromise on the features that you do value about QuickBooks.

When shopping around for accounting/bookkeeping software for your freelance business, it is useful to ask the following questions:

Are Plug-Ins Supported?

The majority of accounting apps will offer same or similar overlapping accounting features considered standard and necessary for any business, but it's a different story with plug-ins. Account management plug-ins allow businesses to develop/manage relationships with current and future clients: they collect/analyze consumer information, track accounts, notify/request feedback from clients, etc.

Some apps (like Xero) support many plug-ins while others don't: if you like to enhance your accounting experience with auxiliary functions, choose an app that allows for it.

Is It Customizable?

For simple, repetitive tasks and accounting, basic preset templates may do the trick, but freelancers juggling a variety of projects tailored specifically to boutique client requests may need to customize their proposals, contracts, invoices, and other customer relationship management documents to each job. Make sure to sign up for a software that gives you the amount of flexibility (or rigidity) you need for the most optimal bookkeeping experience (for example FreshBooks is known for how customizable their reports and invoices are).

Does The User Experience Do It For You?

It's not always about logic, but different software interfaces work differently for different clients. Certain familiar ways of organizing things, or recognizable template styles, or other visual patterns that appeal to us: these factors can put our minds at ease and let us relax with the tasks at hand.

Also, some apps may be offering cutting-edge accounting features and operations -- but the learning curve may be too steep and, hence, too daunting for a novice to take on. Sophisticated features are of no value to the users who can't get past the set-up screen (Bonsai, on the other hand, offers a variety of flexible features and is still incredibly easy to navigate).

This is why it's useful to take advantage of a free trial, if one is offered: then, you can poke around the different features of the software and see if the whole thing feels intuitive enough to commit to.

Accounting/budgeting/taxes are already an anxious topic for many freelancers, who are overextended with their professional work -- and nobody wants accounting software to add to the confusion and stress of it!

Is The Price Right?

Many freelancers operate from limited budgets, so the pricing of software subscriptions is a top priority for the majority of them (let's be honest, pricing is a top priority for just about all of us!)

Entrepreneurship is always a tricky balance between staying frugal -- but without compromising the features you need to operate your business properly. Depending on your business' demands, you may find yourself being perfectly content with the free alternatives (like Wave)-- or decide to spring for the pricier, deluxe package that fully covers and integrates all the disparate operations you need to perform, with multiple income streams from different clients and sales, numerous collaborators, and a whole array of tax forms to be processed at tax time.

So, for the most simple business needs, a free QuickBooks alternative will suffice -- but if your business operations involve sophisticated multi-tasking with multiple players, it is wise to opt for a plan that covers what you need, even if it's not free or bottom-dollar-cheap. Because, when it comes to quality vis-a-vis price, you get what you pay for.  Consider it an investment into the longevity and excellence of your business!

What Are The Best QuickBooks Alternatives For Independent Contractors?

Here are some of the QuickBooks Self Employed competitors that are also providing independent-contractor-oriented software solutions, beginning with the #1 product suite for freelancers.

1. Bonsai: The Overall Best Freelancer Digital Product

A favorite digital business tool/solution among freelancers (with a 200K+ users among self-employed workers and small business owners), Bonsai is the top choice for accommodating independent contractor CRM and accounting requirements, as well as 1099 worker income and expenses tracking, sorting, and filing for tax purposes.

Founded in San Francisco in 2015, Bonsai enjoyed the support of world's top investors, including the famous Y Combinator startup accelerator. Designed to be a one-stop-shop software/digital space for all independent contractor business operations, the Bonsai independent contractor app does away with the daunting task of having to juggle/sync different business management tools. Instead, it provides a secure, cloud-based online account where a busy freelancer can have multiple professional, administrative, and accounting needs met, all within just one super-user-friendly interface.

The Bonsai 1099 expense tracker tax app -- the accounting software application that takes care of balancing the books, tracking income and expenses, and calculating and filing quarterly taxes and end-of-year tax returns -- is actually an add-on to a much larger Bonsai all-in-one product suite for independent contractors. Therefore, with Bonsai, you get the benefit of not only having your freelancer taxes taken care of, but also a wide array of other independent worker necessities. From versatile proposal and contract templates to invoicing to time tracking to project management to other CRM tools -- with integrations between the apps, as well as the option to share projects and time tracking with other collaborators). 

Note: On average, our users save $5,600 from their tax bill by using our app. Try the best tax software for professionals yourself and see how much money you save. Claim your 7-day free trial here.

Bonsai All-In-One Freelancer Product Platform Features

Time and project management tools. Working on multiple projects for multiple clients? Bonsai will keep you on track with both, tracking billable hours and the numerous tasks you juggle in the process.

Templates for proposals, contracts, invoices, etc. Bonsai offers loads of customizable templates for all freelancer administrative, communication, invoicing and other agreement materials to choose from and customize.

Features are integrated with each other. The personal and business information you enroll into the system and the invoices/contracts/proposals you compose within your account can be integrated with each other, with other projects and tasks and time-tracking functions -- and shared with collaborators in real time.

The Bonsai Tax Accounting/Bookkeeping App Features For Freelancers

For $10 a month, you can add the Bonsai Tax application to your Bonsai all-in-one suite and enjoy the following integrated functions:

  • Tracking income (without a ledger template form)
  • Tracking, organizing, and sorting business expenses (this is absolutely necessary for future tax deductions!)
  • Bank account/credit card data auto-imported in real time
  • The best receipt scanner app for tracking business expenses that don't come out of credit cards/bank account
  • On-demand financial reports ("profit and loss") for ongoing budget tracking
  • Quarterly tax estimates are generated on the basis of income and expenses enrollment (so that you never underestimate how much tax you owe in to the IRS!)
  • Annual help with filling out and filing tax returns (with all the previously enrolled data auto-imported into the tax forms)

The Bonsai App Supporting Features

The Bonsai CRM/accounting/bookkeeping software is very easy to use and comes with the following assurances:

  • Excellent customer support. Bonsai customer service can be reached by phone and email, with an extensive online "help" page, and an online chat support feature available to paid customers.
  • 100% accuracy guarantee. Sleep easier knowing that your tax calculations game is on-point. No guess work and the need use a manual expense tracker template.
  • Cloud-based app. There is never a need to download anything to your device: as long as you have internet, you have access to your Bonsai online account.
  • Lets you do away with paper clutter. Since you can store all your receipts for taxes, invoices, and other paperwork in a safe and secure digital cloud account, you can do away with the old-fashioned pen-and-paper method and toss all those hard copies in the recycling bin.
  • Use it on any device. Bonsai is available as computer software for Mac and PC as well as a mobile app for Android and iOS smartphones.
  • Comes with a free trial. If you are not sure if the Bonsai freelance tool-kit is the right fit for your needs and user experience, you can try it for free for two weeks (14 days) to find out for yourself.
  • Freebie resources galore! While it does not come in a free version, Bonsai offers a ton of free templates for invoices, contracts, proposals, and other useful materials, as well as a free accounting hub with a self-employed tax estimate calculator freelancers can use free of charge on the company website.

The Bonsai Bookkeeping/CRM Software Is Excellent -- But Only For Freelancers/Small Businesses

The main downside of the Bonsai suite/financial bookkeeping digital tool-kit is that is is not for everybody: it is specifically created for freelancers, independent contractors, and other micro-businesses that are classified as "self-employed 1099 workers".

Therefore, those who are not freelancers/small business owners will be better served by accounting software designed for their specific needs. Even medium-small businesses are perhaps too large to benefit the most from the Bonsai app (at least for the time being) Certainly W-2 workers should find a different tax bookkeeping app (QuickBooks, for example has a bundling option with TurboTax). And large corporations -- well -- they should hire full-time human accountants versus tax softwares (preferably a whole team of them, as large corporations have massive accounting/bookkeeping demands).

Within the narrower niche of accounting apps for freelancers, however, Bonsai digital toolkit/solution is unbeatable! Given all of the above-listed features, the Bonsai software/mobile app for independent contractors makes for a great alternative to QuickBooks Self Employed -- as well as all the other online, cloud-based, freelancer-oriented accounting and workflow tools on the market. See for yourself why Bonsai Tax is hands down the best tax software for self-employed folks.

2. Expensify

Expensify is a simple software that makes it easier for people and businesses to keep track of their spending and related information. It allows them to save time and effort that would otherwise be wasted just documenting expenses. It can be accessed through the cloud or through apps for Android and iOS mobile phones.

This app is praised for its simplicity but does run into issues with duplicate charges.

Here are some alternatives to Expensify.

3. FreshBooks

Founded in 2003, FreshBooks is one of the biggest names in the accounting software niche, operated by Toronto-based 2ndSite Inc.

Like Bonsai, FreshBooks is a full-service product suite for freelancers, providing CRM templates (estimates, proposals, invoices, etc.), time tracking, income and expense recording/organizing, tax filing, etc. (though how many of those features you can access and what numbers of billable clients and project members you can have, depending on the price plan/add-ons you choose).

Clients praise the following features of FreshBooks:

  • lots of add-ons/third-party integrations
  • well-designed mobile apps
  • highly customizable

Clients criticize the following features of FreshBooks:

  • not easy to scale
  • just one user included in each plan

Check out the best Freshbooks alternatives.

4. Xero

Founded in New Zealand in 2006, Xero is popular QuickBooks alternative among freelancers and small business owners, known to be an easy-to-use, reliable choice for a bookkeeping software.

Clients praise the following features of Xero:

  • comes with an attractive interface, with clean design in finance-jargon-free language
  • can support a large number of plug-ins
  • supports unlimited number of users (i.e. additional employees in the small business)

Clients criticize the following features of Xero:

  • users can experience a steep learning curve in getting the hang of the software
  • does not offer real-time phone support for troubleshooting (you can request a call-back, but you cannot reach a live operator)

5. Zoho Books

Released in 2011 by the Zoho Corporation headquartered in India, Zoho Books is among the top of QuickBook alternatives offering accounting, CRM, HR, and other scalable administrative tools to help small businesses grow.

Clients praise the following features of Zoho Books:

  • Good customer support you can call directly
  • Useful analytics

Clients criticize the following features of Zoho Books:

  • Limits the number of transactions with customers and vendors
  • Comparatively low number of add-ons

6. Sage

Formerly known as Sage 50, and re-branded as Sage 50Cloud in 2021, this UK-founded software is another all-in-one business suite contender worth considering as an apt QuickBooks alternative.  

Clients praise the following features of Sage:

  • lots of useful features (e.g. a well-designed inventory management app)
  • a great choice for small-to-medium enterprises with features helping with payroll and HR operations (though Sage 50Cloud may not be particularly well-suited for solo entrepreneurs)

Clients criticize the following features of Sage:

  • lack of integrations with other programs
  • software can glitch out

7. Wave

Wave is a Toronto-based free accounting alternative to QuickBooks, designed for small businesses (founded in 2009, parented by H&R Block).

Clients praise the following features of Wave:

  • it's free, forever (while Wave offers free accounting and invoicing digital services, if you want to add payment or payroll transactions, there are pricing plans for those features).
  • a good set of accounting features

Clients criticize the following features of Wave:

  • Limited integrations
  • Does not support numerous users

Check out more Wave accounting alternatives here.

8. ZipBooks

ZipBooks is a Utah-based software, released in 2017, offering accounting, invoicing, and time-tracking tools to contractors and small businesses.

Clients praise the following features of ZipBooks:

  • offers a free "starter" plan that lets freelancers manage and accept digital payments from unlimited vendors and clients
  • quality mobile interface

Clients criticize the following features of ZipBooks:

  • Limited customer support
  • Few integrations between features

Find The Best-Fitting Freelancer Software For You

As you can see, there is a variety of QuickBooks alternatives (including free ones) out there. Picking the right one for you is a matter of:

  • knowing which features are must-haves and which are optional to your business
  • doing the "homework" of reading up on the latest accounting software/mobile app selection
  • taking advantage of free trial offers and "test-driving" the software for a hands-on experience

The good news is that, with modern technology, freelancers/small business owners can't go terribly wrong with any of the above-mentioned QuickBooks alternatives, as they are all top-rated, respected accounting services.

But you do owe it to yourself and to your business to invest into the best-fitting accounting/business operating solution that will:

  • be easy to set up and use
  • have the features that matter and allow for add-ons that fit your business accounting to a tee
  • be as flexible/customizable as you need it to be
  • be scalable for your anticipated future growth
  • offer more than just accounting help -- but additional useful customer outreach, project management and time-tracking functions
  • fall within the price range you are comfortable with/can afford

Being in control of your business accounting and taxes makes all the difference in how well your business performs. Finding the best-fitting smart software to automate the majority of the labor on your behalf, lets you save your energy  -- and sanity! -- for doing your best work for your clients.

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