Best Accounting Software

Best Accounting Software

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82% of businesses fail because of poor cash flow management and subpar accounting practices. Yikes. It’s no secret that accounting is hard — and there’s a reason people spend their entire lives learning how to do it well.

But there’s good news.

You can avoid becoming a part of this statistic without heading to university to get a Bachelor’s (or Master’s) degree in accounting.

Enter… modern-day accounting software. It exists to help even the smallest businesses improve their bookkeeping processes, save time, and make fewer costly mistakes.

Plus, understanding your numbers can lead to smarter business decisions and improved overall business health/performance as well.

These options are easy to get started and effortless to maintain. Get your books in order today and be better prepared for tomorrow.

The Top 5 Options for Accounting Software: 

  1. FreshBooks – Best for freelancers and solopreneurs
  2. QuickBooks – Best accounting software for small businesses
  3. Zoho Books – Best for businesses with 50+ customers/vendors
  4. Sage50 Cloud – Best desktop accounting solution
  5. Wave – Best free accounting software

How to Choose the Best Accounting Software for You 

Choosing the best accounting software isn’t easy, thanks to the thousands of options that all promise to make your life easier.

Which one offers everything you need without a slew of confusing features you’ll never use?

If you’re not sure how to answer that question, you’re in the right place. As diverse as the market for accounting software may be, there are really only a few important factors you need to consider when making your decision.

Let’s walk through each consideration in detail to help you evaluate the different products available.

Number of Clients, Vendors, and Users

Certain plans limit the number of clients and vendors you’re allowed to have. This isn’t a major consideration for everyone, but companies that work with a lot of partners and distributors should ensure that they’re not going to hit annoying limits.

It may be the case that you have to upgrade to a premium plan in order to accomodate a large number of vendors or clients, so that’s important to look for if it is going to be an issue.

You also want to think about the number of user accounts you need. How many people in HR will need administrative control? What about other departments?

Client Management

The best accounting software includes intuitive features that let you follow up on invoices and a portal where your clients can pay you.

Minimize the number of steps necessary for a client to complete a payment, and send reminders automatically when invoices are past due.

Direct integration with your CRM software is an obvious plus, as you will be able to tie your accounting and customer database together.

Billing and Invoicing

Most accounting software includes invoicing functionality but in different capacities. Some offer highly customizable invoices while others are easier to use with fewer customization options.

Furthermore, the software you choose should make paying invoices as easy as possible for your clients. Some other billing and invoicing features to consider include:

  • Automatic payment reminders
  • Payment due dates
  • Late fees
  • Recurring invoices
  • Ability to save client information
  • Payment processing options
  • One-click payments

Lastly, consider the payment processing fees associated with each software. Most charge a set percentage plus a small fee for credit card transactions and 1% for ACH transfers.

Receipt Management

Many modern accounting tools make it easy to categorize and store digital versions of your receipts. All you have to do is snap a photo of your receipt and attach it to the associated expense in your account.

However, not every software includes this. So, if this is something you’re interested in, be sure to choose an accounting software with receipt management capabilities.

Banking

Connecting your bank accounts and credit cards to your accounting software makes account reconciliation a breeze. It also reduces the chances of human errors when making manual entries.

However, not every software offers this capability on basic plans (but all of my top recommendations do).

So make sure you opt for a software that includes this functionality.

Mobile Accessibility

Make sure the software you choose offers a mobile app so you can manage payments, invoices, and cash flow on the go.

It may not seem like an important feature now, but you never know when (and where) you need to access your accounts or send an invoice.

Integrations

It’s important to consider the tools you’re already using to run your business. Why? Because the best accounting software for you integrates seamlessly into your tech stack with minimal hassle or headache.

So before you get started, make a list of everything you need and the tools you already use.

Then, make sure the top contenders on your list include your full requirements and the necessary integrations.

You can even schedule a call with a sales rep for each accounting software to walk through your list of requirements to make sure they can handle everything you’re looking for.

The Different Types of Accounting Software

When it comes to accounting software, you have several options. Some of them are better than others, but the best choice for you depends on your situation.

So let’s walk through your options before we dive into my top recommendations.

DIY Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are a free, DIY option if you’re on a tight budget. They work okay if you’re just getting started and have a limited number of business transactions.

However, they’re not a long term solution and they leave a lot of room for human error.

If you’re looking for a free option, I highly recommend Wave as an alternative.

Cloud-Based Accounting Software

Most modern-day accounting software is cloud-based, making it easily accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.

And it’s usually billed on a monthly basis, scalable, affordable, easy to use, and built for small to midsize businesses.

Every option on this list falls under this category.

Database Accounting Software

This is a type of highly secure accounting software specific to enterprises and large businesses.

It’s very expensive and requires an in-house team of engineers and/or financial specialists to install and maintain.

Because of that, I didn’t include this type of software in my research.

Now, let’s dive into my top accounting software recommendations based on the size of your business and your specific needs.

#1 – FreshBooks Review — The Best for Freelancers and Solopreneurs

If you’re a freelancer, solopreneur, or small business, FreshBooks is a great accounting software to consider. To date, they serve more than 10 million businesses around the world.

And the software complies with double-entry accounting standards, providing you with more in-depth insight into your finances and business transactions.

FreshBooks specializes in invoicing, but the tool also includes small business features, like:

  • Time and expense tracking
  • Recurring invoices
  • Automatic payment reminders
  • Automatic late fees
  • Multiple currencies
  • Project management
  • Client proposals
  • Tax calculations
  • Reporting and analytics

Furthermore, your account dashboard includes a birds-eye view of your business’s financial health. It shows outstanding invoices, total profit, revenue by source, expenses, and unbilled time all in one centralized location.

Plus, you can manage your books on the go using their robust mobile app.

And the software integrates with over 200+ business tools like Shopify, G Suite, Stripe, Zoom, Squarespace, and Gusto. So, you don’t have to worry about incompatibility with most of the tools you already use.

But like most accounting software, FreshBooks charges a transaction fee of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for credit cards and 1% for ACH transfers. However, these fees are pretty standard across the industry, and you don’t have to worry about any additional hidden costs.

Their paid plans start at $6 per month for up to five clients making it very affordable for freelancers, solopreneurs, and small business owners alike.

However, FreshBooks can scale alongside your business with other plans, including:

  1. Plus — $10 per month for up to 50 clients
  2. Premium — $20 per month for up to 500 clients
  3. Select — custom pricing for more than 500 clients

Sign up for a free trial to take FreshBooks for a test drive today! Alternatively, you can save 50% off your first three months. However, you have to choose one offer or the other.

#2 – QuickBooks Review — The Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses

If you’re running a small business or starting a new business from scratch, QuickBooks is a popular choice — and for a good reason. In fact, over 5.6 million users around the world trust them for their accounting needs.

From small businesses to self-employed individuals, QuickBooks offers an array of excellent accounting solutions to match your needs.

Furthermore, you can choose from cloud-based, desktop, or POS system deployment, depending on your situation. However, I highly recommend the cloud-based solution for most businesses.

Plus, the online software integrates with apps like PayPal, Square, and Shopify to simplify cash flow management in one centralized location.

With their online solution, you can easily access your account anywhere globally with an internet connection. Plus, you can use the mobile app to take pictures of your bills and receipts rather than filing a heap of paper receipts in your office.

You also get access to features like:

  • Customizable invoices
  • Income and expense tracking
  • GPS mileage tracking
  • Automatic sales tax calculations
  • Bank and credit card integration
  • Expense categories
  • Standard reporting

And you can easily upgrade to an advanced plan if you outgrow the basic plan or need more advanced features. Some of their advanced features include 1099 management, inventory management, and time/attendance tracking.

So regardless of what you need, there’s a plan to suit your needs.

The cheapest plan starts at $25 per month. And you can add payroll services to your plan, starting at an extra $45 per month + $4 per employee per month with more advanced options available.

Furthermore, QuickBooks charges $0.25 + 2.9% for invoices, 2.4% for swipes, and 3.4% for keyed payments per transaction. Alternatively, they charge 1% for ACH transfers. And you can save up to 40% on transaction fees if you charge more than $7,500 per month.

Like FreshBooks, QuickBooks offers a 30-day free trial OR 50% off your first three months.

Get started with QuickBooks today!

#3 – Zoho Books Review — The Best for Businesses with 50+ Customers/Vendors

If you manage many clients and vendors, Zoho Books is one of the most affordable accounting software to consider. Their cheapest plan includes up to 50 billable clients, and they also have packages for up to 500 billable clients as well.

So, you don’t have to worry about exceeding your monthly limits.

Furthermore, Zoho Books includes access to powerful features like:

  • Tax compliance tools
  • Custom quotes and estimates
  • Automatic payment reminders
  • Vendor and expense tracking
  • Inventory management
  • Automatic bank feeds
  • Time tracking
  • Customizable invoices
  • Role-based access
  • 40+ integrations

Zoho Books also offers an intuitive mobile app for managing your accounts on the go. With the app, you can track your mileage, reach out to customers, track your time, create invoices, and more.

Each plan also includes a private client portal for accepting payments, unlimited phone and email customer support, free SSL encryption, and open rest APIs to connect with third-party applications.

Furthermore, Zoho offers a wide range of other business tools that integrate seamlessly together. Running a subscription-based business? Or need advanced inventory management? Maybe you need extensive expense reporting for your team.

Odds are, Zoho offers what you need. You can bundle tools together to save money and create a custom business management system for your business.

I highly recommend starting with the Basic Plan ($9 per month) and upgrading to an advanced plan when and if you need to. The Basic Plan includes up to 50 contacts, two separate user accounts, and five automated workflows to simplify your accounting processes.

Zoho’s advanced plans include:

  • Standard — $19 per month for up to 500 contacts
  • Professional — $29 per month for more than 500 contacts

All of which are very affordable for businesses of all sizes. Furthermore, you can add extra users and 50 auto-scans for $2/month and $5/month, respectively.

Sign up for a 14-day free trial to see if Zoho Books is right for you today!

#4 – Sage 50Cloud Review — The Best Desktop Accounting Solution

Sage 50Cloud is a desktop accounting application seamlessly connected to the cloud. So, you get the speed and reliability of a desktop software paired with the flexibility and remote accessibility of using the cloud.

Furthermore, Sage offers cloud-based accounting software, so you’re not limited to the desktop application if that’s not your thing. However, their desktop solution is where they really shine.

You can securely access your accounts anywhere, anytime, allowing you to work when you want and how you want. So, you’re not limited to your desktop computer despite the benefits of using desktop software.

Plus, as the #1 rated accounting solution for small businesses, it includes features like:

  • Cash flow management
  • Flexible invoicing
  • Recurring invoices
  • Pay Now functionality
  • Accounts payable + banking
  • Automatic reconciliation
  • Advanced inventory management
  • Job and project costing
  • Payroll processing

As you can see, Sage 50Cloud includes a robust set of features you typically have to pay extra for with the other options on this list (i.e., payroll).

And with those advanced features comes an advanced price tag.

So if you’re looking for basic accounting software, you’re better off going with FreshBooks or QuickBooks. However, if you need these advanced features, pricing starts at $50.58 per user per month.

Their paid plans include:

  • Pro Accounting — $50.58 per month for simple accounting
  • Premium Accounting — $78.25 per month for advanced features
  • Quantum Accounting — $131.66 per month for all features

However, you can save a bit more by choosing an annual plan and paying in advance. Additionally, you can subscribe to Microsoft 365 for an extra $150 per year.

You can try Sage’s cloud-based accounting software free for 30 days with no installations and no credit card required. After that, you can purchase Sage 50Cloud if it’s a good fit for your business.

Get started today!

#5 – Wave Review — The Best Free Accounting Software

If you have a tight budget or need a simple accounting solution, Wave is an excellent choice. It’s an award-winning finance software for entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes.

Plus… their accounting features are entirely free with no hidden fees or monthly payments. However, they charge a standard transaction fee of 2.9% (3.4% for American Express) + $0.30 for credit cards and 1% for ACH transfers.

You can also add payroll services starting at $20 per month. But accounting, invoicing, and receipt scanning are all free forever.

This free accounting software includes features like:

  • Unlimited income and expense tracking
  • Unlimited collaborators and accountants
  • Double-entry accounting system
  • Powerful reporting and analytics
  • Bank + credit card connections
  • Tax categories
  • Recurring invoices
  • Automatic payment reminders
  • Unlimited receipt scanning
  • 2-business-day payouts

Plus, you get unlimited email support, as well. And if you’re wondering how Wave stays in business, it’s through their transaction fees and payroll services. So, yes. The software really is free forever, with no hidden fees.

Furthermore, you can download Wave’s mobile app to access and manage your accounts on the go from anywhere with an internet connection.

Sign up for a free account to get started today!

Summary

I recommend FreshBooks (for freelancers and individuals) or QuickBooks (for small teams). These two solutions are suitable for most users. They’re incredibly affordable, easy to use, and scalable. Plus, they include all your essential accounting features.

And if you’re on a tight budget, Wave is an excellent free alternative.

However, the best accounting software for you depends on what you need and what you can afford. So, feel free to use the characteristics we talked about as you go through the process of choosing the right software for your business.

What’s your favorite accounting software?

How to Effectively Use Memes in Your Content Marketing

How to Effectively Use Memes in Your Content Marketing

Did you know that archeologists have traced the origin of the meme back to the year 3 B.C.?

Memes, a term coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976 to describe how ideas replicate, mutate, and evolve, are a way to carry a shared idea or trend to engage a target group. Over time, different groups take memes and tweak them to make them their own.

Memes are all about creating engagement and community by communicating something that everyone in your circle understands. It’s a way to develop a sense of belonging, something platforms like Facebook have been savvy to for years.

That’s precisely why your brand should be including memes in your content marketing plan. If you can create and share on-target memes that engage your audience, you could create that same sense of community, develop brand loyalty, and even tap into new markets.

Why You Should Use Memes in Your Content Marketing

Some of the most recognizable brands in the world include memes in their content marketing strategy. Here’s why:

Memes Increase Engagement

Memes are very shareable and help people connect through humor.

If done right, they make people feel part of an inside joke, and who doesn’t like to be the one in the know?

Subscription service BarkBox has based their Instagram account on all those funny little quirks about dogs that only dog lovers know. One of their running jokes? The war between dogs and squirrels. They’ve created a series of mosaics with their Instagram posts, which is a pretty creative way to display their memes.

Not only does BarkBox keep their audience engaged, but they play off of themes that function as inside jokes between themselves and their 1.7 million followers. These are themes only dog lovers would understand, making them feel part of an exclusive group.

Memes Entertain Your Audience

Users are most engaged on social media when they’re entertained. Study-help site SparkNotes gets that, and they also understand that students aren’t always enthralled by their assigned reading.

So, SparkNotes uses pop-culture trends to liven up classic novel plots and plug their service at the same time.

However, you don’t necessarily have to create brand-related memes. You can make memes that simply entertain and relate somehow to your audience. In fact, in many cases, linking a meme to your brand can feel forced. Sometimes it’s better to let the meme speak for itself.

Clothing retailer ASOS is great at creating memes that play off holidays, current events, and trending topics. Although many of their memes tie to their brand, they’re not afraid to throw in a funny meme just to keep their audience entertained.

Here’s a meme they released for Thanksgiving.

It has nothing to do with the brand but everything to do with the mood of the day. It got some shares and likes and kept their brand top-of-mind on a day when most people’s minds were on their plates.

Memes Are Easy to Create

Memes like the ASOS example above are pretty easy to make, and they’re inexpensive, too. You don’t even need fancy image editing software, just a free meme generator, such as Imgur.

Meme generators let you search for images for your meme by filtering through popular memes or uploading your image.

Once you choose an image (I chose Annoyed Picard), it lets you add text using that all-too-familiar meme font. They even give you suggestions from recently created memes with the same image. (Just keep in mind that not all of them are office-appropriate. I’ve blurred out some questionable ones in this example.)

Once you add your text, you can download your meme and use it on your social platforms.

That’s it. No expensive image creation. No keyword research. Pretty simple.

Memes Let You Be Creative

You don’t necessarily have to piggyback on a popular meme that’s already trending. Frankly, it can be tough to keep up-to-date on all the latest memes.

Once you have a good sense of what your audience responds to, you can try creating your own memes from scratch. Of course, this does require more effort and more money for original, quality images, but if your audience responds well and starts sharing, it could be worth it.

Doritos fills their Instagram account with original memes, many of them tapping into nostalgia for the 80s and 90s, no doubt addressing their target audience.

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you probably remember the popularity of friendship necklaces.

Memes Allow You to Show Your Brand’s Personality

There are two things you can do with your social accounts. You can reinforce your current brand personality or use them to create a whole new one.

Many older brands have done the latter, using the more relaxed, casual tone on social media to shed their stuffy reputations and inject their products with a fresher (or even a snarkier) persona.

MoonPie is a great example. The original treat was invented in 1917, and the company that makes them started in 1902. However, to look at their Instagram account, you wouldn’t take them for a 118-year-old company.

They’ve created a much younger, much funnier persona to cultivate a new following for the centenarian dessert.

8 Ways to Effectively Use Memes In Your Content Marketing

So, now you’re convinced you should include memes in your content marketing strategy, but before you jump in, there are some things to consider first. As easy as memes are to make, some planning is still involved, and some solid techniques to incorporate can make your memes relatable, shareable, and maybe even viral.

1. Know Your Audience

Have you ever seen a stand-up show where the comedian’s jokes kept missing the mark? The audience didn’t understand the jokes, or they just didn’t think they were funny? More often than not, that happens when a comedian hasn’t tailored their material for their audience.

A joke about the AARP, for instance, isn’t going to fly with a Gen Z crowd. They’re not even thinking about retirement. Meanwhile, a joke using terms like stan and salty with Gen X will most likely fall on deaf ears.

The same goes for memes.

Take Chase Bank’s tweet ostensibly advising a Millennial. While not exactly a meme, it became one when Senator Elizabeth Warren slammed them for what many called a tone-deaf and condescending post.

No doubt you already know your audience’s age, cultural background, race, location, industry, and every other demographic. All that information you’ve collected for your other content marketing initiatives can help you make memes that hit the mark, too.

2. Create Original Memes

Even if you’re using a popular meme image, your message should be original and somehow related to your audience or brand. Don’t try to repurpose someone else’s joke for your audience. It just won’t work.

Some memes tap into the nostalgia factor. Whether it’s about 90s dance music or 80s fashion, a good nostalgia meme, like the example from Doritos, makes your audience feel like part of something bigger. Memes are all about community building.

Other brands use sarcasm or satire to get their point across. Still, others inject their memes with a bit of humility. Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself because it can make your brand seem more human and approachable. Chipotle, for instance, has attracted a million followers with their humorous and often self-deprecating tweets and memes.

This one riffed off a meme format that trended in 2020 during the COVID lockdowns.

No matter what, it has to be funny. Whether you’re trying to make a point or get people to reminisce about the good ol’ days, every meme does it with humor. If your meme isn’t funny, it most likely won’t be shared.

3. Do Your Take on a Popular Meme

One of the easiest pieces of content to create is a riff on an already viral meme. In 2018, Ruffles did a witty take on a stock photo that went viral a few years earlier.

4. Stay Relevant With Memes

When a mysterious monolith appeared (and then disappeared) in the Utah desert in 2020, the memes weren’t far behind. Amazon jumped on the opportunity to show its relevance and humor.

If you can seize on an opportunity to be on-trend and make it relevant to your brand, go for it! Just don’t force it if it doesn’t work for your brand voice or your audience.

Pro Tip: If a trend is a few days to a week into its life cycle, consider skipping it and moving on to the next trend. You may have missed the train on that one, and you risk your brand looking out of touch.

5. Develop Your Brand’s Personality With Memes

Wendy’s has one of the most identifiable brand personas on social. In 2017, the fast-food chain decided to take a risk and turn their sweet-looking mascot, Wendy, into a witty snarker who trolls other fast-food brands’ accounts.

Sure, it could stop at its memes, but Wendy’s takes it a step further, jumping on the memes of other fast-food chains to maintain their rep.

Take the Twitter war that erupted when Burger King tried to throw shade on Wendy’s:

6. Don’t Be Tacky

No self-respecting brand starts out thinking, “We’re going to make an inappropriate meme that gets all the wrong kind of attention.” Still, brands do occasionally stumble into a topic they shouldn’t touch.

When you try to make a funny meme on a topic that’s all wrong for your brand (or all wrong for any brand), you come off as tone-deaf at best.

I’m not sure that Dr. Suess would have appreciated this tweet from Charmin.

You can, however, turn someone else’s tone-deaf moment into an opportunity. In October 2020, Kim Kardashian received major backlash after she posted pictures of herself and her closest friends partying on a private island, just as COVID cases began to surge once again. The caption read:

After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.

All kinds of brands, including the New-York Historical Society, leaped at the opportunity to throw their two cents in.

If you try to tackle a trending topic like this, tread carefully. You don’t want to come off as insensitive or thoughtless yourself.

7. Research Your Memes

While Wendy’s generally receives high praise for its social media content, even this master of the meme can take a wrong turn from time to time. On one occasion, Wendy’s responded to a customer’s tweet by posting a Pepe the Frog meme, a symbol that has been adopted by white nationalist groups.

Wendy’s deleted the post as soon as they realized their mistake, and they eventually recovered from their gaffe. However, some damage was done, and a lesson had to be learned. Always research your memes before you post.

8. Stay on Brand

What do all of the brands highlighted in this article have in common? They’ve created a consistent brand persona and stuck with it.

No matter what you decide to do with your memes, keep it consistent. Otherwise, you risk confusing (and losing) your audience.

Conclusion

If done right, memes can become a pretty useful tool in your content marketing plan. They can help you reach new audiences and give your brand a human element through humor. Plus, they can help you connect with your audience without having to worry too much about keywords or content frameworks.

Memes can even help a brand reinvent itself. Their casual, funny tone lends a lighter, more contemporary voice to brands that may have previously been known for their serious demeanor.

Besides, memes are just fun.

What kinds of memes would be most effective for your brand?

The Best Payroll Services (In-Depth Review)

The Best Payroll Services (In-Depth Review)

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

What would you do with ten extra hours a month?

You’d probably work on growing your business, right? Maybe you’d spend it creating new marketing campaigns to generate more revenue. Perhaps you’d take half a day off to spend time with your family.

Regardless, the average small business owner spends five hours every pay period running payroll. That adds up to 21 full work-days a year.

But thankfully, that’s not what your payroll process has to look like.

The best payroll services simplify and streamline the process of paying your employees. They automate time-consuming tasks and give HR the tools they need to stay on top of taxes, benefits packages, paid time off, and other payroll factors.

Choosing the right payroll service is important, because they all do things a little differently. Let’s talk about the major features you are looking for and how to evaluate the top services available today.

The 6 Best Payroll Service Options for 2021 

  1. Gusto – Best payroll service for small businesses
  2. OnPay – Most flexible payroll service
  3. Paychex – Best for larger organizations
  4. ADP – Best payroll service with built-in HR
  5. QuickBooks Payroll – Best for QuickBooks integration
  6. Wave Payroll – Most affordable payroll service

How to Choose the Best Payroll Service for You

If you’ve spent some time searching for solutions from Google or asking for peers’ recommendations, you know there are hundreds of payroll companies to choose from.

With so many options, it can feel like a difficult decision.

To help you narrow things down, let’s walk through what to consider as you go through the process.

Number of Employees

Most services charge a set monthly fee plus a small fee per employee. So, it’s essential to consider the number of employees you need to pay.

Some payroll services may limit the number of employees on certain plans while others may forego the per-employee fee altogether. Furthermore, some may also offer features that make it easier to pay many people at once.

You also need to consider whether you’re paying employees or contractors, because the process and fee structure may be different for each role.

Basic Payroll Features

The best payroll services exist to simplify the process of paying your employees. So, every payroll service you consider should have a set of critical features, including:

  • Automatic payroll options
  • Self-service portal for full-time and part-time employees
  • Mobile capability to manage payroll on the go
  • Direct deposit so your employees get paid quickly
  • Automatic tax calculations and withholdings
  • W-2 and 1099 employee management

There are other advanced features you may want to consider as well, depending on what you need. This includes things like HR tools, benefits management, wage garnishments, and more.

Tax Features

Filing tax is a complicated and time-consuming process. It can also result in unfortunate and expensive penalties if you don’t do it right.

Many payroll services offer tax features that simplify the process, like calculating payroll tax to automatically withholding employee income tax.

So, it’s important to choose a payroll service that offers essential tax features to make your accountant’s life easier.

Built-In HR Tools

If you offer benefits to your employees, you need a payroll service that helps you effectively manage things like time off, vacation requests, workers’ compensation, insurance, and more.

Furthermore, services with an employee self-service dashboard make this much more manageable. Employees can log in, update their accounts, request time off, and see an overview of their benefits package.

The cheaper options on this list tend to ditch HR features. So, carefully consider what you need against your budget before making any decisions.

Monthly Payroll Limits

If you have salaried employees or a set payroll schedule, most payroll services are adequate. However, if you pay freelancers or contractors on an irregular basis or run payroll more than twice a month, you need to be careful.

Some services offer unlimited payroll processing, while others limit the number of times you can issue payments every month.

So, carefully consider how often you need to send payments when making your final decision.

Integrations

To further simplify your business processes, it’s crucial to consider the business tools you’re already using to run your business.

It’s important to choose a payroll service provider that integrates seamlessly with those tools. Think about your accounting software, your employee scheduling software, and other essential tools related to payroll.

The Different Types of Payroll Services

There are several different services to consider, depending on your business’s size and your specific payroll needs.

So, before we dive into my top recommendations, I want to talk about the different types and how to decide between them.

1. Hiring someone to do it for you

If you can afford it, hiring someone (either in-house or as a contractor) to run payroll for you is an excellent option. This ensures you find someone who knows how to do it and that they have the time to do it well.

However, you still need payroll software. They may have their own preferences and expertise, which may help you decide which service is right for your business.

With that said, many small businesses don’t necessarily need to hire someone.

The best payroll services make running payroll easy, so anyone on your team can take care of it in a few clicks.

2. Software as a service (SaaS)

The software as a service (SaaS) model means you pay to use the software. Most service providers charge monthly or annually for this, and as long as you keep paying, you get to keep using it.

Most SaaS tools are cloud-based, meaning you can access it from a web browser anywhere.

However, some also offer desktop applications and mobile apps you install on a specific device.

This is the most common type of payroll service and the most convenient to use because you and your employees can access their accounts from any device, anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

All of the recommendations on this list are SaaS payroll services.

3. Enterprise-grade solutions

Most payroll services offer enterprise-grade and industry-specific solutions for large businesses. They come with specialized, custom pricing to match the unique needs of enterprise-grade companies.

A software like this could be a SaaS tool or an on-premise deployment, depending on what you need and the company you choose.

Most businesses don’t need this. But if you manage payroll for a large company or find your current solution limited, it may be a good idea to consider an enterprise solution.

#1 – Gusto Review — The Best for Small Businesses

If you’re a small business looking for a simple payroll service, Gusto is a smart choice. And you’ll be in good company with more than 100,000+ other small businesses around the world.

Gusto makes onboarding, paying, insuring, and supporting employees as easy as possible. And they don’t call themselves a “people platform” for no reason.

They offer the right set of tools and services to make your life (and your employees’ lives) easier.

Running payroll takes just a few clicks, and you can enjoy unlimited payroll runs every month. Need to pay seven different contractors at different times? No problem.

Need to pay the same employees the same wages every pay period? You can set it up to run automatically without you having to lift a finger.

Plus, you get access to a wide variety of features, including:

  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Built-in time tracking capabilities
  • Health insurance, 401(k), PTO, workers’ comp, and more
  • Compliance with I-9’s, W-2s, and 1099s
  • Employee self-service onboarding and dashboards
  • Next-day direct deposits (on specific plans)

And the best part? It’s affordable.

If you don’t have W-2 employees, Gusto starts at $6 per contractor per month. But if you do have full-time or part-time employees, expect to pay a bit more. Their other paid plans include:

  1. Basic — $19 per month + $6 per person per month
  2. Core — $39 per month + $6 per person per month
  3. Complete — $39 per month + $12 per person per month
  4. Concierge — $149 per month + $12 per person per month

Gusto is perfect for most startups and small businesses. But, large companies with complex benefits packages and hundreds of employees may find it limiting.

Get started with Gusto today!

#2 – OnPay Review — The Most Flexible Payroll Service

If you’re looking for an all-in-one payroll system with transparent pricing and virtually unlimited flexibility, OnPay is an excellent choice.

Whether you’re a small company or a fast-growth startup, OnPay is versatile enough to suit your needs. Plus, you never have to guess how much you’re going to pay every month with their transparent pricing.

And you can rest easy knowing you have access to every feature OnPay offers regardless of the number of employees you have because they only provide one pricing plan.

Their software includes access to powerful features, including:

  • Unlimited monthly payroll runs
  • W-2 and 1099 capabilities
  • Automatic tax calculations and filings
  • Employee self-service onboarding and dashboards
  • Intuitive mobile app for management on the go
  • PTO, e-signing, org charts, and custom workflows
  • Integrated workers’ comp, health insurance, and retirement
  • Multi-state payroll

Plus, getting started is super easy. All you have to do is set up your account, add your employees, and start running payroll. Furthermore, OnPay automatically calculates and withholds taxes so you don’t have to worry about manual calculations or human error again.

They also offer specialized solutions for different industries, including nonprofits, restaurants, and farming/agriculture.

OnPay is $36 per month plus $4 per person per month. So, you can add new employees to the software for just a few dollars, making it excellent for fast-growing companies and small businesses alike.

And while OnPay can handle large companies with hundreds of employees, there are better enterprise options available. It’s most suitable for small businesses and fast-growth companies that need simple pricing and flexibility.

Try OnPay free for 30 days to see if it’s right for you!

#3 – Paychex Review — The Best for Larger Organizations

Paychex is an excellent choice for businesses with more than 50 employees. They also offer low-tier plans for small businesses, but they’re quite limited compared to the other small business options on this list.

However, their midsize to enterprise plans are perfect for large companies.

The larger your business is, the worse small discrepancies and human errors affect your tax calculations. And wrong tax filings equal harsh penalties from the IRS, even if it was an accident.

So as a large company, it’s imperative to have a payroll service that adapts to meet your needs. Paychex is more than a payroll service. It’s a human capital management (HCM) system designed to help you save time and reduce errors.

Their enterprise plans include features like:

  • Recruiting and onboarding
  • Performance and learning management
  • Powerful real-time analytics
  • 100% employee self-service
  • Payroll automation features
  • Direct deposit, paper checks, and paycards
  • Salary, hourly, and contract workers
  • Paycheck garnishments
  • PTO and benefits management
  • Job costing and labor distribution

All of which are scalable for enterprises with thousands of employees (or as little as 50). Plus, Paychex services more than 650,000+ companies and has more than 50 years of experience in the industry.

So, you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.

With that said, getting started isn’t as easy as it is with some of the other options on this list. Because each deployment is tailored to your business, you can’t get going on your own. However, they do offer a team of specialists to help you get the ball rolling.

Contact their sales team for a custom quote to get started!

#4 – ADP Review — The Best for Built-In HR Features

ADP is the way to go if you’re looking for a payroll service with the most built-in HR features. It’s perfect for smaller companies without an HR department and growing/large companies looking to streamline the process.

ADP works with more than 700,000 businesses in 140+ countries, making it one of the most popular payroll services for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

They offer tailored solutions for small, midsize, and enterprise businesses, so you’re sure to find the perfect solution whether you have five employees or 1000+.

Their lower-tiered plans include basic payroll features like automatic tax calculations, employee self-service tools, a mobile app, PTO management, and complete compliance support.

However, ADP offers more than just basic payroll and HR. They also include time tracking, talent recruitment, HR consulting services, advanced employee benefits, and the option to outsource your entire payroll/HR department.

You can also get unique benefits, like personalized training, legal assistance, background checks, and interview scheduling too.

Furthermore, ADP offers industry-specific solutions for nine different industries, including:

  • Restaurants
  • Construction
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail
  • Nonprofits

Note: ADP pricing isn’t available online, so it may not be suitable for micro or small businesses interested in getting started quickly. If you need something fast and straightforward, my #1 recommendation is Gusto.

Request a free quote to see if ADP is right for you today.

#5 – Quickbooks Payroll — The Best for QuickBooks Integration

Quickbooks Online is one of the most well-known accounting tools on the market. And if you’re already a user, QuickBooks Payroll is an excellent addition to your tech stack.

The two tools integrate seamlessly, making account reconciliation and tax season a breeze.

Furthermore, QuickBooks’ payroll system works in all 50 states. So, whether you have a remote team or work with contractors across the country, you don’t have to worry about making errors or mishandling taxes.

You can also rest easy knowing your federal, state, and local taxes are automatically calculated plus paid for you every time you run payroll. Plus, the entire process is easily automated after your first round of payments.

With QuickBooks, you get a full-service payroll system regardless of the plan you choose.

And the user interface is aesthetically pleasing with direct deposit payments landing in your employees’ bank accounts within 24 – 48 hours.

The Core Plan starts at $45 per month, plus $4 per employee per month. It includes:

  • Full-service payroll with unlimited runs
  • Automatic payments after the first run
  • Health benefits
  • Wage garnishments
  • Next-day direct deposit
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • All 50 states

So, even their most basic plan includes everything you need to simplify your HR and payroll processes.

But if that isn’t enough, their advanced plans include:

  1. Premium — $75 per month + $8/employee per month
  2. Elite — $125 per month + $10/employee per month

Get 70% off your first three months to take QuickBooks Payroll for a test drive today!

Note: 1099 contractors and freelancers aren’t included. It comes as an add-on with additional monthly fees. So, this isn’t the most affordable choice if you frequently handle contractors or freelancers.

#6 – Wave Payroll Review — The Most Affordable Payroll Service

If you’re on a tight budget, Wave Payroll is an affordable payroll option. Wave also offers numerous other small business tools for free, including invoicing, accounting, and receipt management.

The different apps integrate seamlessly to create an affordable small business accounting and payroll solution.

With Wave, getting started takes just a few minutes, and running payroll goes even faster. Plus, they offer a 100% accuracy guarantee. You can also pay hourly, salary, and contractors and automatically generate the right tax forms.

In some states, Wave automatically files and pays your state/federal payroll taxes for you. However, in those states, Wave’s services are more expensive.

You also get access to features, like:

  • Automatic journal entries (if you use Wave Accounting)
  • Self-service pay stubs and tax forms for your employees
  • Workers’ compensation management
  • Basic payroll reporting
  • Automatic year-end tax forms
  • Timesheets for PTO and accruals

While Wave is one of the most affordable payroll services, it doesn’t sacrifice functionality and essential features. Despite being cheaper than the other options on this list, you still get all the essentials you need to run payroll for your small business.

In tax service states, Wave is $35 per month + $6 per contractor/employee per month. This service isn’t necessarily cheaper than the other options on this list.

But, it’s still a great option if you’re a small business owner looking for a simple payroll solution.

However, it’s $20 per month + $6 per contractor/employee per month in self-service states. At this price, it’s easily the cheapest option with the most features available.

And don’t forget that Wave Payroll seamlessly integrates with Wave’s free accounting and invoicing software as well.

So, if you don’t yet have accounting software, this is a smart choice.

Try Wave Payroll free for 30 days to see if it’s right for you and your business!

Summary

For most users, Gusto and OnPay are my top recommendations.

They’re all excellent for small and fast-growth businesses with the ability to scale to match your needs. Plus, they’re affordable and easy to use.

However, different businesses require different solutions.

So, don’t forget to use the considerations we talked about as you go through the process of choosing the best payroll services for your business.

What payroll services do you prefer?