As a business owner you can keep your books on a spreadsheet – FREE EXCEL TRAINING AVAILABLE HERE. However, it is actually quicker and easier to start off with a software package. They range in basic functions up to more comprehensive solutions, depending upon your needs. The three main packages are Xero, Sage and QuickBooks.

Although desktop-based software is still available, cloud based software is used far more widely. It has the benefit of being accessible from any device and location, as long as you have internet connectivity.

man on phone
man on phone with laptop

Cloud-based software has many advantages for the on-the-go business owner. Such as being able to scan your expense receipts whilst you’re out and about. Preparing and sending a sales invoices and even preparing and providing a quotation by email, directly from your device.

Cloud-based software also enables your bookkeeper to access your business accounts remotely rather than on your business premises. Your accountant can also be provided with access to your cloud-based accounts. This enables them to extract and prepare your year-end accounts with more ease and efficiency.

The outsourcing route

Below you will find details of various cloud-based software options. Most software providers will provide some level of free training. However this can be time-consuming! If you are in a hurry to get your software set-up, and that may include payroll and VAT elements, you may need a crash course in how to use the software.

Alternatively, you could hire someone who is certified in bookkeeping. Click the button below to look at the “Find a Bookkeeper” page to find the right person to help you with setting it all up.

This candidate will have the skills to set-up everything that you need for the bookkeeping of your business whilst being able to train you on how to use the software to the extent you require

Find a Bookkeeper

Software Features

As a bookkeeper you will require experience in all major software packages – Xero, Sage and QuickBooks. Find out the details of each software below to identify your preferences.

However, make sure the software functions are appropriate both for your business and that of your clients.

All three have similarities as follows:


Sales invoices can be raised and emailed to client.


Purchase invoices and expense receipts can easily be entered onto the books.

Live bank feeds

Making bank transactions much quicker, easier and more accurate.


The ability to have multi users from different sites – and the choice to limit the type of access for each individual.

Monthly Reporting

Management accounts to track the success of the business.


Emailing client statements and chasing unpaid invoices (you can set up any email address specifically to deal with this)

Free Training

Free training and more advanced training for bookkeepers in modules.


Payroll for any number of employees with automatic reporting to HMRC and everything you need easily produced.

VAT Reporting

VAT calculations and reporting to HMRC are automated, making this very quick and easy.

Free updates

All software updates and tax or legal change updates are automatic and free of charge.

* Since April 19 any vat registered business with a taxable turnover of £85,000 or more needs to report through approved accounting software to HMRC

Some of the differences:


The layout of each site may differ and some are more user friendly than others. For Business owners, we would suggest you take a look at some of the below options by signing up for a free trial and navigating your way around the site to see what you are comfortable with. Bookkeepers you will, in time, need to be comfortable with using all of them. You will probably form a preference and if clients ask you what you want to use then you can suggest your preference.


All have special areas and training for bookkeepers and you can become certified as an expert if you have gone through the relevant training programmes.

Help Sections

Some are better laid out than others and more intuitive, but all are extensive if you don’t know how to do something.

Customer services

Although you will only really need them if you can’t find an answer in the help section – you will mostly need to email and ask your question and then wait for an answer. It is very rare that the software is non-functioning – If this happens it is very quickly fixed without too much down time.


Sage is a UK based product, Xero is Australian and QuickBooks is USA based.


Xero’s online accounting software is designed to make life easier for small businesses. See how we can help you take control of the numbers, so you can get back to what you do best.

With Xero’s intuitive online accounting software, you can see your cash flow in real-time and put business accounting tasks on autopilot. Beautiful.

xero logo
Visit Xero
Visit QuickBooks


Speed up the process and improve your cash flow. QuickBooks lets you know the minute your invoice is viewed and paid.


Easy to get started, just as easy to use. Breeze through day-to-day accounting. Collaborate, share, and work anywhere (on any device). Buy or take a free trial today.

Visit Sage
Visit BrightPay


BrightPay is an award-winning payroll software that makes managing payroll and automatic enrolment easy. BrightPay is fully HMRC recognised, supports all RTI submission types and includes full functionality for auto enrolment, CIS, payrolling of benefit and much more. BrightPay has a 99% customer satisfaction rate and is used to process the payroll for over 250,000 businesses across the UK and Ireland. BrightPay’s safe, secure and intuitive payroll software minimises payroll administration, helping users run an efficient and accurate payroll.

BrightPay’s cloud add-on, BrightPay Connect offers flexibility and online benefits, with many value-added features for clients, including an online annual leave management tool. The payroll information is stored online, with a secure online portal for clients and self-service smartphone access for employees. Clients can access payslips and payroll reports, view amounts due to HMRC, upload documents to distribute to employees, send the payroll data to the payroll processor through a secure channel, approve the payroll run and much more.

Free Agent

FreeAgent is an online money management and accounting tool intended for small businesses of up to 10 employees. This will include most kinds of freelancers, contractors and consultants. Whether you are just getting started, or are already in business, FreeAgent can save you time.

Visit FreeAgent

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