You know you need to keep track of your business income and expenses. The spreadsheet you’ve been using has turned into a monster — or maybe you’re just starting your business endeavor and you want to start outright. So you search on the internet for QuickBooks and find … so many products. You have to make a choice. How can you be confident you are choosing the right QuickBooks version for your circumstances?
Choosing the Right QuickBooks Software
When you search, you discover that Intuit is the software company behind QuickBooks. You might then encounter some of these product names: Intuit Mint, QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier, QuickBooks Desktop, QuickBooks Enterprise, and many more. But, do you really have to read the user manual for each of these just to figure out which one you should pick?
Short answer: No. Longer answer: This article.
Sorting Through Your Options
Let’s think through our accounting software choices by first grouping them into broad categories.
Mint goes into the personal accounting software category. It is a good product for keeping track of your personal income, expenses, and household budget. But it does not provide additional features you will need for your business. Cross Mint off the list!
The remaining products — the QuickBooks lineup — do have business features. But they do not all have the same features. Depending upon what you sell and how you operate your business, some of these products will be obvious wrong choices. And some of them will be right for right now, keeping in mind that you may find it useful to change products as you grow and your business needs change.
Why so many product names? Is Intuit just trying to confuse us? We can partially blame the internet for the incredible range of product names.
When QuickBooks started out, software was something you bought at a physical store, loaded onto your computer, and used on your personal workstation.
Now, however, we are used to thinking of software as a cloud-based app.
Intuit supports both of these models.
Intuit’s QuickBooks Desktop series are the traditional workstation software products. They include:
- QuickBooks Pro
- QuickBooks Premier
- QuickBooks Enterprise)
Intuit’s Online series are cloud-based apps. They include:
- QuickBooks Online Simple Start
- QuickBooks Online Essentials
- QuickBooks Online Plus
- QuickBooks Online Advanced
- QuickBooks Commerce product (new)
QuickBooks For Self-Employed
You can think of QuickBooks Self-Employed as Mint plus some features an independent contractor or freelancer with no employees might find helpful.
With the Self-Employed product, you can send invoices, track mileage, and keep images of expense receipts right in the app.
That’s about it, though.
You might find you outgrow Self-Employed quickly if you want to use your data to help you make decisions for the future (forecasting) or even just to make simple profit and loss statements.
If you have employees or inventory, QuickBooks Self-Employed is probably not the right product for you.
Use Cases For QuickBooks Desktop Products
Let’s look more closely at the QuickBooks Desktop products to determine which version may be right for you.
Intuit’s Desktop products were the flagship business accounting software products. They’re available for PC and Mac systems (for Mac, check out “Desktop for Mac”), and are
still really good choices for many businesses.
Which businesses benefit the most from QuickBooks Desktop?
- Sellers or resellers who need to track inventory
- Businesses who can benefit from job costing features to more easily see where they’re making or losing money on particular jobs
- Manufacturing companies
Benefits of QuickBooks Desktop Products
All business owners benefit from QuickBooks Desktop reports. They help you see at a glance how your business is doing.
The reporting benefits include the typical profit and loss statement, balance statements, cash flow projections, outstanding invoice reports, and best-selling item reports, to name just a few reports all businesses will benefit from.
Beyond the more common reports though, QuickBooks Desktop products track employee information, too. By using the free TSheets by QuickBooks app in conjunction with their QuickBooks Desktop product, businesses can keep track of employee time and employee-related expenses.
If your business employs several employees who perform a lot of project work, this tracking is especially helpful. It gets down to the granular level — if you want to find out how much the business paid for particular employees to work on particular projects, you can! These programs also help you calculate sales and income tax.
Differentiating Between QuickBooks Desktop Options
Deciding which QuickBooks Desktop Version is right for you depends on which features you need or want and deciding how much money you want to spend.
QuickBooks Enterprise is the most expensive of the three Desktop options with the most features.
QuickBooks Premier is less expensive with numerous but fewer features.
QuickBooks Pro is the least expensive with the fewest features.
If you know you want a QuickBooks Desktop product, deciding which version to buy is simply deciding which features you don’t need and don’t want to pay for.
For example, if you know you will want more than 3 users to access your QuickBooks Desktop product, you also know QuickBooks Pro will not work for you but QuickBooks Premiere might.
Don’t worry if you find you need to upgrade later to a desktop version with more features. Since the interface for the Desktop products is the same, upgrading is generally pretty easy and can be done at any time.
Differentiating Between QuickBooks SaaS Accounting Software Option – QuickBooks Online
Turning now to the QuickBooks Online products, Intuit is putting a lot of its development effort here these days. While its QuickBooks Online products may not have all of the features you can find on the QuickBooks Desktop products, the list of supported features is constantly growing.
Like QuickBooks Desktop products, QuickBooks differentiates its Online products by price-point and features.
QuickBooks Online Advanced is the most expensive with the most features.
QuickBooks Online Simple Start is the least expensive with the least features.
You can choose the cheapest option that has the features you need right now confident that an in-app upgrade is just a few mouse clicks and a credit card payment away, should you choose to upgrade later.
QuickBooks Desktop vs Online
There are some basic questions you should ask yourself as a business owner when deciding between QuickBooks Desktop vs QuickBooks Online.
The most basic to ask yourself is: do you want the flexibility of web-based software, or are you okay with a locally installed piece of software on your computer?
In 2020, more new QuickBooks software users are choosing the online version of QuickBooks yet most people are using the desktop version.
But just because most new users are selecting the online version, doesn’t mean it’s the right version for you.
Do you have a product-based business with inventory?
Do you require more advanced job costing features?
If you answer yes to either of those questions then the Desktop Version provides a significant benefit over the Online Version.
QuickBooks Online products do not yet have job costing features. They do have some inventory support, but this is a new feature and is not yet as robust as the inventory tracking features in QuickBooks Desktop.
So, if you are a reseller or a manufacturer, QuickBooks Online might not have everything you need quite yet.
Just remember, Intuit is actively working on developing its QuickBooks Online features, so this distinction might change tomorrow.
The New Kid On The Block – QuickBooks Commerce
QuickBooks Commerce is relatively new. It’s not yet available for everyone, but if you sell online, you might want to check it out. Like QuickBooks Online products, QuickBooks Commerce is a cloud-based app you access via a subscription service. It promises to track your inventory and sales across sales platforms like Shopify, Amazon, Etsy, eBay, WooCommerce, and more.
Switching From QuickBooks Desktop To QuickBooks Online Comes With A Learning Curve
If you are trying to decide whether to start with a QuickBooks Desktop product, a QuickBooks Online product or to switch from one to the other, you should be aware the Desktop and cloud-based app user interfaces are not the same. If you switch from a Desktop product to a QuickBooks Online app, be prepared for a steep learning curve.
If you are already using a Desktop product, don’t want to learn a new interface, but do want the convenience of accessing your QuickBooks Desktop product from wherever you might be in the world, web hosting applications can help you make that dream happen.
Since online apps do seem to be where the industry is going, you might find it worthwhile to learn the QuickBooks Online interface if you will not lose important functionality by switching products.
If you have not invested in learning a QuickBooks system yet and an Online product has the functions you need, you might find it better to start learning the Online interface since that’s where QuickBooks is going.
And of course, you can reach out to the professionals at Mission Accounting Help for more personalized guidance. We’re here to help — it’s in our name!
Bernard Roesch, Mission Accounting Help’s founder, is a Harvard MBA and a QuickBooks ProAdvisor. He and the rest of the team here can help you choose a QuickBooks product that’s right for you, set it up so it’s optimized for your business, and train you and your staff on how to use it. We also provide ongoing or project-based bookkeeping and CFO services. Let us know how we can help you!