I’ve been on both sides of this phenomenon in terms of being able to count on getting and depositing a paycheck and the difficult position that comes when making payroll depends on receiving third-party payments. Going into debt, business or otherwise, is one thing, but if you literally don’t have funds in the account or, more often, there’s some type of clerical or printing error, things get really crappy really fast on all sides. You have people who have bills that need to be paid. You have long-term employee morale to consider, especially when your business operates in a high-stress industry like healthcare. Too often, there are no good answers.
It also points to one of the things that make decisions around payroll and accounting expenditures, both software and personnel, so difficult to make. It has to be cost-effective, but it also has to be reliable. One of my big pet peeves or maybe just general frustrations, both as an employee and an employer, was the idea of having to choose between not having a reliable payroll solution at all and overpaying for some fancy system that was little more than a glorified calculator and laser printer with special ink.
Partly because I was good at math and partly because I never had too many employees, I always kept my own books and I always did my own payroll—with a little help from free and, in some cases, cheap payroll software. With this in mind, if you don’t have these skills, if your company has 50+ employees, or if it’s all you can do just to keep up with meeting your business demand, then by all means hire an accountant. There are very real dangers to doing your own bookkeeping.
Free Accounting Software
Or maybe you’re the small business accountant looking for a cheap software solution for your client roster. In any case, what I generally found to be most effective is a combination of free accounting software paired with a low-cost payroll solution. Now, generally speaking, some of the biggest and most popular free software brands you’ve heard before. Based on in-app advertisements, Wave Accounting is also becoming something of a household name (among accountants anyway) for free accounting software. GnuCash is another great option for free software with basic accounting options. Quickbooks is the big industry name for free or low-cost software. A lot of businesses gain free access to basic Quickbooks accounting through associations or promotional deals.
Cheap Payroll Software
Almost all of these options have pay-for products when it comes to payroll and/or more advanced accounting software needs. Quickbooks has its equally well-known Intuit software line. Indeed, that’s “how they get you.” Well, that and monthly subscription rates that make it seem like just another monthly bill that’s part of running the shop.
Look, I get the draw and comfort of sticking with the same brand and platform, but here’s where Finance Gets Personal: I remember, an old college friend who also ended up in accounting was in town, and we were talking payroll software and how that was really the point in which you need to invest in pay-for software. We were at this chic French restaurant and were also talking about the rise of software subscription services including those for payroll. He was like, “I don’t understand the appeal of this cloud-based software and monthly fees. For one low price, I can get a whole year of payroll software and support services.”
He was the first one who told me about Advanced Micro Solutions and its payroll platform. An unknown but little dynamo in Oklahoma City. They even still send CD-ROMs to their “older” customers, but their software is the least expensive on the market and it does all you need. So, that’s my tip: If you don’t mind having a different system for your payroll than your free and general accounting software, small business owners in particular can save a few dollars on their payroll software and accounting costs.