8.6
Editor’s Rating:
Best Overall
Xero: Dashboard
Xero
  • Basic inventory management capabilities
  • Free trial available and no setup fees
  • Large number of add ons and integrations
8.5
Editor’s Rating:
Best for Independent Consultants
FreshBooks: Dashboard
FreshBooks
  • Customizable payment terms
  • Discounted intro pricing
  • No setup costs
7.8
Editor’s Rating:
Best Time Tracking Tools
QuickBooks Online: Sales Dashboard
QuickBooks Online
  • Widely used by most accountants
  • Tons of integrations available
  • Customizable invoicing

Accounting software for consultants provides streamlined and automated tools for basic financial processes including invoicing, general ledger, revenues, and expense tracking. We used our advanced review methodology to select the top options for independent consultants to large consulting firms.

1 Xero - Best Overall

Why We Chose It: We put Xero in our top spot because of its low cost and features tailored to both independent consultants and small consulting firms. It offers basic accounting features like cash flow, invoices, bank reconciliations, and general ledger. We like that it accommodates unlimited users across all pricing plans, making it affordable for growing businesses that add new consultants as they scale.

During our testing, we liked Xero’s comprehensive reporting options. Users can create over 40 financial reports, including P&Ls, aged payables, receivables, and balance sheets. They are also customizable, with the ability to create custom formulas to extract more information from the data. While we appreciate Xero’s low-cost Early plan at $15/month, time tracking and project accounting are unavailable until the Established plan at $78/month.

Best Overall:
Xero

Xero: Dashboard
Xero: Expenses
What We Like
Basic inventory management capabilities
Free trial available and no setup fees
Large number of add ons and integrations
What We Don’t Like
Big learning curve
Hard to get phone support (email is more frequent)
Limited to 2,000 transactions per month
Overview
Price Range: $$
Starting Price: $13/month
Client OS: Web
Deployment: Cloud Hosted

2 FreshBooks - Best for Independent Consultants

Why We Chose It: We like Freshbooks best for independent consultants because of its optimized user interface and streamlined accounting. Its user-friendly interface makes it easy to use these features without being an expert accountant, which makes initial setup faster. We also like its mobile app that allows for bookkeeping on the go, great for consultants who have a busy travel schedule.

After demoing the system, we like its customizable invoicing feature, which personalizes each invoice for every client. It also offers unlimited invoices and automatic payment reminders for recipients. Additionally, FreshBooks automates basic accounting features like charts of accounts, balance sheets, general ledgers, and P&Ls.

FreshBooks’s popular Plus plan is $33/month, including recurring invoices, bank transfers, and reporting. One drawback is that users are limited to 50 clients, so we wouldn’t recommend it for consultants over that limit.

Best for Independent Consultants:
FreshBooks

FreshBooks: Dashboard
FreshBooks: Add Ons
FreshBooks: Mobile Dashboard
FreshBooks: Accounting Settings and Reports
FreshBooks: Advanced Accounting
FreshBooks: Bank Connections
FreshBooks: Mileage Tracking on Mobile
FreshBooks: Email Templates
FreshBooks: Expense Report
FreshBooks: Invoice From Unbilled Hours
FreshBooks: Mobile Trip Tracking
FreshBooks: Mobile Dashboard
FreshBooks: Mobile New Invoice
FreshBooks: Available Integrations
FreshBooks: Mobile New Invoice
FreshBooks: Add New Client
FreshBooks: Add New Expense
FreshBooks: Payroll Settings
FreshBooks: Create New Invoice
FreshBooks: Time Tracking
FreshBooks: New Project
FreshBooks: View Invoice
FreshBooks: FreshBooks Reports
What We Like
Customizable payment terms
Discounted intro pricing
No setup costs
What We Don’t Like
Client-based pricing
No bulk invoice creation
Limited report customization
Overview
Price Range: $
Starting Price: $19/month
Client OS: iOS, Android, Web
Deployment: Cloud Hosted

3 QuickBooks Online - Best Time Tracking Tools

Why We Chose It: QuickBooks Online made our list because of its time-tracking module that optimizes the process for small consulting businesses and independents. Employees can clock in and out from their computer or mobile app, allowing clients to see how long consultants work for instantly. It also enables payroll syncing so invoices and payments are accurate.

We also like QuickBooks’ batch invoicing feature, which is effective for consultants with hundreds of invoices. The automation lets users send all invoices simultaneously, making it a huge time saver. The system also ensures compliance for tax season, making it easy to file as an independent consultant. One downside we found is that it’s fairly pricey, with its base Simple Start plan being $30/month. Those requiring time tracking must upgrade to the Essentials plan at $60/month.

Best Time Tracking Tools:
QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online: Sales Dashboard
QuickBooks Online: Find an Accountant
QuickBooks Online: Track Mileleage
QuickBooks Online: Mobile Cash Flow
QuickBooks Online: Bank Reconciliation
QuickBooks Online: Dashboard
QuickBooks Online: Mobile Dashboard
QuickBooks Online: Customers
QuickBooks Online: Mobile Shortcuts
QuickBooks Online: Create Invoice
QuickBooks Online: Sales Vendors
QuickBooks Online: Bill Pay
QuickBooks Online: Banking
QuickBooks Online: Expense Dashboard
QuickBooks Online: Payroll Dashboard
What We Like
Widely used by most accountants
Tons of integrations available
Customizable invoicing
What We Don’t Like
Comparatively expensive
Few industry-specific features
Limited users per plan
Overview
Price Range: $
Starting Price: $30/month
Client OS: Web
Deployment: Cloud Hosted

4 NetSuite Professional Services Automation - Best for Large Consulting Firms

Why We Chose It: We like NetSuite Professional Services Automation (PSA) system best for large consulting firms that manage several complex projects at once. It includes project accounting, timesheet and expense management, and project reporting features. These are essential for large firms with 50-100 employees working on projects requiring accurate timekeeping and billing.

NetSuite PSA can be combined with its accounting software to integrate all financials and bookkeeping into one system. It automates the general ledger, AR, AP, and payment management. This integration can keep firms compliant with taxes through the complexities of time-based projects. While it doesn’t have public pricing, NetSuite can be expensive and complex, better suiting the needs of large firms.

Best for Large Consulting Firms:
NetSuite ERP

NetSuite ERP: Home Screen
NetSuite ERP: Income Statement
NetSuite ERP: Journal
NetSuite ERP: Unrealized Exchange Rate Gains and Losses
NetSuite ERP: Ecommerce Customer Statistics
NetSuite ERP: Sales Orders
NetSuite ERP: Revenue Recognition
What We Like
Hundreds of third-party add-ons available
Feature sets for multiple industries
Highly customizable
What We Don’t Like
Must schedule a consult for pricing details
Tedious setup
Difficult to build reports
Overview
Price Range: $$$$
Starting Price: $99/user/month
Client OS: Web
Deployment: Cloud Hosted

5 Wave - Best Free Option

Why We Chose It: Wave is a good option for new and independent consultants because of its free plan. It allows for unlimited estimates, invoices, bills, and cash flow management, all for free. Users can even connect their bank for simple bookkeeping.

Wave also features a user-friendly interface, with its point-and-click functionality making it easy for users inexperienced with accounting. After testing the system, we like its free invoice customization options that let businesses add their logo and colors, which helps new consultants look professional and credible when invoicing clients. One downside to Wave is if users are looking to accept online payments through the system, there is a 2.9% transaction fee for both the free and Pro plans.

Best Free Option:
Wave

Wave: Dashboard
Wave: New Invoice
Wave: Products and Services
Wave: Receipts
Wave: New Estimate
Wave: Available Reports
What We Like
Accounting features are free
Mobile app
Multi-currency invoicing
What We Don’t Like
Collecting online payments is “pay-per-use”
Payroll costs extra
Payroll is a monthly add-on
Overview
Price Range: $
Client OS: iOS, Android, Web
Deployment: Cloud Hosted

6 Zoho Books - Best Integration Options

Why We Chose It: Zoho Books is an online accounting software that automates accounting processes and offers several Zoho integrations. Specifically, we like Zoho Books for small consulting businesses requiring streamlined project management. Its task management tool has checklists and settable work hours, ensuring projects are completed fully and on time.

After testing, we concluded that Zoho Books works best for independent consultants or consulting firms with up to 10 employees. We like its time-tracking tools, as users can manage multiple projects and create invoices straight from specific projects. The drawback for Zoho is that project management integration can get expensive for several users.

Best Integration Options:
Zoho Books

Zoho Books: Invoicing
Zoho Books: Recurring Bills
Zoho Books: Inventory
Zoho Books: Bank Reconciliation
Zoho Books: Time Tracking
Zoho Books: Contacts
Zoho Books: Dashboards
What We Like
Client portal with sales and purchase approvals
Easily integrate with dozens of Zoho products
Time-tracking
What We Don’t Like
Difficult to modify invoices
Time tracking must be tied to projects
Maximum of 10 users
Overview
Price Range: $
Starting Price: $15/month
Client OS: Web
Deployment: Cloud Hosted

7 Striven - Best for Midsize Companies

Why We Chose It: Striven is our pick for midsize companies because of its wide range of features beyond core accounting. The system includes marketing and client management tools to help businesses attract and retain clients. We especially like the calendar feature allows consultees to schedule appointments and lets team members book events internally to avoid time conflicts. The ERP package also includes HR and CRM capabilities.

Because it is an ERP, Striven has features that may not apply to consulting companies, like inventory management. On the flip side, its comprehensive feature set makes it a good option for midsize companies requiring more than basic accounting. It comes with a moderate price tag, with the Standard plan being $35/month/user.

Best for Midsize Companies:
Striven

Striven: CRM and Sales
Striven: Project Management
Striven: Accounting
Striven: Human Resources
What We Like
Automated workflows
Mobile responsive design
API access
What We Don’t Like
No native payroll system
Phone support is only available in priority support option
No critical path management
Overview
Price Range: $$
Starting Price: $35/user/month
Client OS: Web
Deployment: Cloud Hosted

8 Sage Intacct - Advanced Financial Management

Why We Chose It: We picked Sage Intacct because of its strong core financial tools and consulting-specific features like professional services automation. The system uses AI to help identify financial trends, giving businesses a better understanding of problem areas and successes. Reports and dashboards also give real-time data visualizations for metrics such as total work hours, revenues, and expenses.

We like that Sage Intacct includes HR, Payroll, and Talent Management, all integrated into one system. The AI-powered time tracking enables streamlined and accurate timekeeping for employees. The system integrates with payroll, automating hourly pay conversions, which makes it easy to pay employees. One feature we found was missing is a CRM module, which must be integrated from another system.

Advanced Financial Management:
Sage Intacct

Sage Intacct: Purchasing
Sage Intacct: Entities
Sage Intacct: Order Entry
Sage Intacct: Resource Search
Sage Intacct: Report Center
Sage Intacct: Financial Report Editor
Sage Intacct: Dashboard
What We Like
Multi-dimensional reporting capabilities
Scalability for multi-entity support and user growth
Simple and responsive user interface
What We Don’t Like
Budgeting and interactive reporting cost extra
Limited non-financial functionalities
Volume exports can be difficult
Overview
Price Range: $$$
Starting Price: $8,580/year
Client OS: Web
Deployment: Cloud Hosted

9 AccountingSuite - Best QuickBooks Competitor

Why We Chose It: AccountingSuite is an accounting system best suited for small businesses and a scalable competitor to QuickBooks. We like that projects and time-tracking tools are available on its base Start-Up plan for $19/month. This is a good option for new businesses on a budget to still get these capabilities. It also includes all basic accounting tools, including personalized invoicing options like custom product fields and promise dates.

AccountingSuite includes custom reporting features that allow businesses to visualize their financial health through charts and data consolidation. We also like that every plan receives full support, so businesses don’t have to pay extra for different support tiers. However, we don’t like that it lacks a mobile app, which can inconvenience users who desire a native app experience.

Best QuickBooks Competitor:
AccountingSuite

AccountingSuite: Home Page
AccountingSuite: Create Quote
AccountingSuite: Create Purchase Order
What We Like
Includes inventory management and time tracking
No costs beyond subscription fee
Use multiple modules at once via tabs
What We Don’t Like
Crowded user interface
No mobile app
Less efficient with high volume of transactions
Overview
Price Range: $$
Starting Price: $19/month
Client OS: Web
Deployment: Cloud Hosted

What is Accounting Software for Consultants?

Accounting software for consultants is a system that aims to automate bookkeeping tasks such as general ledger, billing, invoicing, and time tracking from independent consultants to large firms. Accounting software usually connects to a business’s bank to streamline transactions and automatically record revenues and expenses. These software are most commonly web-based with mobile apps so consultants who are constantly on the road can manage finances from anywhere.

Depending on the size of your consulting firm, ERP systems are also commonly used for accounting and include CRM, HR, and payroll features. These systems are more comprehensive, with consulting-specific tools like project management to track several complex clients simultaneously.

Xero Expenses
Manage expenses with Xero.

Key Features

  • Time Tracking: Easily track billable hours for every client and project. Keep accurate time records that clients can see for transparency.
  • Billing and Invoicing: Send accurate and professional invoices to clients with your logo and colors. Automate recurring invoices with templates to streamline the process. Pay bills directly through the system with an integrated bank account.
  • Project Management: Manage project-based clients, assign task checklists, and workable hours for enhanced productivity.
  • General Ledger: Streamline and record all incoming and outgoing transactions. Automate payments and bills easily while keeping a comprehensive financial record.
  • Financial reporting: Gain insight into financial data with reports on revenues, expenses, and total project hours.
FreshBooks Invoices
Generate invoices based on billable hours in FreshBooks.

Primary Benefits

Streamlined Accounting

Businesses or independent consultants who use pen and paper or Excel spreadsheets for their bookkeeping will greatly benefit from digitized accounting processes. Systems automatically record bank transactions, keeping accurate data of revenues and expenses so you don’t have to. All financial information is usually stored in the cloud so users can access it anywhere and on any device.

Another benefit of accounting software is the ability to save time through automated accounting tasks. Being an independent consultant requires long hours of meeting with clients, researching, and growing a business. With automated accounting processes, you can save hours a week compared to a manual accounting system.

Enhanced Client and Project Management

Keeping track of clients and ongoing projects is essential for any size consulting business. Through accounting software for consultants, companies can accurately record billable hours worked, create task checklists per client or project, and keep detailed records of each, ensuring jobs are completed timely and accurately.

Zoho Books Time Tracking
Log hours worked with specific task and project names with Zoho Books.

Pricing

Accounting software for consultants can range anywhere from $0 to $300/ month. This number largely depends on your business and its needs. Independent consultants just starting out will only require basic accounting, which can be accessed through free base plans like Xero and Zoho Books. Small businesses that need more features will look to spend more, like the QuickBooks Essentials plan for $60/month, which includes time tracking.

ERP systems are generally quote-based, costing anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the number of users and features included. These systems are reserved for large firms that require a comprehensive solution with inventory management, payroll, customer relationship management, and more in addition to accounting for their business.

All Products

No products found
Xero Screenshot

Xero

★★★★★
★★★★★
(3)
A contender against QuickBooks Online, Xero is a popular solution for its user-friendly interface, affordability, and unlimited users per subscription. It’s a cloud-based, double-entry accounting software that offers bank reconciliation, financial reporting, and basic invoicing and billing.
Price Range
   $     $     $     $     $   
   $     $     $     $     $   
Starting Price
$13/month
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
FreshBooks Screenshot

FreshBooks

★★★★★
★★★★★
(5)
FreshBooks is well-recognized in the accounting world and stands as a competitor to QuickBooks Online. It’s a simple cloud accounting software that allows you to invoice clients, track expenses, and accept payments.
Price Range
   $     $     $     $     $   
   $     $     $     $     $   
Starting Price
$19/month
Client OS
iOS, Android, Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
QuickBooks Online Screenshot

QuickBooks Online

★★★★★
★★★★★
(54)
QuickBooks Online is the most popular financial software on the market. This cloud-based accounting solution enables tracking of sales and expenses, generating estimates, customer management, and seamless collaboration with external accountants.
Price Range
   $     $     $     $     $   
   $     $     $     $     $   
Starting Price
$30/month
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
NetSuite ERP Screenshot

NetSuite ERP

★★★★★
★★★★★
(25)
Oracle’s NetSuite is well-known in the ERP world for its customization and scalability. It’s a multi-tenant ERP software supporting finance, operations, sales, service, and HR needs.
Price Range
   $     $     $     $     $   
   $     $     $     $     $   
Starting Price
$99/user/month
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
Wave Screenshot

Wave

★★★★★
★★★★★
(5)
The Wave app is a highly popular accounting solution among freelancers and small businesses. It’s a free cloud-hosted software that allows you to track income and expenses, perform bank reconciliation, capture and organize receipts, and create custom invoices.
Price Range
   $     $     $     $     $   
   $     $     $     $     $   
Client OS
iOS, Android, Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
Zoho Books Screenshot

Zoho Books

★★★★★
★★★★★
(6)
Zoho Books is a popular alternative to QuickBooks Online. It’s a cloud-based accounting software that offers accounts receivables and payables functionality. It lets you manage your financials and banking, create reports, and automate your sales and purchasing workflows.
Price Range
   $     $     $     $     $   
   $     $     $     $     $   
Starting Price
$15/month
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
Striven Screenshot

Striven

★★★★★
★★★★★
(9)
Striven is a cloud-based ERP software that enhances productivity and collaboration by integrating various business management tools into one platform, including accounting, CRM, project management, HR, and inventory management.
Price Range
   $     $     $     $     $   
   $     $     $     $     $   
Starting Price
$35/user/month
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
Sage Intacct Screenshot

Sage Intacct

★★★★★
★★★★★
(46)
Sage Intacct is a browser-based, GAAP-compliant financial management software system. It features multi-entity financial reporting, customizable reports, and a user-friendly interface. The AICPA has endorsed the platform as a “preferred provider of financial management application.”
Price Range
   $     $     $     $     $   
   $     $     $     $     $   
Starting Price
$8,580/year
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted
AccountingSuite Screenshot

AccountingSuite

★★★★★
★★★★★
(11)
AccountingSuite is a competitively-priced accounting software offering advanced functionalities beyond financial management. It provides banking integration, budgeting, financial reporting, and accounts receivables and payables.
Price Range
   $     $     $     $     $   
   $     $     $     $     $   
Starting Price
$19/month
Client OS
Web
Deployment
Cloud Hosted

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