One of the most painful things I found when starting my first business back in 2003 was getting my head around accounting, and soon after the incorporation I had the joy of understanding VAT to add to it. Accounting was a huge chore but I knew it was an integral part of a business and so I spent weeks holed up in a darkened room poring over receipts from months passed and trying to organise a spreadsheet that allowed my accountant some kind of sensible insight into the working of my business.
The experience was so painful that this became an annual event for a few years as I wouldn’t want to go back to doing accounting – in practice running a business is reasonably simple – you buy things at less than you sell them for and ensure that it doesn’t cost you the difference to sell them, but on paper it doesn’t work out quite so easily!
Eventually I became more comfortable with accounting and started keeping the books up to date month to month and eventually delegating it to an employee, however there was still at least a couple of days extra preparation required at the end of a year before it went off to the accountant. This spawned a job for one of my developers to put together an accounting software system (codenamed Betty strangely), however due to various other projects it didn’t get off the ground.
So imagine my pleasure when I found an online accounting system called Clearbooks, that ticks some major boxes in terms of both the software itself and the way that they actually build their software. For the system it has the following major benefits:
- 30 days free “try before you buy” – with no credit card details to enter.
- Affordable after the free trial – for very light users (less than 5 transactions a month) it’s even free! The unlimited plan doesn’t break the bank either, weighing in at just £15 per month for unlimited use. Check out all the pricing options here.
- Generates all your invoices for you, with your logo and can email them direct to your clients if you wish. Client paying late? You can set up automated email reminders to go out to them too.
- Import your bank statements to get everything held in one place.
- Attach scans of bills and receipts you’ve received to each purchase for proof of the expenditure.
- File your VAT online to HMRC directly through the system.
- And even more I can’t fit in this blog post – just go and check out the demo or sign up for a free trial, there’s nothing to lose!
Now onto how they actually build and improve the system, and interact with users:
- Looks like it’s built using a PHP Rapid Development Framework (doesn’t look like CakePHP so I’m guessing at Zend). Which takes the grunt work out of creating a unique project and allows you to spend more time actually improving your product. A good example of not re-inventing the wheel.
- Constant improvements are communicated through their blog. I was thinking yesterday it would be nice to be able to customise my invoices further and lo and behold look what’s in development.
- Their online help and suggestions system is community based using Get Satisfaction, an online community system that does the work for you from as little as $19 USD per month. The benefits of community based systems are another post in themselves that I may put together.
- They tweet to other users with support questions.
All in all Clearbooks is a great system, built in a smart way, using all the elements of the social web to it’s advantage and I wish the guys over there all the luck in the world. In the meantime I know when it comes to a choice of my painfully under-equipped spreadsheet accounting system and Clearbooks, there is a clear winner!