Update, April, 2017: My UK business has been running for four years now, and I’ve pretty much mastered the accounting I need to do (thanks to FreeAgent and my accountant). I’ve had a few issues with bugs in FreeAgent, mostly related to PayPal accounts in multiple currencies, but, on the whole, it’s been great. Support is still excellent; when I have a question about how to record something, I get an answer within a few hours. If it’s urgent, I call them, and they’ve very helpful.
When I moved to the UK in early 2013, I had to make a major change in the way I run my business. Having lived in France for a long time, I was familiar with French accounting rules, and I used a (very bad) Mac app to manage my accounting. in the UK, everything is different. I needed help setting things up (for which I engaged an accountant), and I needed a way to manage my books. I’d rather do this myself, and not pay my accountant for all the daily grunt work. Plus, I want to keep an eye on my income, expenses and bank accounts.
I couldn’t find anything satisfactory for Mac, so I decided to try a few online apps (there are dozens of them). A couple of them were so confusing that I gave up quickly. After trying FreeAgent, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this app was for me. It offers many advantages that make my work a lot easier. Here’s why I chose FreeAgent.
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(Note that all the screenshots in this article were provided by FreeAgent from a dummy account; I contacted them prior to writing this review, since I did not want to publish screenshots from my own account, and blur all the interesting bits.)
The main screen of FreeAgent is an overview screen, that shows you cash-flow, an invoice timeline, expenses, banking, and profit and loss. You can rearrange these modules, and, while I don’t use them all, it’s useful to see them.
One useful item here is the Tax Timeline, a tab in the Profit and Loss section; this helps me understand when I need to file specific tax forms.With my work, I need to be able to follow my billing and expenses, and I need to do so in several currencies. FreeAgent handles plenty of currencies; I need to bill in USD, GBP and EUR, but many others are supported. It also works with multiple VAT/sales tax rates.
It links to my bank accounts – and my PayPal account, which I use for some smaller payments – updating automatically. (With some banks, depending on their security systems, this is not automatic; you have to initiate an update and enter some security information.)
Banking information is clear and easy to use. You click on unexplained transactions to link them to invoices, bills, etc.
Invoicing is easy, and you can customize invoice templates, adding a logo, adding custom text with bank details or payment terms, and more. When you create a new invoice, it auto-increments according to the numbering system you use: I use a system per client, with letters and numbers. For example, when I invoice a company, I use the first two letters of their name, followed by numbers; so, an invoice to Apple might be APP-01, and so on.
FreeAgent also manages your contacts. For each one, you see an invoicing/payment timeline, and you can view lots of information about your work with them.
There are lots of other useful features. You can use a time tracker for clients you bill by the hour, and generate reports and invoices per client or per project. You can file tax forms directly from FreeAgent, though I’m not sure how flexible this is in countries other than the UK. There’s a good search feature that looks in all your records, access to detailed accounting reports and more.
One of the best features of FreeAgent is their support. I hesitated to pay this much for an accounting program (£25 a month in the UK; $24 a month in the US), but when I needed help, the support team generally got back to my emails in a couple of hours, and walked me through every little problem I had. This has saved me a lot of time, and time is, of course, money.
You can try FreeAgent for free for 30 days, and if you sign up with the link here, you’ll get 10% off every month (and I’ll get 10% off my account as well, for referring you). For a freelancer or small business, FreeAgent will cover all your needs.
I’m very happy with FreeAgent, and I’ve found that it’s freed up a lot of time I’d otherwise spend worrying about my accounting (or saved money I would have paid to an accountant).