FreshBooks vs. QuickBooks Online

FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online are two good options for small-business owners trying to track their finances and grow their businesses. Each software provider has its pros and cons; our piece can help you decide which one best meets your needs.
Most Affordable
Fresh Books
FreshBooks
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Plans starting at $15/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Excellent customer service ratings
Best Tax Help
Quickbooks
QuickBooks Online
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Thorough sales tax tracking
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Highly rated mobile app

QuickBooks and FreshBooks are two of the most common names in small-business accounting. Both software brands can track business expenses, send invoices, and help you prep for tax time, but they have heaps of differences too. And if you're investing in accounting software for the first time, those differences can be (understandably!) hard to parse.

Want the tl;dr? Here’s what we’ve got: In general, if you value customer service and lower pricing, we recommend FreshBooks. If you want thorough accounting software regardless of price, we recommend QuickBooks.

There’s a lot more nuance, though, so don’t make up your mind quite yet. Instead, keep reading. This article breaks down both brands by price, plan, pros, and cons.

Megaphone
COVID-19 crisis pricing
Both FreshBooks and QuickBooks are offering pricing specials to help small-business owners get a leg up during the COVID-19 crisis. FreshBooks is offering new users 60% off the typical starting price for the first six months, while QuickBooks is offering new users 70% off the starting price for the first three months. That temporarily brings FreshBooks' starting price down to $6 per month and QuickBooks' down to $8 per month.

FreshBooks vs. QuickBooks Online

Brand
Starting price
Key features
Learn more

FreshBooks

$15/mo.

Unlimited customized invoices, expense and income tracking, time tracking

QuickBooks Online

$25/mo.

Mileage tracking, receipt scanning, sales tax tracking

Data effective 2/28/20. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

FreshBooks: Most affordable

Fresh Books
FreshBooks’ comprehensive, user-friendly software gives you all the small-business accounting basics and then some, like customizable invoices and easy time tracking for your clients and employees. And it does it all at the low starting price of $15 a month.

FreshBooks’ plans include these accounting software fundamentals:

  • Income and expense tracking
  • Customized workflows
  • Time tracking (for accurate customer billing)
  • Online payment acceptance (both credit cards and ACH)
  • Unlimited customizable invoices
  • Automatic bank account syncing (for accurate records)
  • Financial document generation, including tax reports
  • 200+ third-party app integrations

FreshBooks’ more expensive plans include unlimited proposals (not just unlimited estimates) and more automation for tasks like recurring invoices, late payment reminders, and scheduled late fees. Imagine a world where you don't have to hassle clients yourself to pay you for your work—sounds like a pretty good perk, right?

The main difference between FreshBooks’ two more expensive plans is the number of clients each plan lets you bill per month.

FreshBooks plans and pricing 2020

Plan name
Starting price
Number of billable clients
Key features
Learn more

Lite

$15/mo.

Up to 5/mo.

Time tracking, estimates, invoicing, and tax reports

Plus

$25/mo.

Up to 50/mo.

Lite + proposals, recurring invoices, and double-entry accounting

Premium

$50/mo.

Up to 500/mo.

Plus + up to 500 clients

Select

Contact for quote

500+

Team training, dedicated account manager, and Xero and QuickBooks integration

Data effective 2/28/20. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Where FreshBooks stands out

In a business sector not known for customer satisfaction, FreshBooks’ customer service stands out. You can get in touch over the phone or via email—in contrast, providers like Wave offer email support only. On the review site Trustpilot, users give FreshBooks 3.5 stars out of 5 with over 60% of reviewers rating FreshBooks “Excellent.”1 FreshBooks is accredited with the Better Business Bureau, where it has an A+ rating and only three customer complaints to QuickBooks’ 1,000+.2

Most accounting software providers limit the number of users who can access your business’s accounting software, but FreshBooks allows for unlimited users as long as you’re willing to pay a fee: $10 extra per user per month.

Info
User limits
Most accounting software providers let you add only a set number of users to your account. The pricier the plan, the more users you can add—usually. FreshBooks lets you add as many users as you want for an additional $10 per user per month, which isn’t a bad bargain. But if you want to add more users without paying extra, check out a provider like Xero, which doesn’t limit users at all.

Where FreshBooks falls short

You can see FreshBooks’ biggest shortcoming in its plan details: each plan limits the number of clients you can bill each month. For instance, FreshBooks Lite limits you to five—just five!—billable clients per month. While we can see this plan working for small construction companies that contract with just a few clients a month, it doesn’t seem viable for growing companies with dozens of clients on the roster.

FreshBooks Lite also falls short in offering only single-entry accounting. With the single-entry bookkeeping system, one tiny mistake in the books can throw your financial accounts way off with no safeguards. Double-entry accounting isn’t available until the Plus plan, which costs $25 a month.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet High customer satisfaction ratings
Pro Bullet Unlimited additional users ($10 extra/user/month)
Pro Bullet Expansive features like time tracking and customized workflows
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Limited billable clients
Con Bullet No double-entry accounting with cheapest plan

QuickBooks Online: Best tax help

Quickbooks

You’ll be hard pressed to find software that’s easier on the eyes than QuickBooks Online: its learning curve is a gentle slope and its mobile accounting app is by far the best in the accounting world. And for well-rounded reporting, especially on the tax front, QuickBooks is a good choice—as long as you don’t mind the slightly higher starting price.

Intuit, QuickBooks’ parent company, has been in business since the ʼ80s. The company’s had plenty of time to perfect the art of user-friendly software—and it shows.

Like FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online offers invoicing, income and expense tracking, and online payment acceptance with every plan, along with these features:

  • Mileage tracking
  • Receipt scanning and organizing
  • Easy tax categorization for income and expenses
  • 1099 employee management, including end-of-year tax form creation

The pricier plans add services that accommodate growing and full-grown businesses alike:

  • Check creation
  • Recurring payments
  • Batched billing
  • Inventory tracking

In particular, recurring payments and batched billing can save oodles of time—busy business owners with dozens of clients don't have to worry about dispatching bills one by one or missing any payments.

QuickBooks Online plans and pricing 2020

Plan name
Starting price
Number of users
Key features
Learn more

Simple Start

$25/mo.

1 user

Income tracking, invoicing, estimates, and sales tax tracking

Essentials

$40/mo.

3 users

Simple Start + bill management and time tracking

Plus

$70/mo.

5 users

Essentials + inventory tracking and project tracking

Advanced

$150/mo.

25 users

Plus + batched invoicing, business analytics, and automated workflows

Data effective 2/28/20. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Where QuickBooks stands out

Of all the accounting apps out there, QuickBooks’ mobile accounting app is our absolute favorite. Tens of thousands of users agree: 33K on the Google Play store, where the app averages 4.2 stars,3 and 123K on Apple’s App Store, where it averages 4.7 stars.4 The app sends invoices, tracks miles, digitizes receipts, and lets you check your cash flow on the go.

If you manage 1099 contractors, the software will generate end-of-year 1099 tax forms for easy distribution.

 

And it should come as no surprise that Intuit, creator of TurboTax, includes plenty of helpful tax features with QuickBooks Online. If you manage 1099 contractors, the software will generate end-of-year 1099 tax forms for easy distribution. You can also organize your income and expenses by tax category, easily see how much you owe in taxes each quarter, track sales taxes, and automatically calculate taxes right on your invoices.

Where QuickBooks falls short

QuickBooks’ cheapest plans lack the hefty features of its two pricier plans, which start at $70 a month and $150 a month. Only these two plans include built-in inventory tracking, job costing, and project profitability tracking. And the $70 plan still limits the number of users you can add to only five. From our perspective, that’s not quite enough to justify the high cost.

QuickBooks also has low customer service ratings, especially compared to FreshBooks. On Consumer Affairs, Intuit QuickBooks has just one star,5 and while the BBB gives QuickBooks an A+, it isn’t accredited with the Bureau.6 Scores are similarly abysmal on the review site Trustpilot, where QuickBooks gets 2.4 stars out of 5 and a whopping 56% of users rank the company as “Bad,” the site’s lowest designation.7

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Highly rated Android and iPhone app
Pro Bullet Low learning curve for new users
Pro Bullet Stellar business reports, including sales tax tracking
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Pricey plans
Con Bullet Poor customer service
Con Bullet Limited number of users per plan

FAQs

Is FreshBooks better than QuickBooks?

FreshBooks costs less than QuickBooks, provides better customer service, and offers better invoicing customization. On the other hand, QuickBooks builds mileage tracking into all of its plans and comes with inventory management. In other words, FreshBooks might be better for you than QuickBooks—or vice versa. It depends entirely on what your business needs.

Is FreshBooks compatible with QuickBooks?

Since FreshBooks and QuickBooks are two different accounting programs, you can’t integrate one with the other. If you have both a FreshBooks account and a QuickBooks account (not something we’d recommend), you’ll have to keep the software separate—unless you sign up for FreshBooks’ custom plan, FreshBooks Select. According to the site, this plan includes Xero and QuickBooks integration. But honestly? We’re not sure what on earth that means, so be sure to ask about it if you call for a quote.

FreshBooks and QuickBooks do integrate with many of the same third-party apps, like Expensify for expense management and TSheets for employee time tracking.

What’s the difference between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Pro?

QuickBooks Online is Intuit’s cloud-based accounting solution. If you use QuickBooks Online, all your information is stored in the cloud, where you can access it from any desktop, laptop, or web-enabled device. Like most cloud-based software, QuickBooks Online costs a monthly fee.

In contrast, QuickBooks Desktop Pro is Intuit’s desktop accounting program. You’ll download the software onto one computer, which means you can access your data only from that device. QuickBooks Desktop Pro costs a one-time fee of $299.95.

What is QuickBooks Self-Employed?

QuickBooks Self-Employed is a QuickBooks Online plan for freelancers. It starts at $15 a month, and for its price, it has quite a few useful features:

  • Invoicing
  • Payment acceptance
  • Mileage tracking
  • Basic reporting
  • Receipt capturing
  • Income and expense tracking

So if QuickBooks Self-Employed costs the same as FreshBooks Lite, why did we label FreshBooks the more affordable provider? Because QuickBooks Self-Employed doesn’t have anything to offer businesses with multiple employees. Meanwhile, FreshBooks Lite is tailored towards freelancers, solopreneurs, and small businesses with employees on hand—basically, it packs more of a punch for more types of business owners.

That doesn’t mean QuickBooks Self-Employed won’t work for you. FreshBooks Lite’s reporting and invoicing features are more thorough than those included with QuickBooks Self-Employed, but QuickBooks includes more tax features.

For instance, QuickBooks calculates quarterly taxes for freelancers who want to pay smaller, more manageable sums during the year instead of one lump sum in April. And if you fill out a Schedule C form for itemized tax deductions, QuickBooks will highlight deduction categories you might have missed otherwise (which means you'll get a better tax return).

The takeaway

Here’s our bottom line: if you have only a few clients, need quality invoices, and want a plan that’s easy on your budget, try FreshBooks. If you don’t care quite as much about cost but need mileage tracking and extra tax help, QuickBooks is your accounting solution.

Not totally sold on either QuickBooks or FreshBooks? Our article on the year’s best accounting software for small businesses has eight more options to consider.

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Sources
1. Trustpilot, “FreshBooks
2. Better Business Bureau, “FreshBooks
3. Google Play, “QuickBooks Online Accounting, Invoicing & Expenses
4. App Store, “QuickBooks Accounting
5. Consumer Affairs, “Intuit – QuickBooks
6. Better Business Bureau, “Intuit, Inc.
7. Trustpilot, “Intuit

Kylie McQuarrie
Written by
Kylie McQuarrie
Kylie spent two of the last four years writing for and with small-business owners—from dentists in Australia to plumbers in the Midwest. She spent the other two writing in depth about internet and security. She’s passionate about reading, hiking, and dedicating every spare second to writing for fun (at lunch, between meetings, on the train, before breakfast . . . ). Her content helps small-business owners tackle the logistics of running a business so they can focus more on their passions too.
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