QuickBooks Self-Employed Review 2021

QuickBooks Self-Employed covers bookkeeping basics and offers solid tax tracking. But since that’s about all it does, independent contractors and sole proprietors who want more features and lower pricing should look elsewhere.
Most user-friendly
Quickbooks
  • Check
    Excellent, user-friendly interface
  • Check
    Handy tax and mileage tracking
  • X
    Extremely limited features
  • X
    High starting price

QuickBooks Self-Employed is Intuit’s cloud-based accounting software for solopreneurs, freelancers, and sole proprietors. Its user-friendly interface and mobile accounting app are great for freelancers with no bookkeeping experience. Plus, its mileage and tax tracking help maximize tax deductions. But since the software lacks some freelance-friendly features (like invoice customization and project tracking), it’s hard to recommend to most freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors.

QuickBooks Self-Employed plans and pricing 2021

Plan name
Starting price
Key features
Learn more
QuickBooks Self-Employed$15.00/mo.Mileage tracking, quarterly tax estimates, business expense tracking, basic invoicing
Self-Employed Tax Bundle$25.00/mo.Self-Employed + TurboTax (one state and one federal annual tax return filing)
Self-Employed Live Tax Bundle$35.00/mo.Tax Bundle + year-round financial advice and end-of-year tax filing review

Data effective 1/20/21. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

QuickBooks Self-Employed is best for freelancers who travel for work

We recommend QuickBooks Self-Employed only to freelancers with uncomplicated finances, a relatively small client base, and a lot of work-related travel expenses.

Unlike most self-employment accounting software, QuickBooks Self-Employed includes built-in mileage tracking—a crucial feature if you plan to file for business travel reimbursement from the IRS. The software also automatically sorts your business expenses by tax category, which makes tax deductions easier to tally at the end of the year. And the software’s quarterly tax estimation and tax deadline reminders help you stay on top of taxes all year long so you aren’t hit with late fees.

Beyond tax deductions, though, QuickBooks Self-Employed doesn’t offer much. Its invoicing feature is basic at best. While you can import bank transactions to track expenses, you can’t generate detailed financial reports that help business owners set concrete financial goals or expand their business. It also lacks features that many independent contractors and sole proprietors need, like project and income tracking.

Best Small Business Accounting Software
Xero
Best overall
FreshBooks
Best invoicing
Quickbooks
Most user-friendly
Wave
Most affordable
Zoho Books
Best automation
Learn more about our top brands.

QuickBooks Self-Employed pricing and plans

QuickBooks Self-Employed starts at $15 a month ($180 a year). As with most QuickBooks plans, you can try Self-Employed free for 30 days or get your first three months at a reduced price—usually 50% off, but up to 70% during seasonal sales. Also as with most QuickBooks plans, QuickBooks Self-Employed is pricier than most of the competition, including Xero ($11 per month).

If you want a smidge more tax help, you can sign up for either the Self-Employed Tax Bundle plan ($25 per month) or the Self-Employed Live Tax Bundle plan ($35 per month). Intuit owns both QuickBooks and TurboTax, so both plans add TurboTax access to your existing Self-Employed features. The Live plan also gives you live tax support from QuickBooks accountants.

Money
Price check: TurboTax and QuickBooks Self-Employed

Were you planning to use TurboTax to file end-of-year taxes? The QuickBooks Self-Employed Tax Bundle will save you about $50 on TurboTax’s services, which typically start at $180 for freelancers.

Okay, so what do those $15 to $35 a month get you? Honestly—and we hate to say this—not much. Along with mileage tracking and estimated quarterly taxes, QuickBooks Self-Employed includes invoicing, online payment acceptance, and receipt scanning. And that’s . . . about it. Compare that to a provider like Xero, which offers automated recurring invoicing, online payment acceptance, receipt scanning, inventory management, thorough reporting, purchase order generation, and much more for just $11, and you can see why we’re less than impressed.

The bundled plans get you a slight TurboTax discount, and you can use them to pay quarterly estimated taxes directly from your QuickBooks account. This saves you a little time and hassle at the end of the year, but neither of the TurboTax bundles include additional bookkeeping features. Unless you’re planning on using TurboTax’s tax software, we recommend sticking with the base $15-a-month plan.

QuickBooks Self-Employed pros and cons

Pros
Pro Bullet Good mileage tracking and tax estimation features
Pro Bullet Streamlined, user-friendly dashboard
Pro Bullet Comprehensive accounting app
Cons
Con Bullet No project tracking, time tracking, reporting, or client portal
Con Bullet No automated recurring invoicing
Con Bullet No customizable invoicing

QuickBooks Self-Employed pros

We may have mentioned this a time or two, but QuickBooks Self-Employed’s tax features are where the software really soars. For instance, most other self-employment or small-business accounting software includes mileage tracking only with their pricier plans. Others, like FreshBooks and Xero, require you to download a separate tracking-specific app. QuickBooks doesn’t: tracking, bookkeeping, and invoicing are all available on the same app. And beyond automatically tracking your mileage, the app also generates IRS-friendly reports that simplify the reimbursement process.

QuickBooks Self-Employed also wins big for user friendliness. QuickBooks’ dashboard is easy for non-accountants to parse. The software’s learning curve is low enough that you should quickly get the hang of importing bank transactions and sending invoices. (QuickBooks’ video tutorials are a great resource for getting started.)

That user friendliness extends to the QuickBooks Self-Employed mobile accounting app. Like the QuickBooks Online app, the Self-Employed app does everything the cloud-based software does—and more, since mileage tracking requires the app.

Unfortunately, iOS users have a better experience with the app than Android users, who report frequent crashes and give the app an average of 3.7 stars out of 5.1 Apple users, meanwhile, rate the app 4.7 out of 5 and rave about its clean interface and straightforward features.2

Find Your Money—and Keep More of It

With plans starting at $15 a month, FreshBooks is well-suited for freelancers, solopreneurs, and small-business owners alike.

  • Track time and expenses
  • Create custom invoices
  • Accept online payments

QuickBooks Self-Employed cons

We have one main problem with QuickBooks Self-Employed, and it’s a big one: QuickBooks Self-Employed lacks the features to justify its above-average starting cost.

Meanwhile, Xero’s $11 plan for freelancers and sole proprietors includes inventory tracking, detailed reporting, customizable invoicing, sales tax tracking, customer database creation, and more. Zoho Books’ $15-a-month plan includes budgeting, customized invoicing, time tracking, project tracking, a client portal for quick quotes and invoicing, and more. In comparison, you can see why we’re underwhelmed with what QuickBooks offers.

Unfortunately, QuickBooks’ invoicing capabilities are particularly lacking—which is a huge issue for a freelance-focused product. You can send invoices, but you can’t customize them, set recurring invoices, or schedule automatic late payment reminders. You can’t log the hours spent on a project and transfer them over to the invoice for quick pricing. You can’t even send quotes or estimates or schedule automatic late fees. (FreshBooks costs the same starting price as QuickBooks Self-Employed but does all of the above invoicing tasks and more.)

All you can do with QuickBooks Self-Employed is send a bland invoice with online payment options, and you’ll pay $15 a month for the pleasure. If sending basic invoices is all you need, we can recommend plenty of cheaper options.

QuickBooks Self-Employed is currently beta testing a time-tracking feature, so hopefully the app gains a few more features as time goes on. As it currently stands, though, QuickBooks Self-Employed has way too few perks for the price.

QuickBooks Self-Employed FAQ

Is QuickBooks Self-Employed free?

No. QuickBooks Self-Employed starts at $15 per month. When you first sign up, you can choose between QuickBooks’ 30-day free trial or a three-month discount, usually between 50% and 70%.

What's the difference between QuickBooks Self-Employed and QuickBooks Online?

QuickBooks Self-Employed is QuickBooks’ freelance-specific bookkeeping software. It starts at $15 a month and offers features like mileage tracking, basic invoicing, and receipt scanning. In contrast, QuickBooks Online was built for freelancers, sole proprietors, and small-business owners with employees. It has more expansive accounting features than QuickBooks Self-Employed, including report generation and business income tracking, and starts at $25 a month.

In general, we recommend QuickBooks Online over QuickBooks Self-Employed, even for freelancers. QuickBooks Online costs more, but it also offers more thorough invoicing and additional insight into your cash flow. It also connects to Shopify and automatically adds sales tax to your invoices, two crucial features for sole proprietors who sell products online.

Does QuickBooks Self-Employed work for a sole proprietorship?

Yes. QuickBooks Self-Employed was built specifically for freelancers, contract workers, and sole proprietors. However, if you want more accounting features, including sales tax tracking and cash flow management, QuickBooks Online might be a better fit.

If you have one or more employees, you’ll want QuickBooks Online Essential, Plus, or Advanced. Each of these plans allows you to add users so you can share your financial data with an accountant or other team members.

What is QuickBooks Desktop?

QuickBooks Desktop is QuickBooks’ desktop-based (rather than cloud-based) accounting software. Generally speaking, it has the same features as the more advanced QuickBooks Online plans. Notably, QuickBooks Desktop doesn’t have any freelance-specific plans. We don’t recommend freelancers, sole proprietors, or independent contractors sign up for QuickBooks Desktop.

The takeaway

QuickBooks Self-Employed is . . . fine. Its sleek interface, low learning curve, and helpful tax deductions appeal to freelancers who need just the basics. But QuickBooks Self-Employed lacks FreshBooks’ customized invoicing and Zoho Books’ client collaboration features—while costing as much or more than most alternatives. As a result, we don’t recommend QuickBooks Self-Employed to anyone who wants more than a bare-bones accounting and tax-tracking app.

Have you outgrown self-employment bookkeeping software? Check out our list of the best accounting software for small businesses.

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. Google Play, “QuickBooks Self-Employed: Mileage Tracker and Taxes.” Accessed January 20, 2021.
2. App Store, “QuickBooks Self-Employed.” Accessed January 20, 2021.

Kylie McQuarrie
Written by
Kylie McQuarrie
Kylie is an accounting writer for Business.org. 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.
Recent Articles
The Best Bookkeeping Software for Small Business 2021
To find the best bookkeeping software for small-business owners, we looked at key bookkeeping features...
Wave vs. QuickBooks Online: Which Accounting Software Is Best for Small Businesses?
We compared Wave’s and QuickBooks’s accounting features, pricing, plans, customer reviews, and ease of use...
man-and-woman-going-over-paperwork
Best Billing and Invoicing Software for Small Businesses 2021
We weighed top invoicing softwares’ payment options, customization, and pricing—plus customer service reputation and ease...
A black male waiter serves a group of black and white women eating at a restaurant
Best Payroll Software for Restaurants 2021
Restaurant owners have unique payroll needs, like meeting minimum wage requirements while factoring in tips....