FreeAgent vs Quickbooks: Which Accounting Software is Best for UK Businesses?

By

Chris Andreou

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Accounting software has become an essential tool for businesses of all sizes. It streamlines financial management by automating tasks such as bookkeeping, invoicing, payroll, and tax preparation. Gone are the days of manually entering data into spreadsheets or keeping track of receipts in shoeboxes.

Modern accounting software offers a comprehensive suite of features that help businesses maintain accurate financial records, ensure compliance with tax regulations, and make informed financial decisions.

Choosing the right accounting software is crucial for businesses, especially in the UK, where tax regulations and business practices can be complex and ever-changing. The right software can save time and money, reduce errors, and provide valuable insights into financial health. It can also ensure that businesses remain compliant with HMRC requirements, avoiding potential fines and penalties.

Two of the most popular accounting software options in the UK are FreeAgent and QuickBooks. Both platforms offer a wide range of features designed to meet the needs of various types of businesses, from freelancers and sole traders to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Choosing the right software can be a daunting task, especially with the multitude of options available on the market. 

The purpose of this article is to provide a detailed comparison of FreeAgent vs QuickBooks. We will examine their features, pricing structures, user interfaces, and overall suitability for different types of businesses.

By the end of this comparison, you will have a clear understanding of which accounting software might be the best fit for your business, helping you make an informed decision that could enhance your financial management and contribute to your business’s success.

Why Accounting Software is Essential for UK Businesses

Accounting software has revolutionised the way businesses handle their financial tasks. Manual bookkeeping and accounting can be time-consuming and prone to errors. With the introduction of accounting software, businesses can automate many of these tasks, leading to increased accuracy and efficiency. This is especially important for UK businesses that need to comply with specific financial regulations and tax laws.

One of the primary benefits of using accounting software is the ability to generate real-time financial reports. These reports provide valuable insights into the financial health of a business, enabling owners and managers to make informed decisions.

Furthermore, accounting software helps ensure that financial records are organised and easily accessible, which is crucial for audits and financial planning.

What is FreeAgent?

FreeAgent

FreeAgent is a UK-based accounting software company that was founded in 2007 by Ed Molyneux, Olly Headey, and Roan Lavery. The founders, who were freelancers themselves, recognized the need for accounting software tailored specifically to the needs of freelancers and small businesses.

Their vision was to create a solution that simplifies financial management, allowing users to focus more on their work and less on bookkeeping. Over the years, FreeAgent has grown significantly and was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group in 2018, further solidifying its position in the market.

FreeAgent Features:

FreeAgent offers a wide range of features designed to make accounting easy and efficient for small businesses. Here are some of its key features

  1. Send Estimates: Create and send professional estimates to clients quickly. Convert approved estimates into invoices with just a few clicks.
  2. Invoicing: FreeAgent allows users to create and send professional invoices quickly. You can customise invoices with your branding, set up recurring invoices, and send automatic reminders to clients for overdue payments.
  3. Expense Tracking: Keeping track of expenses is crucial for any business. FreeAgent simplifies this by allowing you to upload receipts, categorise expenses, and even link your bank account for automatic transaction imports. This feature helps you stay on top of your spending and makes tax time easier.
  4. Bank Reconciliation: FreeAgent makes bank reconciliation straightforward. By linking your bank account, FreeAgent automatically imports transactions, allowing you to match them with your records easily. This ensures your accounts are always accurate and up-to-date.
  5. Tax Management: FreeAgent is designed with UK tax regulations in mind. It helps you prepare for Self Assessment tax returns, VAT returns, and corporation tax. The software generates tax timelines and reminders, ensuring you never miss a deadline.
  6. Cashflow Forecast: Predict your future cash flow with easy-to-read charts and graphs. Plan ahead and make informed business decisions based on accurate financial forecasts.
  7. Project Management: For businesses that work on projects, FreeAgent offers project management tools. You can track time, manage budgets, and monitor project profitability, helping you stay organised and on track.
  8. Dashboard and Reports: The FreeAgent dashboard provides a clear overview of your financial health. You can generate detailed reports on income, expenses, profits, and more. These insights help you make informed business decisions.
  9. Payroll: Process payroll seamlessly within the software. Ensure your employees are paid accurately and on time.
  10. Integrations: Connect FreeAgent with various third-party apps and tools like PayPal, Stripe, and GoCardless for payments, as well as with CRM systems and productivity apps to streamline your workflow and enhance your business operations.
  11. Mobile App: FreeAgent's mobile app allows you to manage your finances on the go. You can create invoices, track expenses, and view your financial dashboard from your smartphone or tablet.

Target Audience

FreeAgent is designed primarily for freelancers, small business owners, and micro-businesses. Its user-friendly interface and comprehensive feature set make it an ideal choice for those who may not have extensive accounting knowledge but still need to manage their finances effectively. The software is particularly popular among:

  • Freelancers and Contractors: FreeAgent's time tracking, invoicing, and expense management features make it a great fit for freelancers and contractors who need to keep track of billable hours and manage project-based income and expenses.
  • Small Businesses: Small business owners can benefit from FreeAgent's robust accounting features, including bank integration, tax management, and financial reporting. The software helps them stay on top of their finances and ensure compliance with UK tax regulations.
  • Micro-Businesses: Micro-businesses, which often operate with limited staff and resources, can use FreeAgent to simplify their accounting processes. The software's automation features and easy-to-use interface reduce the time and effort required to manage finances.

FreeAgent Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • User-Friendly Interface: FreeAgent is designed with simplicity in mind, making it easy for freelancers and small business owners to navigate without extensive accounting knowledge.
  • Tailored for UK Businesses: FreeAgent is designed with UK tax regulations in mind. It offers comprehensive support for Self Assessment, VAT, and corporation tax. This focus on UK-specific needs makes it an excellent choice for businesses operating in the UK.
  • Excellent Customer Support: FreeAgent provides robust customer support, including live chat, email support, and a comprehensive knowledge base, ensuring users can get help when needed.

Cons:

  • Limited Scalability: While FreeAgent is excellent for freelancers and small businesses, it may not be suitable for larger businesses with more complex accounting needs. The feature set, though comprehensive for small operations, might fall short for medium to large enterprises.
  • Limited Integrations: FreeAgent offers fewer third-party integrations compared to competitors like QuickBooks. This can be a limitation if your business relies on a variety of other software tools and platforms.
  • Basic Reporting: While FreeAgent provides essential financial reports, it doesn’t offer the same level of advanced, customizable reporting found in other accounting software. 
  • Customization Limitations: Some users might find the customization options for invoices and reports limited compared to other accounting software solutions.

FreeAgent Pricing Plans

FreeAgent offers a variety of pricing plans tailored to meet the needs of different types of businesses. Each plan provides significant discounts for the initial period and offers free access for customers with specific business bank accounts. Here are the detailed pricing options:

1. Limited Company

  • Monthly Plan: £16.50/month + VAT for the first six months (50% discount). After that, the price is £33/month + VAT.
  • Annual Plan: £165/year + VAT for the first 12 months (50% discount). After the first year, the price is £330/year + VAT.
  • Free Access: Available if you have a business current account with NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, or a Mettle bank account (with at least one transaction per month). The free access continues as long as you maintain the account.

2. Partnership or LLP

  • Monthly Plan: £13.50/month + VAT for the first six months (50% discount). After that, the price is £27/month + VAT.
  • Annual Plan: £135/year + VAT for the first 12 months (50% discount). After the first year, the price is £270/year + VAT.
  • Free Access: Available if you have a business current account with NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, or Ulster Bank. The free access continues as long as you maintain the account.

3. Sole Trader

  • Monthly Plan: £9.50/month + VAT for the first six months (50% discount). After that, the price is £19/month + VAT.
  • Annual Plan: £95/year + VAT for the first 12 months (50% discount). After the first year, the price is £190/year + VAT.
  • Free Access: Available if you have a business current account with NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, or a Mettle bank account (with at least one transaction per month). The free access continues as long as you maintain the account.

4. Landlord

  • Monthly Plan: £5/month + VAT for the first six months (50% discount). After that, the price is £10/month + VAT.
  • Annual Plan: £50/year + VAT for the first 12 months (50% discount). After the first year, the price is £100/year + VAT.
  • Free Access: Available if you have a business current account with NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, or a Mettle bank account (with at least one transaction per month). The free access continues as long as you maintain the account.

Free Trial

FreeAgent also offers a 30-day free trial, allowing users to explore the software and its features before making a commitment.

Plan

Monthly Price (First 6 Months)

Monthly Price (After 6 Months)

Annual Price (First 12 Months)

Annual Price (After 12 Months)

Free Access

Limited Company

£16.50/month + VAT

£33/month + VAT

£165/year + VAT

£330/year + VAT

With NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, or Mettle (with one transaction per month)

Partnership or LLP

£13.50/month + VAT

£27/month + VAT

£135/year + VAT

£270/year + VAT

With NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, or Ulster Bank

Sole Trader

£9.50/month + VAT

£19/month + VAT

£95/year + VAT

£190/year + VAT

With NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, or Mettle (with one transaction per month)

Landlord

£5/month + VAT

£10/month + VAT

£50/year + VAT

£100/year + VAT

With NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, or Mettle (with one transaction per month)

What is Quickbooks?

Quickbooks

QuickBooks is a product of Intuit, a company founded in 1983 in California, USA. Intuit started with the goal of simplifying personal and business finance management. QuickBooks was launched in 1983 and quickly became one of the most popular accounting software solutions globally.

It is widely used by small to medium-sized businesses and has a strong presence in the UK market. QuickBooks has evolved over the decades, continually incorporating new features and technologies to meet the growing demands of its users. Today, it stands as one of the most popular accounting software solutions globally, trusted by millions of businesses to manage their finances efficiently.

Quickbooks Features:

QuickBooks provides a comprehensive set of features designed to meet the needs of various business sizes and industries.

  1. Invoicing and Payments: QuickBooks allows users to create and send customised invoices, track payments, and set up automated reminders. Users can also accept payments online, making it easier for clients to pay promptly.
  2. Expense Tracking: Users can easily record and categorise expenses by simply snapping photos of receipts with their mobile devices. Import and categorise expenses and income to stay organised and make the most of your deductions.
  3. Banking Integration: QuickBooks integrates with numerous banks, enabling automatic bank feeds. Save time and minimise errors with secure, real-time updates.
  4. Inventory Management: QuickBooks helps businesses keep track of their inventory in real-time. Users can monitor stock levels, create purchase orders, and receive alerts when inventory is low.
  5. Payroll Management: Simplify payroll by creating payslips, sending RTI data to HMRC, and managing auto-enrollment. Stay on top of PAYE, NI, and other deductions effortlessly.
  6. Time Tracking: QuickBooks provides tools for tracking billable hours and managing employee time. Users can create timesheets and integrate time tracking with payroll and invoicing for seamless billing and payment processes.
  7. Reporting and Analytics: QuickBooks generates detailed financial reports such as profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. These reports provide valuable insights into the financial health of the business, aiding in strategic decision-making.
  8. Manage VAT: Prepare and file your VAT returns in line with HMRC’s Making Tax Digital requirements. Use the VAT error-checking feature to catch and fix mistakes before submitting.
  9. Work with Your Accountant: Invite your accountant or bookkeeper to access your QuickBooks account. Collaborate securely and in real-time, eliminating the need for paper documents and emails.
  10. Multi-Currency Support: Send invoices, record transactions, and adjust reports in various currencies. Assign different currencies to different customers easily.

Target Audience

QuickBooks is designed to serve a broad spectrum of users, making it a versatile choice for various types of businesses and professionals:

  1. Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs): QuickBooks offers robust financial management tools that scale with growing businesses. Its comprehensive features help SMBs manage their finances efficiently, track inventory, run payroll, and generate insightful reports.
  2. Entrepreneurs: For entrepreneurs who need to keep a close eye on their business finances, QuickBooks provides essential tools for invoicing, expense tracking, and cash flow management. Its user-friendly interface makes it easy for entrepreneurs to stay on top of their financial health.
  3. Freelancers: QuickBooks is ideal for freelancers who need to manage their income and expenses, send invoices, and prepare for tax season. Its simple yet powerful features help freelancers keep their finances organised without requiring extensive accounting knowledge.
  4. Self-Employed Professionals: QuickBooks caters to self-employed professionals by offering features that streamline financial tasks. From tracking billable hours to managing receipts and filing taxes, QuickBooks provides a complete solution for managing solo businesses.

Quickbooks Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • User-Friendly Interface: QuickBooks provides an intuitive interface that is easy to navigate, making it accessible for users with varying levels of accounting knowledge.
  • Cloud-Based Access: Being cloud-based, QuickBooks allows users to access their financial data from anywhere, which is convenient for businesses with multiple locations or remote teams.
  • Integration Capabilities: It integrates well with a wide range of third-party apps and services, allowing for seamless connectivity with other business tools like payment processors, CRM software, and e-commerce platforms.
  • Scalability: It caters to businesses of various sizes, from freelancers and small startups to larger enterprises, with scalable pricing plans and features.

Cons:

  • Cost: Depending on the plan and additional features required, QuickBooks can be relatively expensive for smaller businesses, especially when compared to some local alternatives.
  • Complexity in Customization: While it offers many features, customising certain aspects of QuickBooks can sometimes be complex, requiring advanced knowledge or support.
  • Learning Curve: For users new to accounting software or those transitioning from other platforms, there might be a learning curve to fully utilise all the features and functionalities effectively.

Quickbooks Pricing Plans

QuickBooks offers a range of pricing plans tailored to meet the needs of different types of businesses.

1. Self-Employed

  • Description: Ideal for sole traders who are not registered for VAT and need to prepare Self Assessment tax returns.
  • Initial Offer: £1/month for the first 6 months, then £10/month.
  • Savings: Save £54.00 over the first 6 months.
  • Features: Includes basic features for tracking income and expenses, preparing Self Assessment tax returns, and managing finances efficiently.

2. Simple Start

  • Description: Suitable for sole traders or small businesses managing VAT, Income Tax, and preparing Self Assessment.
  • Initial Offer: £1.40/month for the first 6 months, then £14/month.
  • Savings: Save £75.60 over the first 6 months.
  • Features: Includes all Self-Employed features plus additional capabilities for VAT management, income tracking, and generating financial reports.

3. Essentials

  • Description: Designed for small businesses working with suppliers, managing VAT, and Income Tax.
  • Initial Offer: £2.80/month for the first 6 months, then £28/month.
  • Savings: Save £151.20 over the first 6 months.
  • Features: Includes all Simple Start features with added functionalities for supplier management, bill tracking, and more comprehensive financial management.

4. Plus

  • Description: Suited for businesses managing projects, inventory, VAT, and Income Tax.
  • Initial Offer: £3.80/month for the first 6 months, then £38/month.
  • Savings: Save £205.20 over the first 6 months.
  • Features: Includes all Essentials features with additional capabilities for project tracking, inventory management, and enhanced reporting tools.

5. Advanced

  • Description: Tailored for businesses needing advanced features like automatic data backup, custom permissions, bespoke reporting, and in-depth insights.
  • Initial Offer: £9/month for the first 6 months, then £90/month.
  • Savings: Save £486 over the first 6 months.
  • Features: Includes all Plus features with premium functionalities for data security, user permissions, and highly customizable reporting and analytics.

Free Trial

QuickBooks offers a 30-day free trial for all its plans, allowing businesses to explore the software and determine which plan best meets their needs before committing to a subscription.

Plan

Initial Offer

Standard Price

Savings Over 6 Months

Features

Self-Employed

£1/month for 6 months

£10/month

Save £54.00

Basic income and expense tracking, Self Assessment preparation

Simple Start

£1.40/month for 6 months

£14/month

Save £75.60

VAT management, income tracking, Self Assessment preparation

Essentials

£2.80/month for 6 months

£28/month

Save £151.20

Supplier management, bill tracking, VAT and Income Tax management

Plus

£3.80/month for 6 months

£38/month

Save £205.20

Project tracking, inventory management, advanced reporting

Advanced

£9/month for 6 months

£90/month

Save £486.00

Automatic data backup, custom permissions, bespoke reporting and insights

Feature Comparison: FreeAgent vs. QuickBooks

User Interface and Ease of Use

FreeAgent: FreeAgent offers a clean, intuitive user interface designed to simplify accounting for small business owners, freelancers, and contractors. The dashboard presents key financial data at a glance, such as income, expenses, and outstanding invoices. Users can easily navigate through different sections, making it straightforward to manage various accounting tasks.

QuickBooks: QuickBooks also has a user-friendly interface, tailored to both beginners and experienced users. The dashboard is customizable, allowing users to prioritise the information that matters most to their business. It provides quick access to essential features like invoicing, expense tracking, and reporting. The navigation is smooth, making it easy to find and use different functionalities.

Invoicing and Payments

FreeAgent: FreeAgent allows users to create professional-looking invoices quickly. Users can customise invoice templates, set up recurring invoices, and send automated reminders for overdue payments. FreeAgent integrates with payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe, enabling clients to pay directly through the invoice.

QuickBooks: QuickBooks offers advanced invoicing features, including customizable templates, automated invoicing, and payment reminders. It integrates with various payment processors, allowing clients to pay via credit card, bank transfer, or PayPal. QuickBooks also supports batch invoicing, which is beneficial for businesses that need to send multiple invoices at once.

Expense Tracking

FreeAgent: FreeAgent simplifies expense tracking by allowing users to categorise expenses, scan receipts using a mobile app, and track mileage for business trips. Users can link their bank accounts to automatically import and categorise transactions, ensuring accurate record-keeping.

QuickBooks: QuickBooks provides comprehensive expense tracking features, including expense categorization, receipt scanning via its mobile app, and mileage tracking. Users can connect their bank accounts to import transactions automatically. QuickBooks also offers smart categorization, learning from past actions to suggest categories for new transactions.

Banking Integration

FreeAgent: FreeAgent supports integration with numerous UK banks, enabling automatic bank feeds. Users can reconcile their accounts by matching imported transactions with recorded ones, ensuring their books are always up to date.

QuickBooks: QuickBooks integrates with a wide range of banks and financial institutions, providing automatic bank feeds. It simplifies reconciliation by allowing users to match bank transactions with those recorded in QuickBooks quickly. The system also provides alerts for any discrepancies, helping users maintain accurate records.

Project Management

FreeAgent: FreeAgent includes project management features that allow users to track project progress, manage time, and bill clients accordingly. Users can create projects, assign tasks, and monitor project expenses, ensuring they stay on budget and on schedule.

QuickBooks: QuickBooks offers project management tools that include tracking time, expenses, and profitability for each project. Users can assign income and expenses to specific projects, generate project-specific reports, and invoice clients based on billable hours and costs.

Tax Management

FreeAgent: FreeAgent excels in tax management by automating VAT calculations and filings. It supports UK tax regulations and allows users to prepare and submit VAT returns directly to HMRC. FreeAgent also assists with Self Assessment and End of Year Filing, ensuring compliance with tax laws.

QuickBooks: QuickBooks offers robust tax management features, including automatic VAT calculations and filing. It supports compliance with HMRC’s Making Tax Digital initiative and helps users prepare for tax season by organising financial data and generating necessary reports.

Reporting and Analytics

FreeAgent: FreeAgent generates a variety of financial reports, including profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Users can customise reports to gain insights into their business performance and make informed decisions.

QuickBooks: QuickBooks offers extensive reporting and analytics capabilities, providing a wide range of standard and customizable reports. Users can generate detailed financial statements, track key performance indicators, and create custom reports to analyse specific aspects of their business.

Customer Support

FreeAgent: FreeAgent offers customer support through email, call and live chat, with a comprehensive knowledge base available for self-service. Users can access guides, tutorials, and community forum to find answers to common questions.

QuickBooks: QuickBooks provides multiple support channels, including phone, live chat, and contact form. It also has an extensive help centre with articles, tutorials, and community forums. Additionally, QuickBooks offers dedicated support for specific issues, ensuring users get timely and effective assistance.

Quick Comparison of FreeAgent and Quickbooks 

Feature

FreeAgent

Quickbooks

Ideal for

small businesses, freelancers, and contractors

small to medium-sized growing businesses

Free Trial 

30 days

30 days

Pricing starts from (for sole traders)

£9.50/month + VAT

£1/month for 6 months, then £10/month (Self-Employed)

Estimates

Yes

Yes

Invoicing

Customizable invoices, recurring invoices, automated reminders

Customizable invoices, batch invoicing, automated reminders

Expense tracking

Categorisation, receipt scanning, mileage tracking

Categorisation, receipt scanning, mileage tracking

Claim expenses

Yes

Yes

Bank connections

Yes, supports UK banks

Yes, integrates with numerous banks

Reconcile bank transactions

Yes

Yes

Cashflow Forecast

Yes

Yes

Project management

Project tracking, time tracking, billing

Project tracking, profitability tracking, time tracking

Time Tracking

Yes

Yes

Payroll

Yes

Yes

VAT filing

Automated VAT calculations and filings

Automated VAT calculations and filings

Self assessment

Yes

Yes

End of year filing

Yes

Yes

Reporting

Profit & loss, balance sheet, cash flow, customizable reports

Extensive and customizable reports, detailed financial statements

Integrations

https://www.freeagent.com/integrations/

https://quickbooks.intuit.com/online/integrations/

Inventory Management

Yes

Yes

Feature

FreeAgent

Quickbooks

Purchase orders

Yes

Yes

Manage contacts

Yes

Yes

Document management

Yes

Yes

Multi-currency Support

97 currencies

157 currencies

Fixed Asset Management

Yes

Yes

MTD compatible

Yes

Yes

Mobile app

Android

iPhone

Android
iPhone

Customer support

email, call, knowledgebase, guides

call, guides, community, courses

Trustpilot reviews

2000+ 4.7 Stars ratings

14,500+ 4.6 Stars ratings

Recommendations for Different Types of UK Businesses

  • For Sole traders, Small Businesses and Freelancers in the UK: FreeAgent is an excellent choice due to its focus on UK tax regulations, user-friendly design, and features tailored to small operations. It simplifies accounting processes and helps ensure compliance with local tax laws.
  • For Growing Businesses and Larger Enterprises: QuickBooks is better suited for businesses that need a comprehensive and scalable solution. Its extensive feature set, advanced reporting capabilities, and wide range of integrations make it a powerful tool for managing complex financial needs.

FreeAgent or Quickbooks?

Choosing between FreeAgent and QuickBooks depends on your business needs and preferences. FreeAgent offers a user-friendly, cost-effective solution ideal for freelancers and small businesses, especially those in the UK needing strong tax management features. QuickBooks, on the other hand, provides a comprehensive and scalable accounting platform perfect for small to medium-sized businesses with more complex financial needs. Both platforms offer free trials, so take advantage of these to find the best fit for your business.

If you are not an accounting expert, hire small business accountants to get your business accounting managed with experience and expertise. 

GoForma is a FreeAgent accredited accountants and offers free access to FreeAgent on purchase of any accounting packages. Join GoForma Accounting to get FreeAgent access at no extra cost. Book a free consultation to take advantage of this offer and simplify your accounting with FreeAgent through GoForma.

FAQs:

Which software is better for UK tax compliance? 

FreeAgent is specifically tailored for UK tax compliance, making it an excellent choice for businesses needing support with UK tax regulations.

Which software has more third-party integrations? 

QuickBooks offers a wider range of third-party integrations compared to FreeAgent. This makes QuickBooks a more versatile option for businesses that rely on various tools and platforms.

Do both FreeAgent and QuickBooks offer free trials? 

Yes, both FreeAgent and QuickBooks offer free trials, allowing you to explore their features and functionalities before choosing a plan.

Which software is easier to use for beginners? 

FreeAgent is known for its user-friendly interface and ease of use, making it a great choice for beginners and those without a background in accounting.

Are FreeAgent and Quickbooks HMRC recognised accounting software?

Yes, both FreeAgent and Quickbooks are HMRC-recognized software and compliant with Making Tax Digital (MTD).

Is QuickBooks more expensive than FreeAgent? 

Yes, QuickBooks is more expensive than FreeAgent, especially for the higher-tier plans that offer advanced features. However, the cost can be justified by the extensive functionalities and scalability that QuickBooks provides.