Using a spreadsheet for accounting appeals to many new business owners, and that approach can be effective in many cases. However, as your business finances become more complicated, consider switching to dedicated accounting software, such as QuickBooks.
If you want guidance through the accounting process, QuickBooks is a better option than any spreadsheet. Whether you’re using Google Sheets, Excel, or another program, you have to create your own system for accounting. If you only need to track revenue and expenses, that can work fine. However, as your accounting needs become more complicated, you may find it challenging to track inventory, costs of goods sold, payroll, and other figures with a spreadsheet.
Without extensive accounting experience, it can be confusing to create spreadsheet categories for accounts receivables, accounts payable, and other double-entry accounting categories. QuickBooks, in contrast, has all of that set up for you. When you start using QuickBooks Online, for example, you can use the easystep interview to set up your accounting software.
Spreadsheets allow you to add formulas to fields, which can be a useful way to total columns, calculate sales tax, and much more. However, you have to enter all the formulas on your own. This can be error-prone – just look at how a $6 billion JP Morgan trading loss that was linked to a basic Excel error. Conversely, QuickBooks has the formulas you need built into the software. This can be essential if you want to avoid mistakes or even if you just want relief from having to create your own formulas.
It’s possible to make reports with accounting information from a spreadsheet, but you have to design the reports yourself. That can be a complicated and time-consuming process. All versions of QuickBooks feature built-in report templates. If you want to generate a profit and loss report, for example, the software draws the figures it needs from your accounting records and creates the report for you.
If you need to generate more reports, it may be time to upgrade. For example, if you are trying to interest investors or apply for a loan, you may want to tap into QuickBooks’ reporting capabilities.
If you hire a consultant or an accountant to help with your finances, they can use your spreadsheets, but will probably have to explain your system to them. This process can be time-consuming and potentially riddled with communication errors. With QuickBooks, however, you are using an established solution that’s easy for professionals to understand. Additionally, if your accountants use QuickBooks Accountant, they can import details from your QuickBooks Online account so they can handle your needs remotely.
Making the Switch
If you decide to upgrade from spreadsheet accounting to QuickBooks, consider making the change at the end of the year, or choose a season when business is slow so you can devote time to the process. You can manually enter the information, or you may want to use an app such as Business Importer to automate some of the process.