What Is QuickBooks Software? A Guide to Choosing the Right Solution

When you hear “small-business accounting software,” you probably think of QuickBooks. Since Intuit launched its flagship product over 20 years ago, the financial management platform has dominated the accounting software marketplace.

Currently, QuickBooks software holds more than 80 percent of the small-business market share. If you’re researching small-business accounting solutions, clearly QuickBooks will be on your list.

But which version is right for you? On-premise or cloud? With payroll or without?

QuickBooks has a product for nearly all your accounting needs, but sorting through the options can feel like an insurmountable task.

To simplify your search, we’ve created the following QuickBooks comparison, which outlines the different versions. Watch the short video below to see a quick summary or read our in-depth report for more details.

In this report, we’ll cover:

(Click any of the links below to jump directly to that section)

Solo entrepreneurs seeking cloud-based accounting:

Small businesses seeking cloud-based accounting:

Small to medium businesses seeking desktop accounting:

Additional products:

QuickBooks Self-Employed

The newest edition of the QuickBooks product line is a cloud-based financial management service designed for self-employed and/or freelance individuals (e.g., anyone who contracts out their services, such as an Uber driver).

Home screen in QuickBooks Self-Employed
Pricing: Available through a monthly subscription that includes the cost for phone support, data backups and system maintenance.


The solution comes in two packages: Self-Employed and Self-Employed Tax Bundle.

QuickBooks Self-Employed allows users to:

  • Connect to bank and credit card accounts
  • Track income and expenses, separating transactions as business or personal
  • Categorize and track IRS Schedule C tax deductions and expenses
  • Calculate quarterly taxes

QuickBooks Self-Employed Tax Bundle offers the same functionality as Self-Employed with a connection to Intuit TurboTax, allowing users to:

  • Pay quarterly taxes online
  • Export Schedule C deductions to TurboTax

Benefits: A mileage tracker—users can log trips by entering the date, purpose and miles driven. The software calculates the deduction automatically.

Drawbacks: Lack of invoicing capabilities with no connection to a payment gateway.

QuickBooks Online

In 2014, Intuit reported a major turning point for QuickBooks products: For the first time, more new customers chose QuickBooks Online over desktop versions.

Since then, QuickBooks Online has grown to over 1 million subscribers, signaling that small businesses are growing more confident hosting their accounting solutions in the cloud.

Customer overview in QuickBooks Online

Pricing: Available through a monthly subscription that includes the cost for support, automatic data backups and upgrades.

QuickBooks’ cloud-based solution is designed for small-business users and comes in three packages: Simple StartEssentials and Plus.


QuickBooks Online Products: Common Capabilities

Accounts payable and accounts receivableMonitor and manage income and expenses.
Billing and invoicingSend unlimited estimates and invoices. Essentials and Plus also offer recurring invoices.
Expense managementTrack and process work-related expenses such as travel and supplies.
Financial reportingSimple Start has over 20 pre-built reports, Essentials has over 40 and Plus has over 60 (includes sales and tax reports).


The QuickBooks Simple Start package includes:

  • One user license
  • Data import from Excel or QuickBooks desktop versions
  • Access for up to two accounting professionals (accountant and/or bookkeeper)

QuickBooks Essentials includes the above capabilities as well as:

  • Three user licenses
  • Ability to set user permissions (accountant, bookkeeper etc.)
  • Ability to postdate bills and payments

QuickBooks Plus includes all of the above and more. Additional offerings include:

  • Five user licenses
  • Inventory tracking
  • Creating and sending purchase orders