The information in this article is based on our research, dozens of hours hand-testing each platform, and interviews with customers, professional bookkeepers, and certified public accountants. The details of our review process can be found in this description of our research methodology.
With millions of users, Wave is the best entry-level accounting option for freelancers and very small, service-based businesses. It’s not nearly as powerful as top players like QuickBooks Online or Zoho Books, but Wave offers incredible value as a freemium tool.
Wave is the best accounting software for freelancers. It’s the most user-friendly option on the market and comes at an incredible value, as the core accounting features are free. You’ll be able to add features like time tracking, payroll, and accounting services onto your base plan.
There are five accounting tools we believe are worth consideration before you choose Wave. They differentiate based on the intended customer segment, and it’s important to understand who each solution was built for as that will dictate how well they’ll mesh with your business. For example, QuickBooks Online and Zoho Books are sophisticated but not very user-friendly, so freelancers and small service-based businesses will fare better with Wave or FreshBooks.
Here’s a breakdown of our review criteria. We rate each software tool based on their features, usability, pricing, and customer support availability. Here’s how Wave’s competitors rank in each category.
|Software Company||Analyst Rating||Features||Usability||Pricing||Customer Support|
|Sage Business Cloud||83||7.5||9||9||8.5|
Throughout this article, we’ll give an overview of Wave’s platform and list the top competitors and alternatives for you to consider. For a more in-depth description of Wave, check out our full Wave review.
Table of Contents
- Wave’s Top Features
- Wave Competitor Overview: Features
- Wave Competitor Overview: Pricing
- Top Wave Competitors
- Bottom Line
Wave’s Top Features
Wave offers all standard accounting features, though some, like the reporting section, are elementary compared with top competitors. Otherwise, however, Wave has a great range of both free and paid features.
|Invoicing||Invoicing with Wave is one of the easiest among accounting tools. When we tested this section, we got invoices ready and sent in less than five minutes.|
|Services||Customers will be able to sign up for bookkeeping, tax, or accounting services that vary from one-time to monthly. The cost can get high for these, but having a trained professional organize your software may be of great benefit for your business.|
|Receipt Capture||Wave has a free receipt capture feature. This feature enables customers to track their business expenses and provide proof of purchase directly within the software.|
|Accounting Reports||Though Wave offers only about 15 accounting reports, the most crucial are included, like the balance sheet, income statement, and profit and loss reports. Wave also automatically uses double-entry accounting for the ultimate accuracy.|
|Business Bank Account||You can set up a business bank account with Wave, which will streamline your entire accounting process. Note that this option is currently only available for single-owner businesses in the United States.|
Wave Competitor Overview: Features
This chart shows you the main features found in accounting software platforms, and compares which solution offers what. Pay close attention to whether or not you’ll need bookkeeping or accounting services, as most of the tools on this list don’t offer that.
Wave Competitor Overview: Pricing
Wave’s pricing is unparalleled. Invoicing, accounting, and receipt capture are entirely free, and customers can add payroll and tax and accounting services starting at $26 per month. Below is a table that compares Wave’s pricing and plans with competitors.
|Sage Business Cloud|
Top Wave Competitors
Wave is very similar to FreshBooks, which is also built for freelancers and service-based companies. Wave is, however, more nuanced than FreshBooks and is therefore also similar to QuickBooks Online and Xero. Considering features, pricing, and usability, Wave is in the middle of the pack of small business accounting software.
The top Wave competitors are:
- QuickBooks Online
- Zoho Books
- Sage Business Cloud
FreshBooks is most similar to Wave because their intended customer segments are identical: freelancers and very small businesses. Both are not ideal for product-based businesses as the inventory tracking features are lacking. Wave is a better value given that the base features are free, while FreshBooks is much better with customer service.
For a full comparison between the two, check out our Wave vs. FreshBooks article.
- You want basic accounting features for free
- You’d like to use Wave’s in-house tax, bookkeeping, and accounting services
- You want to use Wave’s business bank account
- You want a more responsive and reliable customer service experience
- You already use Gusto for your business payroll
- You’re willing to pay up to $50 per month
FreshBooks is the most user-friendly accounting software for beginners and freelancers. With features like invoicing, receipt capture, and expense tracking, it's a great first accounting tool to use when you're starting your business.
Compared with Wave, Xero is more sophisticated and detail-oriented. Xero’s base pricing costs between $11 per month and $62 per month, so it is definitely more of an up-front investment. With Xero, you have access to more than 800 integrations and more than 50 financial and accounting reports, which is significantly more than Wave provides.
To read a full one-to-one comparison between the two, check out our Wave vs. Xero article.
- You’re a freelancer or have a service-based company
- You want a tool that’s a bit more user-friendly
- You want accounting, receipt capture, and invoicing for free
- You need to track and manage inventory
- You want more than 50 financial and accounting reports
- You’d like to leverage integrations with Xero’s Marketplace
Xero is an accounting software that's used by more than 2 million customers worldwide. It includes all essential accounting features like reporting, invoicing, inventory management, and tax form generation. It's a great option for most small and medium businesses in any industry.
3: QuickBooks Online
QuickBooks Online is the undisputed leader in accounting platforms for small businesses. It has the most detail, the most resources, and many accountants and bookkeepers are trained in using QuickBooks Online. However, it’s also one of the most expensive and least user-friendly options. Wave and QuickBooks Online are ideal for very different customers. If you’re a freelancer, need relatively basic functionality, and would rather have a tool that’s easier to use, choose Wave. If you sell products and want a more advanced platform, pick QuickBooks Online.
A full breakdown of the two can be found in our Wave vs. QuickBooks Online article.
- You want a more affordable option
- You don’t need to run advanced reports
- You don’t need to track physical inventory
- You want the best accounting software
- You’re okay with an unwieldy tool
- You want advanced reports
QuickBooks online is the most popular accounting tool for small businesses. It includes all features a small business needs to keep track of its financials, and most accountants are very familiar with using the tool. QuickBooks Online has over 70 financial reports, integrations with many third-party tools, and a powerful payroll add-on.
4: Zoho Books
Zoho Books is similar to QuickBooks Online because it’s quite powerful, but not user-friendly. Zoho Books is better than Wave for businesses that are product-based, housed outside of the United States, or conduct business with many clients outside the United States. Conversely, choose Wave if you’re a freelancer and want something more affordable.
- You have a small, service-based business
- You do not need to track or manage inventory
- You don’t mind a less advanced reporting section
- You perform transactions in multiple currencies
- You have more advanced accounting requirements
- You do not need accounting or tax services
Zoho Books is an accounting software designed for small and medium businesses. Its standout features are its invoicing templates and vast number of financial reports. We recommend Zoho Books for those who need inventory management features.
5: Sage Business Cloud
Sage Business Cloud is a basic accounting platform that tops out at $25 per month. This makes it one of the most affordable accounting options on the market, but it’s still not as advanced as Wave. Wave is also more user-friendly. We recommend Sage Business Cloud over Wave only if you want access to Sage Intelligence, which is Sage Business Cloud’s extensive and highly advanced reporting section.
- You want to pay only for features you need
- You want built-in receipt capture functionality
- You want a more modern, user-friendly interface
- You want advanced reporting with Sage Intelligence
- You want unlimited features for $25 per month
- You do not need built-in receipt capture
Sage Business Cloud is a mid-tier accounting software designed for small businesses. Its main features include invoicing, expense tracking, and accounting reports. Overall, Sage Business Cloud is a very user-friendly tool, but is not as nuanced or cost-effective as other accounting software products.
Wave is a freemium tool that’s the best accounting platform for freelancers. It’s the most user-friendly choice on the market and still offers mid-tier power. We recommend Wave as the top choice for freelancers and small, service-based businesses who are looking for a lower cost than QuickBooks Online, but want more than FreshBooks can offer.
Here’s a quick recap of who we recommend each accounting software for:
- If you’re looking for the most sophisticated accounting software, look into QuickBooks Online
- If you want high-level power for a relatively low monthly cost, check out Xero
- If you reside or conduct business outside of the United States, consider using Zoho Books
- If you’re a freelancer or very small service-based business, consider FreshBooks
- If you’d like unlimited users for just $25 per month, look at Sage Business Cloud