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At Pinkeye Graphics, we like to play with pretty pictures and computers. Cat likes to get out her pencils and sharpen them, whereas Matt loves to blow the dust out of the inside of some second-hand PC. That's more-or-less what we do, and sometimes it seems to work out pretty well.
When we first started, back in 2007, we kept our records on paper. Amazing though it must seem to some of our younger readers, this used to be how many businesses kept records. But not for long. We soon found that even keeping spreadsheets full of figures and invoices wasn't keeping things together. So we bought some software to help us - 'Mind Your Own Business' it was wittily called. It was OK, and helpfully it didn't cost anything more once we'd bought it. It did take quite a while to operate though, and when MYOB's UK business closed down, there was no support, and an endless series of shrill marketing messages from some other lot trying to get us to buy their product. So we went to look for another way to manage our business finances.
We ended up with Clearbooks, an online solution that meant no software on our own machines, and all the data far away in the cloud. It also meant a monthly subscription, although it started fairly painlessly at £5 per month we soon found that the £10 plan was the one for us. So including VAT we pay £144 annually for our accounting support. For £144, you could almost buy a whole bottle of Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon 2002. So is it worth spending a similar amount on accounting software? Here's our verdict after two years of use.
Looks good and works well. The site has never crashed, gone down or otherwise let us down. It is always there when needed. That's well worth commending.
Human support is good, and fairly fast. Online response within a day or so, and often a helpful bit of action, as the company is small and responsive. Example - a minor feature was changed and we didn't like it. We emailed the company and suggested that it be turned back to how it was. They agreed, made the change, and emailed us to tell us so within 48 hours.
Good for non-accountants like us. Whilst accountancy stuff is not far away if needed, you don't need to be too technical to make sense of it all.
App updates itself. Improvements and new features are coming along all the time. Not usually anything massive, but it's good to see progress without having to worry about updating and compatibility.
Robust error checking helps prevent too many accounting bloopers. This might be annoying if you already know about book-keeping, but for us it's a good safety net.
Online support is very muddled. Whilst there's quite a lot of information available, and things have improved a lot in the time we have been using it, it's still hard to find answers to simple questions, and a lot of those answers seem to involve watching videos. Luckily the app itself is not hard to use, and it's simple to get help from a human too.
It's hard to see how Clearbooks might work for a large number of small transactions, especially cash-based transactions. For us, this rarely happens, as we tend to have relatively few, large clients and few invoices.
Direct import of bank statements costs extra (although importing from PayPal doesn't), and the manual import works OK but still requires quite a lot of intervention.
There's not much of a community to advise and support, outside the Clearbooks staff themselves. This is simply a matter of scale. There certainly is some interaction, but given the relatively small number of users this isn't something you can rely upon.
Daft double login process to get to your account (since fixed).
We like Clearbooks - it works without much trouble and does a lot of the hard work for us. It's worth the money, and compared to other products it's actually quite good value. It's not without its drawbacks but the fact that they are continuing to develop it makes us optimistic that the product will continue to grow and develop as our company does.