Anyone created their own bookkeeping software?

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It's a crazy idea but a basic online bookkeeping software which has no desires for such things as practice management, year end accounts, tax returns etc. Something focused on the task without all the distractions. 

Thinking something that's quick to use but has a working sales and purchase ledger. Not sure if I'd be able to get Dext/AE integration but that would be awesome. 

It doesn’t seem such a mad idea when you see the amount we pay Xero.

 

Replies (36)

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stonks
By WinterDragon
29th Feb 2024 21:37

I believe there are several firms that have created their own in house product that suits their own needs but personally I think I'd be much better off sticking to my day job. I was so green when I started that I never thought that practice management software was something that existed so I started creating a Microsoft Access Database to store client records. A few hours here and there in my evenings before I soon realised what a monster that task would have been.

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Replying to WinterDragon:
Slim
By Slim
29th Feb 2024 22:01

Very true, I’ve had a couple of meeting with businesses which would do all the work for me.

It’s definitely not check, but neither are the costs I’m paying for the software it would replace.

If it’s good it will be well worth it, if it’s crap, well, that’s a lot of cash wasted.

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By FactChecker
29th Feb 2024 22:23

A small word to the wise ... even though it may be obvious:

* the true cost of software (as a developer) is not just the initial development - and of course initial documentation, testing, etc - it's in keeping the damned thing working (often loosely referred to as 'maintenance'). This includes unplanned maintenance (bugs found at the most inopportune time) + planned maintenance (where some part of the underlying platform is upgraded by 3rd parties) + supposedly planned legislative updates (which as we all know have increasingly been announced at irregular and inconvenient times in the year).

* if you then factor in the resources to keep an eye on all this (so that you can plan what to schedule whilst coping with the need to co-ordinate the unexpected), and that you will (at least sometimes) need those highly-paid/scarce resources at short notice and potentially working over nights/weekends/public holidays ... you'll find your original estimated budget has swollen beyond recognition.

* at this point you will be struck by the unique insight that all of the above is open to economies if scale if you can just manage to persuade a few other companies to purchase licences ... whilst remaining blind to the fact that you've now got to satisfy a bunch of disparate needs (which drives up your costs) and probably need some marketing & sales to get/retain those clients (and again up go the costs).

As I said, probably all blindingly obvious and of course you wouldn't fall into any of those potential traps ... just like all the other people who've thought of doing this and tried.

Don't get me wrong, there can be positives ... but a bit like panning for gold you've got to know what you're doing AND be lucky!

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By adam.arca
29th Feb 2024 22:53

Well, without wanting to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet, I’ve developed my own offline bookkeeping / final accounts product in Excel and my own PM system in Access. I love them both dearly, wouldn’t be without them, they both do things the way I want them done but I wouldn’t dare let anyone else see them in all their unpolished glory.

WD and FactChecker are both right, though. They are monsters to maintain / develop even with only one customer (me). I mostly do it for the challenge of doing something different but the correct commercial decision to have made all those years ago would have been to go off-the-shelf.

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Slim
By Slim
01st Mar 2024 08:37

All good points. It’s hard to judge at this stage but surely will be offset by the huge sums paid to current software makers.

I don’t know where the tipping point is, if you had say 1,000 clients using Xero that’s some serious cash you’re paying out every single month.

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Ivor Windybottom
By Ivor Windybottom
01st Mar 2024 09:23

Back in the day I wrote an Access database system for tracking accounts jobs.
It was amazing and even had a replicated database (for resilience/shared offices).

I was only a young nipper and had the time and skill to build it in my spare time. I couldn't do it now!

With experience comes the realisation that the risks outlined above really matter, so I wouldn't attempt to build from scratch today, nor use a basic tool like Access.
If I was to try again today, I would probably adapt one of the products that does all the heavy lifting, such as a no-code forms product.

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Replying to Ivor Windybottom:
stonks
By WinterDragon
01st Mar 2024 16:59

Reading yours and Adam's success stories of using Access gives me mixed emotions. I feel relieved that I wasn't the only person that had this idea but I don't know whether it proves my incompetence that I couldn't follow through and build something useful or proves my intelligence to not get caught in a sunk cost fallacy.
Then again, it probably just proves I'm lazy and give up easily!

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By adam.arca
02nd Mar 2024 08:28

Nope, it just proves you made the right decision!

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a challenge in life, to learn something new, and to give Corrie the swerve :), then VBA or any programming language for that matter might be for you. It’s not difficult but it is immensely broad, a great example of the unknown unknowns.

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By FactChecker
02nd Mar 2024 14:06

Indeed ... and when you decide that you want to bequeath the result to others (aka not remain the only person who can mend things in it), you could tackle SQL as the means of designing/controlling the back-end data storage.
It doesn't have to be the grown-up but pricy SQL Server from MS, there are open source versions that are (almost) fully compatible.

Not only do you get the fun of designing the backend database (which can massively reduce the effort at the front-end that is often related to data not being where you wanted it or not properly validated etc), but you get to set-up triggers / joins / auto-checks that tackle new-found user requirements or just better replicate /support their preferred procedures - without having to re-write vast chunks of code or transfer old data in/out just to retain history.

It can look frightening but is extremely well documented, with loads of free tutorials and examples to work through.
I didn't touch it until my 50s but, without formal training, I persevered - and found it so powerful that it transformed my then company's offerings (much to the surprise of our professional development team) and allowed the company to get (and satisfy) much bigger clients, who were happy to pay for the advanced level of service.

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AS
By AS
01st Mar 2024 10:06

A very fast, nimble and very reasonably priced product as you describe exists already - VT Transaction+

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Replying to AS:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
02nd Mar 2024 10:55

I use VT Transactions+ whenever I can, with clients uploading documents to our secure area, and it's excellent all round. Except that most clients expect cloud access nowadays.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By paulwakefield1
07th Mar 2024 11:59

You can always operate VT Transaction+ through, for example, Dropbox. It's not multi-user of course so only one user to have access at a time but not far off a cloud solution.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By Brian2611
07th Mar 2024 12:12

I agree, VT is low cost and very easy for clients to use. The data is easy for the client to backup and send to me.

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By johnjenkins
07th Mar 2024 10:23

Don't forget the bookkeeping (cash book) is free.
I did my own from source documents to accounts all linked on excel spreadsheets over 30 years ago. Then I switched to VT.

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By Yorkshireblue
07th Mar 2024 10:29

Another vote for VT Transaction+. It even has a bureau licence at a very reasonable price. It's not all bells & whistles and does the basics very well. Having been brought up on pre-Windows Sage operating ith DOS, I really couldn't or didn't want to get to grips with the Windows versions. Using probably just 10% of what Sage could do, really didn't make things run smoothly, never mind the cost.
My solutions was Excel until discovering VT Transaction+.

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By Truthsayer
01st Mar 2024 10:07

'...but has a working sales and purchase ledger'

The lack of that is indeed the worst aspect of most existing cloud systems. VT Transaction+ has excellent sales and purchase ledgers, and ticks every box on your list except not being online. I reckon there would be a big market for what you propose, but it would be a large undertaking, probably requiring substantial investment.

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Replying to Truthsayer:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
01st Mar 2024 10:51

I genuinly struggle with the concept that cloud software "doesnt have a sales and purchase ledger"

What is wrong with Xero's bills and invoicing, well apart from the insane ££££

Its a slick and decent and works very well with modern ways of working with email etc. The only issue is that you can bypass it and post "on the fly" but that is a user training issue.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By paulwakefield1
07th Mar 2024 11:57

Umm - Xero's sales and purchase ledger is a pile of crud. If you have very simple suppliers and customers and suppliers, it is probably OK but the moment any complexity arises, it is rubbish.

Had a client but this week (an intelligent one) who hadn't spotted that Xero had put some but not all credit notes (no idea why it wasn't consistent) in the payment column of one of its reports- very nearly caused a major problem.

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chips_at_mattersey
By Les Howard
01st Mar 2024 10:17

Back in my HMCE days (1980s), I visited a sole trader who had written his own bookkeeping software. Unfortunately his VAT fraction calculation was incorrect, meaning persistent, albeit modest, overclaiming of input tax.
And, in those days, HMCE sent out a computer specialist to review the operation of the software, as it was part of the process to prepare VAT Returns.

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By jon_griffey
01st Mar 2024 11:43

I have often wondered why as a profession we can't get together and form a not-for-profit company and create our own no frills software - for bookkeeping etc and also year end accounts, tax returns etc - something that does the job and spares us from the useless bells and whistles like pie charts etc. As things are all the software companies continuously take our collective pants down.

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Replying to jon_griffey:
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By SouthCoastAcc
01st Mar 2024 14:08

Yes it would. Currently they have a lot of leverage, by far they have more power than us to dictate terms.

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
02nd Mar 2024 11:16

There's a gap in the market for a no frills bookkeeping package that produces a TB, without producing Mickey Mouse "accounts" where clients typically issue themselves dividends based on accrual-based sales and payments-based purchases, not to mention unreconciled bank accounts.

As for bells and whistles, it's annoying when small clients cancel their payroll service and even their accounts production because they can DIY (often badly) on the bloated bookkeeping package. Why are we recommending such software? We're Turkeys voting for Christmas!

Functionality? If anyone has found a way to post a sales invoice in Freeagent without having to recreate that invoice, please let me know. Some people prefer to use their own invoicing software, Freeagent. And Xero... why can't you zap duplicate bank downloads or even wipe all the entries with a reset (to start over from scratch with a clean sheet) without leaving a horrendous trail?

Taking our pants down? Freeagent has just added £5 for uploading more than 10 "bills" a month - the £5 does not qualify for agent discounts. And have you seen the monthly cost of Sage's (alleged) cloud software? As for Xero, its agent discount scheme has headed south!

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By FactChecker
02nd Mar 2024 14:28

I'm sure there is indeed "a gap in the market" (well at least a dearth of options), but the idea put forward by jon_griffey: "I have often wondered why as a profession we can't get together and form a not-for-profit company and create our own no frills software" is I believe a non-starter.

Don't get me wrong, it's logically an excellent idea ... so much so that I (and no doubt others) have explored it at various points over the last 25+ years.
BUT the first thing you realise (as per my post near the start of this thread) is that designing & developing the software is the relatively easy part ... whereas all the resources to maintain & update it + provide user support + investigate reported problems + test (and re-test it with every change in legislation or the software) will cost the proverbial arm & a leg.
THEN will come the realisation that, sunk cost fallacy or not, you could cover these high costs better if you had more users ... so marketing & sales enter the room, and all sense of a community project leaves by the back door.

Or, to put it more bluntly, who will fund the pre-launch costs and who will pay for the ongoing operation?
Whenever I tried, the Boards of the bigger players (whose money would have been critical) couldn't get beyond their usual 'investment' mindset - and a lack of direct returns killed their interest stone dead!

So it's back to the private sector where they are looking for that return but may be more likely to take higher risks in getting there (.. good ..) - however if their hard work and risk-taking succeeds then the temptation to take the outside investors shillings grows greater with every year (.. bad ..).

Which of course is where we are ... sorry not to be more positive, but that's life!

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Replying to jon_griffey:
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By I Can Help Your Business
07th Mar 2024 10:39

And this is not as difficult as you may think. There are packages out there that are pretty good and work out of the box but need some fine tuning for our needs in the UK - you could create a unique product and bespoke it for surprisingly little - £5-10k, with maintenance & support the only additional cost.

After speaking to a couple of accountant friends one bleary night, I have ended up developing a unique product focussed on Wordpress & WooCommerce and the UK. This has costed more as most of it was unique development, however, it is achievable. I am not a classic developer, just someone who believes they have spotted a gap in the market to help fellow small business owners.

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By jeremy28
07th Mar 2024 10:31

It's a nice idea. BUT...
I developed a plug in to Xero to keep control of debtors, as Xero takes ages to load if you want to access a few different pages and there is nowhere to take notes and view them centrally and create reminders.
Grand ideas on retiring on the profits...
It's 2x over budget+, and far fewer clients than I'd hoped for. ROI lower than expected! And that's before even thinking about the advertising website...

It's hard to compete with the big boys.

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By STCCS
07th Mar 2024 11:07

Simply Accounts on 20 business licence works out at £20 + VAT per business. Includes MTD VAT and sales and purchase ledgers.

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By I Can Help Your Business
07th Mar 2024 11:50

Is that £20 per business per month?

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By STCCS
07th Mar 2024 12:12

Per annum

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By I Can Help Your Business
07th Mar 2024 12:26

That's really good, but it is a very basic service for that price.

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By STCCS
07th Mar 2024 12:32

It is full accounting/bookkeeping desk top software for small businesses.

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By I Can Help Your Business
07th Mar 2024 13:15

Desktop - ahhh, never noticed that!

For a similar/lower cost you could have an online platform like Xero, Kashflow etc (based on a volume of users).

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By NewACA
07th Mar 2024 11:29

I wrote an Excel programme in 2012 for LTD companies, basically its very similar to VT transaction, except as its in Excel, I can copy and paste the bank transactions in, so a lot faster than VT Transaction. It does the usual TB, General Ledger, Aged debtor and creditor reports, has a VAT Reporting function to make up a VAT Return and produce VAT reports and is MTD enabled via bridging software.

As for maintenance, I haven't updated it since 2012, it took me about a month to write it, which was fine, as I had just taken the plunge, so had plenty of spare time whilst I built up my client base. I use it for clients up to turnover of say £3m. Excel is only slow if you use formulas. If everything is done instead using macro's you don't end up with lots of hanging/crashing Excel spreadsheets, and you should really save it as an xlsb (binary) file format for extra speed. Some clients who are good at bookkeeping, where they are just a contractor say, I hand out the spreadsheet to them and let them know how to use it, then they just email me back the spreadsheet after year-end.

In my opinion, if a bookkeeping package constantly needs maintenance, either it wasn't written well in the first place, or the programmer is just scamming you to get more money for doing nothing. Perhaps their financial model was to sell it to you underpriced, then bill you monthly forever on th gravy-train, knowing it is their product so no one else can provide maintenance.

I wouldn't move over to online bookkeeping, as the spreadsheet is about 30% faster than using online bookkeeping, even with bank feeds and the like: cut and paste in Excel isn't much longer than a bank feed, and you can skip all the re-authorising the bank feeds that take up so much time with some clients.

Zero bells and whistles, it just gives me what I need and that is it. So if a client wants nice reports, I put them onto something else, but then they have to pay a lot more.

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Pile of Stones
By Beach Accountancy
07th Mar 2024 11:29

I use Quickfile for those clients where the volume of transactions / complexity doesn't warrant Xero.

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By johnjenkins
07th Mar 2024 11:52

You can download bank transactions into VT.

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By Ian_mcdonald
07th Mar 2024 11:36

GnuCash (portable if you wish).
https://portableapps.com/apps/office/gnucash_portable
I have used it for 8 years and it is constantly being maintained.
I run it from a USB thumb drive so I can take it to clients premises if needed.

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Donald MacKenzie
By Donald MacKenzie
07th Mar 2024 13:40

I suggest you look at VT Transaction+
Its sales and purchase ledgers are far easier to use than Xero and QB. You can match off receipts or credits against invoices and see what is outstanding much more easily. Finding imbalances in, say, a payroll control account is easy as matched entries show up and can be hidden to leave only open entries.
Apart from those who demand "cloud" or multi-user, it has everything.

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