In this blog post, we’ll compare two popular accounting software options: the DIY platform Xero, and Bench’s full-service online solution.
First, let’s define DIY vs.full-service
So what does DIY, or do-it-yourself, actually mean in terms of your daily, weekly, and monthly bookkeeping?
Essentially, you get a built-out platform that helps you manage your financials in a more streamlined and efficient fashion than just using Excel. Platforms like Xero or QuickBooks allows you to link your bank accounts so that your transactions can be imported—as opposed to, say, entering your transactions manually.
Then you can complete your regular bookkeeping tasks, such as:
- Categorizing expenses
- Reconciling cash and receipts
- Creating monthly and year-end financial statements
- Reviewing invoices and payments
- Entering and paying bills
While a platform that’s built for accounting can take a lot of the bottlenecks out of doing your own books, it can still be overwhelming for small business owners who are already busy with the many other tasks that come with entrepreneurship.
Plus—as we’ve found with many of our own clients who were doing their own books before joining Bench—bookkeeping is one of those tasks that’s easy to put off when more urgent business concerns pop up. And that can leave you with a lot of catching up to do.
Full-service bookkeeping solutions often use platforms that are somewhat similar to DIY options, but you get a team of expert bookkeepers who do all the work of updating your books for you, with minimal input from you. You also get a software platform that allows you to stay up-to-date on your business’s financial performance, along with monthly and year-end financial reports.
Now that we’ve established what DIY and full-service look like, let’s dive into the comparison!
The DIY option: Xero
Do you already have bookkeeping experience, and confidence in your financial abilities? If you do, as well as the time to complete regular bookkeeping tasks, Xero will work for you. With this cloud-based accounting software you get the templates, platform, and digital storage to input your business data and manage your own books each month.
Xero features include:
- Accrual accounting, with the option to use cash basis
- Audit trail
- Direct connection to your business bank account
- Mobile app for access anywhere
- Uses Hubdoc to scan, photograph, or upload documents such as bills and receipts
- Automatic sales tax calculation
- Customizable accounting dashboard to track bank balances, invoices, and bills
- One-month notice for cancellation
For customer support, Xero also takes a largely DIY approach. They offer a self-service article knowledge base, and if you can’t find what you need there, you can email a human support specialist with a support ticket request. If the problem can’t be resolved via back-and-forth emails, you can then schedule a phone call with Xero’s support staff.
Yes, Xero offers a 30-day free trial, with no credit card information collected. Payment information is collected only if you decide to continue using the product.
Xero offers three monthly pricing plans:
Early –$12/month. This is recommended for new businesses, startups, the self-employed, and freelancers.
- Send quotes and 20 invoices
- Enter 5 bills
- Bank reconciliation
- Basic inventory management
- Send purchase orders
- Short-term cash flow and business snapshot
Growing –$34/month. This is the most popular plan, and is suitable for growing small businesses. It’s similar to Early but without any limits on invoices, quotes, and bills. This plan also includes bulk reconciling transactions.
Established –$65/month. As the name suggests, this plan is designed for established businesses—in other words, businesses that have multiple accounts, use multiple currencies, have a high volume of transactions, and require more complex bookkeeping and accounting services. This is the only plan that allows you to claim expenses. Other features include:
- Use multiple currencies
- Track projects
- View analytics showing up to 90 days of future cash flow prediction
All three plans offer an optional add-on of managing payroll with Gusto starting at $39 per month, plus $6 per month per person.
The full service option: Bench
Bench is North America’s largest professional bookkeeping service.
Along with its proprietary software, Bench clients also get an expert bookkeeping team to complete their books. Bench’s expert bookkeepers handle everything from categorizing your expenses to creating tax-ready Year End Financial packages, so you have everything you need to file your taxes—stress-free.
Bench’s features include:
- Monthly bookkeeping and transaction categorization
- A dedicated expert bookkeeper
- Unlimited communication with your bookkeeper, with a maximum response time of 24 hours
- Cash management
- Works in tandem with CPA firms
- Ease of use–business financial accounts are linked to your Bench account
- Intuitive online platform used to monitor financial health
- Spend management via the Top Expenses report on your accounting dashboard
- Unlimited access to our in-house research team who provide expert small business advice for your questions—at no extra cost
- Accurate, tax-ready financials for streamlined tax filing
- A Year-End Financial package that includes a business overview and an income statement, balance sheet, trial balance, journal entry summary, and general ledger.
Bench clients can connect an unlimited number of accounts monthly, including:
- Bank accounts
- Credit cards
- Merchant account processing
In addition, Bench’s bookkeepers verify the accuracy of the data that comes in via those connections for you. With a lower priced service like Xero, there is no verification step when bank transactions flow into your account—so it’s up to you to ensure your information is accurate.
Bench Accounting also offers tax filing support as an additional service. We take care of your income tax filing and provide you with unlimited tax advisory consultations throughout the year. This service adds a dedicated tax coordinator, a tax advisor, and a tax preparer to your bookkeeping team.
For an additional fee, Bench offers Catch Up bookkeeping for those wanting to get their historical books in order. In general, it takes between two and four weeks to complete a year’s worth of overdue bookkeeping.
Bench customer support is available 24/7 and is not limited by package or price. This includes:
- In-account chat messaging feed
- Schedule a phone conversation with your dedicated bookkeeper Monday through Friday during normal business hours PST
Yes, Bench offers a free trial. No credit card information is collected during this trial period. Payment information is collected only if you decide to continue with our service, so there are no automatic billing surprises.
The trial includes completion of one historical month of bookkeeping, a set of financial statements and a full tour of the Bench platform. Even if you choose not to continue after your trial bookkeeping is completed, you can keep the income statement and balance sheet prepared by your Bench bookkeeper.
Bench.co offers two pricing plans:
Essential – starting at $249 monthly. Includes:
- Monthly bookkeeping
- Dedicated bookkeeping team
- Year-end tax ready financial statements
- Direct, unlimited communication with our in-house research team
Premium –starting at $399 monthly. Includes:
- All services in the Essential plan, plus;
- Unlimited one-on-one income tax consultations
- Annual income tax filing for businesses (partnerships, S corps, C corps)
- Annual income tax filing for individuals (sole proprietors, contractors)
Sole proprietors receive federal and state income tax filings as part of the Premium plan.
S corps, C corps, and partnerships can add on personal filing for one partner or shareholder for $59 per month when billed annually, or $69 per month when billed monthly.
Bench’s catch up bookkeeping service, which is designed for clients up to two years behind on their books, is $299 per month with a Bench bundle. For those who are behind more than two years, Bench Retro’s accounting services can get you caught up fast and help reduce your tax liability.
Bench Accounting also offers discounts of up to 30 percent for clients working with partners such as BigCommerce, FreshBooks, Gusto, Shopify, or Square.
Related Reading: Bench Launches App in the New Stripe Marketplace.
There’s also the value of having human bookkeepers handling your books for you. A dedicated bookkeeper answers any of your questions within one business day. That bookkeeper is supported by a team of small business experts.
In addition, Bench is based in North America with all bookkeeping done in-house. Your bookkeeping is never outsourced, and Bench uses financial industry-standard security and encryption, safeguarding customer data privacy and confidentiality.
Related reading: Bench FAQs
Xero vs. Bench user reviews
How do users rate these two different bookkeeping choices?
According to SoftwareAdvice.com, Bench scores 4.73 out of 5 compared with Xero at 4.32 out of 5. Bench bookkeeping also outranks Xero in value for money, functionality, and customer support. Xero’s lack of phone support affects user reviews in that latter category.
How do you decide which is right for your business?
When it comes down to a choice between Xero and Bench, much depends on your type of business, the specific platforms your small business uses, and your budget.
Xero is easy and intuitive to use for those familiar with bookkeeping software, but if your needs are more complex, or you’ve outgrown managing it all yourself, Bench is probably the better choice. With Bench, you won’t have to spend hours every month on your bookkeeping. Instead, you can use that time to concentrate on the value-driving tasks that help you grow your business.
Bench offers year-round tax support, so there’s no worry about missing deadlines—or deductions. You receive customized tax support that is right for your business.
Did you already miss a deadline? Not to worry. Using Bench is the quickest way to ensure you are caught up on your taxes. That way, any late penalties are minimized as much as possible.
Helpful resource: Determining the ROI of Hiring a Bookkeeper
The bottom line
Where does your business fit? Are you comfortable doing your books yourself? Or would outsourcing this function provide more benefit to your business?
If you determine that Bench accounting software is the best fit for your small business, take the next step and sign up for a free trial.