Based on reader response and feedback from my clients, I recently signed a contract to write a to-the-point guide to keeping the books for your small business. No hoopla or hyperbole , it's going to give you the relevant information in a straight-forward fashion. The goal is that you can read a chapter and immediately put the bookkeeping information to use for your own business regardless if you have any prior knowledge of accounting or bookkeeping.
The big challenge was presenting the information in a generic fashion. That way if you are using QuickBooks, any other accounting software or want to do your books manually the information in the book will be relevant to your situation.
A reader suggested tailoring the book somewhat using Outright (a GoDaddy.com company), which has a free and a $9.95/month subscription service. Well, free always sounds good! So I thought I would sign up for and review the free version of Outright.
Using Free Accounting Software
Used to be that many publishers of boxed accounting software in addition to offering a free 30-day trial also offered a free scaled-down version of their software you could download from their website to use beyond the 30 days. The theory behind giving away free software was that a certain percentage of users come back for more and buy the full-featured version.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. I haven't seen one in awhile that offers a free version (if you can recommend one - please send me an email).
Outright states it automates tedious accounting tasks by importing your business sales and expense transactions. The main stumbling block that I see with Outright is that you don't download the software to your computer. Outright only works online by downloading data from the bank, marketplace and PayPal accounts you link. Although, per the Outright website, "When linking your bank account or credit card you are not providing your account number. You're simply authorizing Outright to download your transaction history."
I can see many small business owners being very resistant to this type of software model, regardless if it's free. However, I figured I'd sign up for the free account to give it a whirl.
Outright Sign Up
Going to the Outright website, select the Yes, sign me up for Outright link that is at the bottom of each page. You are immediately taken to the free signup page - which was nice since it's irritating when free services are giving the constant push for the paid account. Read the contractual terms, and if you decide you want to go ahead with the signup enter a user name (which must be an email address - not clear from the initial page I accessed) and password in the text boxes. Click Start My FREE Account!
Linking Your Accounts
The next page asks for your linking information. The left-hand side lists some online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay; the right lists bank and credit card information. I figured I would test the bank information first.
After clicking the bank link, another page appeared asking which bank I wanted to link, giving some suggestions with a text box for banks not listed.
Testing whether I would have to enter personal information (I honestly didn't see how this could work without some sort of account info), I selected a bank at which I do not have an account. That brought up some suggested types of accounts at the bank, I picked one at random. I was then asked for my bank login and password - at which point I exited out.
Outright provides a bunch of information about their bank-level security. The website states that it is a read-only service, which imports, organizes and categorizes your accounts into bookkeeping type reports. However, this obviously can't be accomplished without accessing your account and capturing your transactions.
Outright Bottom Line
While this is a GoDaddy.com company, I'm not giving my bank log in information to anyone. Good grief, right now I have a free subscription to two credit monitoring services because my personal information was compromised by the sponsoring financial institutions. I'm certainly not volunteering to share it.
For an explanation of Outright's linking mechanism and an insight into their internal controls, check out the second page of this article with feedback from Laura Messerschmitt VP of Marketing, Outright.com.