QuickBooks Online vs QuickBooks Self-Employed

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The company Intuit has two of the most popular bookkeeping software programs — QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed. But when trying to choose a bookkeeping software, which one of the two is the better option for you?

As you may know, I wrote a review about QuickBooks Self-Employed and why it is an affordable and easy option for new entrepreneurs, but I want to share a little bit about QuickBooks Online as well, so you can see for yourself which software may be for you.

QuickBooks Self-Employed and QuickBooks Online Comparison

First, let’s talk about features and what you will get out of each program. There may be certain features that you want or need for your business, or there may be things that you can go without if it saves time or money based on the program that you choose. 

QuickBooks Self-Employed Features

We’ll start with QuickBooks Self-Employed. Here are some of its best features: 

  • Affordable, with plans starting out at just $5/month
  • Pay quarterly taxes online
  • Send invoices to clients and customers
  • View reports like: Profit & Loss, Tax Summary, and more
  • Manage personal and business transactions
  • Track mileage 
  • File your taxes for free through TurboTax

With QuickBooks Self-Employed, you can’t customize your invoices, and it doesn’t offer any other options like estimates or quotes. Also, you can’t set up a bill pay or work with multiple vendors if you use this specific option.

So, if you’re a product-based business, or if you serve multiple clients and need access to options like estimates, this may not be the system for you. 

QuickBooks Online Features

Next up is QuickBooks Online. Here are some of its best features: 

  • Send estimates and invoices
  • Manage bills 
  • Track time 
  • Track inventory
  • Capture and organize receipts 
  • Add payroll if needed (self-service or full-service)

QuickBooks Online is just slightly more robust than its counterpart, but it doesn’t have all of the features that QuickBooks Self-Employed does. For example, you won’t be able to pay taxes online.

Pros & Cons of QuickBooks Self-Employed

QuickBooks Self-Employed has quite a few pros, and just a few cons, but I wanted to list them here.  

Here are the pros:

  • User-friendly 
  • The option to track mileage
  • The option to invoice multiple clients or customers
  • A mobile app so you can invoice, track mileage, and organize your income and expenses on the go  
  • Ability to organize income and expenses for Schedule C
  • Calculates your quarterly taxes and allows you to pay them online through the website or the app 
  • Two different options for pricing
  • Ability to print off multiple reports for your bookkeeper, accountant, or even for your records
  • Integration options (including, but not limited to: Shopify, PayPal, TurboTax, and Square, plus other integrations through apps like Zapier) 
  • An awesome affiliate program

Here are the cons: 

  • Doesn’t offer any support for state, county, or city taxes, so you’ll have to figure these out on your own if your state, county, or city requires them
  • Invoices can’t be customized outside of your name, address, logo, etc.
  • Hard to migrate to another accounting software if it doesn’t work out, even if you’re just migrating to a new or different QuickBooks account or option (more on that below!)
  • No option or tool that you can use for time-tracking, so you have to use a separate tool

Pros & Cons of QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online also has quite a few pros, so let’s take a look at those. 

Here are the pros: 

  • Cloud-based
  • Affordable 
  • Can send estimates as well as invoices
  • Also includes an affiliate program 
  • Ability to add payroll and bill pay 
  • Great customer service 
  • Has the option to add an accountant to the account
  • More robust features and reports that QuickBooks Self-Employed does not offer (over 65+ reports) 

Here are the cons: 

  • Can be complicated to learn the accounting system if you’re new to bookkeeping
  • Does not track mileage 
  • Can’t pay taxes online

As you can see, both QuickBooks Self-Employed and QuickBooks Online have more pros than cons. However, if there are specific things that you are looking for in a bookkeeping system, keep these in mind. 

QuickBooks Self-Employed vs. QuickBooks Online Pricing

Both QuickBooks Self-Employed and QuickBooks Online have multiple tiers in order for business owners to choose the best pricing plan for them. It is worth noting that QuickBooks Online is more expensive than QuickBooks Self-Employed.

Here are all of the options. 

QuickBooks Self-Employed Pricing

The smallest tier option is the original QuickBooks Self-Employed tier. It starts at $10 a month, but if you use my link, you can start for just $5 per month for the first 3 months!

If you want to add on tax options to avoid being stressed during tax time, you may want to go with the Self-Employment Tax Bundle tier. This tier starts at $17 a month, but you can start for just $12 per month for the first 3 months when you use my link!

QuickBooks Online Pricing

If you need more than what QuickBooks Self-Employed is offering on their plans, try going for QuickBooks Online and starting with the Simple Start tier. It normally starts at $25 a month, but you can get it right now for just $12 a month for the first 3 months. With Simple Start, you’ll be able to track sales tax, integrate with e-commerce tools, create customized estimates, and more. 

The next plan option is the Essentials tier. The usual price is $40 a month, but you can get it at half off right now for only $20 per month for the first three months. This plan offers the same benefits of the simple start plan, plus time tracking, more report options, the ability to manage and pay bills, and payroll. 

The last plan option is the Plus tier. I’d only recommend this plan if you’ll be working with inventory or if you have brick-and-mortar businesses, as the features align with those businesses better.  You’ll also get access to all of the options that you would have in the essentials tier. 

Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed offer 30-day free trials.

Switching Platforms

Let’s say you already have QuickBooks Self-Employed and LOVED it. But now that your business is growing, you need QuickBooks Online so you can pay business bills and hire on an employee.

Unfortunately, if you want to switch from QuickBooks Online to QuickBooks Self-Employed (or vice versa), there is no seamless way to do it. 

Basically, to switch between the platforms, you’ll have to download all of the info from the platform you’re already using, create a new account with the new platform, and start over. 

I know, it sucks. Especially because both are offered by the same company. But, that’s just the way everything is set up right now. 

I say this to say that if you have even a hint that you want to grow your business, or if you want to open a brick-and-mortar store soon, you’ll want to go ahead and invest in QuickBooks Online. If you plan on being a freelancer forever, then QuickBooks Self-Employed is perfect to start with. 

Now, if you’re already a user of one of these programs, and you want to switch to the other, it’s actually best to just wait until a new year. That way you can start a new tax year with a clean slate.

Still make sure to keep all data, even if it’s from the previous year. Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed make it easy to download, save, and print your reports for your business. 

What Is The Customer Support Like? 

No matter which option you choose as your bookkeeping software, both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed have terrific customer service. You can live chat with someone, email them, check out the forums, and even take training classes. 

One thing that you won’t have to worry about is being left in the dark with QuickBooks, whether it’s Online or Self-Employed. I’ve heard nothing but good things about both. So if you’re the type of person who tends to have questions, or if you’re not the biggest tech person, you’ll be in safe hands. 

Which Option Is Best For You? 

Although neither bookkeeping program is a one-size-fits-all, and there are many other programs that may offer you what you’re looking for, there are a few things to consider when trying to choose between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed. 

If you’re a side hustler, freelancer, or independent contractor, most likely the QuickBooks Self-Employed option is going to be your best option. It allows you to see incoming and outgoing money, pay taxes, and invoice for projects. When you first start your business, that’s basically all you need. 

If you’re scaling your business, have employees, or are product-based, you may need something robust like QuickBooks Online. That way, you can have more options, be able to manage the entire backend of your business, and integrate the software with other tools and apps that you may be using (especially as an e-commerce business). 


Overall, QuickBooks Self-Employed and QuickBooks Online are both great bookkeeping options. No matter which route you choose, just make sure it’s the best one for your business. And, if you ever want to switch, you can always do so. Just try to do that during the beginning of a new year so you’re not stressed! 

Do you use one of these programs? Which one do you use?


  • Hi! Great info on here! I am wondering if there is any benefit of using the online version vs the desktop? I was wondering if you had any thoughts on that?

    • They are two separate programs, so you’ll just have to decide which one suits your bookkeeping needs. I would use Desktop, but that’s just me.


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