Finance4U

QuickBooks Online vs Self-Employed: Features & Differences


QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed are both accounting software solutions offered by Intuit, but they serve different types of users and have different feature sets. While QuickBooks Online is a full-featured double-entry bookkeeping system capable of tracking assets, liabilities, income, and expenses of Small and midsize businesses (SMBs)





small and midsize businesses
, QuickBooks Self Employed is a simple-to-use way for microbusinesses with no employees to track income and expenses.

  • QuickBooks Online: Best for small businesses requiring payroll, inventory tracking, job costing, budgeting, or scalability
  • QuickBooks Self-Employed: Best for freelancers and self-employed individuals seeking basic bookkeeping and federal tax support

Intuit now offers QuickBooks Solopreneur, which is part of the QuickBooks Online product lineup and builds on the success of QuickBooks Self-Employed. While intended for one-person businesses, it offers easier set-up, added flexibility, and productivity tools. If you currently have QuickBooks Self-Employed, you can continue your subscription, but Intuit no longer offers new ones.


We are driven by the Fit Small Business mission to provide you with the best answers to your small business questions—allowing you to choose the right accounting platform for your needs. Our meticulous evaluation process makes us a trustworthy source for accounting software insights. We don’t just scratch the surface. We immerse ourselves in every system we review by exploring the features down to the finest nuances.

We have an extensive history of reviewing QuickBooks products, and we stay up-to-date with the latest features and enhancements. Our first-hand experience, guided by our internal case study, helps us understand how the different QuickBooks products compare with each other and how they work in real-world scenarios.


QuickBooks Online vs Self-Employed At a Glance

Are you considering the desktop version of QuickBooks? See our comparison of QuickBooks Online vs Desktop to help you decide.

Use Cases and Pros & Cons

  • Small businesses that invoice customers frequently: While QuickBooks Self-Employed allows you to invoice customers, its process is not nearly as refined as the excellent invoicing in QuickBooks Online. For instance, the creation and collection of an invoice are not recorded automatically as income in QuickBooks Self-Employed. Also, the invoice descriptions in QuickBooks Self-Employed are difficult to manage and edit, meaning you often must create unique descriptions for each invoice line item. QuickBooks Online has exceptional invoicing features, such as its ability to calculate sales tax based on the customer’s location, which is why we selected it as the best invoicing software.
  • Retail businesses tracking inventory: QuickBooks Online has excellent inventory tracking and accounting features for retailers. It calculates the cost of goods sold (COGS), tracks inventory levels, and determines the cost of ending inventory.
  • Small businesses tracking time and assigning project costs: If you want to invoice customers for billable hours accurately, QuickBooks Online can help you track hours worked and bill them to customer invoices. You can also track time and assign them to projects.
  • Businesses with multiple classes of products or services: QuickBooks Online’s class and location tracking features allow businesses to separate net profit by type of product or service
  • Businesses with multiple locations: QuickBooks Online is also a good fit for businesses with multiple locations because its class and location tracking is beneficial for tracking the profitability of each. Its robust reporting capabilities also allow you to customize reports to compare data by location and project future cash flow.
  • Businesses with employees: QuickBooks Self-Employed does not have a payroll feature while QuickBooks Online has it built in with QuickBooks Payroll. This streamlines the payroll process and lets you manage everything on one platform.

intuit quickbooks accounting software logo

Pros

  • Offers scalable plans, priced based on number of users and features needed
  • Has a wide network of QuickBooks Online ProAdvisors for expert assistance
  • Comes with powerful inventory management features

Cons

  • Is unable to track the value of your investments automatically
  • Has a mobile app, but can’t record time worked
  • Is unable to compare estimated to actual project costs
  • Freelancers working remotely often: QuickBooks Self-Employed has its own mobile app that lets you create and send invoices, track business mileage, and scan receipts from your mobile device. QuickBooks Online can also do this—but at a higher price. For other recommendations, refer to our guide on the best mobile accounting apps.
  • Freelancers who pay personal and business expenses from the same bank account: If you use your bank account for both personal and business, QuickBooks Self-Employed allows you to designate payments from your bank account as “personal,” so you can ensure that your income statement reflects accurate information. This is one area where QuickBooks Self-Employed truly beats QuickBooks Online regardless of price.
  • Freelancers who need to track profit and expenses and file federal tax returns: With QuickBooks Self-Employed, you can categorize income and expenses and transfer the information to your tax return in TurboTax.
  • Freelancers who track mileage: QuickBooks Self-Employed allows you to track your mileage using your smartphone’s GPS. You can also classify business and personal trips within the mobile app.

QuickBooks logo

Pros

  • Calculates quarterly estimated tax payments
  • Transfers Schedule C tax information to TurboTax
  • Captures and organizes receipts

Cons

  • Has limited invoicing functionality
  • Is unable to accommodate multiple businesses
  • Can’t track unpaid bills
  • Small businesses seeking free accounting software: If you’re willing to sacrifice some features in exchange for free accounting software, we recommend Wave. Not only is it free, but it is also one of our leading QuickBooks alternatives. Read our Wave Accounting review for more information about its features.
  • Small businesses that need fixed asset management tools: Neither QuickBooks Online nor QuickBooks Self-Employed track nor calculate the book value of your fixed assets. If this is a feature you’re looking for, we suggest Xero, which is unique among accounting programs because it can track and calculate depreciation for fixed assets like vehicles, machinery, and equipment. Read our review of Xero to learn more.
  • Project managers who need to compare estimated and actual costs: If you want to compare budgeted costs to actual time and expenses, we recommend FreshBooks. Our FreshBooks review has more information about what the solution offers.
  • One-person businesses that want one platform to manage bookkeeping and taxes: QuickBooks Solopreneur is ideal for one-person businesses that want to be able to run their business seamlessly. Users can separate business and personal expenses, get expert tax prep assistance, set and track growth goals, track mileage, and more.
Can’t decide which accounting solution is best for your business? Check out our guide to the leading small business accounting software for additional options.

User Reviews: Tie

Although QuickBooks Self-Employed technically scored higher, the user reviews were too close to call one clear winner. We analyzed the reviews for each below.


Many users find QuickBooks Online user-friendly, especially for basic tasks like invoicing and expense tracking. They also appreciated its wide range of features including bank reconciliation, reporting, and its integration with other apps.

Some reviewers also mentioned that while it is competitively priced, many found that the costs added up as they needed more features. Also, while it’s generally considered easy to use, some mentioned a learning curve, especially for users coming from the desktop version.

QuickBooks Online earned the following average scores on popular review sites:

  • Capterra[1]: 4.3 out of 5 based on nearly 6,450 reviews
  • G2.com[2]: 4.0 out of 5 based on more than 3,250 reviews


QuickBooks Self-Employed is generally well-regarded among freelancers and sole proprietors, but some limitations are worth noting. Features like mileage tracking and income/expense categorization resonate with self-employed users. They also appreciate features like estimated tax tracking and reports for tax time.

However, while it is good for basic needs, it likely won’t scale with growing businesses. Features like double-entry accounting are absent, and compared to free alternatives, some find the subscription fee a turnoff, especially for those with simple needs.

QuickBooks Self-Employed earned the following average scores on popular review sites:

  • Software Advice[3]: 3.9 out of 5 based on about 100 reviews
  • TrustRadius[4]: 9.0 out of 10 based on over 50 reviews

Pricing: Tie

It is difficult to compare QuickBooks Online vs Self-Employed across the board. This is because QuickBooks Online offers a range of subscription plans based on the number of users and features needed while QuickBooks Self-Employed offers plans that are bundled with or without tax filing options. Therefore, we call this category a tie.


QuickBooks Online has four pricing plans to choose from, each with its own set of features and allowed users. See below for more information about the features included with each plan.

  • Simple Start: $30 per month for one user
  • Essentials: $60 per month for up to three users
  • Plus: $90 per month for up to five users
  • Advanced: $200 per month for up to 25 users

In addition to the allowed users, the QuickBooks Online plans vary in the features included. Check out our QuickBooks Online plans comparison to learn about the features of each.



  • Self-Employed: $15 per month for one user
  • Self-Employed Tax Bundle: $25 per month, includes one federal and one state tax return filing through TurboTax plus the ability to pay quarterly estimated taxes online
  • Self-Employed Live Tax Bundle: $35 per month, includes everything in the Self-Employed Tax Bundle plus access to a certified public accountant (CPA) who will do a final review of your tax return.

Features: QuickBooks Online Wins

Many of the same features can be found in both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed, but the major difference between QuickBooks Online and Self-Employed is that the latter doesn’t track assets and liabilities, so you can’t reconcile your bank accounts or manage and track unpaid bills. Because of that, QuickBooks Online takes the lead in this category.

Accounts Payable (A/P): QuickBooks Online Wins

QuickBooks Self-Employed does not track unpaid bills, usually referred to as A/P. With QuickBooks Online, you can track bills, manage vendor credits, and set up recurring payments. Therefore, QuickBooks Online is the clear winner in this category.

It even lets you pay bills directly from the software with QuickBooks Bill Pay, using automated clearing house (ACH) or check while you can only record payments made outside the software with QuickBooks Self-Employed. You can also track A/P aging with QuickBooks Online, so you can see which bills are outstanding and how much you owe each vendor.

Accounts Receivable (A/R): QuickBooks Online Wins

QuickBooks Online also aces this category. While both platforms allow you to create and send invoices, the invoice customization options are limited with QuickBooks Self-Employed. QuickBooks Online allows you to send invoice reminders and create recurring invoices as well as create estimates and turn them into invoices once they are accepted by the customer—all features that QuickBooks Self-Employed lacks. You can also track A/R aging with QuickBooks Online, which is unavailable with QuickBooks Self-Employed.

There are a couple of major problems with the invoicing features of QuickBooks Self-Employed. First, creating and even receiving payment for an invoice does not record any income in your books. This means that it’s possible to properly record the receipt of an invoice payment, but not record the payment received as income.

The second problem is how the line-item descriptions, called product or service items, are managed. Once created, you can’t edit a product or service item when adding it to another invoice. The practical implication of this is that you’ll end up typing custom descriptions for every invoice you issue.

Reporting: QuickBooks Online Wins

QuickBooks Online offers a wide variety of customizable reports, including a Balance Sheet. Since QuickBooks Self-Employed doesn’t track assets and liabilities, it cannot create a complete set of financial statements, which must include a Balance Sheet. This is one of the reasons why QuickBooks Online leads in this category.

QuickBooks Self-Employed’s available reports are limited to a profit and loss statement, mileage log, and general ledger. It also offers two reports that are unavailable with QuickBooks Online—a Schedule C worksheet and Quarterly Estimated Taxes.

Sales & Income Tax: QuickBooks Online Wins

Both allow you to add sales tax to invoices and track independent contractors. But the difference between QuickBooks Online and Self-Employed is that QuickBooks Online offers a robust set of sales and income tax features, including a sales tax center and tax forms that cater to the needs of large businesses, so we selected it as the winner. On the other hand, QuickBooks Self-Employed offers an efficient set of features focused on helping self-employed individuals manage their sales and income tax operations.

Ease of Use: Tie

QuickBooks Online is more complex than QuickBooks Self-Employed and offers more features, which can make it more difficult for some users to learn and use the platform. However, it provides more flexibility and customization options.

QuickBooks Self-Employed is simpler and easier to use, making it the better choice for self-employed individuals and freelancers requiring basic accounting software that can handle their expense tracking, and tax management needs. We called this category a tie because each plan is specific to the needs of its intended users.


QuickBooks Online is a more comprehensive accounting software designed for SMBs. It has a more complex user interface than QuickBooks Self-Employed, but it offers more customization options and integrations with third-party apps.

The learning curve for QuickBooks Online can be steep for new users, but it provides plenty of resources, such as tutorials, forums, and customer support, to help you get started. Once you’re familiar with the software, it can be easy to use, especially for businesses with complex accounting needs.

Screenshot of dashboard in QuickBooks Online showing left menu bar and diagram of workflow.

QuickBooks Online Dashboard



QuickBooks Self-Employed is designed specifically for self-employed individuals, freelancers, and independent contractors. It has a more streamlined feature set, focused primarily on invoicing, expense tracking, and tax management.

It has a simpler user interface than QuickBooks Online, with fewer options and features, and an intuitive navigation. It provides step-by-step guides and in-app prompts to help users navigate the software and complete tasks.

Screenshot of QuickBooks Self-Employed dashboard with left menu bar and other overviews.

QuickBooks Self-Employed Dashboard


Assisted Bookkeeping: QuickBooks Online Wins

For QuickBooks Online users, assisted bookkeeping is available in the form of QuickBooks Live, which is why it is the winner in this category. Starting at $200 per month, the service matches you with a certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, who will help you connect your bank and credit card accounts, categorize your transactions, and reconcile your bank accounts. They are also available for telephone or one-way video calls, to answer questions and troubleshoot any bookkeeping issues.

However, QuickBooks Live bookkeepers cannot assist with 1099 reporting and preparation or payroll. It is unavailable to QuickBooks Self-Employed users—but they do have access to a network of QuickBooks ProAdvisors.

Read our review of QuickBooks Live to learn more about the service.

Integrations: QuickBooks Online Wins

QuickBooks Online integrates with a wide range of third-party software, with more than 700 apps across various categories, such as customer relationship management (CRM), ecommerce, time tracking, and project management. Some popular integrations include PayPal, Shopify, TSheets, Salesforce, HubSpot, Square, and Stripe. It also connects with thousands of apps through Zapier. Visit the QuickBooks Integrations page to learn more.

QuickBooks Self-Employed has fewer integrations than QuickBooks Online. However, it still offers a good selection that are relevant to self-employed individuals, such as TurboTax, PayPal, MileIQ, Etsy, and Stripe.

Mobile App: QuickBooks Online Wins

QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed have separate mobile apps. While the QuickBooks Online mobile app allows you to perform many of the same activities as the web-based version, the QuickBooks Self-Employed mobile app limits you to creating and sending invoices, categorizing expenses from the bank feed, tracking mileage and expense receipts, and viewing reports. Therefore, QuickBooks Online is a clear winner here.

Customer Support: Tie

Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed offer phone, chat, and email support options to their users, but QuickBooks Online offers a VIP service called QuickBooks Priority Circle to users with an Advanced plan. This service connects you with a dedicated account team, provides in-depth training, and 24/7 premium technical support. Although this is a valuable service, we still ruled this category a tie since the service is only available to Advanced users.

Meanwhile, QuickBooks Self-Employed offers phone support to all subscribers, and if you sign up for the Live Tax Bundle you’ll also receive access to a CPA for assistance with filing your income tax returns. Both platforms also provide online help centers with extensive resources and a community forum where users can connect and share knowledge.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


No, QuickBooks mobile apps are included with the software.



No, QuickBooks Self-Employed doesn’t allow you to manage bill payments. If this is an important feature, we suggest checking out QuickBooks Online.



QuickBooks Online ranges in price from $30 to $200 per month, depending on the subscription plan. These plans are priced based on the features and number of users included.



It is currently impossible to migrate data from QuickBooks Self-Employed to QuickBooks Solopreneur, but QuickBooks Solopreneur does have features to import data in spreadsheet format.


Bottom Line

QuickBooks Online is designed for small to mid-sized businesses and offers a powerful suite of accounting features, including invoicing, bill management, inventory tracking, payroll, and advanced reporting. QuickBooks Self-Employed is designed for microbusinesses that have more basic accounting needs. The best software for you depends on the size of your business and the features you’re seeking.


User review references:
[1] Capterra | QuickBooks Online
[2] G2.com | QuickBooks Online
[3] Software Advice | QuickBooks Self-Employed
[4] TrustRadius | QuickBooks Self-Employed

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