A close-up on a hand holding a smartphone. The thumb hovers over a button reading "Pay" on the phone's screen.
Making sure you have a secure and easy-to-use payment platform is essential if you plan to sell online. — Getty Images/Tero Vesalainen

In our Startup2021 series, we're helping aspiring entrepreneurs navigate the business climate of the COVID-19 era. Each week, we'll share an in-depth look at one step you can take toward launching your business in 2021.

For a startup, the financial portion of the business is vitally important to keep organized and up-to-date. Business owners can use a number of financial technological tools to assist with everything from accounting to payroll management. Here are four financial tech tools for startups that can level up your business and help you manage your finances along the way.

Accounting software

There’s no need to run your business with paper statements and bills in the accounting process. A simple online accounting software like Quickbooks or Xero can give business owners a bird’s-eye view of their finances with powerful analytical tools. Cloud-based programs allow you to keep track of your business expenses and revenue wherever you have an internet connection.

The best accounting software programs come with the following features:

  • Bill management and pay: Organize and pay bills through the software via direct deposit or credit card.
  • Income and expenses: Import transactions and sort them into tax categories.
  • Inventory: Track products and goods.
  • Invoicing: Receive money for purchased goods and services.
  • Reports: Run expense reports, profit and loss reports and balance sheets.
  • Automation features.

[Read more: How to Set Up Your Accounting Right from Day One]

Payment processing platform

As online business models become increasingly popular, you’ll need a payment processing platform like Stripe or Square to facilitate e-commerce payments. Although there are fees associated with processing transactions and invoices, these platforms typically operate on pay-as-you-go pricing models, so you only pay when you make a sale.

Popular features of payment processing tools include:

  • Payments: Manage invoices and facilitate the consumer payment process with secure authentication and instant payouts.
  • Online and offline payment solutions: Many payment processors offer point-of-sale hardware solutions to manage brick-and-mortar sales with e-commerce transactions from a single platform.
  • Billing options: Create recurring invoices and subscriptions easily for long-term clients.
  • Tech integrations: The best payment processors integrate with web hosts and e-commerce platforms so you can create an online marketplace right on your website.

[Read more: How to Plan for Financial Uncertainty for Your Business]

As online business models become increasingly popular, you’ll need a payment processing platform like Stripe or Square to facilitate e-commerce payments.

Expense-tracking software

Business expenses can add up over time so it’s important to track each one as they happen. Expense-tracking software like Expensify and Concur can be used to reimburse employees for travel, meals and accommodations during work trips. Business owners can also use these solutions to better separate business and personal expenses, which can help in future business audits.

Features to look for in an expense-tracking software include:

  • Receipt documentation: Many expense-tracking solutions have corresponding mobile apps that allow you to upload a photo of a receipt and create an expense report.
  • Reimbursement approval: After sending in their documentation, employees can submit the expense report for approval. Managers can approve reimbursements from within the platform.
  • Accuracy and compliance checks: Expense-tracking software can often monitor expense reports and flag those that could be deemed risky. This can help business owners plan for future audits and protect themselves from fraud.

Payroll software

Payroll and its associated taxes and documentation can get complicated quickly, so it’s good for a startup to have a software solution that can organize and automate payroll tasks. Instead of hiring a separate HR staff, a payroll software solution like Gusto or ADP can offer a startup help with a multitude of HR responsibilities to ensure employees get paid.

The best payroll software should include features such as:

  • Payroll tax management: Your software should be able to automatically calculate and withhold employee taxes from each person’s paycheck based on their state of residence, filing status and number of dependents. It should also file those taxes at the correct frequency with each appropriate government entity.
  • Paid time off and time tracking: Because employee time tracking is an important part of how much your employees get paid, your payroll software should have built-in features to help manage working hours, overtime payments and paid time off.
  • Benefits deductions: Some payroll solutions serve an all-in-one HR platform that integrates benefits administration for things like health insurance and retirement plans. At a minimum, your payroll software should allow you to integrate and automate those deductions from third-party providers.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published August 30, 2021