Danbro, Crunch and Freeagent: Switching Accountants

I’ve been trying to improve my accounting situation. When I started my company back in 2008, I originally went with Danbro accounting. They seemed pretty good, but I did find them quite expensive for the service I was getting. That said, I just needed someone quick when I first started. And every hour I spent fussing over accounts was a huge opportunity cost.

Now that I’ve throttled operations back a lot, the time-saving is not so crucial. I’d started losing love for Danbro as their communications were not terribly clear. Dealing with them just felt difficult and this year I found myself chasing them for things they used to do automatically.

So shopping around I found Crunch Accounting. They looked good, or at least, their site did. Switching accountants is a real pain. And there were a few things I really didn’t like about their setup process. (They asked for my username and password for Government Gateway for one thing… I don’t think that’s normal)

But now it’s my quarter end and VAT is due soon. But I’m really struggling with Crunch’s web application. For one thing, it’s horrendously slow. Really really slow. And my account seems to be a little broken. I’ve uploaded this quarter’s bank transactions and want to start reconcilliation, but an opening balance hasn’t been set apparently. I’ve phone up to try and resolve it, but the woman I talked to said that the website was running slow because she’s just updated my account and to try again in five minutes. I’m sorry, but that’s not how web applications work. At least, not in the 14 years I’ve been developing them.

Last month I’d signed up to FreeAgent as well to have a look. My trial had expired, but I’d asked for an extension so I could evaluate it and that wasn’t a problem. Since Crunch was looking to be exceedingly painful, I thought I’d see how difficult FreeAgent was to set up with the same information.

First thing is how quick it was. So nice to have such a responsive site after Crunch’s glacial pace. Also, the forms are so much better laid out. Keying in all my invoices for the quarter was actually pretty painless. And reconcilliation seemed amazingly smart. I’m not sure how long it took from start to finish, but I think it was less than I took talking to Crunch trying to get my opening balance sorted (and failing).

What I’m not clear on, is how expensive year-end accounts will be. At £25/month for a limited company, FreeAgent + an Accountant for year end will work out more expensive than Crunch. But visibility into your finances is so much better. (Well, it’s better than I had with Danbro. I’ve not really been able to evaluate Crunch yet due to their system)

I think I’m likely to bin Crunch and find a FreeAgent-friendly accountant to do my year-end for me. Will give that a go and see how it works for me.

Update 03 September 2013

I actually didn’t find much benefit from using FreeAgent in the end. I’ve written a little package for myself that is simple and exactly what I need, saving myself a cool £30/month. Which helps pay for my accountant at the end of the year when he produces my yearly accounts from the information my system spits out. It’s easy, fast and free. That said, the FreeAgent interface was very nicely done and Crunch’s web interface seemed to be evolving quickly too. But my books are so simple, I found it hard to justify the expense of either…