Free Agent – a first look

A few months ago on reviewing my rss feeds, after a couple of weeks of disconnecting with things virtual and connecting with things sandy and sunny, I was pleased to see the announcement of Free Agent Central.

I have been reading Dennis Howlett for some time now and was secretly hoping that by reading his blog I would discover some better way of doing my accounts.

Free Agent Central seemed to be the answer.

Then… I promptly forgot about it.

The joy of having to do my VAT and Company Tax returns has prompted the search for a better way.

My accountants have already told me that I cannot continue with my 5 year old version of Sage Line 50. It is out of support and they no longer have a version in their office which makes sharing data with them tricky.

So I am looking for a new accounting package and whatever is happening with SAP A1S I am sure that I am way way way below the target market.

But I am in the target for FAC and for Quickbooks.

They are taking on beta testers at the moment and they recently released their pricing.

For a limited company they are charging £25 a month . I have to say, for what it does and how well it does it, it is pretty fair value. Putting it up against QuickBooks which I can get for £80 on Amazon my well be an argument the other way.

£80 for however long QuickBooks will last versus £300 a year with Free Agent Central. If you get in quickly with the beta program they will not start charging for 6 months as a thank you. This would knock it down to £150 for the first year.

What is the case for FAC?

Well it is easy to use and it is very niche to the Very Small Business needs so there is nothing that you don’t need to confuse you.

The upside with FAC could well be the amount of time that it takes to keep on top of this stuff. I hate really don’t like the administration of accounting but I have to do it and generally find that I am doing my VAT returns at the last minute. Not only does free agent central make it easy but you can see at any moment what your state of play is in terms of amounts owing in tax. This in itself is a winner.

FAC means less spread sheets on thumb drives, less time fussing around entering invoices into an accounting package, less time fussing with bank accounts and reconcilliation. Hopefully it also means less time for my accountants to do my returns which should drive time and therefore cost down. This would mean they could service more clients in the same time and possibly add other value add services on to more clients.

I am still going to be investigating Quick Books as I am only one half of the equation. I need to communicate my accounts with my accountants and what they are able to work with is going to skew this decision. Of course they can get access to my FAC accounts and I am hoping as I trial this software/service they will see the advantage of it.

So go and check it out and make sure the tell ’em the guy from AppsCom sent you.

By the way, I notice their updates are named after cheeses – I am eagerly awaiting the ‘Venezuelan Beaver Cheese’ update.

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3 Responses to “Free Agent – a first look”


  1. 1 Dennis Howlett Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 3:41

    Heh Nigel – thank goodness that someone calls us out. To answer your specifc issues:
    Putting it up against QuickBooks which I can get for £80 on Amazon my well be an argument the other way.

    £80 for however long QuickBooks will last versus £300 a year with Free Agent Central. If you get in quickly with the beta program they will not start charging for 6 months as a thank you. This would knock it down to £150 for the first year.

    We are offering a proposition that puts YOU in control of the accountant/client relationship. We think that has both a cost and a value prop. If we’ve not expressed that correctly then help us work that out.

    To your question about the ‘stuff’ your accountant uses, our thesis is simple: do you really want your professional advisor in control or would you prefer a different sharing opp?

    Finally – it’s not a cost decision, it’s a value prop- decision. I’m happy to walk you through that piece of the equation…

  2. 2 nigeljames Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 9:25

    Dennis, Thanks for your comments. I am happy with the value proposition.
    The value in FAC is already winning me over after only a few days of solid use.
    What I was trying to do is compare it to other more standard offerings from just a cost perspective, which is perhaps a little unfair and then look at the value in FreeAgent particularly in the section starting ‘The upside with FAC…’

    I am liking it more and more and while I got a copy of QuickBooks for free as a business colleague had an unused licence I am yet to enter anything into it.

    As for Sage at about £500 for a new copy of Line 50 it doesn’t have a hope.
    regards,
    Nigel

  3. 3 Dennis Howlett Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 9:39

    Thanks Nigel – you raise a legitimate question – how does something like FAC *even though it is different* (and hopefully more useful) stand up against the incumbents in this type of market?

    I draw comfort from watching our sign up numbers steadily grow and listening to the feedback we get.

    I’m saying nothing about our friends at Sage Towers other than we got more sign ups in a day than they managed in a month.


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