Choosing Your QBO Subscription

All details concerning pricing and features are current as of September 2022.

Choosing your QuickBooks Online (QBO) subscription can appear very daunting at first glance. One can easily get caught up in the weeds of the different features and limitations. This does not need to be an insurmountable obstacle though. My goal is to give you a brief overview of each subscription level and highlight some of the main features differentiating them from each other. 

QBO Subscription Options

  • Self-Employed
  • Simple Start
  • Essentials
  • Plus
  • Advanced
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

The first thing you should realize is that you can always move from one level to another. So, even if you start off with a level that doesn’t quite meet your needs, you can always upgrade or downgrade to the more appropriate level. The one caveat to this is the Self-Employed level. You can move your data from Self-Employed over to the other QBO levels, but you can’t go back to Self-Employed from any of the others.

Pricing for QBO can range from $15 per month up to $200. However, QuickBooks will generally provide a temporary discount. Currently, new users can sign up and receive 50% off for 3 months. After which, it goes back up to the full price.


As its name would suggest, the Self-Employed subscription is for self-employed individuals, specifically, freelancers and independent contractors. This subscription allows you to simply track your income and expenses, estimate your quarterly taxes, capture receipts, track mileage, and that’s about it. It also includes some basic reports, but no accounts payable (AP) or accounts receivable (AR) functions. It is designed strictly for someone who is freelancing or just working as an independent contractor. If you’ve started a business, regardless of how small, this isn’t the subscription for you. The investment for this subscription is $15 per month. For the limited functionality, unless the mileage tracking is a really big deal for you, I’d probably just go for a free solution like Wave Accounting unless you’re looking to grow into an actual business. If that’s the case, you’ll probably want to go ahead and get setup in the QBO ecosystem, so it can grow with you.

Simple Start

The Simple Start subscription adds the basic features that most standard accounting softwares have but is missing in the Self-Employed subscription. With Simple Start, you can still track mileage, capture receipts, and track your income and expenses. However, you can now create estimates and invoices as well as accept payments. The reporting options are more robust as well. Simple Start will also allow you to manage (track & pay) sales tax. With this subscription, you can only have one user but you can also have two accountants connected such as your bookkeeping (like me) and your CPA who files your taxes. This is a good subscription to start with for a business that is just starting out and/or is a service-based business. A couple of the features it is lacking are bill and inventory management. If you’re a business who needs to enter bills for later payment or has inventory that it needs to track, you’ll want to go with a higher subscription. I’ll touch on these two features a little bit later. The investment for this subscription is $30 per month. This is an excellent subscription to start with, especially if you’re on the fence with some of the more expensive features. You can always upgrade later if needed.


Now we’re getting into a subscription with some substance! The Essentials level takes everything that is available with the Simple Start one and adds a number of very useful features. While Simple Start was limited to only one user, Essentials increases that to three users. So, you can have multiple employees logging in and working at the same time. This package also includes time tracking, so it’s a good level to have if you need to bill clients for the time spent on their work. Another crucial feature for many businesses that this adds is bill management. This is the ability to enter bills you’ve received for later payment, which could be by printing a check from QuickBooks or paying electronically. This feature is vital if you want to manage and forecast your cashflow. One feature that it adds is the ability to create recurring transactions. This allows you to automate recurring transactions, so you don’t have to enter them in every single time. This is probably one of my favorite features. I’m always looking to automate and streamline as much as possible. The Essentials subscription will run you $55 per month. This one will work for the majority of service-based businesses.


The Plus subscription takes everything in Essentials and adds (plus 😉) several features that could be vital to a business depending on their needs and structure. The number of users once again increases, this time from three with Essentials to five. This is the level that adds inventory management. So, if you’re a product based business, this is most likely the level for you. Another feature is to track multiple revenue streams and/or departments/locations. With Plus, you can now add a class or location onto each transactions. This is especially important if you have multiple locations and want to easily run reports showing the financial details of each location. You can also track project profitability now. This lets you see the income and expenses related to a particular client’s project. Being able to determine your profit margin on a project by project basis is the building block of creating a profitable and sustainable business. This is also the level that introduces the ability to record and track budgets. The cost for the Plus subscription is $85 per month, but if you need the features it provides, it’s well worth it.


Now we have arrived at the mother of all QBO subscriptions, QBO Advanced! This level introduces a number of features with added complexity and customizability. You’ll need to be an “advanced” user to get the most out of this. As with the previous levels, this takes everything available in the prior level and adds to it. Now you can have 25 users with their own unique login, using QBO at the same time, definitely helpful for larger businesses with multiple people in the finance department. You also receive a dedicated QBO account team with 24/7 premium technical support. The automation also increases with additional workflow features and the ability to batch process invoices and expenses. The Advanced level also provides you with access to “premium apps”. This is the ability to integrate with other services such as Docusign,, and Salesforce, allowing you to create a more cohesive system and workflow, depending on your needs. All these features don’t come cheap though. The Advanced subscription will cost you $200 per month. So, you want to make sure you are really using all the advanced features to get your money’s worth out of it.

Hope this helps you make an informed decision when choosing your QBO subscription. This is certainly not a complete/exhaustive list of every single feature and difference. It should give you a good starting place though. Whether you’re just looking to start out or are already using QBO and want to see if you’re on the right subscription, don’t hesitate to reach out. Schedule a consultation today!


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