Gusto is one of the best cloud payroll programmes we’ve had the pleasure of using. Too bad that they currently only serve US-based companies.
Gusto Review – 11 Pros & 3 Cons of Gusto Payroll
July 08, 2020
If you’re a small business owner, you’ll understand the troubles of running a business without having some sort of payroll system.
Good thing you stumbled across this page, because we’re doing a review on one of the most dynamic payroll systems available in the market – Gusto.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this review, we’ll be bringing you through a little story about Gusto, and how it changed the lives of business owners everywhere.
The Gusto Story
It was 2012, and Gotye was somebody everybody actually knew.
A young company called ZenPayroll decided to go into the… cloud payroll business – no cookie for you if you guessed that. Operating in the heart of California, the firm gained popularity fast, earning them enough clients to launch their services in Florida, New York and Texas within a few months of them opening their doors.
In a little over a year, ZenPayroll’s services became so popular that they announced that they were receiving $100 million in payments annually. By 2015, ZenPayroll had launched support for their services in all 50 states of the USA, and became officially known as Gusto (whoever decided on the name change deserves a promotion!).
Later on in the year, the company secured $60 million in series B funding (led by CapitalG, formerly known as Google Capital). If that’s not impressive enough, the good folks managed to clinch another $50 million in funding during December 2015, elevating them to be part of the three comma club – a company valued at a whopping $1 billion!
It seems like nothing can stop the Gusto gravy train because they just keep growing and growing. As of July 2019, Gusto raised another $200 million in funding, effectively giving them a $3.8 billion dollar valuation!
Does Gusto fit your small business?
Gusto paints a very pretty picture of themselves when it comes to their story, but you and I both know that’s not really important to customers.
It doesn’t matter if they’ve raked in millions in funding. It doesn’t matter if their system runs on the latest, greatest, cutting edge infrastructure around.
The thing that’s truly important is if Gusto’s payroll app is actually the right fit for your business:
- Do they deliver on their promises?
- Are there any fine-print hijinks we need to be aware of?
- How does it feel to actually use Gusto?
As a matter of fact, the only reason you’ve probably read this far because you want to know if Gusto is actually good for you.
Well, we’ve promised you a thorough review and deliver we will.
We’ll bring you through some of the things we love about Gusto and a few things we think they could improve on. We’ll be absolutely thorough, nitpicking through everything and making sure that you’ll know everything you need to know about the software.
Our team prides ourselves on empowering small businesses. This means that our reviews are as neutral as possible so that you make the right choices for your small business.
For the sake of brevity, let’s move on to what we like about Gusto!
11 Things We Like About Gusto
1. Gusto is VERY pretty!
We’ve tried a fair bit of payroll apps and so far, nothing comes close to Gusto’s well-designed interface.
The UI team poured a lot of love and effort into building Gusto’s wonderful interface and it shows.
The interface looks so friendly and easy to use, it’s almost… “app” like. You know, like an easy-to-use app for iOS. One look and you’ll know where to click and what goes where, no need to fumble around trying to see if things work.
It’s planned so well that practically no training is required to learn how to use the software. Log on and you’ll find that it just works!
There’s a place for everything and everything is neatly in its place.
Almost every page you land on will have a pleasant looking doodle on it. These doodles are refreshing and honestly, they make my heart sing every time I look at one.
It certainly breaks the monotony of running payroll!
Some people might say that having a pretty interface is just superficial, but we feel it’s important. A hybrid payroll/HR programme like this is meant to be used daily, and nobody likes looking at an app with an ugly or dull looking interface every day.
At least with Gusto, we get to enjoy the view!
2. Running payroll is incredibly easy with Gusto!
We’ve encountered payroll programmes that require us to go through training before being able to use the app efficiently.
We absolutely hated that system because having to sit through training to learn how to use a programme is a pain and is terribly inefficient to begin with. Doesn’t help that the training videos we had to sit through looked like it was created by a particularly untalented YouTuber.
Anyway, when you use Gusto Payroll, you’ll encounter none of that nonsense.
Once you key in your personal and company details, you can jump right in and start running payroll easily.
Payroll is done in 4 easy steps:
- Calculate hours
- Calculate time off
- Review & submit payroll
- Confirm payroll
Step 1 – Calculate Hours
Calculating this is super easy because you don’t actually need to do any calculations at all. Everything is pre-calculated for you when you key in the employee details during setup.
All you have to do now is to adjust the employee’s hours accordingly and the numbers will be automatically reflected on screen.
If bonuses or commissions are due for your employees, it’s as easy as clicking on the additional earnings box and keying in the number.
Step 2 – Calculate Time Off
Next, you just need to key in your employee time off and sick hours in this section. Quite self-explanatory.
Step 3 – Review & Submit Payroll
You’ll then be taken to the payroll review screen.
This process is very straightforward. You’ll be shown a complete list of your company expenses. Your job will be just to make sure the numbers on screen are correct.
You’ll have the option to see just what gets taxed and debited. There’s also an option to view just what your employees earned.
Once you’re happy with the numbers, all you need to do is hit “Submit”.
Step 4 – Confirm Payroll
Lastly, confirm the payroll submission and you’re done running payroll for the month!
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
3. You can run 4 types of payroll!
While most payroll programmes only has the option to run 1 type of payroll, Gusto is forward-thinking enough to let you have the option to run 4 types of payroll!
Aside from regular payroll, you’re able to run Bonus, Off-Cycle and Termination Payroll as well. This gives you the flexibility to run off-season payrolls if the need arises, which we found to be quite interesting.
As the name suggests, you can make bonus payments to your staff if they hit certain milestones, deadlines or targets. Note that Bonus Payroll is subjected to a supplemental withholding rate of 22%.
Just like regular payroll, the system is very easy to run. Just key in the numbers in the corresponding boxes and you’re done!
Off-Cycle Payrolls are meant to make additional payments to your staff outside of regular payroll. It’s actually quite similar to Bonus Payroll, except that Off-Cycle Payroll uses the same withholding rate, deductions and contributions made in regular payrolls.
If you’ve ever had the displeasure of firing somebody, you’ll know you have to run a terminal payroll for the dismissed staff. With Gusto, this is simple enough.
When you go over to the Termination Payroll page, you’ll be shown a list of your employees. Click on the one you need to dismiss and a pop-up will appear to confirm if you wish to dismiss this employee. If you want to run Termination Payroll, click on the correct button and go ahead and dismiss the employee.
You’ll then be led back to the employee’s page. Here, you’ll have to click on “Run Termination Payroll”.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll just have to run payroll as you normally would, except for the dismissed employee. Pretty straightforward stuff.
When you’re done with that, you’ll be prompted to print the employee’s check (direct credit isn’t available for dismissed employees).
After you’ve completed that, you’re done! Congratulations, you’ve successfully dismissed an employee and ran the payroll for the dismissal! Bye-Bye Hannah!
4. Gusto can run on autopilot!
As small business owners, we tend to have a lot of things on our mind and there is never enough time in the world to get all your tasks done.
Sometimes, we get so busy we accidentally forget when it’s time for payroll and we scramble to run it, ignoring all our other daily tasks (our employees need to get paid no matter what, right?)
That’s why we love this feature so much. When we set Gusto to run on Autopilot, we can remove ourselves from the equation and focus on other aspects of the business that require our attention, while Gusto does all the work for us.
As long as all the employees’ direct deposit payments are set up, Gusto will run payroll automatically 1 day before the deadline, and you’ll be sent an email notification once they do. You’re given 24 hours to make whatever changes you wish or even cancel the payroll before it’s locked in.
A highly convenient feature we can’t live without!
To enable autopilot, just head on over to the Settings tab, hit Payroll and click on Edit under Payroll on AutoPilot. Enable it there and Gusto will sort everything else for you!
5. Payroll reports all in one screen!
Reports are important. They contain precious data about your company, whether or not it’s doing well, and if you’re in the black.
Payroll reports need to be detailed and comprehensive so that you’ll know how much cash the company needs to operate every month. With Gusto, that’s not a problem at all, especially with their detailed Full Cash Requirements Report, available after you run payroll.
Impressive innit? If that’s not detailed enough for you, Gusto’s got your back.
They can generate a Payroll Journal Report which breaks down all the expenses, telling you exactly where your money is going, how much your employees are making, and amounts that are going straight to the government’s coffers.
These are just examples. Gusto has the ability to generate all sorts of reports so you can analyze them to your heart’s desire:
- Payroll Journal
- Benefits Report
- Year-to-Date Report
- Employee Summary
- Contractor Information
- Contractor Payments
- Bank Transactions
- Time Off Balances
- Time Off Requests
- Agency Payments
- Payrolls Prior to Gusto
6. Easily cancel payroll!
We’re only human, and no matter how careful we try to be, mistakes happen.
Sometimes, it happens during payroll and that’s when it becomes a huge headache because cancelling payroll can be a pain with certain payroll programmes…
We let out a huge sigh of relief when we discovered that cancelling a payroll with Gusto was actually quite simple, as long as the submitted payroll hasn’t been processed yet.
All you need to do is go to the Reports tab, hit Payroll History, and find your way to the cancel button to undo the payroll. Quite easy, don’t you think?
If you don’t see the cancel button, then it means that the payroll has been processed. Now, If you noticed a mistake in payroll after it’s been processed, don’t fret because it can still be reversed, although a little bit more troublesome.
You’ll have to contact Gusto’s customer care team to see what they can do about reversing the payroll or talk about the options you have to sort out the problem.
Their live chat team is very responsive and is more than happy to help you out. Gusto’s support hours run from Monday – Friday 6:00AM – 5:00PM PST so if you catch them when they’re off work, they’ll make sure to send you an email with a reply to your query when they get back into the office.
Alternatively, you can also contact them via email or phone (415-930-4532).
7. Gusto has all-access demo account!
Personally, the accessibility of their demo account made Gusto all the more impressive to me.
I was able to play with the numbers, test everything, and mess around to my heart’s content without any fear of messing up. It’s actually how I discovered how user-friendly Gusto actually is.
You’re basically given full access to all of Gusto’s payroll system with the demo account, except that the user details are refreshed every day so nothing’s saved. It’s a great way to onboard new users by letting them get a feel of the programme!
The link to the demo account isn’t the easiest to find, so we’ve taken the liberty of linking it here for your convenience. Check it out and don’t be afraid to mess around with it!
8. Gusto has Team Insights!
Employee happiness is one of the most crucial elements to ensure success for any company.
The problem is, most employees don’t like to publicly speak out when they’re unhappy for fear of repercussions. Although clear communications is something we try to encourage as we run our businesses, peer pressure exists and more often than not, the answers you’ll receive from employees in a public environment will be skewed so as not to look bad in front of their colleagues.
Gusto’s Team Insights allows you to send out surveys so that your employees can privately rate their happiness levels as they see fit, allowing you to gauge overall employee morale and take steps to fix whatever morale problems you might have.
Once Team Insights are enabled, Gusto will email your employees once a month with questions from a variety of topics regarding work which you can pick from. You can also make edits to the question if you like.
Very forward-thinking function by Gusto!
9. HR Templates galore!
I think by now, it’s pretty clear that Gusto is a fantastic payroll app, with features designed specifically to make lives a lot more convenient for their users.
They can stop right there and people will be happy, but that’s not enough for the team at Gusto. They won’t rest till they’ve done everything they can to make our lives as easy as possible!
One of the ways they’ve achieved this is via HR templates.
You no longer have to waste time and exhaust your brain meticulously typing out HR related documents. Gusto comes with a long list of templates so you can easily fill in the details and make things official as quickly as you like.
They’ve got templates for all sorts of HR related documents, From NDAs and Tax Forms to hiring documents. If you can think it, they probably have it.
These templates are so convenient and are such timesavers, we can’t imagine what life was like before we had them #truestory.
10. Gusto is speedy!
One of the main banes of SaaS services is the inability to be as fast as the user would like them to be. When the program takes time to load, it irritates the user, sometimes to the point of frustration.
We don’t have the right resources to gauge how fast Gusto’s system really is but I’ll tell you one thing – while using the programme, none of us noticed the speed, until we almost forgot about it.
That’s a good thing because it means that the Gusto experience was so seamless, we never noticed if there was any slowdowns whatsoever. The only part where there was some lag was when Gusto was calculating payroll, but that’s to be expected.
We did some speed tests using our server speed checker, and their server results were pretty damn amazing!
Needless to say, we were pretty happy with Gusto’s speed.
11. Gusto rewards you!
It’s not often you pay for a cloud based software, only to find out that they’ve devised ways to reward you back for your purchase!
It’s not a huge sum, but benefits are benefits. It definitely brightens up our day to see that Gusto is a company that finds ways to give back to their customers.
Basically, all you have to do is refer your friends to Gusto Payroll.
In the dashboard, just click on “Referrals” and you’ll be sent to the referrals page. Key in your friend’s email so Gusto can send them an onboarding email. If your friend signs up to Gusto and runs payroll, Gusto claims to reward you and your referred friend with $100!
Before you get overly excited, Gusto won’t give you $100 in cash – rather, you and your friend will receive a $100 Amazon Gift Card!
It’s not as good as cold hard cash, but hey, you get to purchase something worth $100 off Amazon for free!
3 Things Gusto Needs to Improve On
As a payroll service, there is no doubt that Gusto is excellent. However, there are some things about them that we wish were a little different.
1. Gusto is a US-only service
We apologize to all of you folks reading this outside of the USA. Gusto might just be the right fit for your small business, but the fact that they’re a US-only service just makes it pointless for anyone outside of the US.
You can’t even spoof your location via a VPN to sign up for the service, because Gusto requires a US bank account to set up the system.
If you happen to have a US account, then you’re in luck. You’ll be able to use what’s arguably the best payroll system we’ve seen so far.
Otherwise… tough luck buddy, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Damn you, lucky Americans!
2. Gusto is pricey
Gusto positions themselves as a software that’s best suited for small businesses, but quite frankly, their prices do not reflect their position.
With their Complete plan (most popular) you’ll need to pay a base price of $39 a month. On top of that, you’ve got to fork out an additional $12 a month per head. Assuming you’ve got 10 employees (including yourself), that’s already $390 a month!
Now, looking at this from a cost point of view, $390 a month can be quite pricey. But, if you shift the perspective a little, $390 a month can be considered reasonable, since it’s so easy to use, you won’t need to hire a clerk or an external agency to run payroll every month.
3. Gusto has no mobile app
Gusto has many functions and some of them require the boss’ or manager’s approval. Take for example, employee time off.
When an employee requests time off via the Gusto portal, you’ll receive an email notification telling you to approve that request. That’s easily done if you’re in the office, but assuming you’re away on vacation or on a business trip, it’ll make life a lot easier if we had an app on our phones we can instantly fire up to approve those requests.
We can actually log in to Gusto through our phone browsers, but we feel that it’s more of a workaround than an actual solution.
Gusto’s Plan & Pricing: Overview
Gusto’s plans come in 3 tiers – Core, Complete and Concierge.
* Price shown is for base price, not including cost for adding employees.
The Core plan is the most affordable one, offering you just the basic features of Gusto’s payroll system.
The Complete plan is the most well rounded one, with features like time tracking, employee onboarding and other HR benefits.
The Concierge plan is the most decadent plan of all, with full Payroll and HR functionality. They also have certified HR pros at your beck and call, and a dedicated resource centre.
Verdict: Should You Go For Gusto?
Gusto truly is one of the best cloud payroll software we’ve had the pleasure of using. It’s got plenty of perks for Payroll and HR benefits that will solve most of your HR headaches at a click of a button.
The UI is fantastic and very pleasing to the eye, which is important for an app that companies will need to use daily (especially for the HR features).
Payroll is automated which completely removes the need for our attention during payroll week (save for confirming the numbers).
For those of you that thrives on reports, Gusto offers plenty of those. They’ve also thrown in a very comprehensive list of HR templates for good measure.
In short, Gusto has done everything they can to make payroll as smooth as possible, and to make the lives of small business owners as convenient as they possibly can.
It’s too bad that they haven’t expanded globally yet, for we’re pretty certain their features will benefit many small business owners across the globe.
With gusto, we proudly declare that Gusto deserves two thumbs up from all of us at Bitcatcha!