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Gusto Review: A Good Small Business Payroll Software?

gusto review
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As you’re growing a business, there comes a time where you have to pay yourself and you have to pay people. Wouldn’t it be silly to get in trouble for giving money the “wrong way”? Well, you can give money the “wrong way”.  Stats show that 5.7 million businesses and nonprofits require a payroll, and 33% of them are fined every year for doing it wrong!

Federal and state government regulations require you to pay:

  • Income taxes
  • Social security taxes
  • FICA
  • Medicare
  • and other things depending on your state

And, if you want to take care of yourself well, you may also want to pay health insurance, life insurance, and set money aside for investments like retirement, real estate, or “just in case”.  Manually paying all of these expenses at every paycheck can get burdensome and it’s downright inefficient when there’s automated options that get the job done like Gusto.  Even worse, if you decide to manually process payroll and you miss something (which is fairly easy to do), you can be fined more than if you had simply paid for a payroll software!

In that way, payroll software can really be a cost savings for you if you know you’re not knowledgeable about all of the government payroll requirements, or if you simply don’t like doing it.  In this Gusto review, I’ll be giving you:

  • The backstory on Gusto
  • What it is
  • What it does
  • How it works
  • What it does well and what it does not
  • Pricing
  • and alternatives (in case you want to shop comparisons)

If this all sounds good to you, let’s get started…

What is Gusto? An Overview

gusto review

Gusto is an online payroll software that helps businesses to maintain compliance by paying people, paying themselves, and paying the necessary taxes that go along with managing a business.  They are a cloud-based solution that enables businesses and enployees to manage payroll, benefits, and performance records.  With Gusto, you’re able to:

  • Track who’s supposed to be paid, how much, and when
  • What taxes need to be paid
  • How many days off employees have accrued and how many have been used
  • How much time was worked (for hourly employees)
  • and, you can manage things like wage garnishment (for loan repayment or child support), 401k, commuter benefits, savings plans, life insurance, and more!

Without a good software solution, businesses have to manually track vacation days, sick leave, hours worked, pay amounts, and more.  It can get very tedious, and there’s LOTS of room for mistakes and inflamed debates about payment.  Instead, if you pick the right payroll software, you can save yourself the frustration, headache, and potentially, loads of scribbled on messy paper notes! Haha. Businesses and Employees appreciate informed and stable payroll management, and Gusto offers a solution that would enable you to provide both.

How Does Gusto Work?

To break down a few of the components Gusto offers, take a look at this screenshot…

gusto review

Basically, when you decide to hire, you need to onboard the new employee. They need to know important information about your company, they have to sign legal documents to prevent exploitation of themselves or the company, and you have to set up how they’ll get paid and when.

Once you’ve set up an account in Gusto, you can send your potential employees an offer.  They can accept the offer and sign all of the compliance paperwork inside of Gusto’s secure employee document vault.  You can have them read your employee handbook and any other specifications about the company because you can upload them into the platform.

You’re able to set up their sick days, paid time off, and other attendance benefits inside of Gusto, so when they want to take time off, they’d log on and send a request, you’d approve or diasapprove, and Gusto would track the benefits they have remaining.

Added to that, you can stay informed about how employees perceive the company by sending out employee surveys thru the platform. They’ll help you to know anonymously whether they’re happy or not.

In total, Gusto offers:

  • Cloud payroll software
  • Time tracking
  • Secure employee document vault
  • Employee Surveys
  • HR consulting
  • Time-off requests
  • Employee handbook builder
  • Worker’s comp insurance
  • Automatic filing of new hire compliance paperwork with the government
  • and, they have health insurance and benefits brokers to help you offer employee benefits within your budget

How Do I Get Started with Gusto?

Gusto has a 3 step process for getting set up: sign up, set up employee accounts, and get your team paid.  Here’s a visual…

gusto reviewThey offer a 30 FREE TRIAL ACCOUNT where you can set your employee payroll up and SEE HOW IT WORKS.  Here’s a video webinar with a walkthru of Gusto. If you’re interested in using this for your payroll, you may be interested in watching this:

Who is Gusto For?

Gusto is a good solution for small businesses (with few employees) that are looking for:

  • A simple way to pay themselves and pay others
  • Those who want employees and contractors to be able to onboard themselves and access their tax forms
  • Business owners who want all of the taxes and deductions automated rather than manual payment
  • For those who want to offer benefits, but don’t want to worry about manually making each payment
  • For those who want someone to consult with about Payroll
  • For those who want to remember important things and celebrate employees with things like birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

Gusto Tools & Training

For tools and training, Gusto offers:

  • Salary calculators
  • Tax calculators
  • Burn rate calculators
  • and, lots of articles to help you stay in compliance with payroll

Gusto Support

Gusto offers consultation with HR pros for payroll and benefit questions.  They also offer email and phone support Monday thru Friday 8 AM – 5 PM PT for billing questions, new inquiries, and all other questions or concerns.

What Does Gusto Do Well

  • Gusto integrates with top accounting software, timekeeping software, CRM software, and others
  • They have a platform with many features
  • They are able to answer questions about many payroll compliance concerns small business owners face
  • Gusto is very easy to use because the user interface is concise and simple
  • Gusto offers a demo and a 30 day free trial
  • They enable DIYers to process payroll

What Doesn’t Gusto Do Well

  • Many customers have complained that the customer service was very slow and not responsive to important issues
  • The support team formally said that email support usually takes 1-2 days especially in high peak seasons (like the end of the year)
  • Many customers complained of slow phone support
  • They don’t have variances of admin roles, so you’re either an admin or not. If you’re an admin, you have access to everything in the system, and some companies who have tiered organizational structures (on site management, general management, executive leadership, etc.) don’t like this. They’d prefer to have tiered access to on-site manager would only see private information and onboard those they manage, rather than seeing executive salaries, etc.
  • You have to pay the additional $6 per month per employee even for contractors who don’t work with you every pay period, otherwise, you’ll have to delete them, and re-onboard them every time they work for you
  • If a person previously worked for the company and you’ve de-activated them in Gusto, you cannot send them aother offer letter if you decide to re-hire them
  • It doesn’t have functionality for contractors to send invoices for approval
  • As of this writing, you cannot mass update employee policies (like PTO policies), so if you want to change the maternity leave policy or the like, you’d have to edit each employee individually

Gusto Review Roundup

While Gusto has alot of great things it offers, the here’s the customers’ view on whether they are offering their services well…

Common Positive Feedback

  • Great user interface
  • Easy to use for payroll

Common Negative Feedback

  • Not good for companies with several employees
  • Only good for small companies with less than 50 employees
  • Had trouble with managing benefits
  • Slow customer support
    • Customers who had tax compliance errors inflicted by Gusto reported slow response to help resolve them

Most Helpful Positive Gusto Review

Daniel Shatzkes on G2Crowd said:


“Payroll is super simple with Gusto”


What do you like best?

I’ve been using Gusto for almost three years now to take care of my payroll (I started back when they were still known as ZenPayroll). It absolutely could not be easier to do payroll than the way that they do it. TO be honest I haven’t tried any other service but I don’t see how it could be more simple. It’s hassle free and spot on. If I remember correctly getting set up was fairly painless. The ability to add employees, add commissions or bonuses each payroll cycle and to incorporate benefits (which they continuously add more of) is great. I just love how easy and little time it takes to run payroll with Gusto (did I mention it was easy?).

What do you dislike?

There are two things I wish could be different and neither has anything to do with Gusto’s performance. They both have to do with the cost. One thing I don’t like is that you have to pay each month for each person you add to your account whether they are salaried employees or independent contractors. Salaried employees – I get it. No qualms with that. You provide a service, I pay for it. Done deal. But with independent contractors, if I use someone and pay them through Gusto, and then end the contract with that provider, I don’t want to keep paying a monthly fee to have that person set up in my payroll account. I realize I can remove them but what if I want to hire that person again down the road. I have to do the entire on-boarding process again. I think that we shouldn’t have to pay for any independent contractors that aren’t getting paid that month.

Secondly, I like that Gusto started offering benefits. But when they did, they increased their pricing. I personally did not have a use for the benefits they were offering yet I still had to pay the new, higher price. It would be great if they could offer tired pricing depending on what services a company is using. Someone using the benefits should pay a little more than someone who isn’t making use of the benefits.

Recommendations to others considering the product

I’m sure there are other payroll services out there that have been around far longer and offer far more. It goes without saying that it’s worth checking them out and comparing depending on your company’s needs. I know that for me and my company, Gusto is great.

What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?

Payroll is such a simple task that it is not a worry at all when it comes up. IN 2 minutes it’s completely done. And if I ever receive anything in the mail regarding my payroll (either from the state or the IRS) I simply take picture of the letter, email or chat with their customer service and it gets taken care of. SO the benefits – practically no headaches with regards to payroll and major time saved.

Most Helpful Negative Gusto Review


“Gusto: Not for True HR Service”


What do you like best?

Payroll service only is fine. What Gusto is trying to do with other services is good, but they don’t execute it well. Now Gusto has expanded its service offerings even though they struggle with the current services. I recommend staying away from Gusto’s non-payroll services.

What do you dislike?

Benefits service is terrible, and customer service is often bad – slow and uninformed. Gusto made errors during the company on-boarding process and has been terrible during the 2017 insurance renewal period. They were tardy sending renewal recommendations, did not provided options from multiple insurance companies as requested (sent only recs from our current insurer), and provided only one week to review and analyze those recommendations. Gusto seemed overwhelmed and unprepared for the renewal period. Emails went unanswered and the “Benefits Advisor” was “unavailable” to schedule a telephone conference to discuss renewal prior to the Gusto-imposed renewal deadline.

What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?

Paid Time Off process though Gusto is efficient and eliminated the need for us to use spreadsheets to track hours earned, used and balances.

Gusto Price

Gusto’s full service payroll pricing breaks down like this…

gusto review

My Final Opinion of Gusto

Overall, I think Gusto is a useful software for small businesses. It seems that once the business is growing and having more than 10 employees, you may start to see additional features you might be looking, and another solution might be better.  Gusto continues making improvements, so if you’re a solopreneur or small company starting with Gusto now, you might never experience the issues others have. They say they’re constantly working to make their service better.


Top Alternatives

Want to shop a little more for HR and payroll support? Check out these alternatives.


Quickbooks Payroll

Manual processing – Self-paying all of the taxes or hiring an HR professional on staff

VERDICT: Recommend (for Small Businesses)








User Friendly







  • Easy to use
  • Great user experience on the website
  • Lots of great features
  • Lots of great reviews about smooth payroll processing


  • Slow customer support
  • Slow to repair tax errors and respond to urgent customer inquiries
  • Missing features like mass employee updates
  • Requires $6 monthly subscription payment or de-activation for contractors
  • Lots of complaints from medium and larger companies who wanted more features

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