If you own your own small business or help run one, you know that the the bottom line of attracting new clients, securing contracts, and working hard is actually getting paid. However, when you already spend dozens of hours per week devoted to each client (if not more), the last thing you want to do is spend several more hours tracking and invoicing your time spent on their related projects.
To help make online invoicing easier — so that you can get paid faster — we have compiled a list of five tools and apps that can make collecting payments due from clients less burdensome.
Below are a few ways to make online invoicing easier.
FreshBooks is undoubtedly one of the most popular online invoicing services. I frequently poll like-minded professionals about their favorite invoicing apps just to stay current on the latest apps, and without hesitation the favorite is a resounding “yes!” to FreshBooks. We’ve previously detailed how you can use FreshBooks to create invoices, and it really is as easy as signing up and adding a few details about your clients — primarily, their name and email address. If you’re tracking an ongoing project, you can use the calendar to add tasks and bill either by a flat fee, or bill by hourly rate or by variable task rate. Additionally, you can create a blank invoice and send a quick invoice for line items, which is useful when you need to create an expense report or invoice for a project you haven’t actually finished yet, or when you bill on retainer. FreshBooks is free for up to three clients, and has several pricing structures for those who manage more clients. However, if you work for another client who also uses FreshBooks, they can add you as a staff or contractor, freeing up one of your three free slots to invoice another client.
Zoho is another popular online invoicing service that offers more flexibility and customization options than FreshBooks, such as the ability to use ready-made templates or create your own. Users can also use Zoho to send invoices either via email or via USPS instead to save time on printing, pasting, and posting envelopes, though this is a service offered with other online invoicing services as well. You can even add a payment stub to keep track of receipts. Zoho notably offers more payment options than FreshBooks, accepting payments via not only PayPal, but also Google Checkout and Authorize.net. Another unique feature of Zoho is the ability to send invoices to your clients in their language and in their currency. For example, you can send a Facture to your French client and a Rechnung to your German customer. Zoho helps you easily derive the item price in a customer’s currency just by specifying the exchange rate. Other features include the ability to automate repetitive invoices and follow up on late invoices (and assess late fees). For those looking for more functionality than FreshBooks and for something that’s still free for just three clients, Zoho is a great option.
Xero is the first on this list that is not a free option for online invoicing, but for a small business looking to invoice multiple clients and also track all correlating expenses, this service should not be overlooked. At $29/month, Xero features unlimited accounting, unlimited invoicing, and unlimited bank reconciliation, which makes Xero much more than an online invoicing tool — but a powerful one if used just as that. Xero features dozens of add-ons that can help you turn Xero into an online platform that can help you manage your payroll, job tracking, inventory, e-commerce, and more.
Finally, one of the least known invoicing apps that is just as powerful as others previously mentioned is Brightpearl. This online invoicing service is really a robust sales order management software suite that can help you manage your accounting, contacts and CRM, your help desk, and of course, invoicing. LockerGnome community member James Marchant believes that Brightpearl will be “[a] market leader in a couple of years,” explaining that its “product is superb” and he has tried “most of the above named software and nothing compares!” He goes on to say that he “has been testing the [upcoming] eBay integration and it is very powerful.” He concludes by saying, “Put it this way — I’m about to let two staff go because of [the program].” Brightpearl is indeed a very comprehensive program, but for those looking for ways to make more than just online invoicing easier, it is worth taking a look into.
Wherever you choose to invoice, it’s critically important to be sure you’re accounting for all the time you spend on a project to ensure you’re being compensated for the time you work. Toggl is a great app that promises to get you up and running in under 12 seconds, allowing you to use the service like a stopwatch on your projects to help you not only stay accountable, but also account for all the time you spent working. Toggl works on Windows, OS X, or Linux, and also has native applications for both iPhone and Android. Additionally, time tracked on Toggl automatically syncs with Quickbooks and FreshBooks, so you can easily create your invoices using the service of your choice. For those who simply need to create timesheets, Toggl can do that too, finally answering that question, “Where did the day go?” by generating a report showing you exactly how you spent your day. Other features include budgets for your time, 18 available languages, and team functionality.
Do you manage your invoices online? What are your favorite apps or tools? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.