As a freelancer or small business owner, you work hard. You provide a phenomenal product or service, work with your clients to make sure they’re totally satisfied, and when all is said and done, you get paid.
Well, almost. There’s another step that you’re missing:
It’s one of the least exciting parts of the freelance or small business life. But it has to be done. And if you want things to go smoothly—invoices being received, paid on time, easy to gather for taxes and financial tracking—you need a system.
The invoicing apps below take the pain out of this process. We’ll look at five great pieces of online invoicing software for small businesses and freelancers and then we’ll go through some tips on making your invoicing process as effective as possible.
1. Wave Invoice
Wave offers a complete suite of billing and invoicing tools for small businesses and freelancers.
And it stands out as being the only hosted option that’s always completely free. You never have to pay to create and send invoices. Wave offers customizable invoices, recurring billing, and payment reminders, too. Automatic status updates and payment receipts mean you don’t have to spend extra time managing the entire invoicing process. And if you use the Wave Accounting app for your small business, the invoices integrate right into your financial tracking.
You can even offer credit card payments right from your invoice so customers don’t have an excuse to put it off. Mobile apps make it easy to get your invoicing done on the go, too.
It’s hard to beat all of that for free.
2. Zoho Invoice
Zoho makes it easy to create and send well-designed invoices. Even with the free account, you’re able to customize every little detail on your invoice to reflect your brand.
The service is integrated with several payment gateways including Google Checkout, PayPal, Stripe, 2Checkout, and Authorize.net. With the free account, you can have up to five customers and one user. You’ll need to step up your plan to add more clients, customers, or team members (paid plans start at $7 per month for a single user and up to 50 customers).
Zoho Invoice also integrates well with Zoho’s other suite of apps, which includes marketing, email, HR, and business process tools. Mobile invoicing makes Zoho a good choice for people on the go, and mobile access to their wide variety of other business tools is great for freelancers and small business owners who do a lot of traveling.
Don’t forget that Zoho integrates with Hubstaff for easy time tracking and reporting, too!
FreshBooks’ invoices stand out as looking extremely professional. You can customize your own invoice to match the style and message of your brand, and the ability to accept credit card payments right from the invoice adds to the sense of professionalism.
Automatic reminders, late fees, and the ability to accept deposits for work not yet done all make FreshBooks a great option for small business owners and freelancers. Invoice tracking, recurring invoices, discounts, tax calculations, and a host of other features make this a standout option. You can even automatically import expenses from your bank account.
All of this power comes with a cost, though. After a free trial, you’re looking at $15 per month for up to five clients, and $25 per month for up to 50 clients.
Anchor is a completely free invoicing software. Forever. There’s no paid option at all. So this is going to appeal to a lot of freelancers and small business owners. It’s unique among other online invoicing systems in that it’s hosted on your own server, too. So you don’t have to worry about handing over sensitive information if you’re highly security-conscious.
It doesn’t offer as many features as other invoicing software. For example, the customization options aren’t nearly as robust as FreshBooks. And it doesn’t have the wide range of integrations that Zoho does.
But what it lacks in features, it makes up for in simple utility. The visual invoice builder lets you easily whip up invoices quickly. In this simple invoicing software, payment is limited to Stripe and PayPal, but you can accept credit card payments with both.
There are no mobile apps, but you can easily access the site from your phone. It’s also worth noting that while Anchor is totally free, a one-time fee of $59 will get you access to Duet, which offers all of the same features as well as some project management capabilities that you can also host on your own server.
Hiveage offers a variety of services, and this invoice system for small businesses and freelancers is one of the best. Every plan includes unlimited clients and invoices—and the $15 per month Starter plan includes two staff, 250 recurring profiles, and 50 auto-billing profiles.
Payment reminders, time and expense tracking, 12 online payment gateways, dashboard reports, and a variety of other features that you’d expect to come with an online invoicing solution come with every plan. You can also do some customization to make your invoices look more professional.
Hiveage recently added two-factor authentication and detailed reports. Although it’s not the cheapest option, it’s definitely worth the expense.
Hubstaff’s online invoicing software’s distinctive feature is that it is integrated into the app. In other words it allows you to invoice clients for individual items or time tracked via Hubstaff without having to use another tool. The invoice generator can easily generate invoices for time assigned to projects and tasks accurately as you can see in the video above.
You also have the option to build invoice templates as you would like and set billable and payable rates to keep track of the project expense as well as the amount to bill for each project or person. Once generated the invoices can be sent in multiple formats such as HTML, PDF or email. You can even view when a client has viewed the invoice. To help with accounting you can record a full or partial payment against the item.
All of these features are available from $9 for a single user/month. A free trial is also available to try out the app.
Tips to make the online invoicing process easier
Once you’ve chosen an invoicing tool, it’s time to start improving your payments process. You could just send invoices and try to remember to follow up, but if you put some effective practices in place, the entire process will be smoother.
Keep these five things in mind when you’re invoicing to get paid faster and with less effort.
1. Automate billing with integrated invoicing software
The more integrated your apps are, the more time they’ll save you. For example, if you track your time with Hubstaff, you can use the FreshBooks integration to import your time and invoice for it. That’s much easier than doing it all manually.
The larger app ecosystems that include invoicing (like Zoho) are great for saving time. You can move information between various different apps with just a couple clicks, and that’s much easier than copying and pasting or transferring it manually.
When you’re choosing an invoicing app for your small business, check out the integrations available to see if it will work with the apps you already use.
2. Use a checklist for account setup
Collect as much information as possible when setting up your invoices for the first time. When you set up an account for your client, make sure to have the following information on hand:
- Account name
- Business address
- Contact information for a representative
- Main business phone number
- Name and contact information for representatives authorized to make purchases or resolve billing issues
- Tax identification numbers
Depending on the product or service being provided, collecting additional information may also be prudent. You might need some of the following:
- Copies of resale or tax-exempt certificates
- Account information for customers’ main financial institutions
- Confirmation that the client has received and accepted relevant policy and service agreements
Agreements might include disclosures of limits on warranty, returns, and your liability in the event of a product’s failure or misuse. Fees or interest to be imposed on late payments must be documented as well.
The right information can help you meet your clients’ needs, so seek it out earlier rather than later.
3. Get paid fast
As a freelancer or small business, maintaining cash flow is crucial. Long waits between the time of sale and getting paid make life difficult, so it’s in your best interest to avoid them.
Want to make sure that happens? Here’s how you can:
- Offer multiple payment options. The more payment options you offer, the fewer excuses your client has to delay payment. Many of the invoicing apps above let clients pay with PayPal, Stripe, credit card, and other methods. Make sure clients know that you’re happy to accept whatever’s most convenient for them (even if it’s a check or wire transfer).
- Invoice the day of the sale. Waiting to invoice is like giving your client an interest-free loan. And the faster you invoice, the fast you’re likely to get paid. Do it the same day.
- Offer incentives for quick payments. Many companies give customers a 1% or 2% discount if payment is made within 10 days of receiving the invoice. If you use this incentive, be sure to factor its costs into your pricing. Also, be wary of larger companies that may try to take advantage of your offer without meeting the conditions.
- Institute interest or fees for late payments. Practically speaking, only companies offering a unique service or product essential to purchasers can effectively use this strategy. Be sure of your competitive position and importance to your customer before implementing a penalty system.
5. Automate reminders
Many online invoicing systems offer automated reminders, but some freelancers and business owners are hesitant to use them.
Don’t feel like you’re being annoying. Set up automated reminders as soon as you can.
For the most part, people don’t avoid payment because they’re trying to cheat you. They generally just forget. It’s easy to lose an invoice in a deluge of email, and it happens to everyone. A reminder a few days or a week out from the due date can be a big help.
In many cases, your client will actually thank you for the reminder!
6. Constantly monitor your invoicing systems
Make sure that you’re on top of what’s going on with your payments, both incoming and outgoing. Online invoicing systems will send you emails when they need your attention, but it’s easy to forget to send a reminder, make a payment, or send an invoice.
So make a habit of checking your invoicing apps on a regular basis. You’ll get paid faster, your customers will appreciate your thoroughness, and fewer things will fall through the cracks.
Your tips for online invoicing
When you’re freelancing or running a small business, invoicing is one of those things that isn’t a whole lot of fun, but is absolutely necessary. With the right invoicing tools, though, and a few good habits, you can turn an unpleasant chore into a smoothly running automated process.
It doesn’t take long to up your invoicing game, so get started today.
And share your best invoicing tips in the comments below!
This post was updated June 2018.