Although it's a pain, every budding business needs to handle their finances. Back in the day, the only two solutions were to do it yourself, or to hire a part-time or full-time bookkeeper. Thankfully, alternatives to the expensive options of that last few decades are fading away, and new user-friendly options are starting to emerge. Some of them leave something to be desired, but most of them are fantastic for small business owners!
Probably the most popular web app that helps freelancers - and other entrepreneurs alike - deal with invoicing, project management, and time keeping, Freshbooks takes the hassle out of billing. Although the user interface leaves a little to be desired, it allows you to send email and snail mail estimates, invoices, and helps to keep track of expenses. However, one of the most powerful aspects of this software is its ability to manage subcontractors. This comes in handy if you are outsourcing a substantial parts of your business. Contractors are able to track their time or expenses and re-bill them to you. It's definitely a one-stop shop for billing. (Their customer service is great, too.)
Harvest is another player in the e-invoicing market. However, where Freshbooks fails in the user interface race, Harvest invoicing picks up the baton. Harvest is very user-friendly, simple to use, and their price is very tempting. For less than what Freshbooks charges on their entry-level pricing plan (with 25 active customers), Harvest gives you unlimited customers. Pretty good if you are a small tech company juggling a whole mess of clients.
The big daddy of business financials, Quickbooks finally decided to make their bookkeeping software available online. Out of all of the bookkeeping options out there, it is definitely the most robust. If you are a freelancer you probably don't need something as big and mean as Quickbooks Online, but if you plan on expanding your business very quickly it may be a good option. (Note: Linux users beware, it's not fully supported. In order to get it working with firefox on Linux you have to use the User Agent Switcher Plugin for Firefox. Lame!)
Since we can't seem to leave the topic of invoicing, another inexpensive alternative is Zoho Invoice. Zoho has created an army of inexpensive and powerful web applications, and Zoho Invoice is no exception. It has just about all of the same things as the other guys, but with less cost. The ability to customize the layout of invoices makes Zoho Invoice very appealing. However, the lack of subcontractor management is a bit of a shame.
Outright is not an invoicing application. Rather, it's a fantastic way to track your income and expenses and keep your bookkeeper in the loop at all times. The basic service is free (which is insane because of how cool it is), and it gives the option of entering income and expenses manually, or to automatically sync financial information from other apps such as Freshbooks. Then - and this is the cool part - you can invite your bookkeeper to be a part of your account. They can then view everything in real-time and generate reports they need in order to get their job done. This is a HUGE time-saver and saves you a whole lot of money.
Have any other apps that you recommend? Let us know in the comments!
- Send Printed Invoices through the Post with Zoho (labnol.org)
- How to Make a One-Person Business Look Like a Large Company (entrepreneurideadads.com)
- LinkedIn CRM: Using the New LinkedIn Tags to Better Browse Your LinkedIn Connections (windmillnetworking.com)