When you start out as a freelancer — designer or developer — often it’s a part-time thing. Maybe you’re studying. Perhaps you’re ‘moonlighting’ outside your normal gig.
Your focus is going to be to present great work in the most professional manner possible.
Ideally, once your business grows big enough, you’ll hire a finance professional to do your invoicing. Till then, you need to depend on tools that help you look as professional as your longer-established and perhaps bigger competitors.
Happily, we live at a time where there are lots of high quality, cost-effective options to help you.
In this article, we just want to focus one very critical part of that process — the piece of paper that gets you paid. The following are all tools that can help you generate simple but attractive invoices.
Let’s get started.
Nutcache is a free online tool for invoicing and time management. It has the tools that are needed by freelancers or other small businesses to manage their finances.
Happily, Nutcache is a free tool and promises to always remain free. It’s used and recommended by SitePoint’s Design and UX editor Alex Walker.
On registering and logging you, the dashboard looks intuitive with useful links on the top. You are provided with quick links to get started in case you are overwhelmed with the options.
Let’s go straight to the invoicing tool by opting to create our first invoice.
Nutcache maintains clients, services and products- all of which are linked back to your invoice. You can add a client while creating your invoice.
Add the details of your invoice, the products and services offered and your invoice is ready. You can either export the invoice in a variety of formats (pdf, csv, xls, doc, ppt) or optionally send a mail to your client with the invoice. You can add a logo to your invoice by attaching one in the profile of your company.
One issue with Nutcache is that you can not change the currency while making your invoice.
Yet, there are many other features that Nutcache provides that could be useful to a freelancer. You can add a payment gateway using PayPal, 2CheckOut or Authorize.Net to receive payments directly through the portal. Besides that, you are provided with time management tools not just for yourself, but for logging your employees as well.
Nutcache comes with tax management tools as well, which can be linked to the invoices being created. If you are a first time user, the variety of options can confuse you, but the quick links provided in your dashboard would surely help.
Freshbooks is another online invoicing and accounting tool to manage your finances. It has a free 30 day trial, after which paid accounts start at $19.95 per month with a basic free plan.
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Impressively, if you are stuck at something, chat box opens up in the right bottom corner enabling you to start a live chat. Freshbooks also lets you set a sub-domain to access your account.
The process is quite similar to that of Nutcache, wherein you can add a client, a product or a service, add your invoice details and the invoice is ready!
It’s pretty simple to add your company logo and colors through your account settings. Freshbooks also enables you to send the invoice through snail mail to your client – which is a nice touch for ‘old-school’ clients.
On the negative side, Freshbooks doesn’t allow you to change the currency while creating the invoice.
It provides an additional feature of adding a discount, though. You can customize your invoice template and title through the account settings. The free account provides two templates- classic and clean. The only difference is that the tables of the classic templates have borders. By default, the clean template is active (as seen in the screenshot).
Freshbooks also gives you some time management tools, add employees, integrate with payment gateways and generate reports. The facilities provided by Freshbooks are similar to that of Nutcache and I would suggest you enjoy the free services.
Lastly, Freshbooks personalizes the experience by assigning you a ‘Customer Coach’, who you could contact if you have any issues. You could arrange a time to talk to your coach or attend their regular webinars.
Zoho provides a lot of services including an online office suite and business email, but prospering in the background is the Zoho invoicing app. The paid plans start from $15 per month, but it has a forever free plan as well.
Zoho has a very clean and organized dashboard with the standard features that are provided by other invoicing tools. You can create an invoice by providing the basic details of the client, product or service. You can attach your company logo in the organization profile.
It is interesting to see that Zoho provides certain useful features while creating an invoice. You can add a discount, a shipping charge and a late fee. You can change the currency or the invoice, or provide it in a foreign currency with a specified exchange rate. You can also configure a payment gateway to accept payments through Zoho. You can send your invoice through snail mail too, but you need to buy credits to do so.
You have an option to change the template of your invoice by visiting the templates section under account settings. You can select a base template and customize it fully- right from the fields to display to the colors of the text and background for each field.
Zoho lets you keep track of your time with a time management tool, maintain expenses and estimates and generate detailed reports. Zoho tops it off with a flat UI design to make the overall experience very smooth. I may be biased because I use the same tool, but I feel Zoho does a great job of clubbing the features, yet keeping the options minimal.
For the impatient, Zoho provides an invoice generator, which lets you create invoices instantly and export them. You do not need to register or login, just visit the link, add the basic details and you are good to go!
Blinksale is yet another online accounting and invoicing tool. It has a 15 day trial and a single paid plan worth $15 per month. It provides you a sub-domain, like Freshbooks. Blinksale has a less number of features, but it also offers less complexity.
The invoice creating tool is basic in nature, allowing you to add a client and products or services. You can set the currency, add sales tax, freight charges and late fees if required. You can attach the company logo under your account settings.
Blinksale does provide you with a choice of templates under account settings. If you do not like any of the provided templates, you can create a template using custom CSS by referring to their reference markup and standard CSS file.
Blinksale doesn’t provide any time management tool and there are no projects that can be associated with any of your invoices. However, this adds simplicity to the tool, which may affect the choice of certain people.
Overall, Blinksale gives a good minimalist experience.
Although PayPal is generally used as a service to receive payments, many may not know that it provides you the ability to create invoices too!
You can create an invoice in PayPal by visiting the ‘Request a payment’ section in your profile, after logging in.
Add the basic details, attach your logo and list the services. You can add a discount, postage charges and taxes to your invoice. You may directly send the invoice through email to the client, or get a print out of the same.
The invoicing tool allows you to further customize your invoice by creating templates. Some of the customizable options include adding discounts for individual items, changing the currency and adding a custom value to the total figure. The final look of the invoice remains similar to the default template though.
All the invoicing tools covered in this post let you create invoices — some with basic features, others with more full-featured offerings. All also have mobile apps for managing your finances.
In the end, it comes down to your requirements. Do you want a simple, low-learning-curve tool that just gives you fast invoices today? Or would you prefer system with the scope to grow with your business — even if you aren’t using all its functionality?
Do you want a free tool, or are you ready to pay monthly?
The choice is yours.
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