When COVID-19 hit last year, millions of Americans found themselves going virtual as the workforce turned remote. The unlucky ones lost their jobs—people were furloughed, laid off, or had their hours drastically reduced. This led to a sharp uptick in the gig economy. In fact, Upwork released a study that showed two million Americans started freelancing over the past 12 months.
As more and more employers opt for temp or contract roles over permanent hires, gig work has become a necessity in this uncertain job economy. For creatives, freelance work has become a main source of income, making it especially crucial to have the proper tracking and invoicing tools.
What to consider when choosing billing software
Let’s face it. Freelancing full-time (or even part-time) means managing a business in a lot of different ways. Apart from the actual contract work, you are fully responsible for making sure you get paid. There are various tools to fit different needs depending on how much you are working, how many clients you have, the type of work you do, etc. Here are a few things to consider.
- What is your pricing model?
Are you charging your clients a flat rate or fixed fee? Do you charge on an hourly basis? Do you have short-term clients who are looking for help with one project, or do you have long-term clients that you charge a monthly retainer? Do you ask for a deposit upfront, or do you get paid at the end of the contract?
- How big is your book of business?
Do you have a lot of clients or just a handful? Do you offer different services? How many concurrent tasks or projects do you juggle? Do you need to send out estimates or quotes when looking for new clients?
- What type of work do you do?
Do you need to log expenses? Do you manage your clients’ budgets as part of your services? Do you need to track your time? Are there a lot of moving parts that require project management? Do you need analytics or reporting?
Invoicing tools are designed to make your life easier. Depending on your needs, some are feature-loaded and intended for large-scale billing management whereas others are free, simple, and to the point.
Best free invoicing tools for billing management
A lot of freelancers start with PayPal because it is a familiar platform that many people already have an account with. Not only is PayPal secure, but it also offers a free invoicing function as part of all business accounts. There are no restrictions on invoices or the number of clients, which is a huge perk for anyone who does a lot of one-off jobs or projects.
If you are just starting off, PayPal is a great option as a bare-bones invoicing tool. It will indicate whether invoices are paid, but there are no bells or whistles. It is easy to set up, gets the job done, and allows you to keep invoices in one place.
- Invoice Ninja
While Invoice Ninja has Pro and Enterprise plans, their “forever free” plan is more than enough for the majority of freelancers, with a ton of advanced features to boot. The free plan allows unlimited invoices and quotes for up to 50 clients, has project management and time tracking capabilities, vendor set up and expense management, in-depth analytics, and more.
Unless you have more than 50 clients, Invoice Ninja is a great option to elevate your quotes and invoices to a higher professional standard. Additionally, if estimates and deposits are a big part of your business model, this platform allows you to accept both partial payments and deposits. Plus, if you ever need to expand past the 50 client mark, the Pro option offers unlimited clients for $10 monthly.
Wave has one of the best free plans when it comes to invoicing features and functionality. Boasting unlimited invoices for unlimited clients, recurring billing, automatic payment reminders, and more, Wave’s invoicing capabilities are second-to-none. The best part? The free plan also comes with an accounting element. With expense and income tracking, in-depth reports for things like cash flow and P&L, and unlimited bank and credit card connections, Wave is a solid choice for freelancers who want to streamline their invoicing and accounting.
If you’re looking for the catch, there isn’t one! Wave’s invoicing and accounting functions are truly free. The company makes their money on payment processing (both ACH bank and credit card transactions are supported). Starting at 1% per transaction, their rates are competitive with third party processors such as Stripe.
Best premium invoicing tools for different budgets
Harvest is one of the most affordable premium options for freelancers and small businesses who may want to expand in the future. At just $12 monthly per user, you get unlimited invoices for unlimited projects. The best part about Harvest is the sophisticated time tracking and reporting capabilities. With apps across all devices, integrations with popular workflow tools, and detailed analytics, Harvest is worth the investment for anyone looking to optimize their time and plan for growth.
Harvest offers a 30 day free trial with fully functional features and no credit card required. It also has a limited free plan with unlimited invoices for up to 2 projects, for anyone that wants to try the platform.
Freshbooks is a very popular choice for both freelancers and small businesses. This is because it is more of an accounting tool first, with an invoicing element, rather than an invoicing tool that can do accounting. In fact, Freshbooks is often considered the alternative to Quickbooks. Although it can be overwhelming to a new user, its suite of features is one of the best for serious business owners or freelancers looking to take their books up a notch.
You can do everything from creating balance sheets and general ledgers to tracking time and managing projects. With customizable invoices, inventory tracking, automatic tax tracking, and more, the invoicing portion of Freshbooks is indeed feature-rich. At $25 monthly for up to 50 clients and $50 monthly for unlimited clients, it is a great option for a slightly more established freelancer.
For the growing business, Invoicera is a great option for freelancers looking to grow their team. It is the only software platform on this list that also includes a robust staff management component. In addition to its full billing function, Invoicera enables you to subcontract work to staff with their fixed rate, allocate projects, assign tasks, and even provide individual feedback.
At $29 a month for up to 10 staff members and 1,000 clients, their Business plan is the most popular. The company also offers a lower-tiered plan at $15 a month for 1 staff member and up to 100 clients.
The bottom line
Whether you are just starting out or already a veteran in the freelancing world, having the proper tools will save a lot of time and make life a lot easier. Especially when it comes to taxes and accounting at the end of the year. Assess your needs and select one that works best for you.