Invoicing is an essential part of business operations. Whether you run a one-person shop, a brick-and-mortar operation, or a growing business with multiple locations, you need to be able to quickly and easily create, send, and track invoices. A good online invoicing tool can provide both accessibility and security, and make it easier to keep payments coming in and business moving forward.

Key Questions to Ask Before Adopting Online Invoicing

Invoicing tools offer a variety of user platforms and bonus features, as well as various pricing models. Before you start comparing the details, consider these key questions:  

How will we use this tool?

Service-based businesses might need the ability to create and convert estimates into invoices. Think about how other limits and features of a tool you’re considering may or may not matter to the way you do business. Look at the number of invoices allowed, the invoice templates, how many unique clients and projects can be accommodated, if there’s time tracking within the tool, automation capabilities, scheduled invoicing, and recurring invoices. Some of these will be important for certain businesses and irrelevant for others. Before you look at a demo, sit down with your current invoicing system and make a list of key features that you consider important so that you know what you’ll need with a new tool.

Is this tool secure?

Look for bank-level precautions such as SSL security, firewalls, data encryption, and measures such as mirrored servers in different locations to prevent data and service loss. Online invoicing tools should have a webpage detailing their security safeguards; check it out thoroughly before you start using. (For example, here is Freshbooks’ Security Safeguards page.)

How easy to use is this tool for my customers?

The key to streamlined invoicing is making payment easy for your customers. Generally, the more payment gateways you can offer, the faster your customers will pay.  How many payment gateways does the invoicing tool include, and what are the costs in each gateway?

What support and scalability does this tool offer?

If your business grows, can this invoicing tool grow with you? If you have a problem or need assistance with the invoicing tool, can you quickly get to a real person who can help you find the information you need? If you’re looking for a long-term solution, answering these questions will be key.

Now you’re ready to take a look at some of the best picks for online invoicing.

Best for Service-Based Businesses

Hiveage incorporates an estimate-to-invoice feature that allows you to easily convert and send an invoice without any need to transfer data or numbers from one program to another. For service-based businesses, that’s a key step in the invoicing workflow.

Due includes a built-in time tracking tool; users can assign hours to a client, a project, or a task, making it easy to keep an accurate count of hours for invoicing. Due also integrates with Quickbooks, but offers limited options for payment gateways.

Best for “Help, I Need An Accounting System, too!”

Quickbooks by Intuit is not just an invoicing tool; it’s also a complete online accounting system, used by thousands of businesses to manage all their financial information. It comes with a bit of a learning curve, but it will easily grow with your business.

FreshBooks offers the same integrated approach: accounting and invoicing all rolled into one secure, web-based service. Freshbooks has mobile apps for phone and tablet and is known for its user friendliness.

Best for Managing Cash Flow

Xero is an invoicing tool all about knowing where your money is, right now. See when customers have viewed their invoices, and get a real-time view of your cash flow, floating at the top of the user interface. It’s an effortless way to stay up-to-date on cash available, payments received, and payments due.

Best for Affordability

Most online invoicing tools offer tiered pricing on a monthly basis; if adding another monthly bill isn’t feasible for your business budget, Invoice Ninja offers an annual paid option, and it’s only $50. Pay once for the year and you’ll still get great invoicing features, including invoice templates and plenty of payment gateways.

The key with any invoicing tool is to learn how to use it and then use it consistently. If you choose and use a complete online invoicing system, you’ll find it easier to track your money, predict your income, manage your expenses, and keep up with the financial aspects that are key to a healthy, stable business.

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