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Review: Invoicing Software 2013

InvoicingFew things in accounting software are what they were 10, or even five, years ago. It is not just the advent of cloud computing that has changed the landscape. Entire new categories of software have entered the profession, along with new jargon and new opportunities.

Case in point is the category of invoicing software. There was a time when a simple invoice-creation program could make small business managers swoon – simply fill in the blanks, print and mail the invoice. Wait for the money. Hand-enter the deposit and want for a bank statement so your bookkeeper could reconcile the transaction in the General Ledger.

Those days – barely five years ago – now seem like ancient history. Today, any invoicing product that hopes to survive in the marketplace has to have, as a minimum, five attributes:

*It must be cloud-based, with access via mobile phone or tablet over the Internet.
*It must integrate seamlessly with all major accounting solutions, or have a world-class accounting system it is part of.
*It must be intensely, aggressively secure.
*It must have an accountant's module or be geared to the needs of accountants with multiple clients.
*Its focus must be on managing cash flow, not simply churning out invoices. This means it must be able to reconcile immediately with bank statements and deposits, reconcile against accounts payable, and report immediately the cash-on-hand status of the firm.

So many of the invoicing software packages that were rampant five years ago are gone now, victims of their inability to make these transitions and supply these services. Of the survivors, we have selected seven leading packages for 2013.

Bill.com Enhanced Approval Solution
Palo Alto, Calif.
(877) 345-2455
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Price: Program price is $49 per month. Client prices start at $25 per client/month. Volume discounts are available.

Bill.Com was created in 2006 to give companies anytime, anywhere control over their cash flow, payables and receivables. It is a cloud-based application that enables a company to manage its invoices, pay bills, process payroll, review financials, examine contracts, and manage the 401k program all from an iPhone.

The system synchronizes with all major accounting software products and services, and provides an online document management system to provide organized access to client documents. In addition, the company offers a robust program for accountants who want to use the system to grow their back-office services to clients.

The cloud-based Bill.Com Accountant Program enables the accountant to manage, automate and streamline the day-to-day finances and bill management with a single, low-cost and paperless solution. Key features for accountants using the system are security, tailored solutions for each client, customization of web sites and reports, and consultation on client cash-flow in real time through mobile access.

One of the recent enhancements includes the Bill.com Enhanced Approvals Solution, which enables accounting professionals to customize approval processes to fit the specific needs of each of their clients.

Features of the Bill.com Approvals Solution include an ability to customize the approval policies of client companies to require approvers for any bill or vendor credit based on the dollar amount; convenient access to make changes in the workflow easily at any time; and configuration options to allow accountants to control when changes are allowed to a bill or vendor credit during the approvals process.

Brightbook Limited
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Price: Brightbook is completely free for the full version - enhancements to send emails from your own address are from $3.18 per month (£1.99 GBP).

Invoicing is integrated into Brightbook, a global accounting solution created by two small business owners and serving micro-businesses that include small business owners, freelancers and contractors.

As befits its mission, the invoicing system is uncomplicated but rich in features. Invoices, quotes and estimates can be created in customized formats by uploading a logo to Brightbook. Quotes created in the system can be converted to an invoice by clinking a single check-box. Multi-currency capabilities enable the small business to maintain global customers.

Brightbook provides fast invoicing for hourly or partial-hour billing, as well as for project billing, with taxes or discounts calculated as well. Invoices and statements may be emailed, and Brightbook supports payment by PayPal – a critical feature for micro-businesses that is often overlooked by larger accounting packages.

Other features of invoicing include the ability to import QIF or QFX-format bank statements directly into Brightbook to simplify reconciliation of invoice payments and other finances. A Client Overview allows the company to instantly see which clients have outstanding invoices, and a management dashboard provides an overview of the business with meaningful graphs.

While there is no specific Accountant's Edition, Brightbook does have the ability to export all of its information to an Excel spreadsheet for accounting review.

Express Invoice
NCH Software
Greenwood Village, Colo.
Price: $99 regular price. Free version lacks features such as multiple businesses or web access.

Express Invoice
Express Invoice, an invoicing application aimed at companies operating multiple businesses with multiple users, is available in versions for the PC, Mac, IOS and Android operating systems.

It enables the fast creation of customized invoices (with logo and company information imprinted), quotes and orders that can be saved or sent as PDF files via email or fax. The software supports automatic scheduling of recurring invoices and the automatic re-sending of invoices that are past due. Online web access allows multiple users to log in over the internet or the corporate network.

Reports include unpaid invoices, payments, inventory and salesperson performance. Reports can be printed, saved, emailed or exported for later analysis.

Recent enhancements to Express Invoice and the NCH Business Suite is integration with the inventory management system Inventorial and Express Accounts to better track sales and inventory and eliminate data entry duplication.

(866) 303-6061
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Price: $19.99 version, a maximum of 25 active clients; $29.99 and $39.99 packages, unlimited number of active clients. The $39.99 package also includes a staff account in addition to the administrator user

FreshBooks is a billing and expense-based accounting system designed for people who serve clients with their expertise and bill by the hour or project. Begun in 2003 as an invoicing application, it has evolved into a cloud-based solution used by more than 5 million professionals in the US.

Key features are its ability to create invoice in minutes, at their desk or on the go via mobile apps for the iOS or Android operating systems. Buttons on the invoice allow for immediate payment of the invoices. Companies can use the system to track billable minutes and convert that information into invoices. The expense manager automatically imports expenses from bank accounts, credit cards or snapshots of receipts. These expense are then categorized into tax-return friendly categories to simplify filings.

For accountants, FreshBooks offers a two-hour, CPE-qualified certification course that leads to a FreshBooks Certified designation that can be displayed on the firm's web site, along with personalized collateral materials for marketing. Also, certified accountants will be added to Freshmaps, a listing of accounting professionals friendly to the system.

Recent features added by the online service include FreshBooks for Android; to capture expenses, log time and send invoices conveniently from an Android phone; Journal Entries (Beta), to export a list of journal entries for the account, to make a small business owner's relationship with their accountant that much easier; and automatic Expense Import, to Connect a bank account to FreshBooks and have business expenses automatically pulled in.

QuickBooks Online Invoice
Mountain View, Calif.
(650) 944-6000
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Price: After a 30-day free trial, QuickBooks Online starts at $12.99 per month or $124.99 per year.

QuickBooks Online Invoice
Intuit has re-engineered its flagship QuickBooks as a cloud-based platform designed to provide a unique "mobile-first" philosophy with applications accessible from anywhere. Data is available in real-time in more than 100 countries and in 10 different languages. Real-time data updating also allows for instant collaboration between accountants and clients. And QBO allows large-scale app integration and access to Intuit's Apps.com, a diverse small business apps marketplace.

QuickBooks Online Invoice enables companies to customize, email and track invoices online through QuickBooks. Customization features include the logo, colors, fonts, invoice title, contact information and column headings to meet the needs of the business. It automates the process by scheduling invoices to be generated and sent via email on a monthly basis.

In November 2013, Intuit announced two major enhancements that affect its invoicing and expense products. First, the company announced a new partnership with American Express. As part of the partnership, American Express developed ReceiptMatch with QuickBooks, a new product which enables small business customers to take pictures of their receipts on their mobile device, match them up to their QuickBooks chart of accounts, and import them into QuickBooks. Second, Intuit announced that small business users working in the new QuickBooks Online can now find a Certified QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor right from within the product.

Sage 50 Accounting—U.S. Edition
Sage North America
Irvine, Calif.
(800) 854-3415
Price: Sage 50 Complete, starts at $395 (single user); Premium Accounting, Starts at $589 (single user); Quantum Accounting  Starts at $3,149 (five users). 

Sage 50 Accounting—U.S. Edition
Invoicing capabilities are a fully integrated part of Sage 50, a centralized small business accounting and business management system. Companies can convert quotes and proposals to invoices, apply credit terms, bill for freight and taxes, record partial payments and deposits, and securely process credit card payments. Sage 50 can also memorize the invoice for recurring transactions and allows the user to print or email the invoices and export data to Excel or a .CSV file.

Sage 50 Accountant Edition, with all the features of Sage 50 Quantum, allows accountants and their staff to easily manage client financials. They can open client records in all versions and editions of Sage 50, edit critical data, and merge their files with the client records without disrupting the clients' day-to-day processes.

The software allows not only for direct invoicing, but invoicing for time and expenses related to a job, project or engagement. Sage 50 includes a full-featured time and billing system. Businesses can track billable time and expenses for each project and apply them to customer sales invoices. It also provides for billing of work in progress, periodically creating sales invoices for work that's been completed as a percentage of the proposal or contract. Accountants and businesses can track invoices by job and cost code and they can use this functionality to automate the release of retainers for to be applied to jobs.

The 2014 version includes enhancements to the invoicing system that reduces invoicing time and alerts the firm to customer credit issues during the estimating process. It also provides quick access to related customer information or reports that might be helpful in creating an invoice, displaying critical due dates, payment dates, and credit status messages (e.g., "Notify Over Limit") for each client or customer.

San Francisco, Calif.
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Price: Small Pricing Plan, $19 per month. Send five invoices and receive five bills per month, and reconcile 20 bank statement lines per month. Medium Pricing Plan, $29 per month, and enables hundreds of invoices per month and reconciliation of hundreds of bank transactions per week. Large Pricing Plan, $39 per month includes multi-currency invoicing with hundreds of invoices per month and hundreds of bank transactions per week. All plans, free Partner Edition for accountants and bookkeepers; unlimited users; unlimited customer support.

Xero, a cloud-based accounting software platform for small and medium-sized businesses, offers simple accounting, and whose invoicing module is integrated into the platform. The software is offered at no cost to accountants and bookkeepers, with fees for Xero's three editions based on the needs of each client company.

Major invoicing system features include online invoicing and integrated accounting that automatically recognizes a paid invoice and reconciles it with a bank deposit. Online invoicing means that invoices can be created, saved as drafts, and sent via email for instant payment, all within Xero. Once sent, both the business owner and the client can view the same document, at the same time. Xero users can even check the status of an invoice, such as whether it's been viewed or if it's overdue.

Xero invoices can include a Pay Now button, which enables all businesses to accept payments online with just a click of the mouse. All a user has to do is include their PayPal or Stripe information prior to send. No merchant account necessary. A list of Xero add-on Partners that can assist with accepting payments can be found at http://www.xero.com/us/add-ons/payment

Once a customer has paid an invoice, Xero's integrated bank feed automatically matches the incoming amount with an existing invoice. Financial transactions are recorded in real-time. All standard financial reports can be generated quickly and easily to produce end of year financials and tax information.

Xero releases new updates every three weeks to continuously improve the product. Features recently added include online invoicing, integration with payment services, direct bank feeds with City National Bank, and an inbuilt calculator for invoices, bills, AR, AP and Journal Entries.

Dave McClure

David P. McClure is a technologist and business consultant whose career has included eight years with the NASA Space Shuttle Program and assignments in marketing, environmental services, software publishing and broadband.  He founded the US Internet Industry Association, the nation's primary trade association for Internet and broadband companies.  In 2004 he was awarded a Cornerstone Award for leadership in the broadband industry.  In the same year, he was named to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, the non-profit corporation that oversees the nation's $8 billion universal service telecommunications fund.  His areas of expertise include software management, strategic and market planning, global technology policy and technology audits.  He is the author of more than 100 white papers on business management, technology, customer service and strategic planning.

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