Some applications in today's crop of invoicing sites go beyond what QuickBooks and Xero do in terms of the actual mechanics of invoicing.
None of the major, well-known invoicing sites only do invoicing anymore. They incorporate features such as simple project managers, expense-tracking, fairly sophisticated time-tracking and timesheets, and payables. Each offers numerous add-ons.
If a business subscribes to QuickBooks Online or Xero, it has access to the same set of invoicing features that everyone else does. Dedicated invoicing sites usually offer multiple levels of access at different prices.
Some offer free versions that would suffice for many simple small businesses. If a payment gateway is needed, there are generally more choices than full-featured accounting sites offer.
There are dozens – if not hundreds – of options here, some of which will go belly-up in the next 12 months. Small businesses that are forced to switch receivables sites quickly lose continuity. Their reports won't be comprehensive without a lot of duplicate data entry. Worst case, they may even lose money because of missing records.
So we reviewed a crop that's been around for years, and which has displayed excellence in user interfaces and navigational tools, flexibility and customizability in the creation of invoices and receivables records, and which offer relevant supporting functions.
They are the following:
FreshBooks Cloud Accounting, 2nd Site Inc.
Hiveage, Vesess, Inc.
Zoho Invoice, Zoho Corporation
FreshBooks Cloud Accounting
Price: Seedling, $19.95 per month (25 clients max; no additional staff); Evergreen, $29.95 per month (unlimited clients, one additional staff member; Mighty Oak, $39.95 per month (unlimited clients, up to five additional staff).
FreshBooks was included in our roundup of online accounting sites a couple of months ago. The service added the phrase "Cloud Accounting" to its name awhile back (though it's not true double-entry accounting), and it does have many elements of cloud-based bookkeeping. But FreshBooks started its life as an online invoicing site, and that's still what it does best.
A multi-level toolbar simplifies navigation and use. Click on Invoices in the top set of tabs, and a list of the invoices you've created appears. Below that are navigational tabs that open new screens for displaying and working with Recurring and Received invoices, as well as Payments, Credits, and Items. Put a checkmark in front of any of them, and you have several action options, including Archive, Send, and Pay Online.
FreshBooks' actual invoice forms are thorough and understandable. They're divided into two separate data entry grids, one for billed time and one for items. Beyond the standard fields like Client, Discount, and PO Number, the forms support more advanced features, including Currency, Language, and Online Payment (three options for the latter: PayPal Standard, PayPal Business Payments, and the new Payments by FreshBooks. Two levels of sales tax can be defined, and limited customization is offered.
A number of related features expand on FreshBooks' core invoicing capabilities. You can create estimates and projects, and track expenses and time. Three customizable access levels let you assign permissions to the administrator, staff, and clients (accountant access is also allowed). Roughly two dozen reports – including some basic, standard accounting reports – help you and your clients better understand their financial status.
FreshBooks integrates with a wide variety of apps, including Zen Payroll, Constant Contact, and Shopify. Mobile versions support iOS and Android.
New York, N.Y.
Price: Free (one user, two active projects and four active clients); Solo, $12 per month (one to three users, unlimited invoicing); Basic, $49 per month (five to nine users); Business, $99 per month (10 users to unlimited).
Harvest supports what it calls "free-form" invoices (standard product- or service based bills), but its real strength lies in creating invoices automatically from the billable services data entered in the site's project management tool. Employees and contractors can enter time on timesheets, and the administrator can easily pick up that data and create client invoices for it.
This is not a full-blown project management site, nor is it the best choice for small businesses who just want to create invoices for customers – or who want a standard dashboard-based interface. Project parameters are simple: Client, Name, Code, and Notes. You can apply a billing rate for billable projects (task, person, or project hourly) and set a proposed budget by hours or fees. You can add team members and tasks to complete the projection definition.
When you click the Create Invoice button and select a client from the drop-down list, Harvest gives you two options: Based on project hours and expenses or Free-form, open invoice. When you select the first option, a new screen opens that lets you select a project, a date range for any billable hours you want to include, and the invoice type (summary by task, people, or project hours, or detailed line items), as well as expenses. You can edit the completed invoice that appears and choose which contacts should receive it.
Free-form invoices include standard fields like ID, Due Date and Currency, but there's no built-in way to create product and service records and select from lists when you invoice. A handful of reports are available.
Harvest is available for iOS and Android, and integrates with a sizable number of well-known applications, like Google Apps, Xero and QuickBooks Online, Basecamp, and Salesforce. It supports three payment gateways: Stripe, PayPal Standard and PayPal Business Payments.
Las Vegas, Nev.
No phone available
Price: Unlimited (basic) invoicing free. A la carte pricing for additional features. Custom, $1.95 per month (plus any additional tools); Big 5, $29.95 per month (all tools for five users); Big 10, $49.95 per month (all tools for 10 users).
Hiveage is a well-designed, multi-user invoicing site whose name should be more well-known that it is. It supports invoices, bills, and estimates, and tracks time, expenses, and mileage. It's easily as good as FreshBooks in terms of navigation, interface, and usability, and it supports numerous payments gateways.
Its free version – unlimited invoices to unlimited clients -- is truly free (even includes PayPal Standard payment gateway). The pricing scheme is a little convoluted, but businesses looking for a new invoicing site would be wise to consider Hiveage.
Hiveage's dashboard is better than most we've seen in this category. It displays status tables and graphs in multiple currencies. There's even a link to an Activity Stream (important in a team app that supports multiple access levels, but not commonly seen in invoicing sites). Invoicing features themselves are a pleasure to use, aesthetically-pleasing and self-explanatory for the most part. Hiveage goes the extra mile in many ways, including automated reminders for estimates and invoices, recurring invoices and billing, and customizable units of measure.
There's nothing really exceptional about Hiveage's invoice forms themselves; they contain sales details similar to their competitors'. But rather than using the terms "product" and "service" to document what's being purchased, Hiveage uses "categories." You can create records for Items (products) and Tasks (services) that can be used in invoices and estimates. There are also categories for Expenses, Trips, and Tags. The latter is rarely seen in invoicing services, and can be quite helpful. Also unusual is the ability to attach files to forms, and a separate storage area for related files.
Sadly, there are no mobile versions of Hiveage yet.
New Delhi, India
No U.S. phone; callback offered
Price: Classic, $19.95 per month (five users, unlimited invoicing but limits on other features); Business, $39.95 per month (10 users, fewer limits); Infinite, $99.95 per month (unlimited everything except document size).
Like Hiveage, Invoicera should be more well-known than it is. Both sites are strong competitors for FreshBooks – especially Invoicera. In fact, it surpasses FreshBooks in almost every area in terms of both depth and breadth. "Robust" and "intuitive" are two words one customer used to describe it, and it's both.
In terms of invoices, it does everything that its competitors do, plus it:
Offers multiple invoice templates;
Supports roughly 20 payment gateways;
Includes custom fields and multilingual field labels;
Automatically calculates and adds late fees;
Lets you schedule invoice deliveries, and;
Allows for more thorough customer records.
Invoicera's dashboard is easily as thorough as anyone else's, albeit a little different. It displays a graph whose bars toggle between the number of invoices sent and received, breaking it down further into Outstanding, Paid, and Partial[ly] Paid for the current and previous two months. Clicking on any number opens the detail screens. The dashboard also lists Recent Activities, Alerts, and a calendar/to-do list.
There's nothing really exceptional about the actual content fields in Invoicera's invoices; they're fairly standard. You can, though, start from scratch and build your own form. Similar to its competitors, Invoicera lets you save draft copies of invoices, save and send as PDF attachments, or print them. User permissions for staff go down to the screen level. Reports are highly customizable, and include Work in Progress. iOS and Android versions are available.
Two things about Invoicera are slightly disconcerting: the lack of a U.S. phone number (though the company offers to call you) and some clunky translation work in some areas, like the help files. This doesn't have impact on the working elements of the site, and it shouldn't scare you away from exploring this very capable invoicing-plus website.
Pleasanton, Calif. and Austin, Texas
Price: Free, five customers, one user); Standard, $15 per month (three users, 500 customers); Professional, $30 per month (unlimited).
Zoho's integrated websites has been around for many years, and continue to expand. This suite of collaborative productivity and business sites includes – besides Zoho Invoice – CRM, email marketing, bookkeeping, and HR applications. While Zoho Invoice's competitors can be integrated with a wide-variety of related apps, there are some advantages to keeping it in the family.
There are other reasons to consider Zoho Invoice, including its depth and attention to detail. Beyond the standard fields found on most invoicing sites, it supports multiple custom fields (which can be either shown or hidden on PDFs), numerous email templates and automated reminders, and automatic charging of credit cards in recurring invoices. Contact records are quite thorough (payment details, up to 10 custom fields, portal activation, etc.) and item records less so, though you can specify units of measure.
Zoho Invoice's dashboard displays the most often-requested data, as both totals and graphs: current and overdue invoices, sales and expenses, unbilled hours, sales and receipts, etc. The site doesn't offer as many payment gateways as Hiveage, though it does connect with industry standards like PayPal (three of its services), Stripe, and Authorize.net.
Projects, time-tracking and timesheets, and expense management offer the same attention to detail and interface/navigation excellence that the invoicing screens provide. Reports, too, excel. There's an Activity Log and Exception Report in addition to customizable reporting templates for every other element of the site. Receivables and Payments Received reports go beyond the standard fare, and include Time to Get Paid, Credit Note Details, Refund History, and Invoice Details (which can be searched by status).
Devices running Android or iOS can access mobile versions.