Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 55 seconds

Not everyone uses QuickBooks. But small businesses still need to send invoices. If some of your clients aren’t ready to automate their entire financial operations but want an alternative to Word and Excel for invoices, there are myriad options.

These applications are Web-based, easy to use and in some cases, free. The advantages of using them are obvious. Your clients can not only create customized invoices but easily e-mail them and track their progress. They can stay in touch with receivables anywhere there’s a Web connection, including an iPhone in some cases. And when they’re ready to move up to a full-fledged accounting solution, they have reliable A/R records.

We tried to cover a variety of applications here, ranging from the bare-bones SimplyBill all the way up to the best of the bunch, FreshBooks. In between those two are Intuit’s Billing Manager, Invoices Made Easy and Peachtree’s Billing Boss.

Your clients are likely as varied as the options available to them. These programs share a core of features, but each goes beyond with its own set of tools. So take them for a spin, free trials are available for those that aren’t free. It might make your job a little easier.

Billing Boss

Sage Spark
Irvine, Calif.
(866) 797-8389
Price: Free

Billing Boss, a very simple—but free—online invoicing solution, offers some flexibility you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a free financial site: It supports multiple languages and currencies.billing boss Billing Boss is one of the first products from Sage Spark, a new line designed to reach small businesses not previously addressed by Sage.

Since Billing Boss doesn’t support the creation of item or service records, setup just involves building a record for your business and those of your customers, uploading a logo, and defining any taxes levied. The interface is tab-based; you can click on one of several to display lists of invoices and customers; run one of two reports offered; share data; and work with program settings. Two buttons take you to invoice and customer record creation.

Besides manual payments, Billing Boss offers four options for accepting payments electronically: Sage Card Services, Sage Electronic Check Services, Beanstream (Canadian dollar) and PayPal.

Billing Boss gives you a simple way to view your clients’ data. They can send you an email invitation that explains how to sign up, which gives you access to a read-only view of their invoicing data.

Mobile users can access their data on the Apple iPhone and Google G1.

Billing Boss lacks the deep invoice creation and tracking offered by FreshBooks, but it will be enough for microbusinesses and sole proprietors whose needs are exceedingly modest.

Billing Manager
Mountain View, Calif.
(650) 944-6000
Price: Free

It’s not surprising that Intuit would create an invoice-only Web site, given its skill at building full-blown desktop accounting programs. It’s also not surprising that Billing Manager would be a good effort, going beyond Sage’s young Billing Boss, but not reaching the heights of FreshBooks.Billing Manager

Your clients can create records for items and customers, or import CSV files. Customer records can contain tags and custom fields, but product/service fields are less complex. They do, however, let you designate items as taxable and choose from a number of units of measure. Estimate forms work similarly.

Invoice forms use conventions shared by competitors, though you can select a style, set up recurring invoices, and select a recipient from a list of your most often billed customers. You can attach files, select from a variety of terms and preview your work. Invoices and other customer correspondence can be dispatched via email.

Links on the left side of the page give you easy access to numerous lists, including invoices that are unpaid, overdue and paid. You can view unsent drafts, estimates and other mini-reports on payments received and sales tax paid. You can also see activity since you last visited, payments made via electronic check or credit card.

Unlike Billing Boss, Billing Manager does not support multiple currencies or mobile access.

Toronto, Ontario
(866) 303-6061
Price: Starts at Free, one user, three clients; $19/month, one user, 20 clients;  

, the gold standard for online invoicing, has a price structure and features make it a good choice for microbusinesses and sole proprietors, but it’s robust enough to support larger businesses.Freshbooks

FreshBooks has multiple price levels, ranging from free to $149/month. All support unlimited invoices and contractors. All offer the option of having FreshBooks send your invoices via snail mail ( you can, of course, e-mail them yourself) and import/export data. And they all offer timesheets, document-sharing and support ticketing. The differences lie in the number of clients you can bill and the number of staff who can access your account.

Despite its complexity, FreshBooks is easy to navigate and use. Tabs represent the site’s primary features: a home page that displays a summary, clients, team (your staff and contractors), invoices, estimates, expenses, time/project-tracking (multiple time-tracking options, including mobile) and reports (17 of them).

FreshBooks supports multiple currencies and online payment options and four different taxing agencies. Since more than one staff person may be accessing the system, you can set permissions and limit what they can access. And it’s easy to modify boilerplate emails for different purposes (new invoice, late payment reminder, etc.).


Price: From $5 monthly to $25 monthly

SimplyBill, the simplest of the solutions we looked at, has a lot of nice functionality. Beyond creating and e-mailing invoices, you can create quotes, get email alerts when invoices are overdue, and customize your invoices using pre-designed templates. An iPhone app will be available soon.Simply Bill

Your clients can build client records that include minimal information, but they can’t create records describing products and services. Quotes and invoices and created similarly: You select a client and date and enter any reference numbers, then type in the descriptions of your time and/or service billings (no products?). One sales tax agency is supported, as are multiple currencies. Quotes can be easily converted to invoices.

Two boilerplate emails—a thank you and reminder—can be edited and sent. And you can export invoices to Excel.

But the site’s fees are a bit prohibitive considering it doesn’t offer a way for clients to make electronic payments and doesn’t let you build a database of service/time descriptions and charges. Monthly charges range from $5 to $25, and offer an unlimited number of clients and quotes. The differences lie in the number of invoices generated per month.

This site has made a nice start; we hope to see more functionality eventually.

Invoices Made Easy
Web Works Software
Price: $9.95 monthly

Every site reviewed here has a good interface, but Invoices Made Easy has an exceptional one. It mimics the Microsoft Outlook look and fInvoices made easyeel and makes navigation exceedingly easy.

The site’s inner functionality is worthy of its exterior. Your clients can create one-time and recurring invoices and estimates, using simple, understandable forms. You can create simple records for products and services and easily incorporate them into invoices. And you can specify one sales tax rate to be calculated in forms.

Like its competitors, the site lets you add a logo to documents, but it also incorporates electronic letterhead. It doesn’t offer a choice of backgrounds, though.

Three options are available for dispatching invoices: email, printing and EasyMail (the company prints and mails your invoices, for $1-1.50 each, depending on volume). Customers can pay electronically via PayPal, credit card, or (the latter two require a merchant account).

The customer screen provides a nice overview: contact information, balance due, outstanding invoices and transaction history. Seven reports help you keep track of your accounts receivable; these can be imported to Excel and other formats. You can also get a quick look at how you’re doing by clicking links under the Invoice tab in the vertical pane.

Kathy Yakal
Kathy Yakal has been writing about personal and business technology since 1983, as an editor and writer at COMPUTE! Publications. She writes frequently for The Progressive Accountant on technology topics.She began freelancing and specializing in financial applications in 1988. Her columns, features, and reviews have appeared in publications including Barron’s, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, and PC Magazine.
Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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