The Best Invoicing and Payment Tracking Tools for Freelancers
Whether you’re a writer, designer or web developer, managing the finances of your freelancing business can be a time consuming activity.
Having creative talent is one thing, but it’s only one piece of the self-employed puzzle. To run a really successful digital business, you’re going to need an efficient workflow and process in place to manage proposals, contracts, invoicing and accounting. Keeping on-top of all that paperwork can quickly become a chore.
Fortunately, these days there are many cloud based solutions available for managing your freelance finances. These apps help you to quickly generate invoices, keep your accounts in order and ultimately make sure you get paid for your hard work.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the most popular invoicing and payment tracking tools available for the digital freelancer, and help you to decide which one is the best fit for your own small business needs.
How to Pick the Best Invoicing & Payment Tracking Service
Choosing the right finance app is ultimately based on the range of features you require. Some of the basic apps simply offer a means of generating invoices and tracking if they’ve been received. On the other end of the spectrum, the more feature rich solutions allow freelancers to generate beautiful looking job proposals, draft up client contracts and take payments directly from multiple sources.
Those all sound like slick features, but the question you really need to ask yourself is – Do I really need all of them?
For many freelancers, simply having a basic invoice generating tool is a massive timesaver versus manually editing word documents and emailing them out to clients. The rest of the features may add a layer of complexity and cost that you simply don’t need right now.
Here are some things you’ll want to ask yourself before taking the different platforms for a test drive:
- How many clients do you work with simultaneously? (some apps limit the number of jobs you can track at once)
- Do you need time tracking for hourly rate calculations?
- Do you need accounting software?
- How do most of your clients pay their invoices?
- Are you managing a team of contractors?
Our Pick of the Top Invoicing and Payment Tracking Tools
OK, so now you have a basic idea about what these invoicing and payment tracking tools do, let’s take look at the different services and their features…
Paypal isn’t a “true” invoicing and tracking tool. The giant payment processing company has been around for decades, but with many freelancers already signed up to a Paypal business plan, it’s worth a quick mention before moving on to other alternatives.
Paypal (free and business) does offer an invoice generation tool, but it’s rather basic. You won’t get any of the tracking or accounting features provided by the more feature rich alternatives, and when it comes to taking payments, you’ll only be able to offer clients the option of a Paypal checkout page (obviously!).
With all that being said, Paypal might be “good enough” if your clients like to use it to pay you and you don’t need more complex features. Besides, PayPal invoicing is free and can handle unlimited clients. It also allows you to get paid via credit card or directly into your bank account. So even with limited features, it’s almost certainly a better and more organised option than doing your paperwork manually.
Wave is a great place to start on your hunt for an invoicing app. It offers great features and functionality and what’s more, it’s absolutely free.
Wave allows unlimited invoice creation, customisable templates, recurring billing options, invoice “estimates” that can be turned into the real thing once a client approves the job, and also a raft of notification settings and payment tracking tools.
In addition to all those features, Wave also offers a suite of accounting tools absolutely free as well.
So at this point, you’re probably thinking “what’s the catch?”…
To be perfectly honest, we can’t find one! Wave makes its money by charging fees when you use the company to handle your payment processing:
- 1.4% + 20p per transaction for European issued cards
- 2.9% + 20p per transaction for non-European issued cards
- 1% for bank payments
Those fees are actually very reasonable, and compare very favourably (and even better in some cases) to the other apps here, including Paypal.
Overall then, if you need a fully featured platform for accounting, invoicing, payment tracking and receiving payments, Wave is a fantastic choice.
Invoicera is very feature-rich but almost certainly a little too complex for the average freelancer. Invoicera is squarely aimed at medium to large businesses and features multiple accounts to handle teams of staff or separate departments.
With financial forecasting, estate expenditure and complex API integrations, Invoicera’s Pro plan is probably a bit overkill for the average freelance web developer or designer.
So why have we included Invoicera in our list?
Well, if you need the ability to handle multiple (30+) different payment gateways and you also regularly collaborate on projects or need sophisticated client management tools, Invoicera might be worth a look.
However, for most people, the $15 monthly cost of the Pro plan is probably best spent elsewhere.
And.Co was recently purchased by freelancing platform Fiverr, although the payment and invoicing app operates as a strictly separate business.
At first glance, And.Co might not appear to be as professional as some of the other apps on offer here, as it doesn’t really allow for “proper” accounting and book keeping and has very limited time management and expense tracking tools.
So why recommend And.Co?
Well, despite its limits, And.Co’s platform has some fantastic features that really do streamline your freelance paperwork.
Firstly, And.Co allows you to quickly create and save custom proposal templates. This is a really powerful feature in itself, and enables freelancers to draft and send out beautiful looking proposals in minutes, complete with company branding and clearly laid out costings.
If a client decides that they like the look of your proposal, you can have them pay for a deposit there and then, as well as automatically generating a legal contract for the work that even includes digital signing.
Finally, when it comes to taking payments, And.Co’s invoicing system is equally fast and slick in operation, with Stripe or Paypal integration, and multiple notification and tracking alerts built in.
Wave’s free plan is probably going to suite most freelancers better than And.Co, but if you need the streamlined workflow and proposal templating features, And.Co’s $24 per month price could be worth the outlay.
FreshBooks is a little different to the other apps listed here in the sense that it’s really more of an accounting app with less focus on invoicing and tracking.
Freshbooks allows users to create balance sheets, general ledgers and tax returns, as well as giving detailed expenditure and profit analytics.
If you’re more interested in doing your own accounting, Freshbooks’ $25 per month Lite plan might be appealing, but for the needs of the average digital freelancer, Freshbooks is too heavy on the finance side and a little lacking in the billing and invoicing department.
Harvest is a great app with a more niche focus then the others on this list. The Harvest product is primarily concerned with the business of time tracking and expense management.
Harvest allows users to manage time and wages for large teams of workers, but for freelancers specialising in things like consultations, it could be the perfect app for keeping tabs on your billable hourly rate.
Harvest costs $12 per month, and also includes invoices, tracking and billing as part of its suite, making it a great choice for any freelancer preferring to bill by the hour rather than per project.
Xero is a little more “grown up” than the majority of other apps on this list. Xero, like FreshBooks, is more accounting focused than the other offerings, and works well for small businesses in the offline world too.
Xero has many features that are more useful for teams rather than individual freelancers, such as payroll scheduling and purchase order controls.
There is no free tier on the Xero platform. The Early plan is priced at $9 per month and only allows you to send out five invoices and quotes. The Growing plan is $30 per month and offers unlimited actions and clients.
If you’re searching for an online platform to create invoices and manage your freelance paperwork, you could do a lot worse than to try any one of the seven services we’ve reviewed today. However, if you’re looking for a simple free tool to generate and manage invoices, Wave is probably your best bet.
For those looking for a more feature rich service and willing to pay a subscription fee, Xero is the standout option for power users, whilst And.Co offers a slick and well rounded suite of apps that can help you create beautiful proposals.
Whichever one of these invoicing and finance tracking apps you decide to go with, they all offer massive time saving and efficiency improvements compared to traditional offline paperwork.