Small Business Guide to Online Billing Software - Page 3

By Jennifer Schiff
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Like FreshBooks, Harvest prides itself on being incredibly easy to use -- and having excellent customer service.

"I love the simple, easy-to-use interface -- and the ease with which I can create and send invoices," said Zach McNair, a creative director and photographer who has been using Harvest for about six months. And "the service is top notch."

But, like a lot of small business owners, McNair was initially hesitant about using an online invoicing service, especially if he had to pay a monthly fee.

"The monthly fee [even though it was only $12/month] scared me," he confessed, which is why he initially stopped using the software when his free trial ended. But then he realized that if he spent more than 10 minutes a month on invoicing clients, Harvest was going to save him money. "It was a no brainer," he said. Indeed, since using Harvest, McNair has not only been able to spend more time on his business, but he's been getting paid a lot faster.

Noteworthy Harvest features include:

  • Powerful un-invoiced time reports let you quickly scan and find all of your outstanding, unbilled amounts for each client and project. "You can view the amount by month, quarter or year; and each client has an "Invoice" button -- simply click it to immediately create an invoice for the selected timeframe," explained Schoellkopf.
  • Automated late invoice email reminders
  • Set project budgets, "so that you can stay on top of how much time you’re spending on your projects, and you get automatic email alerts when projects reach budget thresholds."
  • Estimate generation -- and the ability to get estimates approved online
  • Work and bill on retainer
  • Easy to upgrade or downgrade

As for pricing, Harvest offers Solo ($12/month with up to three users), Basic ($40/month for up to 10 users) and Business ($90/month for unlimited users) subscriptions, all of which include unlimited clients, projects and invoicing -- as well as time tracking, multi-currency invoicing, reports, data import and export, third-party add-ons, Google apps integration, monitoring and daily data backup and customer service.

Zoho Invoice

Full-featured Zoho Invoice is another good online invoicing choice for small business owners, especially if they already use Zoho apps.

"I did some quick Web research to gauge others’ satisfaction before beginning to use Zoho’s invoice application, and I found that customers were very satisfied with it," reported Larry Hawes, principal, Dow Brook Advisory Services. And now he counts himself among that number.

"I really don’t think you could ask for more features from a free service [for up to five invoices/estimates per month]," he said. Since he began using the software in February 2010, "it has been 100 percent reliable and has served the needs of my small business well."

Hawes likes Zoho Invoice's ease of use, the built-in time-and-expense tracking and the customizable templates (though with the free edition, you cannot remove the Zoho logo from outgoing emails).

The one thing he doesn’t like: you cannot apply an absolute dollar amount discount from a list price. (You can only do a discount by percentage.)

Other noteworthy features of Zoho Invoice include:

  • Generate PDFs -- and/or have Zoho mail them first class via the U.S. Postal Service using its zPost feature
  • Integration with Zoho Business suite
  • Create, maintain and track recurring invoices
  • Automatic late payment reminders
  • Integration with PayPal, Google Checkout and Authorize.net
  • Support for multiple currencies and languages

As for pricing, you can use Zoho Invoice free if you plan on sending five or fewer invoices or estimates a month -- and have only one or two users. However, for $15/month (the Standard package), you can send out up to 150 invoices or estimates per month, have up to three users and unlimited projects.

For $25/month (the Premium package), the number of invoices/estimates goes up to 500, and the number of users goes up to four. And for $35/month you can send up to 1,500 invoices using the software and have up to five users.

Note: all monthly service plans allow you to have an unlimited number of customers and all but the free plan allow for an unlimited number of projects. Similarly, all plans include customer support, SSL encryption, and the same basic feature set.

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to Small Business Computing and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping small and mid-sized businesses.


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This article was originally published on June 08, 2011
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