Invoicing and billing might not be the most exciting aspect of your company’s business, but it’s one of the most important. Consulting businesses that are starting out may not have to put too much thought into how they bill and invoice. If there are only a few clients, it’s not burdensome to keep track of billable hours on spreadsheets and transfer them to another document that gets sent out for payment.

As your business grows, however, so does the need for some kind of billing system software. You need to invoice promptly and accurately in order to get paid promptly and accurately. Your invoices have to look business-like and professional to the client. Additionally, you need invoice software that is easy to use and doesn’t put demands on your time to install, learn, and use.

For the process to work as efficiently as possible, billing and invoicing software need to be part of a single system. You don’t want separate systems and processes for calculating the billable amount and for actually producing the invoice. You certainly would like to avoid any kind of redundant data entry, where someone has to read off billing data and key it into an invoicing system.

Going a step further, wouldn’t it be nice if your billing and invoicing functionality were connected with your overall project management and time tracking system? In this ideal world, you would define the project into your system, setting up tasks and timelines. You’d assign individuals to the task and assign rates. Workers would input hours worked against tasks on a regular basis. Then, when it came time to create an invoice, all the data would be present. Creating an invoice would be merely a matter of clicking an online button or letting a scheduled process run.

Simple Invoice Software

There are a lot of software solutions that will generate an invoice. You can find an invoice maker app download that will accept input, either entered or on a feed from another system, and produce your invoices. Whether you use a simple invoice generator or you have an integrated system with invoice creation as one of its functions, there are several qualities that your invoice system needs to have.

It’s worth remembering that when you present an invoice, you’re essentially setting a picture of yourself in front of the client. Whether they do it deliberately or not, your customer makes a judgment about you based on how your invoice looks. If the invoice has your company logo, company colors and the relevant contact information, it shows that you’re an organization that puts some thought into what it does.

An invoicing system needs to support customization. You don’t want your invoice to look like every other invoice from companies that use the same software. If there’s relevant, selected detail information, the client will understand exactly what work they’re paying for, broken down into as much detail as they need to make them confident that the bill is correct.

An invoice not only has to look right; it has to be right. It creates doubt in your customer’s mind if there are any inaccuracies in the billing. Again, this speaks to the importance of an integrated system. If you’re feeding data from another system into your invoicing function, there’s a chance of error. If a human is reading a report and keying data into invoicing software, it’s almost inevitable that there will sooner or later be mistakes.

If the invoicing system is an integrated part of the time management system, then controls are in place every step of the way to ensure the integrity of the data, and you can be confident of valid, reliable numbers on the invoices.

Invoicing Software for Small Business

If your small business is expanding and is reaching the point where your invoicing needs better automation, you’ve probably looked at some of the invoicing solutions in the marketplace. You’re no doubt aware that there’s free invoicing software for small business. You may suspect that these products aren’t strong enough to handle your growing needs. On the other hand, you don’t want the expense and effort of bringing in something that’s built for a large company. 

BigTime has the time and billing software for consultants that was created with small business in mind. Whether your business is marketing, accounting, architecture, engineering, IT services, law or some other consulting field, we’re convinced that BigTime is the best invoicing software for small business.

BigTime’s capabilities go beyond putting invoices with hours and dollars in front of clients. The project time tracking data is useful for your own knowledge and management. There’s a flexible reporting system that tracks project progress in more ways than just billable hours. For example, tools such as Gantt charts show how tasks within a project are moving along. They point out possible critical path issues that might require the reassignment of resources to complete the overall project on time. These tools help ensure you’ll complete projects promptly and realize revenue when you expect to.

BigTime supports WIP billing and other forms of incremental billing. Even if you don’t bill WIP, the system shows how much you can invoice in the future and when you can expect to invoice.

One way BigTime ensures the accuracy of its invoicing data is with its workflow management function. It ensures that the right steps will be taken by the right people in the right order from the time the project is set up until the final invoice is delivered. It enables you to control who enters time, who reviews and approves time and how the modification of timesheets will be governed when an inaccuracy is found. After all, an invoice is only as good as the data it’s derived from.

Best Invoicing Software for Contractors

In looking for the best invoicing software for contractors, ease of use is paramount. Most contractors already have plenty to do and can't be spending a lot of time adapting to an invoicing system. They need to get it in place and then just let it work for them. The same is true of the best invoicing software for freelancers. Just because there aren’t a lot of people entering time, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of projects, a lot of tasks, and a lot of complexity to the billing arrangements.

The keys to BigTime’s invoicing effectiveness are efficiency, flexibility, accuracy, and simplicity. It’s efficient because you’re invoicing with the billing information you’ve already captured on the project management and time tracking screens. It’s flexible because it offers invoicing templates where making the invoice look the way you want is a matter of checking off boxes. It’s accurate because all the data has been captured in a controlled process and there’s no chance of missing something that should be included on a bill. It’s simple to install, simple to understand, and simple to use.

However, this general contractor invoice software is not simple in terms of its capabilities. You can set up different client projects differently. You have total control over when and how you invoice. BigTime integrates with small business accounting systems such as Intuit QuickBooks and Sage Intacct. BigTime automates several pricing models and supports any kind of billing cycle that you want for your company.

When a freelancer or contractor needs product support, they need it right now. BigTime has online chat and other ongoing support services so you can resolve software issues and get your focus back to your business.

Best Free Invoicing Software

It’s possible to find invoicing software free of charge. You don’t have to look hard to discover a billing software free download. There are even Excel templates and macros that will accept your billing data and produce invoices. However, it’s good to remember that the dollars you pay to a software vendor are only part of the cost of acquiring, installing, and using an online billing and invoicing system.

For example, you’ll have to find a way to make your new free system work with the rest of your systems. That may require building interfaces, modifying other systems or, in the worse case, reentering data from your old packages into your new one. You’ll need to consider how the free software will work over time. Will it keep up with changes in your business or industry? If there are new versions, what’s involved in installing them? What new processes and procedures will you have to adopt to make the new system work? Will it really work for you, or will you wind up doing more work for it?

Rather than installing a free invoicing system, or managing your projects with a patchwork of systems, maybe it’s time to go with an integrated time tracking and project management system that produces invoices as part of its capabilities. BigTime isn’t free, but we offer a free trial.

If you’re going to make the effort to install a new system, it makes sense to choose one that’s designed for growing small consulting businesses. We understand your challenges and have the integrated capabilities to meet them. Why settle for standalone invoicing software when you can try out a package that manages projects, from start to finish? You may be pleasantly surprised to find out what a full-function small business package such as BigTime can do for you.