Anyone who owns any kind of consulting business knows how important invoicing is. After all, if you don’t submit timely and accurate invoices, you don’t get timely and accurate payment. But there’s more to the invoicing process than that. Your invoice is an important part of how you present yourself to your client.

An invoice that looks good speaks to your professionalism. It’s even better if it has your company logo and other company information. It helps your client feel confident that they’re working with a consultant who knows what they’re doing. When the invoice looks business-like, it’s easier for the customer to assume that the billed dollar amounts and the other details are accurate.

Of course, those details had better actually be accurate. That’s why you need an automated invoice generator. If you have to feed billing details from a project management system into a separate invoicing system, there’s an added possibility of error. If you have to, worse yet, read billable hours and dollars off of a report and manually reenter them into your invoicing system, it’s close to inevitable that sooner or later, there will be a mistake. On top of that, it’s a lot of time and effort to re-enter data, time that you could better spend on activities that bring your firm revenue. An automated invoicing system not only saves time, it is more accurate. 

It’s best to keep the process of creating an invoice simple. By that we don’t mean an invoicing system should be simple in terms of what it does, it should be simple to operate. When you have an integrated project management and time tracking system that includes invoicing as one of its functions, producing an invoice is simplicity itself. It doesn’t take any special human intervention to collect all the time and billing data, transform that data into billing information and automatically deliver a customized invoice to the client.

Best Invoice App

The best simple invoice app is one that not only supports flexible invoice generation but also enables you to easily enter and collect the underlying rates and hours. A billing and invoicing system shouldn’t be just an invoice generator for your customers. It’s also a tool to help you keep track of all the expenses and potentially billable hours that will ultimately impact your revenue and your cash flow.

An integrated billing and invoicing system such as BigTime will manage your billing rates all in the same spot. You can set those rates by project task, by individual or by whatever internal work codes you use. There’s no limit to how many different billing rates you can have for a project. You can have base rates but modify them for each staffer or identifying code. The system will summarize and total hours, rates,  and expenses any way you need them calculated. It can do automatic recalculations when entries are deleted or there are other source data changes.

There’s complete work in progress (WIP) information so you know what your status is on a project at any point in time. This is an excellent aid in managing your cash flow, as you can always see what work you will be able to invoice and when.

This is a simple invoice manager to use, with the needs of small consulting businesses in mind. It makes tracking, billing, and invoicing a breeze for architects, accountants, law firms, marketing companies, engineers, IT service providers or indeed any kind of consulting business that bills hours. Once all the projects and codes are set up, there never has to be a question about who has worked on what task, how many hours they have put in, and what will appear on future client invoices.

Simple Invoice Software for PC

If you haven’t yet adopted a rich, integrated system that includes billing and invoicing, you may be using simple billing software for PC. For example, some companies have found a simple invoice template free in the marketplace. For another example, many small consulting firms use Intuit QuickBooks to manage their billing and invoicing. If your company is using QuickBooks and is happy with many of its features, you don’t have to give them up to gain the advantages of BigTime.

BigTime and QuickBooks work together. BigTime offers the capability to manage the integration with QuickBooks and also manage the shared data, so you’ll never have to do double entry in the systems. You can transfer data using the Intuit cloud within BigTime. BigTime adopts the QuickBook settings to make integration seamless for you.

Once  you’re set up, you can do your invoicing through either QuickBooks or BigTime, though we’re convinced most users will find that BigTime invoicing is more flexible and customer-friendly. Once you’ve invoiced in BigTime, you can post the invoices back to QuickBooks for whatever further processing QuickBooks needs to do.

During your initial BigTime setup, you can import the data that QuickBooks already has. You can either import it all or restrict what gets imported by time period or client. The import process brings over all the QuickBooks labor and expense codes and links them to their BigTime equivalents.

If you’ve been a QuickBooks user, one of the big pluses you’ll find with BigTime is the workflow support. When the hours you’ll be invoicing are entered, BigTime supplies workflow functionality to ensure they are entered, approved and, if necessary, corrected by the right people with the right permissions doing the right things in the right order.

Simple invoice processing for PC will get the billing and invoicing job done. However, a robust, integrated system such as BigTime takes the process to a new level of professionalism and ease of use.

Invoice Maker

One of the most important components of a time tracking and billing system is the invoice maker software. The system should include an invoice maker app that allows full flexibility in designing and generating the invoices and presenting them to the client. It needs to do more than just get the numbers right. It must show the invoicing information in a way that tells the client exactly what services were rendered and how each one is being billed.

With BigTime, there’s an invoice template that allows you to create invoices that look exactly the way you want the client to see them. You can customize them with your company logo and company colors. You can include your address, your contact information and just about any other footer information you can think of. An invoice manager login allows your people to decide exactly which details to incorporate in the invoice and which details not to.

There can be tax rates, remittance information, budget status and expenses with receipts. You can include notes and explanations on the time entries. Whatever line item information you and the client think is important, that’s the information that winds up on your customized invoice.

There’s full WIP invoicing capability with support for all kinds of incremental invoicing. You can bill a percentage of the budget at any point in the project. You can bill fixed fee projects at various project milestones or when the project reaches an agreed-on percentage of completion.

When you set up your invoicing, there’s an easy-to-use template editor that walks you through the steps in setting up the invoice. Customizing an invoice is as simple as checking off boxes to indicate what kind of header information, detail and footer information you’d like.

Free Invoice Software

There’s plenty of free invoicing software for small business. Any search of available solutions will show you more than one simple invoice software free download. There’s one thing to bear in mind about a free invoicing app, however, is this: it’s only the downloading of the software that’s free.

Once you have the “free” software, you still have to install it and integrate it with your existing systems. You’ll need to apply maintenance when and if it becomes available. You’ll need to set up the processes for setting up projects, entering hours and expenses, approving hours and generating billing statements. While you may not have to write a check to a third party for any of these activities, they all represent an expense to you in terms of your people’s time and energy.

Just about anything is possible with rudimentary systems, or even with Excel spreadsheets, if you have the time and expertise to make them do what you want. Of course, you’ll also have to continue to make them work when business processes change. An integrated time tracking, billing and invoicing system does quite a bit more for you.

BigTime is not a free billing and invoicing system, although we do offer a free trial. What you get, though, is much more than an invoicing system. It’s a total project management solution that helps you control project work from the time you set up and assign the projects tasks until you deliver the final invoice to the customer.

Rather than using a patchwork of free software to manage your project, why not check out BigTime for a free trial. In addition to providing a first-rate invoicing system, it gives you tools to manage projects that have the potential to improve your productivity in ways you may not have thought of.