Each freelancer or SME has different invoices and expenses that have to be booked every quarter.
For my office in web design and digital marketing I always found the administration and accounting one of the bottlenecks of my company.
There are several facets to the accounting of an SME (one-man business, ComV or BV) that are important and return almost daily:
- You have to make invoices.
- You have to keep track of expenses.
- Every quarter you deliver invoices and expenses to the accountant, who makes the VAT declaration.
- You want to get clear insights into the figures booked: financial reporting, historical insights, and so on.
For point 2 and 3, hardly any optimizations are possible anymore. You can keep track of expenses by either saving receipts in a folder or scanning them in. The quarterly declaration is also a facet that cannot be more efficient than it already is.
Point 1 and point 4, however, are domains where – in my case – still a lot of optimisations were possible with regard to efficiency and scalability.
Bye bye, Excel and Word (for now)
In order for my business to grow, a basic condition is that the invoicing can easily scale with it. The situation until recently was that I had reached my limits in terms of clarity and structure in my previous system with Word and Excel. The risk of errors had become too high to work even further with the tools I had.
I’ve been looking for a solid alternative for some time. I was ‘in market’ for invoicing software, so Google would segment me into an SEA campaign.
With almost all platforms I came up against different limits so I never really found what I really needed as a freelancer and small SME.
That’s also one of the reasons why I’m writing this article now, to create clarity in a complex maze as billing software for freelancers and SMEs.
Invoicing software: why?
There were several reasons why I thought a new billing system was very important. Firstly: Saying goodbye to Excel also means saying goodbye to confusing file lists and folder structures. Excel at the level where I used to work with it was simply insufficient for scalability. Perhaps there are specific detours to using Excel in a more scalable way, but I did not find them.
The goal of my company is to grow. You either grow or you go backwards; there’s no such thing as a middle ground. The scalability of invoicing is a very important factor because you want to be able to process as many invoices as possible in as little time as possible. A company is only as scalable as its most cumbersome part – so the administrative part must be able to cope with growth.
A third important criterion for choosing invoicing software is the possibility of recurring invoicing. Even if you don’t have services that are invoiced recurrently, it is useful to have an invoicing system that has the ability to start with this one day.
Finally, I found timetracking an important part I was looking for in billing software. Hours can be registered and invoiced or not. Even if they are not billed, it is a great way to keep track of how much time you spend on some clients or projects. In my case, I currently only work in a modular and comprehensive way; not according to the invoicing hour principle. Still, I find it useful that the possibility does exist.
Concretely, I started my search for invoicing software with these criteria:
- It has to be affordable;
- It has to be fun and intuitive to work with;
- Customers should be able to log in to view their invoice;
- Invoices and reminders are automatically sent out via email;
- Recurring billing is possible;
- You can view invoice history and cost history at a glance;
- A time tracking module is available that can be linked to customers, projects and invoices.
- The dependency remains limited: I want to be able to easily change to another solution if I ever want to do so.
Search for the right invoicing software
There are, of course, many different providers of invoicing software. Below I make a list of relevant SaaS companies with a focus on invoicing.
With a few exceptions, they all use a monthly subscription where you pay a certain amount each month for the service.
If I forgot one, feel free to email me at email@example.com and I’ll add it.
Why choosing invoicing software is so difficult (because of the strong interconnection with your company)
With all these platforms, which I analysed in detail, I made these reservations:
- No matter what choice I make, the changeover is quite drastic because invoicing software is strongly intertwined with the company.
- It creates a dependency and path dependency (you make a choice for a long time).
- My data is on providers’ servers. That gives me a feeling of dependency. That’s why it’s especially important to have a high level of confidence in the lifespan of the platform. Moreover, you have to count on them to have their security in order.
- The prices of the billing software providers may increase or change in the future.
- Every invoicing platform has limitations, no matter how good or reputable it is. Sometimes they are small things, but there will always be friction between your expectations and what you really get.
- Some platforms offer features that I don’t need at all for my SME. This increases the complexity and also reduces the added value versus the subscription fee.
Digital accounting packages offering invoicing software
Accounting platforms such as Exact, Yuki or Octopus also offer invoicing modules. In their core, however, these are accounting platforms and they are also on a higher scale in terms of budget. That is why I have never considered them. I did check with my own accounting firm what they thought of a Yuki or an Octopus. Here I was told that digital accounting is still in its infancy in certain areas, so that it is not without risks of bugs and issues at the moment to switch to fully digital accounting.
The result of my search: with FusionInvoice I consciously opted for ‘self hosted’ invoicing software.
The billing software I finally started working with (after creating test accounts on different platforms) is FusionInvoice. This for several reasons.
I made this choice very consciously for several reasons. The biggest advantage was that FusionInvoice is self hosted: you download software that you install yourself on a subdomain.
All the benefits of FusionInvoice at a glance:
- FusionInvoice offers these important features: invoice creation, cost registration, extensive financial reporting, customers can get their own username and password (to view their invoices), timetracking module, recurring billing, online payment via Paypal or Mollie possible, automatic emails for new invoices and overdue payment terms. And many more features.
- It’s self hosted: you can install it on your own servers, for example as a subdomain of your main domain. For example: finance.mijnbedrijf.be. It’s your property: no one can ever ‘hold you hostage’ by, for example, raising prices, or changing certain functions. It’s on your own server, and it’s all yours.
- The user interface of FusionInvoice is simply great. Very clear, beautiful colors and very clear dashboards. Moreover, you can whitelabel it with your own brand name, so it gives an extra professional impression to your customers (when they login to the platform with their login details).
- It is open source software: an open community of technicians is constantly working on improvements. There is no heavy commercial logic behind it. Because of this, FusionInvoice feels like an enormous added value in relation to the investment.
- FusionInvoice is also available in Dutch. Although I am fluent in English, I still like to have a dashboard and interface in Dutch.
- You pay just under $100 once and support is available (I tested this and the FusionInvoice support team responds very quickly and comprehensively). One-time 100 dollars is a paltry amount compared to what you get in return.
- The installation is pretty easy for those who have experience with cpanel based hosting. No experience with this? Contact me or respond at the bottom of this message. I will be happy to answer you by email or add the step-by-step instructions on how to install FusionInvoice at the bottom of this message.
Conclusion: it pays to choose a good billing software. It makes it easier to scale your business. The easier it is to keep track of invoices and expenses, the more scalable the company becomes. After all: you only have 24 hours a day. The art of doing business is reserving as much time as possible for real business. And administration and invoicing: you want to be able to organise this as efficiently as possible.