Finding the Right Invoicing Solution

The options in choosing the right invoicing solution can seem overwhelming. We tested 7 invoicing software applications (in addition to researching others). So how did we decide on the right one?

First, let me just say, you won’t find the perfect solution to meet all your needs. Where one company excels, the other will fail and vice versa.  Let’s take a closer look at what we found.

In the beginning 17hats met most of our needs. As our company started growing from freelance to agency, we needed something more robust. And so the search began.

We really liked the fact that 17hats was super easy to create an invoice and they helped us manage leads. The accounting features were limited so we still used Quickbooks to track all our income and expenses. Online support was readily available, but most conversations ended in, “That’s a really great idea. Feel free to add your thoughts on our Feature Suggestions page.” At first I thought this was a pretty neat way for them to track customer feedback, but never really saw any changes/updates reflecting what the customer really wanted.

The invoices looked clean and simple, but lacked ability to customize it beyond adding a logo. I had to make our own email signatures (which is a feature they have since launched). Sometimes I had to go back and forth a lot when editing an invoice or navigating the site.

In the end, we were not able to export any of our data or clients. We wanted to have a history of past projects in case we ever needed to refer to something. Their suggestion was to save each invoice individually. This obviously wasn’t a practical solution and made parting ways a little more frustrating.

This looked really promising. It’s a premium WordPress plugin that works on your site. We loved the ability to customize our invoices, but didn’t like that our clients needed a login to view their invoices/estimates. Sprout advertised the ability to have legally binding digital signatures, but this required an additional fee. Their free trial was only 14 days, whereas most of the competitors offer 30 days.  In the end, the trial period wasn’t quite long enough. We felt rushed in making a decision and Sprout ended up being a little more complicated than we anticipated.

Like some of the others, Invoicely took a hit for not being able to customize invoices. The invoices looked messy and I couldn’t find a way to remove the ugly red box around the “Balance.” I didn’t take a lot of time to trial Invoicely. Not a lot to hate, but there wasn’t anything that screamed, “pick me!”

I wanted to check out Harvest because a few of our colleagues use them. It seems like their main feature is time tracking, with the option to turn those hours into an invoice. This could definitely be helpful to some, but we use something else for time tracking so this feature would have gone unused. It was pretty simple to set up a invoice, but not a lot of options for customization. As with Invoicely, there wasn’t anything that really set them apart or impressed me.

New Freshbooks
We really wanted Freshbooks to work. We trialed the New Freshbooks – their cloud based accounting app that they started rolling out June 2016. We had some flexibility in customizing invoices, but weren’t pleased with how our contact information was displayed (right justification was the only option). Freshbooks can be used for accounting too, but we found it to be limited in it’s capabilities.

A lot of basic features, like estimates, are not currently available on Freshbooks New. We were disappointed to find these features were available for the original Freshbooks, but not for their New app. A little surprising they didn’t build their new product with these features and they don’t have any timeline for when these options will be rolled out. Their online support was spotty too as they had a separate support page for the original Freshbooks and Freshbooks New. I could never seem to find any answers in Freshbooks New and regular Freshbooks didn’t apply. It seemed we kept hitting a a brick wall, so we did the obvious.

We were using Quickbooks for accounting already so it made sense to utilize their invoicing capabilities, right? They definitely would’ve got the job done, but we weren’t impressed with the look of the invoices or the ability to customize them. Having used Quickbooks to do the books for my husband’s business and my church, I’ve also run into issues with Quickbooks not keeping up with Windows updates. Tired of Quickbooks, we were thinking it was time for a change.

In the end, Xero won our business. Why? Their invoices look clean and professional. We liked the way we could customize our invoices and include social media icons. It integrates well with Proposify, automatically converting our proposals into an invoice. It also serves as a full accounting system, meaning we no longer need to pay for separate accounting software. It takes a little to get used to, but I find it easier now to send an invoice than I did in 17hats.

Their online Business Support Center is fantastic! It’s probably what saved them from joining the others who didn’t make the cut. My biggest complaint: Xero does not allow for partial payments (like a down payment or a payment plan). To me, this is a basic feature, but one we’ll have to live without for the time being.

The Takeaway
So as you can see, there is no perfect solution. Take your time researching the options. Everyone offers a free trial. Take advantage of the free trials to test out every scenario you can think of. Reach out to their support team; get a feel for how they quickly they respond to questions and how helpful they are.

Good luck in your quest to find the right fit for your company!


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