Invoicing in Freelance: Choose the Right Tool for Yourself

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Small business is an important part of any modern economy. In recent years freelancers have been enthusiastically joining the ranks of entrepreneurs. Perhaps not all of us take freelance seriously, and in certain countries some freelancers even prefer not to register their activity officially. Personally I do not support this practice. I am sure that freelance can be successful only in case of a serious attitude. It means that you should look at it like at your business. It follows herefrom that your business is not only your narrow profession, but also some side activities such as marketing, accounting, and invoicing, of course.

Today let’s talk about different ways to cope with invoicing. Obviously, the best thing is to make the process maximum well-ordered so that it doesn’t require too much time, money, and efforts. That’s why each freelancer chooses the way responding to his/her own principles and business style.

  1. Individual system of accounting and invoicing developed specifically for your business.

My husband and I have been freelancing officially for more than 7 years, and during this period we have developed our own system taking into account all nuances of our translation and voice-over business. Let me share a few basic things we have now in our system:

  • Our sacred file named Statistics. This is an ordinary Excel file with custom cells and formulas. Below you may see a sample grid with a hypothetical project’s data.

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Here we can find everything we need in order not to miss the deadline, not to mix this project with another one, not to forget about invoicing and fee to another translator or voice talent if the project is outsourced. Some cells are filled with formulas or preset values which help to enter the details quicker. Overall sums as well as income in national currency (rubles in our case) and total monthly income are calculated automatically with the help of formulas.

  • Another important file — Payment Terms: data about clients, agreed rates, payment periods and rules for raising invoices. If you are not a newbie already, your customers database may be quite impressive and clients may disappear from time to time and then resume cooperation. In this case the file allows to refresh payment terms promptly.
  • Email templates — something absolutely necessary in our freelance workflow. They are especially useful in sending invoices to regular customers.
  • Diagrams. Every month we enter amounts in a specific file with a few kinds of diagrams. They help us to compare results of different years and months, to see which months are usually the busiest or the slowest. In fact, this file is our own analytics system. And it is hard to overestimate the importance of analytics in freelance business.

As for the diagrams, they are built just once and then you only need to enter final amounts by the end of each month. And here you go, your analytics is ready.

One more thing which is important for us and may be useful for many other freelancers. As soon as my husband and I work together, we need shared access to all these files and folders. For this purpose we have our own ftp with a secure access from any device. You may also choose Google Docs which are accessible from anywhere due to their cloud nature. However we do not use them in our business because these tables do not possess all Excel features which we are accustomed to.

  1. Outsourcing.

Some freelancers choose to outsource all tasks which are not directly connected with their profession and may distract from doing what they love. Invoicing and accounting are among them. From my point of view, the main disadvantage of this way is that outsourcers cost money, and sometimes a good deal of money. At the same time you still have to monitor the process, at least from time to time, because you might not fully trust a third party accountant.

  1. Mobile Invoicing Services.

Today in the era of high technologies a lot of online and mobile tools for entrepreneurs pop up like mushrooms after a spring rain. Solopreneurs tend to choose these tools for their work due to 2 main reasons — they cut costs and save time.

For example, recently I’ve discovered a nice tool for making invoices — Invoice2go. It attracted me because it has both PC and mobile versions (for iOS and Android platforms). This is extremely important for our family as soon as we have 2 kids now — a newborn baby and a 5-year old boy. You may only imagine the rhythm and tempo of our life. So Invoice2Go has turned up just at the right moment.

In fact, this tool has everything we need for accounting, invoicing, making purchase orders, monitoring analytics, controlling payment processes, and so on. What I liked the most is the opportunity to create invoice templates for your own needs: you may insert your logo or create it in the tool itself, use specific font style, color, background, etc. You may also easily change standard labels in order to adapt them to your needs. In translation business it can be a CAT tool grid: no match words, fuzzy matches, and repetitions.

This sample invoice to a hypothetical customer took me just a few minutes to create it from scratch:

Invoice #1

As soon as your invoice is ready, you save it and click ‘Email’. And voila — your email with a client’s address, subject line, and the body is prepared. All you need is to make a few corrections in the text if any and click ‘Send’. I think clients would also appreciate active PayPal buttons, as well as the button for notifying you when the payment is completed.

Below you may see how this email looks on a smartphone screen:

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As for minuses I would mention a 14-day trial period, and then you have to choose one of 3 paid plans.

  1. PayPal Payments.

From my experience as a freelance translator and voice talent a lot of customers prefer making payments by PayPal because it is fast and easy. That is why PayPal Payments is also a good option for creating invoices online.

What is good about it? You create an invoice template just once and then use it. The system sends reminders about coming payment to your clients (and we all know that certain customers regularly forget to make timely payments if you don’t send them a reminder). To pay by PayPal your clients don’t have to have an account there. They can pay by credit cards. Actually all other features are pretty the same as in most similar tools.

The minus is that not all clients use this payment method, so you’ll have to use a different tool for them.

  1. Proz.com invoicing for translators.

Talking about freelance translators I can’t help mentioning one of the most famous translators’ platforms — Proz.com. They have their own system for invoicing too. It is especially convenient for those whose customers have come from Proz.com. However, you may use this platform for all other customers too.

This online tool has all features important for freelance translators: custom fields, contacts list, notifying customers, maximum automation of the whole process, and so on.

The minus is that only paid Proz.com members can use this tool to its full extent. Free members can send only 5 invoices which are enough though to understand if you like this tool or not.

Conclusion

When you leave traditional employment and start a freelance career, you take responsibility for all processes in your business. Accounting and invoicing are not exception. Think about specific nature of your services and lifestyle, and you’ll be able to choose the right tool to cope with these tasks as effectively as possible whether this is a mobile application, online platform or your own system of documents on your PC.

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