I’ve been looking at freelance invoicing and billing software again after about three years with 17Hats. I’ll be digging into options for the next number of weeks seeing if I can find exactly what I want.

Of course, that means first I need to define what I want.

Solve a problem

I’ve said a few times, that you must be solving a problem if you’re going to look for a new tool. The biggest problem I have with 17Hats is that it has no way to show me internal projects vs external projects.

I can create myself as a client and then book all my writing time on a book towards that project. But then, it’s hard to figure out exactly how I can push the sales of my books from WooCommerce or Amazon into 17Hats to see how we’re doing for break even.

Now you may be asking Why do you want that at all? The thing is, I do a lot of stuff. I’m a guest contributor on a few sites that pay. I’m building some courses for Asian Efficiency.

I’m writing books and building out membership content for my site.

As I move forward, I want to know which types of content production are the most profitable. If it takes too long to produce video content for Asian Efficiency vs writing for some of the other sites I have, I shouldn’t be doing video content for Asian Efficiency. Or at least I need to see that there are other profitable things coming from it in addition to the course fees. Maybe the appearances on the podcast that goes with the course mean lots of email subscribers who become my clients.

The point is, it’s almost impossible for me to gauge the profitability of all the different projects I have going.

When I talked to my members, they have some of the same issues as well.

What I Want in Freelance Invoicing and Time Tracking Software

So here is a list of my ideal wish list of features. I know that some of them are pie in the sky things, but if I’m looking, I might as well wish for as much as possible and see what I can get.

There are numbers beside the wishes, but only so that we can compare long term not because this is in any order.

1. Internal and External Projects

Like I said at the top, I want to see internal vs external projects. I’d be okay if this means that I have to be a “client” and then I invoice myself when a project makes some money.

I just want better transparency into the projects I’m doing internal and how long they take for against the sales they make.

2. Goal Setting

I’d love to see an application that has goal setting in it already. Cushion and Harpoon have this already. I’ve dabbled enough with Cushion to see that I can forecast my earnings and they show on the goal as well. This is great for me since I know that my coaching clients will be paying me for a few months. I can see exactly how that income goes towards my bottom line.

3. Time Tracking

I need to be able to track my time. I want to be able to track all my time for everything, including stuff like this blog post. I should be tracking my time on client projects, even though I never bill by the hour.

I should also be able to bill flat rate, and then see how the time I tracked compares to that flat rate billing number. That will let me see how profitable a project was.

Bonus for having an iOS app that can track the time since I spend most mornings in an iOS only world.

4. Proposals with Options and Contracts

Good proposals have options. If you don’t have options, you’re losing money. I want to see a way to create options in a proposal and then allow the prospect to choose their option.

It should also have something in it to allow you to have a contract signed as soon as someone accepts the proposal.

5. WooCommerce Feeds?

Yes, this is pie in the sky. I want to be able to ping the system when my WooCommerce install makes a sale and have the payment assigned to a project by product. So if I sell a copy of Effective Client Email, I should see it show up as income under my Effective Client Email Project.

Ditto for Easy Digital Downloads. I sell a membership plugin and have a few others I’d like to release so I want to see them as income against the project I used when I tracked my building time.

6. Payment

It should accept Stripe. PayPal is acceptable as an option, but no Stripe, not looking.

Others Need

I know that others need multi-currency. So I’ll at least look at that though it’s not make or break for me. I always invoice in USD and plan to stay that way for now at least.

I like owning my data as well. I’d hope that everything has a way to export data to…something.

The Current List of Contenders

Here is the list of options that are on my list right now. I know that some of them don’t have the features I need and thus, I may not use them at all. Still, they’ll have things that will inform my desires for the next tools.

I don’t promise I’ll do a full review of them. Some may get bundled into a group post on options that didn’t last more than a day or two.

Another thought as I look deeper into Scrum and Agile and my use of Trello is that some agile tools like Planscope tick some of these boxes as well. My true ideal system would take a prospect from the initial emails and follow up, through proposal into a project and project management, then exit them and drop them back into a follow-up process.

If you have other options, let me know.

There are some other contenders that run inside WordPress which I’ll take a look at as well.

Is there anything I should be adding to the list?

Photo by: Jannis

3 responses to “What I Want in Invoicing – yup it’s a pipe dream”

  1. Kate Avatar

    Hi Curtis,

    I’d like to suggest Fanurio (http://www.fanuriotimetracking.com) which is a time tracking and billing software application, highly appreciated by freelancers and small businesses for its intuitive interface, flexible timer and ability to produce detailed invoices

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      I used that long ago. I’ll put it on the list to look at again.

  2. paolo Avatar

    We will look at this post as one of the best possible feedback that we could get. We’ll work to make everything possible with our plugin.

    It will take some time, because it’s in its infancy, but you can be sure that we’ll do everything possible to make it grow to be the best…