For years I used Freehand to manually produce invoices. They looked great, but they were tedious to edit. Freehand was certainly no spreadsheet software so sums and GST were calculated manually which was tedious and made invoicing a real chore.
Because Freehand made individual files it was hard to search through them, and they had to be organised and named carefully. Also tricky was keeping track of which invoices were outstanding and which had been paid.Blinksale and Xero are two web based applications worth considering if you want to make life a lot easier for yourself.
Blinksale is a simple invoicing system. That's all it does, unlike Xero which is a more complete accounting system.
For a developer, designer, artist, photographer or anyone who doesn't send out a huge number of invoices per day Blinksale is an excellent, easy to set up, and cheap solution.
Blinksale's 50 invoices per month plan costs only USD $12/month (about $16NZD/month) and there are other plans available including a free 3 invoices/month trial.
Deisgn options aren't hugely advanced, you can upload your logo and choose from one of the basic templates. If you're a web developer you can also edit your own stylesheet. Quite frankly I don't think it matters what invoices look like, as long as they are professional and easy to read.
Invoices are sent via email, removing the need to print out invoices and post them manually. Most businesses I've dealt with haven't had any problems with this system. It certainly saves trees and money on postage.
There are two great features about Blinksale that I really love.
The first is how quick it is to create an invoice. The first time you invoice a client you'll need to load in their address and details, but after that it's a matter of clicking "New Invoice", selecting your client, and deciding what to charge them. You can set a default hourly rate so just enter how long you've spent on something, what it is, and everything else is calculated for you.
Making invoices now is actually fun, rather than a chore.The second feature that really makes things easy is having a quick overview of your invoices including outstanding invoices. Totals are displayed so you can see how much your clients owe. Because it's all database driven it's easy to display invoices for a particular client, or only outstanding invoices so you can send a reminder.
Being in New Zealand isn't a problem, it's easy to set up GST at 12.5%, and this is all calculated automatically on any invoice. If you're invoicing an overseas client, you can turn off GST for that invoice.
With the more advanced Blinksale plans it's possible to send invoices as PDF files, however if you're on a mac you can use the built in "Save as PDF" feature of the print dialogue box to make a PDF file no matter what plan you have.
Another interesting feature of Blinksale is the ability to send recurring invoices, for example, I have clients I invoice annually for their domain names and website hosting.Xero is a new web application developed here in New Zealand. I haven't used it yet, but overall it looks very smart and easy to use. Xero costs NZD $49/month but it really is a more complete accounting system.
Personally I use Blinksale and a spreadsheet cashbook in Excel as my accounting system, and this is sufficient at the moment. As business grows I'll consider moving to Xero to automate even more than just invoices.
There are some disadvantages of using an online invoicing system. If you don't have broadband or a reliable internet connection, using an online service probably isn't a good idea. You have to be on the internet to send or find invoices, so be aware of this if you need to make invoices while mobile. It's also a good idea to forward invoices to yourself or print them out as a backup.