Tracking of time and billing efficiently helps in streamlining billing activities. Especially, if you own or manage a small business or have a profession that requires timely capturing of hours and quick generation of invoices, then you know how much important it is to have an efficient and effective billing system. Since billing is the critical aspect for business cash flow, it is not a good idea to take chances and make compromises by using a low-quality billing system purely because it is free. If you are new to billing software, then selecting the right one that for your business is not easy. An evaluation of the billing software features and benefits needs to be assessed to understand which is best suitable for your business.
First, it is important to make up your mind whether to spend money on billing software or manage with the free versions. Not all billing software tools allow efficient invoicing with the flexible options of issuing bills for multiple clients. Most billing software that is free has few or limited features. If you want to have full-fledged billing functions, then you may need to opt for paid time tracking and billing software solutions.
User Access and Settings
Many free versions allow only limited number of users to log in and use the system simultaneously. In such cases, the users have to log out to let other users get access to the software. If you are a manager responsible for a team of several employees, then you may need the option of flexible sharing in real-time data with your staff. Also sometimes, you may want to customize user settings whether to give your employees limited or full access. This function is only possible with a whole time tracking and invoicing system which not only allows multiple user access but allows to customize the user privileges.
Flexibility in billing
If you have more than one client to bill for or if you share your service with others then the billing process is not straightforward. It can be complicated if it requires invoice level split billing based on hours with different billing rates. For instance, sometimes you may need to charge 75% of the billable hours based on the percentage and the rest at the flat rate. Or you may want to consider a variety of expenses for different projects, including professional and personal in your billing. This kind of flexibility to customize the billing formats is typically not possible with free versions of billing software.
Another important aspect is to check how flexible is the software in fetching the data. Let us assume you want to alter the billing rate for a particular client and this you need search facility to get all the previous customer records. Sometimes the only detail you have with you is the phone number of the client. With free billing software, the data search criteria will be limited to particular fields but may not work out for fields like phone or address search.
Free billing software miss many product features
With free billing versions, you cannot expect enhanced features as most of them support only limited functionality. Sometimes, you may require additional email features to send invoices to multiple business users for approval of the billing amount. Or perhaps you may need to include more information on a client record which is critical to your business. Such flexibility in invoicing activity is not possible with free billing versions. Quality is invoicing, and billing software will make things seamless to the users while managing time tracking and invoicing process. Also, ensure the billing software that you select has backup ability to protect the data from unauthorized entries and security breaches.
Apart from tracking billable & non-billable hours, a billing software should act as a project tracker, keeping the records of project activities, employees billable time on different projects, pending fees and expenses for projects, etc. For this, businesses may need to generate and customize several types of reports to evaluate various project aspects. Free versions of billing software offer limited reporting as they may not have the ability to create reports that are unique to your business process. Free software will deprive the productivity and value addition of a comprehensive solution.
Interfacing with other popular software
Most of the free versions claim themselves as holistic solutions, but they do not integrate with other software. Very few of them will have the ability to communicate with other systems and integrate with other software like CRM. A quality billing software is very efficient in consolidating the data from different processes. The software reduces administrative workloads for the businesses and minimizes the situations that require redundant data entry.
May not support cloud based solutions
Free software may not support cloud-based billing where the users can log on from anywhere and check the status of their accounts receivable. Freedom to data access is one of the appealing options with a quality billing system. The users can stay connected to their data & documents virtually from any place, generate instant invoices on the go and send them through email directly to the client.
Free may mean limited or no tech support
Also, if you are new to using billing systems, then you might need some help to guide through the system. Since free billing systems charge no revenue for the software, they hardly provide support for their products. When you face an issue, you have to struggle alone to resolve it rather than expect help from the software company. It is precisely the lack of technical support service that separates the free billing products from paid solutions.
Also, avoid free versions of billing software
There are many free versions of billing software that are purely intended to promote higher versions. In the free version, there is a limited billing functionality, and when it is bundled up with larger packages, the product will have a high price tag. These software’s may not address your specific billing needs and may not be suitable to rely upon for performing critical tasks. Unfortunately, as a business owner, you will not be complacent with the quality of free versions. For time tracking and billing, it is better to choose a product that much more dedicated to quality and billing flexibility.