One of the best things to happen to small business the last several years is the arrival of computing services that you access online. They are cheap (often free) and eliminate the need for you to have expensive hardware and software in your own location.
Among the most prolific of these services are online billing and bookkeeping websites. They range from free and simple services that let you create and send invoices, to full-blown financial management solutions that can help manage all aspects of your business.
Here are my top five online invoicing and bookkeeping services for small business:
WorkingPoint.com (previously called NetBooks) aspires to be much more than just online bookkeeping. It's an end-to-end solution that lets you manage your entire small business online. This includes invoicing, bookkeeping, contact management, expense tracking, financial reports, inventory management and more.
The site's latest offering is a new company profile feature that gives you a free web page. The basic WorkingPoint service (one user) is free "forever." For additional users, rates start at $10 monthly.
Freshbooks.com -- among the first online invoicing services -- has hundreds of thousands of users and an expanding lineup of services. It's core service lets you send and manage invoices and collect payments online. You can brand your system and invoices with your company's logo.
Where FreshBooks stands apart from most other services is its ability to also let you track time and expenses for yourself, your staff or contractors who may be working on various projects with your team. You can invite contractors to join your team on FreshBooks and receive their invoices all in one place. There's also a FreshBooks iPhone app.
Zoho Invoice is one of ten helpful business applications from the popular online collaboration site Zoho. It's free for up to five invoices per month. For larger numbers, pricing ranges from $8 to $35 per month. Zoho Invoice lets you easily send professionally-designed invoices and price quotes to your customers. You can select from different invoice templates, or design your own with your own logo. Plus, you can track invoices, send reminders, accept payments online (through PayPal integration) and acknowledge receipts. If you sell overseas, there's a feature that lets you send invoices and quotes in different currencies.
For a service dedicated primarily to invoicing, Zoho Invoice is a great choice, and leverages many of the same features that have made it's other award-winning applications so popular among freelancers, small business owners and professionals such as attorneys, architects and tech consultants. Other features include automated invoicing for recurring bills, and the ability to import or export data to or from the system anytime with standard formats.
QuickBooks Online Free: This simplified, free version of the QuickBooks accounting and bookkeeping system for small business lacks the more powerful features of QuickBooks' other versions, but it still packs a nice little punch for a small solo business if your needs are modest. You can instantly create invoices, track your money and manage up to 20 customers.
The "easy accounting" features of QuickBooks Online Free are designed for people who don't know anything about accounting. It helps you get and stay financially organized by gathering your important information in a central place. Your information is then available to you anytime, anywhere via the Internet.
BillingBoss.com, from The Sage Group, is one of the newest additions to the online bookkeeping lineup. Billing Boss is a free online invoicing tool designed for small business owners and freelancers to create, send and track invoices. It's easy to use and you can create your first invoice within minutes of signing up.
If you've been getting by with spreadsheets, or use complicated accounting software only for its invoicing tool, BillingBoss might be for you. Unlike some free services, there's no limit on the number of invoices you can create or send with Billing Boss. You can also set it up so customers can pay you online through Billing Boss. There's also comfort in knowing this service is run by one of the world's leading business software companies, and that your data and customer information are encrypted and stored in secure facilities.