It’s that time again: time to send out your invoices to clients and time to pay your distributors. The problem is, for many, invoicing is a hassle.
Invoices get lost, fail to send, don’t get read in time and sometimes are forgotten, going beyond their due date. Finding the right invoicing solution is like walking through a labyrinth with options at every turn. Finding a solution that makes sense for your business can leave you scratching your head, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
My company basically runs business verticals, each having its own team, managing; finances, operations, sales and marketing. These verticals include a small scale yet efficient production house, digital marketing services, e-commerce services and SEO services. I rounded up all the vertical heads in the boardroom and asked them that I want to somehow integrate the finances and see 1 report rather than 4. After 6 hours of non-stop and agonizing debates concluded that we need a better invoicing solution and before we moved ahead we had to find common ground around the following:
Budgeting the right way and adhering to it.
Analyzing the needs and then decide what solution fits best, leading to money saved
Comparing between different solutions to get the best deal
Determining the depth of integration required, basic works really well for most small businesses
Staying safe from the dark world of ransomware and data breach through security measures
With high hopes, we aimed for a big brand invoicing solution that seemed like the best choice, but it also meant biting off more than our business could chew. Big name brands are great, don’t get me wrong, but to find the best invoicing software for your business you’ve got to dig deeper. That meant more agonizing hours to know what our business needs in the software and what it doesn’t. Buying an invoicing software is not a one-size-fits-all solution, nor should it be. Hence, my team and I learned the 5 Golden aspects that guided us to finding the perfect invoicing solution which are elucidated below
Establish a budget and stick to it
Creating a budget and sticking to it isn’t hard, but it does require planning. All businesses need an annual budget to accommodate their anticipated, and sometimes unexpected needs throughout the year. The problem is that too few small businesses, about 61% created a budget.
There are 2 aspects to establish a budget that I believe to be applicable to both big and small businesses. (A) identifying the amount that can be spent over acquiring and implementing the solution, and (B) preparing the initial information that will be put into the software.
The first step is to plan ahead to improve the efficiency of your decision. You can find anything from free software to a full-blown solution, boiling it all down to the amount of money that you can spend. This can only be done if you have done the budgeting for your company; which mostly includes anticipating a lot of variables like expected sales, expenses, taxes, savings and few more micro level details as well. Once this amount is set apart you need to stick to it as you might get really amazing packages for a little more money, trust me when I say this, “It is not worth exceeding your budgets.”
This exercise will also make you ready for the first phase of integration of the software in your company as in our case we were asked to give a lot of past information and our future budgets based on which the solution gave us some really beautiful insights. Once you are done with budgeting, it’s time to clarify your needs and objectives.
Determine your invoicing needs
To be very honest, it will take another article to write about why I wanted 1 instead of 4 reports. But in this case, the expense was negligible. My point here is that small businesses should not get into complicated softwares and thrive on free invoice generators at least in their first year of business
Each invoicing software differs and not all are right for your business. Some top-rated and popular invoicing solutions like Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Chargebee offer some great solutions. Just read the fine print to make sure you’re not overbuying features that your business doesn’t need. A lesson that we learnt in the process was that opting for international transactions even though we didn’t have any we had to pay an additional $4 per month to keep that feature available and pay another 2% of the transaction amount as a fee. You need to be very clear on what you are planning to achieve from the implementation. Is it consolidated reporting, time tracking, secure payments, variety of templates or a secure mode of payments. As this falls into place we can move ahead to the best part, Shopping!
Compare invoicing software features
So, which features do you need? Some of the most common accounting and invoicing software includes tracking sales, capturing receipts, running reports, tracking sales tax, tracking inventory, managing your bills, creating invoices and more.
The best invoicing software should address your business needs and allow you room to grow. Although it might sound tedious, tracking sales and sales receipts are vital and can help you gain a better picture for your sales, but also to help you ensure that you meet your inventory needs. Forget the guessing. It’s time to get serious and grow your business and what better way to do that than monitoring your sales and sales goals as well as what you’re spending for inventory and office supplies.
Make sure your invoicing software offers reports that will provide you with the information you need to make informed business decisions. If you’re just starting out, it’s important to be frugal in some areas that don’t compromise your business. The right reports can show you where you’re spending and help you gauge whether you need to cut back in some areas or increase in others. Finally, no invoicing software is complete without proper invoicing elements. That’s the whole point of purchasing invoicing software, isn’t it? You need a way to not only invoice your clients but track billing and set up recurring billing for repeat clients. So, look for software that will address the finer details of invoicing. Do you need all the “bells and whistles,” when your business is still new? No. Start simple with a room to grow as your needs and your business grows.
Consider integration capabilities
There’s a time and a place for all things and that includes software capability for integration. However, not all businesses need integration features. If your business is already using several other business processes and software, then finding an invoicing solution that can integrate with what you’re already doing makes sense and can improve efficiency.
The integration allows one software to share information with other software rather than serving as a standalone solution. Established small businesses that have payroll, accounting, workforce management and other needs might benefit from integration with their invoicing solutions as well. Integration saves time, energy, and money. Yet, if you’re just starting out, keep costs low and business solutions simple until your business has a chance to grow.
Freelancers and new entrepreneurs and startups need to launch and grow their businesses and the best way to do that is, to begin with, simplicity. What do you actually need in an invoicing software to do your business? Do you really need all the extras? That depends on your business needs. So, when considering whether to buy invoicing software that allows for integration, go back to your roots and determine what you actually need versus what would be “nice to have.” Remember, start small. As your business grows, you can always scale up later.
More than half of all small businesses are willing to pay a ransom in an effort to recover stolen information during a data breach. What’s more staggering is that a whopping 74% of these are larger small businesses. However, even if the ransom is paid, there is never a guarantee that you’ll recover your stolen data. You can never ensure that a cyberattack or ransomware attack will never happen. However, prevention begins by prioritizing security, creating a robust backup plan, and educating employees about cybercrime.
Cybercrime is growing and in 2018 alone the economic impact of cybercrime was reaching $600 billion. If your business is attacked, you could lose all of the impacted data or pay a ransom to “recover the data” without any guarantee that the recovery will be successful. A better alternative is to guard against cybercrime. Don’t wait like we did, until it was too late. Don’t wait for a data breach to come to you. If you haven’t done so already, protect your business and client data with beefed up security measures or even better get such softwares or solutions on board that give you the required security and even willing to personalize your security package and terms if you can pay good enough for their services
The way forward
Choosing an invoicing software for your small business goes beyond a random selection. It goes beyond buying from a particular brand. To get started, know your needs, understand your users’ comfort level with technology, compare the features of your top choices and don’t shy away from asking or going through reviews on social platforms. Finally, never skimp on security.
Hackers and other cybercriminals are out there and waiting for the opportunity to access your data and that of your clients. Although there’s no guarantee that a data breach won’t happen, taking precaution to address concerns can help prevent it. Some of the best invoicing software can help you address this with bank-grade security features to protect your financial data and your client’s information. With the right invoicing software, paired with other security measures, you can protect your entire billing cycle from invoice through payment.