Going Beyond the Spreadsheet – Automate Your Billing Process with Online Software
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: December 27, 2011, 8:07 am
- Updated: March 2, 2012, 3:05 pm
Preparing invoices can be a taxing and costly process for small business owners. For example, if you are a solo business owner or just don’t have the staff to develop tough internal controls, then you’re may well be spending too much time creating manual paper-based invoices.
The resulting longer billing cycle may delay the collection of payments and ultimately impact cash flow. In fact, a 2009 survey by finance systems specialists, CODA, showed that 25 percent of small and medium businesses estimate that at least $5,000 a month in income is delayed due to invoicing errors, with 17 percent seeing payments amounting to $50,000 delayed due to invoicing errors.
There are a number of ways to minimize the risk of billing errors. One is to go beyond the spreadsheet and use online software to automate the billing process from point of sale to collections.
The Internet and cloud computing offer various options for managing the entire process efficiently and seamlessly. Below are a few reasons to take your billing system online, questions to ask, and options that may fit your business needs.
Why Take your Billing Online
One of the biggest benefits of online billing is efficiency. Instead of sifting through paper or disparate records, you can create, track, and manage invoices easily, automatically alert customers to overdue invoices, and integrate records with your accounting system. Set-up is often easy and because files are hosted online you can access them from anywhere. In fact, given the right controls, your data is also probably more secure than if it were stored in an office filing cabinet or on your laptop.
Another significant benefit is that the vendor manages all the maintenance and upgrades to the service, so that your software is never out of date and you always have access to the latest features within your subscription grade.
Questions to Ask
Choosing the right option for your business really comes down to understanding your needs. For example, how many users need access to the tool? Do you need mobile access? What about integration with your existing accounting software? Will the service grow with your business and offer upgrade options that you may like to take advantage of? What customer service support can you expect – online chat, email, or phone? This is your money and your business at stake, so be sure you are getting the support you need to help you get those invoices posted and paid on time.
And don’t forget basic requirements such as being able to customize the invoice template with your logo or the ability to print and mail invoices as opposed to sending e-bills.
Online Billing Software Options to Consider
While these are not personal recommendations, the following options offer a variety of features ranging from basic e-billing services to automated billing, accounts reconciliation, time management, and more. You can search for more online or ask around and get referrals from other business owners.
PayPal.com remains a firm favorite for online transactions, most notably on eBay, but PayPal also offers an Online Invoicing service that lets any business prepare and email invoices to clients as well as manage account reconciliation. If you aren’t quite ready to dive into a fully-automated system, then this option might be for you. It also has the added benefit of ensuring you get an immediate payment instead of waiting for that check to arrive in the mail. Clients can pay by credit card, through their bank account or via PayPal.
Bill.com is a cloud-based solution that offers a service similar to PayPal but also includes additional accounting services that allow you to manage and schedule your vendor payments and route bills to employees or your accountant for approval. It also synchronizes with most existing accounting software and provides a clear paper trail to help you maintain accurate record keeping, and more.
Another option is QuickBooks Online. This portfolio of products offers a variety of financial management tools for small business based on your needs. For example, if you aren’t quite ready to automate fully yet, the Online Simple Start package lets you create online bills and track payments (with mobile access) for as little as $12.95 a month for one user. As your needs grow, you can upgrade to a variety of other options that automate the billing process, provide access to more users, and help you manage your business finances.
Have you made the move to online billing? Share your recommendations in the comment field below!
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