Billing and invoicing can be a particularly stressful step in completing projects, especially if when it comes to the relationship between the business and the client. We all want to provide a fair estimate and straightforward service that builds trust.
Luckily for us, that’s where time and billing software comes into play. We can track our billable hours and provide clients with clean-cut reports.
This article briefly explains how billing works and presents key features to look out for, as well as some of the best software regarding both time tracking and billing.
What are time and billing?
Whether you are a freelancer, an owner of a small business or the CEO of a growing startup, we all want to have an insight into our work time. For our business to survive and thrive, we should always know the amount of time spent at work, how much of it can be billed and ultimately, it should be presented to our clients.
There are two types of billing:
- Flat rate – employed by companies/businesses who charge a fixed rate per project, regardless of how much time was spent on completing it;
- Hourly rate – employed by companies and individuals who charge for the time spent on each new project.
Those who tend to bill per hour are usually designers, freelance writers, programmers, accountants, attorneys, etc.
And if you, like them, use hourly billing, then you will need time tracking and billing software. But how will you know what to choose?
The following section should help you identify what kind of time and software would work best for your specific needs.
What key features does the software need to have?
Once you start looking for a time and billing app or program, you’re bound to encounter a wall: which one will work best for you?
While time tracking will vary across different industries, there are some key boxes that need to be checked to get the best value for your money. In the following section, we’d like to give you some more info. Instead of just listing a dozen apps and letting you decide on trial and error, we want to help you know just by reading the app description if it is the right one for you.
A good time and billing software should have these key features:
- Task assignment (also project/client assignment)
- Time tracking – billable and non-billable hours
- Billing reports
- Invoice creation
- A mobile version
- Affordable pricing
Now, let’s see what makes each of these features so important.
1. Task assignment
The software you choose should allow you to divide your project into tasks, schedule them, and track time for each one.
Since not everything you do will be billable time, you want to be able to differentiate between work that you can charge, and the one you can’t (unrelated to the project or client – answering emails, creating invoices, etc.)
Secondly, if you’re managing a team, you’ll want the ability to set different rates for each team member, assign them tasks and projects.
2. Time tracking
Once you’ve assigned the tasks, the software should enable you to track the hours spent on the project. If it has an option to mark the task as being billable or non-billable, all the better. It will only help in creating final reports.
What’s more, you’ll need the option to track these hours across multiple projects or clients. After all, very few of us have a single project at a time, and it’s not easy to keep track of all of them simultaneously.
3. Billing reports
The sole purpose of tracking time and billing is to be able to fairly charge for your time. Billing reports help you create accurate invoices and be completely transparent with your clients.
Any good software will have the option of creating a billing report at the end of the project. With billable and non-billable times displayed through a graph or a spreadsheet, it’ll be much easier to create an invoice and get additional insight into your workflow.
Additionally, on an off chance that a client wants to avoid paying you in full or has an issue with the charge, you can use it to contest their arguments. Think of billing reports as a safety net in extreme cases.
4. Invoice creation
After creating a billing report, you’ll have a much easier time making an invoice.
Not every piece of software will have invoicing included in it, and many of these software companies decide on partnering up with a service like PayPal, Payoneer, or Venmo.
5. A stable mobile version
You and your team (if you work with one) will get the most out of the software if it offers a mobile version as well. Apps usually have a much simpler interface and are more accessible, due to the limitations of smartphones.
For example, in Clockify’s app, a person can choose their task and start the time tracker by tapping a button on the screen. Once they’re done, they simply tap it again to stop tracking. Easy, right? And it’s precisely why so many business owners, as well as freelancers, prefer to have a mobile app to accompany the desktop software.
6. It needs to be priced appropriately
It’s only natural that you’ll want the most bang for your buck.
When it comes to choosing the best software for your business, you’ll want to find those that offer at least free trials.
These six features can make or break a time and billing software, and now that you know a little more, let’s see how the best apps fare against them.
The best time and billing software
- Zoho Invoice
Clockify is a time and billing software that packs a punch. It lets you track a project’s progress and task billability from start to finish. Whether you’re a freelancer, a small business or an enterprise, Clockify thinks about your needs on all fronts.
|Invoice creation||No, but there are invoice app integrations|
|Pricing||Free plan + paid plans for additional features|
Toggl is a well-known time tracking software that also offers payroll management and employee activity monitoring. It is more focused on the productivity side of things, helping identify wasted time, as well as any potential for improvement.
|Billing reports||Yes, with limited options in the free plan|
|Invoice creation||No, but there are invoice app integrations|
|Pricing||Free plan + paid plans for full features|
Primarily a project management tool, Paymo is a solution to many small and medium businesses’ troubles with keeping project tracking and billing in one place. It is a good time and billing software for freelancers due to the free version, while teams will have to go for one of the paid plans.
|Invoice creation||Yes, 3 in the free plan, unlimited in paid plans|
|Pricing||Free for one user + paid plans for full features|
Bill4Time is a software ideal for attorneys and any professionals who need their invoices and expenses on a more in-depth side. Aside from having all features of regular time tracking tools, Bill4Time offers trust accounting, a client portal, case management, detailed reports, and much more.
|Pricing||Free trial, with paid plans only|
Another project management tool on the list, Nutcache was built with freelancers and small teams in mind. It has a very intuitive interface and offers an integrated invoicing feature aimed at charging on a per-project basis. You can also create project budget predictions in advance.
|Mobile version||Yes, only for time tracking|
|Pricing||Free trial, paid plans only|
Timelinx is a tool developed to help project and service management. It has not only time tracking and billability, but also team management, CRM, project management, accounting integrations, business intelligence and much more. With such a robust list of features, it’s ideal for larger businesses and enterprises.
|Mobile version||Android only|
|Pricing||No free version or trials, only paid plans|
Within its cloud software suite, Zoho offers another tool called Zoho Invoice. It is an online solution, with an intuitive toolset, emphasizing the need to simplify the invoicing process. Its customizable templates, estimates, and expense tracking prove to be a better fit for freelancers and small businesses than for larger companies.
|Task/project/client assignment||Project assignment only|
|Time tracking||Invoicing only, no timesheets or employee database|
|Pricing||Free trial, with paid plans|
Freshbooks is a software designed especially for the self-employed. It offers a wide range of options for client payments, project management, and collaboration features. It is an all-in-one tool for small businesses that need just a little more detail with their invoices (payment reminders, tax summaries, expense reports, etc.).
|Pricing||Free trial with paid plans|
These are just eight of the top time and billing tools currently available. And despite doing the same work, they’re offering a different experience altogether.
Choosing the best time and billing software will depend mostly on your business’s needs. It will depend on your company size, the number of clients, and what comes as a priority during invoicing and billing. That being said, those who are still unsure of the software that would suit them best, a good rule of thumb is to get one that is affordable, with the largest number of features. And after a while, you’ll find out what works best for your company.