A simple invoice software is all you need for your invoices. If it's more elaborate, it can support you in steering and managing your work. What solutions are available and which should you choose?
An invoice software comes in the form of a platform where you can edit and manage invoices, expenses and quotes. The aim: to have a real-time view of past, current and future receipts and disbursements (quotes for prospective customers, order form, delivery form, sales revenues...)
Invoices have some legal obligations to respect which are dictated by the commercial code or the industry. The terms can change, like with catering where the VAT increased from 7 to 10% in 2014 in France. A software solution for quotes and invoicing can serve as a watchdog for this: it is a sure way to issue invoices which are valid and up-to-date with current regulations.
Invoicing software does much more than Excel. By importing your bank flows, it connects them to the corresponding invoices, turning them into accounting entries. The process is semi-automatic. Your certified accountant, management center or you as a businessperson, no longer need to manually enter and connect the entries. Once generated, they are inserted directly into the statement. The accounting is fluid and synchronous with or without an accounting software.
Some 'free' invoicing software are actually paid services with a free version. This tends to be downgraded and unsatisfactory.
The free version of AlauxSoft for example doesn't offer a receipt or disbursements tracking, even though this is a basic function. Others won't be able to connect with your bank. You then have to manually import your bank flows in CSV format. Still others, like Go-Facture, don't allow you to send your invoices via email from your software to your customer folder. You have to export the invoice and send it from your email account as an attachment.
Some software limit the number of invoices on their free version. On Go-Facture for example this limit is fourteen invoices per month. This might be enough as a free software for the self-employed at the beginning, but the day when you surpass this number, you need to switch to the paying version. With other software, it's the number of possible users which is limited. With NCH Software, the maximum is five.
Let's say that a bug crops up, that you need an invoicing template or that you need a clarification: the ability to contact support is crucial. Whether it's by email, chat or phone, the qualified individual will be able to solve the problem. But free versions obviously don't offer support.
Some free versions are available for download. They are intended to be installed at your work post. Unlike an online invoicing software, you won't be able to access it on the move from another device, nor complete invoices online. In the case of a legal change, it's up to you to take care of updating. You also have to consciously conduct regular backups of your accounts.
Some publishers play with words. They claim the software is free when it's actually just a free trial period. That's the case with Faktum Facture. It banks on the hope that once using that tool, you won't want to change. Once you have set up the administration of the customer contacts and paired the software with your bank account, it is indeed a hindrance.
It's not unusual that free versions leave something to be desired. If we think about that business model, totally free software would imply that they are produced on a totally voluntary basis. This would inevitably reduce service and product quality - in regards to ergonomics, reliability and functions. Unless it's a non-profit organization, the publisher must generate profit. If they offer a free solution, we have to ask ourselves about where they profit. Nowadays, data is a sought-after commodity, and some certainly make a profit by reselling the information you give for commercial purposes.
Amongst paid software:
Regarding the size of your organization (self-employment, micro-company, small and medium sized enterprizes), there are different solutions. Among them:
Just like with a commercial management software, all current activity is managed by the solution to save time and simplify the management of commercial documents (quotes, invoices).
Obtaining a dedicated invoicing solution is absolutely necessary. While some call themselves free, they often hide some invonveniences. If you have to choose your own, look closely at your expectations in terms of functions, ease of configuration and choose one which is satisfying, upgradeable and customizable in the long run.