When you’re an independent contractor (or managing some of your own), the last thing you want to worry about is managing hours and invoices. You want to spend the maximum time working, not fumbling through clumsy tools or manually tracking your time.
Nor should you have to spend much time searching for the best tools that will help you accomplish those goals! To make the selection process easy for you, we’re corralled the top time-tracking and invoicing tools from our community to make the selection process easy for you. Now get to work!
If you’re looking for a tool strictly for time tracking, you might consider Deputy, Calamari Clockin, Hours, Toggl or TimeStation. You can think of Deputy and Calamari more as attendance management systems, which will allow you to easily track timesheets, attendance and overtime, and both have Google Apps integrations. Deputy puts a bit more focus on task delegation, as well.
Toggl and Hours, both free apps, make real-time tracking easy by allowing you to switch easily between multiple timers. Tom Limongello, CEO of Truffle, states, “I used Hours for keeping track of projects when I was consulting. I think it’s kind of silly to track in real-time, but just checking into or out of a project is very useful on a monthly basis because you can export each project you’ve touched each day. If you look back at your calendar, Hours helps remind you of things you may have missed, and it makes it easy to itemize invoices.”
With its clean interface and streamlined UI, Harvest is another much-appreciated invoicing + time tracking tool. “I am always impressed with how far Harvest has taken a solution to a single need: tracking time,” says Brett Derricott of Built for Teams. “It’s well-designed, intuitive and makes a task that everyone hates something that they hate a little less. The con is that it’s expensive, but it’s a necessary evil, and a cost I am willing to pay.” Jeanne Hardy, CEO of Creative Business Inc. offers similar compliments, though notes that she wishes it integrated with QuickBooks Desktop.
TimeStation, another easy-to-use time tracking platform, allows workers to clock in and out by scanning their designated QR code on their phone or tablet. It’s not free like Toggl and Hours, but its fast-scan technology does get the job done quickly. According to Robert Peck, CEO of Commonwealth Joe, “TimeStation is a simple and well-made time tracking system for hourly employees. When a new person starts with our company, they get a laminated QR code card that they keep in their wallets. And then at each coffee shop, the managers have a reader on their cell phone, iPad, etc., where employees scan their QR code to clock in and clock out. We used to track hours with punch cards, which worked okay, but we had to sum up all of the hours manually.”
Once you’ve got time tracking down, you’ll also need a simple invoicing system. Here are our top picks for invoicing tools to get the job done.
Xero, used by 10% of the Stacklist community, is known for being easy to use. It’s a great low-maintenance option for early-stage startups with simple accounting needs who don’t want the learning curve of more complex tools like QuickBooks. Xero covers all basic accounting needs like online invoicing, multi-currency support and expense reporting, but some are frustrated with it as an invoicing tool because it doesn’t support recurring payments.
Bill.com is a simple, web-based service that streamlines the process of sending and paying individual expenses or invoices. While it does integrate with some popular accounting platforms, including Xero and QuickBooks, it shouldn’t be mistaken for an overarching accounting platform. Stacklisters most appreciate its simplicity and out-of-the-box functionality. Says Carolyn Lanzetta, CEO of Plum Print, “What’s great is you can also send ACH payments directly through them, and they will cut the checks for your business; you don’t have to mail out invoice payments. Everything is super-easy to do: You can email your invoices to Bill.com, they automatically get loaded on the site to get approval from the appropriate manager, and they automatically go on to the payment stage.”
The almighty QuickBooks (used by 62% of our network) is another invoicing option, but a decidedly more complicated one. As an accounting platform, it has a lot of strengths, and it’s the preferred choice of most accountants, but it wouldn’t be our top choice for startups looking for a platform that really excels at invoicing. Irene Ryabaya, co-founder of Monarq, uses QuickBooks for invoicing and general accounting needs, but acknowledges that it’s “hard to get going on your own. But accountants prefer it, and it’s easy to use once it’s setup correctly. It streamlines everything for us, and we have no complaints for what we use it for.”
In general, though, we wouldn’t recommend QuickBooks for invoicing unless you’re already using the platform—or if your accountant much prefers it to an alternative. “I love FreshBooks, but my accountant made me switch over to QuickBooks Online because it’s what she prefers to use,” says Helen Todd, CEO of Sociality Squared. “It’s nice that it’s online, so I can access it too and can create my own invoices.”
Simple platforms that come in handy for paying freelancers are Venmo and Dwolla. Zach Obront, COO at Book In A Box feels that Dwolla is the best choice for paying freelancers: “freelancer payments. Payments were just so much faster than with Zenefits. Most freelancers already have Dwolla accounts, so asking them to also set up a Zenefits account was an unnecessary pain. Dwolla also has small transaction fees, which is just one of the many benefits of Dwolla over PayPal.”
Tracking time + Invoicing
If you’re managing contractors, we’ll reiterate one of our most important bits of tool advice, which is to use tools for double-duty whenever possible. So in the case of freelancers or contractors, we’d recommend going with a tool that both tracks time and can handle invoicing. Our top choices of the best hybrid tool are FreshBooks and Harvest.
FreshBooks, used by 6% of Stacklisters, promotes itself specifically to service-oriented small businesses, including consultants and freelancers. It’s reasonably priced, well-integrated and easy to use. And while some complain that it isn’t great as a full-featured accounting platform, and isn’t optimal for e-commerce operations, it does truly exceptionally in the area of time tracking and invoicing. According to Martin Waxman, President of Martin Waxman Communications, “They’ve done a great job of integrating time tracking, invoicing, and project management, all into one tool.” Mark Brandon, Founder of QBox states, “We use FreshBooks for invoicing, and it’s awesome. It’s easy to use, powerful, inexpensive, and it’s easy to integrate your processes right to their API.”
When it comes down to it, startups and freelancers themselves should select the time tracking and invoicing platform/s that help them focus on the job at hand. Hopefully these tips will make the tool selection process just as effortless!