The Best Invoicing Systems for Freelancers: A Writer Tries 10 Popular Options

The Best Invoicing Systems for Freelancers: A Writer Tries 10 Popular Options

Invoicing is something every freelance writer has to do. After all, earning money is what distinguishes us from the “writing just for fun” writers — but to earn that money, we have to invoice our clients.

While you might start by creating a simple invoice in Microsoft Word, eventually you’ll likely want to transition to an invoicing system or website that automates some of the work.

But what’s the best invoicing website for freelancers? The many choices available can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re a newbie.

So we went on a mission. We signed up for trial accounts with 10 different online invoicing companies. For each one, we set a time limit of 30 minutes to explore and create mock invoices — imagining a scenario in which a decidedly unreasonable client had demanded we create and send an invoice from a specific invoicing site within that set time limit or we wouldn’t get paid.

With each site, we took note of any immediately positive features (pros) as well as anything that stuck out as challenging or frustrating (cons). We also checked out their cheapest and most expensive payment plans. Here are the results of our experiment:

1. Harvest

Pros: The thing we liked best about Harvest was the finished invoice: it was easy to read and the total amount due was written both at the bottom in large numbers and in normal-size print within the invoice itself. Even if you have one of those clients who hates to read (we’ve all had them), there’s no way they could “accidentally” skip over the amount they owe you!

We also liked that their Reports section was uncomplicated and easy to use. It has a search function similar to PayPal’s and it was simple to find exactly what I was looking for.

Cons: Our original “con” for Harvest was that their time tracker was tucked away and hard to find on their site; however, they recently changed that and it’s now easily found in the “Timesheets” section…so…no cons, really!

Free Plan: Yes. You can have one user (yourself) and send invoices to unlimited clients.

Paid Plans: $12 per month for one user and unlimited clients – which also allows you to use their apps and online extensions. Plus, you get a 10% discount if you pay for it yearly!

2. Quaderno

Pros: Quaderno was specifically made and marketed toward freelancers, and our initial impression was that they “got” us.

Quaderno was simple and easy to use. Their Reports (“Numbers”) section was colorful and easy to read. They have a nice importer tool, offer several color choices and invoice templates, and even have an affiliate program for groups of freelancers.

Cons: The main “con” with Quaderno is that it doesn’t have a free plan. We couldn’t find anything else that really stuck out as terrible. However, the “pros” we found weren’t all that remarkable either. So perhaps Quaderno’s biggest “con” is that they’re fairly unremarkable in either direction. That said, we have high hopes for this company: they’re fairly new, and their middle-of-the-road-ness could just be growing pains.

Free Plan: None. You get a seven-day free trial and then you have to get a paid plan if you wish to continue.

Paid Plans: $29 per month for one user (you) and unlimited clients; $48 per month for five users and unlimited clients.

3. Freshbooks

Pros: We were immediately blown away by Freshbooks — it’s an invoicing website that truly does everything. They had a built-in time tracker, a team management system and even a way to connect your accountant to your Freshbooks account to make tax time easier!

From the moment we signed up, we felt like they “got” what we, as freelance writers, need: There were options for “content marketer” and “copywriter” (among other writing-related career choices) as Company options on the sign-up sheet. Nice!

The new FreshBooks also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android, so self-employed professionals can run their businesses anytime, anywhere.

They also have an excellent referral/affiliate program.

Cons: Since we were basing this article on how “intuitive” the site was for new users with limited time on their hands, we have to say that the “bigness” of the site could be a bit overwhelming for new users just looking to invoice a client. (Like, it’s super cool that you can register for GoDaddy domain names from your Freshbooks account, but it might be a bit overwhelming to some people – just sayin’).

Also, the free payment plan is a bit useless for busy freelancers, making paid subscriptions a must if you choose to use Freshbooks.

Free Plan: Yes, but you can only invoice one client per month.

Paid Plans: $15 per month for one user and five clients; $25 per month for 1 user and 50 clients; or $50 per month for one user and 500 clients.

4. Simplybill

Pros: Simplybill is exactly what you’d expect it to be: Simple. There were about four tabs to choose from and within each page, everything was written out in large letters and chunked into easy-to-understand sections. Simplybill was a no-brainer when it came to creating invoices — we didn’t even need a full half-hour!

We were also amused that a site that embraced simplicity so thoroughly had a total of 37 different template designs to choose from (hidden way in the “Settings”). Fancying up my invoice was optional, but discovering said option was a fun surprise.

Cons: Simplybill doesn’t do anything but invoice clients. If you’re looking for other functions (like time tracking), this isn’t the invoicing site for you.

Simplybill also doesn’t have options for additional users or teams. So if you’re not a solo business, look elsewhere.

Free Plan: Sort of. You get one user and unlimited clients; however, you can only send out three invoices per month.

Paid Plans: $5 per month for one user and unlimited clients (but you can only send out 25 invoices per month!); $25 per month for one user and unlimited clients (and unlimited invoices).

invoicing for freelancers

5. The Invoice Machine

Pros: The Invoice Machine is another invoicing company that was made for freelancers and small businesses. Again, we found that comforting (if you’ve ever had to explain freelancing to a non-freelancer, you can imagine how edgy you’d feel if the company handling your billing didn’t understand your profession).

True to their name, The Invoice Machine ran like an efficient, well-oiled machine. It was exceptionally easy to create and send invoices using the clean, simple interface.

We also loved that we could export our invoices, estimates, templates, clients and other information as XML or CSV files.

Cons: The Invoice Machine only invoices. If you want additional features, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Their Reports were also a bit too simple. Other than “Paid” and “Unpaid,” we didn’t see any records or stats. Or, if there were any, they were too hidden away for me to find (which is a problem in its own right).

Free Plan: Yes. You get one user and unlimited clients; however, you can only send out three invoices per month.

Paid Plans: $12 per month for two users and unlimited clients (30 invoices); $48 per month for unlimited users, clients and invoices.

6. Zoho

Pros: There were two things that really stood out to us about Zoho. The first was that they’re the only invoicing site we tested, other than Freshbooks, that offers a “Snail Mail” service.

Second, Zoho had an extensive Reports page with 25 different categories! It wasn’t just organized, it was micro-organized! For someone like us — the tightly-wound physical embodiment of organization — the extra effort they put into their recordkeeping is a welcome feature.

[Editor’s note: Zoho offers U.S.-based users an option to pay a 50-cent PayPal Business Payment fee, no matter the size of your invoice.]

Cons: We were a little annoyed with the four emails that were sent out to introduce us to the service, but were thankful they stopped coming after the initial four. We were worried they were going to start spamming us; however, that wasn’t the case. If you sign up, expect those four emails right away, and then you’ll be left alone to do your business.

Free Plan: Yes. You get one user and 25 clients.

Paid Plans: $7/month for 50 Customers and 1 user, $15/month for 500 customers and 3 users, and $30/month for unlimited customers and unlimited users.

7. Paymo

Paymo’s website and services have fully embraced the future and it’s glorious. The time tracker is great! They’ve also added Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and will soon be adding resource planning

Free Plan: No. After your 15-day free trial expires, you have to pay to continue the service.

Paid Plans: $8.95/user/month and you can expand that with flat rate add-ons, or $9.95/month for unlimited invoicing, or $19.95/month for the additional Gantt charts.

8. Ronin

Pros: To be honest, there weren’t many. Ronin was probably our least favorite of all the sites we took for a test drive. The only really impressive feature we found was the number of payment integration options they offered; however, payment integration is only an option for their pricier subscription plans (a definite negative!).

Cons: Before you can create an invoice, you must create a Client and a Project. If you’re selling Products or Services, you must add those into the system before they’ll show up on your invoice. Rather than writing in each project/product/service on the invoice itself, you select items from a drop-down box. It added an extra level of tediousness and inflexibility to the process.

In addition, you have to pay to see your Reports! Sure, the “free” plan is pretty much useless (most of us have more than two clients!), but we should be able to see our records for how much those two clients have paid us.

Free Plan: Yes. You get one user and two clients.

Paid Plans: $15 per month for one user and 30 clients; $49 per month for five users and unlimited clients.

9. Pay Panther

Pros: Pay Panther’s dashboard was one of our favorites: It was uncluttered and focused on the essentials — Paid, Due and Billable — with a calendar page and a “Feeds” box to communicate with your team (if you have one). Nice and simple!

Pay Panther was also very flexible with how you could bill your clients, with options for flat rates, item rates, user rates or per-project rates.

You can sync your Pay Panther account with your Google account (handy if you use Google Calendar!), Outlook, your iPhone/iPad or Mac Calendar.

[Editor’s note: Pay Panther offers an option to pay a 50-cent PayPal Business Payment fee, no matter the size of your invoice, rather than applying the standard PayPal fees to payments received. PayPal only offers this option to U.S.-based users.]

Cons: Other than the PayPal option only being offered to U.S. users, there weren’t really any cons.

Free Plan: Yes. You get one user and three clients.

Paid Plans: $24/month for two users and 500 clients when paid annually, or $39/month for 5 users and 5,000 clients paid annually.

10. PayPal

Pros: PayPal was also easy to use, had a great search function for invoice records, and didn’t charge any additional fees to send out invoices to clients.

It makes sense to use PayPal for invoicing if all (or most) of your clients will be paying via PayPal anyway!

Cons: The “Create Invoice” section of PayPal can be difficult to find for new users. It’s tucked away under the “Request Money” tab.

PayPal also featured no additional functions (like time tracking) and although clients can pay you via credit card, that’s not immediately obvious to users (and clients) who are unfamiliar with how PayPal works.

Free Plan: Yes, in a sense. PayPal doesn’t charge any extra fees for sending out invoices; however, once your client pays, the usual PayPal fee will be taken out of your earnings.

Paid Plans: None.

Do you use an invoicing site to bill your clients? Are you using one of the 10 we reviewed? How have you enjoyed your experience?

This post originally ran in November 2014. We updated it in January 2017.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

Filed Under: Freelancing
Free Newsletter

Enjoyed that post? Subscribe for more:


  • Daryl says:

    Thanks for the help Lauren!

    I’m stunned by the fact that I’ve been using Paypal for almost two years to receive payments for my writing and I had literally no idea that it had an invoice function – I’ve been doing them all in excel!

    Have you come across any invoice systems that reduce the Paypal fees for non-US writers or is this something Paypal only allows in the US?

    • Lauren Tharp says:

      Hey, Daryl!

      Right? PayPal’s invoices are hard to find if you don’t know where to look! They’re very handy to have though. Nice and simple, too. 😉 Give it a try sometime!

      As for invoicing systems that reduce PayPal fees… I’m not really sure. There are a few above — if you check the “Editor’s Note” sections — that reduce the fees for US-based clients, but I don’t know if they have a similar option for International users (you could ask!).

      Carrie wrote a great article on here back in February called “How to Invoice International Clients Without Paying Tons of Fees” — — that *might* be useful for you.

      Alternatively, you’re always welcome to ask in the free forum on Be A Freelance Blogger. I know there have been similar questions on there in the past — and we have a LOT of International bloggers on there! — so you may be able to get your answer that way. 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

      • Ted Fuller says:

        @Daryl You can also try since it invoices with Paypal. It’s easier to find! 🙂

        • Julie Ross Myers says:

          I bill some projects on a flat rate project basis and others on an hourly rate. I also require either full payment or 50% payment upfront, depending on the size of the job. After much experimentation, I have settled on Zoho Invoicing. I can set it to automatically generate a retainer invoice when a client approves a project, and the client can pay on the spot with a credit card tied to PayPal, Stripe, or both. Cash flow is more important than ever these days, so anything I can do to automate the process helps.

      • shel Turner says:

        Hi Lauren,

        I am a client in search for a writer to do a biography. Please respond.

    • Oh wow, Daryl — I’m glad Lauren was able to share some other options!

      As far as I know, PayPal Business Payments is only available for U.S.-based accounts and clients. I’m also outside the U.S. and would love to hear of any similar programs!

      TWL Assistant Editor

      • Lauren Tharp says:

        Hey, Daryl!

        I responded to your comment this morning, but it looks like it didn’t go through… Maybe I included too many links or something. :\

        I mentioned that there’s an article here on The Write Life written by Carrie that deals with this aspect a little bit. Also, this is a topic that sometimes comes up on the Be A Freelance Blogger (free) forum.

        I hope you can find an option that works for you!!

  • Waqas Masood says:

    Hello Lauren, thanks for such amazing tips 🙂

  • Hi Lauren,
    Nice, informative post. I use Billings Pro by Market Circle – mainly because I also use their Daylight customer relationship software, and they’re integrated. But Billings can be stand alone. Very full-fledged system. The basics are pretty straightforward, but I’ve always found their Design function (for invoices etc.) not very intuitive. There’s a free (1 invoice/mo) version and a $5/month for 5 invoices/mo for those just starting out. Recommended.

    • Lauren Tharp says:

      Thanks for the tip, Michael! Hopefully some of our other readers will see your comment if they’re not satisfied with any of the ten mentioned in my article. 🙂

      Maybe someday I’ll do a “Part 2” and spend half an hour on ten MORE invoicing sites to test their intuitiveness. I’ll be sure to stop by Billings Pro if I do. 😉

  • Logan Mathis says:

    Thank you for this! I was having a little freak out on what to use 🙂 this was very helpful.

    • Lauren Tharp says:

      You’re very welcome, Logan! 🙂 A lot of freelancers find invoicing to be the “scary” part of the job. It’s nice that there are programs out there that make it a little less intimidating…

  • Ellen Gregory says:

    Hi – I fell into using Harvest because of its ability to integrate with Xero (cloud-based accounting software). i.e. I track time and generate invoices in Harvest and then push them into Xero. I’ve found it very easy to use for my simple needs. There’s a mobile app for Harvest too, although it only seems to be good for tracking time.

    I wasn’t even aware of all the alternatives, so this opened my eyes somewhat. Thanks for an informative post.

    • Lauren Tharp says:

      Hi, Ellen! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      Unless I’m mistaken, Alexis (The Write Life’s Managing Editor) also uses Harvest as her invoicing system…

      As a side note, I really enjoy Toggl for time-tracking. It doesn’t have an invoicing system, but if anyone on here’s looking for a good time-tracker app, that’d be the one I’d recommend. haha.

      I’m glad you liked the article!

    • I’m in the same boat Ellen. I find the integration between Harvest and Xero works really well for both me and my Bookkeeper.

  • Jacky Morales says:

    Wow! So informative! I wish I would’ve read this months ago when I was researching the hundreds of different options online, it’s an endless search. I started off using Paymo actually but wasn’t aware they had a new version so I ended up switching to Freshbooks for a while. It was great for invoicing but I was having to enter my clients multiple times across Freshbooks, SalesForce (my CRM), and quickbooks. I only noticed how time consuming this was when my wife saw me working and adding the same customer 3 times across different programs. I ended up finding paypanther and have been with them since about April now. Pretty happy so far as they had everything all in one so no more need to entering multiple people again. Never used the snail mail feature you mentioned but it would be cool if they offered that I guess if I have to send an invoice in the mail one day.

    • Lauren Tharp says:

      Hey, Jacky!

      I hear ya!! My original review of Paymo was “Paymo’s website reminded me of the freebie website I set up as a teen in the early 2000’s. I may have actually uttered ‘Yikes’ before diving in… Despite the multitude of great features, everything on their site felt very spread out and awkward.” Thank goodness the CEO contacted me about the BETA version! lol. It’s so much better. 😀

      Glad you found something that worked for you though. If you ever end up using the snail mail function, let us know how it goes!

  • Rohi says:

    Thanks, Lauren.
    This is very useful – especially the info about Paypal.

  • I saved this page so I can try some of these places myself later! At the moment all of my billing has been done on my own, as Daryl mentioned in a previous comment. The option to keep better track of my clients and have an easier way to do invoicing definitely appeals to me, so I really appreciate you doing all this “grunt work!”

    Thank you so much for going through all these services and describing them so thoroughly and clearly for us.

  • Wow! Thanks for this. I’m about to form an LLC and start my pay for pen side career. Since I got laid off and have some time while I’m ramping up for my next 9 to 5 gig. Inoicing is something I’ll need to think about as I get started. Excellent post and very helpful for a newbie like myself 😉

  • Amin Mekhid says:


    Thanks for sharing these useful information. Invoices is needed if we want to be paid, and most of us forget how it could be hard to create / send / follow those invoices sometimes. it’s not our job, we need to be focus elsewhere 🙂

    I use a solution called “Sale n’go” since a few weeks – . I can manage my contact list, create an invoice in less than a minute, and have a compte follow up by the system.

    I would recommend testing it.

    any questions, let me know.


  • Bob Saget says:


    That is a very thorough comparison with a lot of great points.

    I am a freelancer that does a lot of invoicing with international clients and I have been using InvoiceOcean for a while now. It lets you issue bilingual invoices and converts to all currencies. So technically you and your client don’t need to speak the same language to invoice each other properly.

  • Carol says:

    A nice list, Lauren. I’ve tried two online invoicing software mentioned on the list (i.e. Freshbooks – too many unnecessary functions & Harvest – unfriendly user interface…). Therefore, right now I am using Invoiceberry
    So far so happy. They don’t have time-tracking that some freelancers need, but I don’t need it, so it’s fine for me.

    • Lauren Tharp says:

      Thank you, Carol! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂 I hadn’t heard of Invoiceberry, but I’m happy you mentioned it. It’s always good to have more options! (And, if I’m honest, I currently only have one client I need to use a time-tracker for and I use Toggl for that. Hehe).

  • Monique says:

    Wonderful, wonderful article Lauren! Some really good points here and just what I was looking for too. What a great idea for an article! 🙂

  • Lindsay says:

    Hey Lauren!

    Thanks for the awesome FreshBooks mention. Great article!


  • james says:

    surprised nobody’s mentioned blinksale yet. used them for years – super happy! $15 a month, integrates with paypal, great reporting, customized invoices, etc. check ’em out. no – i’m not getting paid to write this. wish i were!

  • vanina says:

    Hello there! we created
    It is a 100% free, no registration needed online invoice generator for freelancers. Use our templates and save your invoices, you don’t need an account.
    We would love if you can try it and give us your feedback about it!

  • I love, love, love Freshbooks. My clients love how I can set it up so that they can see how much time I’m spending and billing on a given project. I love that I get paid faster with the PayPal link. We all love how my invoices look. And most of all I love how the smart, friendly, helpful, English-speaking Freshbooks people are always there at the end of the line and quickly solve any problem I may have with the site. Using Freshbooks has taken the terror — and time — out of tracking the money in my freelance work.

  • My husband has used PayPal to invoice for years. He’s created his own custom invoice/time tracking system, but it’s a but kludgy for me. For some time, I have used my own spreadsheet and clock, but I recently found Harvest and it works for me! I am trying to get a better handle on how I manage my own time and have been using Harvest to clock my daily tasks so that in a week I can see where I spend my time when I am not billable. It may not always work for me, but for now, I like it.

    Thank you for taking the time to research this!

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying Harvest, Mary! I think it’s all about finding a system that works for you. I love my time tracker as well — it’s so helpful to see how I’m spending my time and how I can be more productive.

      TWL Assistant Editor

    • Lauren Tharp says:

      Haha. I’m all-too-familiar with the “spreadsheet and clock” method for time-tracking, Mary! I was so happy when I was introduced to Toggl earlier this year. 🙂 I now use Toggl for my time-tracking (for the few jobs I have that need it — and for my own curiosity as to how the bulk of my time is spent) and PayPal for my invoices.

      So glad that you found a system that works best for YOU! Unless I’m mistaken, Alexis (The Write Life’s Managing Editor) also uses Harvest as her invoicing system, so you’re in good company.

  • Ava says:

    Great information Lauren,

    I didn’t even know Paypal did invoices. I also agree that PayPanther( is amazing. I use it for more than invoicing and it has made organizing all my clients much easier.

    • Lauren Tharp says:

      PayPal should really put the ol’ “Invoice” button in a more prominent spot! It’s even HARDER to find now that they revamped their site! (It’s in itty-bitty text on the left-hand sidebar now).

      And thanks for letting us know what you use in your business life! Always great to get feedback from actual users.

  • Derek Human says:


    Really nice article, we have been using Zoho Invoice for a while now and recently switched over to Cantorix ( They are still new but for us its a little cheaper and the functionality is perfect for us. They dont have timesheet billing but we dont use.

  • Andrew says:

    May I suggest another item for your list?

    Check out

    As well as all the basic invoicing functionality it has automation tools, which will invoice your clients automatically, and even send payment reminders.

  • Kevin Peter says:

    Lauren, I recently came across Replicon’s TimeBill, which is purely for billing your clients based on the time. Have you had any luck trying and reviewing this?

    • LAUREN THARP says:

      Hi, Kevin!

      I got an e-mail about reviewing Replicon from someone at the company; however, that’s not really up to me. I’m just a writer. This article was assigned to me by the editor. If they ever want to do a “Part 2” of this experiment, they’ll probably ask me — or another writer — to look into it.

      In the meantime, thanks for reading the article! 🙂

  • Julie Myers says:

    I used Totals plus PayPal. It was a good solution with nice looking invoices. I have been investigating alternatives that support retainer invoicing. So far, Harvest is really too disjointed but the invoices are attractive. Zoho is also a little clunky. Freshbooks is seamless but expensive. Those are the only ones I know of that handle retainers + invoicing + some project management integration.

  • RecurVoice says:

    Great list. You will be able to add soon as well.

  • Paula says:

    Hey lauren,

    Try it’s 100% free and unlimited invoicing and clients.

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.