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 actually invoice our clients.
While you might start by learning how to make an invoice in Microsoft Word, eventually you’ll want to transition to an invoicing software or invoice generator that automates some of the work.
But what’s the best invoice maker for freelancers? Between Freshbooks, ZoHo, Bonsai, Wave and more… there are so many choices available, it can be intimidating.
Invoicing software options for freelance writers
We went on a mission to find some good options for you, including several free invoice maker tools. Our goal here is to take the hassle out of choosing an invoice generator, so you can get on with getting paid.
To accomplish this, we signed up for trial accounts with 10 different online invoicing companies.
For each invoice maker, we set a time limit of 30 minutes to explore and create mock invoices. We used that time to note 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 — and noted which software offered a free option — and we’re eager to share the results of our experiment.
Here are some recommended invoicing software tools.
Pros: Properly pronounced “bone-sigh,” this invoicing system is as well-manicured as the miniature trees it’s named for. We also love that “writing” is one of the top three options when the software asks “what do you do?” as part of setup.
With Bonsai (also known as Hello Bonsai because of its URL), you can quickly create one-time, recurring, and recurring auto-payment invoices, all of which allow you to easily add in specifics like discounts, taxes, peripheral expenses, and even preferred payment method.
Bonsai also offers time tracking, expenses, and integrates a proposal and contract system — which we especially love for freelance writers, who all too often work without any formal agreements made in writing. You can easily have your client e-sign a contract or approve a proposed estimate before you start working, which can provide some much-needed stability to your freelance career.
Cons: Bonsai is clean-looking and easy to use, but you do have to pay for the privilege. However, plans start at a reasonable $16 per month and include unlimited projects, and there’s even a neat referral system that gets you a free month when you successfully recruit a friend.
Free Plan: Not really… though they do have a cool referral program, as mentioned above.
Paid Plans: $16 per month for the majority of the software’s capabilities, including unlimited projects, customizable branding, advanced reporting and chat support. You can upgrade to the $24 per month plan for white labeling, sub-contracting, and to add additional users, which will also require an additional $9 per person. (Keep in mind that these rates are only available if you pay on an annual basis!)
Best For: Freelancers who may be considering adding employees or colleagues to their team, and who want to be able to send professional proposals and contracts to solidify their relationships with their clients.
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 an invoice app for mobile, both 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.
Also, there’s no longer a free option; you’ll need to upgrade to a paid monthly plan to use the service after the initial 30-day free trial. That said, even when it existed, the free plan was pretty useless, only allowing you to invoice one client per month.
Free Plan: None, though you can check out the service with a 30-day free trial.
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.
Best For: Just about any freelancer, to be honest! Freshbooks is popular in the industry for a reason.
Our full review: The Beginner’s Guide to Freshbooks: How to Create an Invoice
Pros: Like Bonsai, Zoho is one of the only invoicing software tools we tested that integrates a digital proposal option. Called “estimates,” these documents automatically roll over into invoices if your client accepts your terms. They also allow you to send transactions by “snail mail,” though you have to purchase additional credits to do so.
What’s more, Zoho had an extensive Reports page with more than 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 record-keeping is a welcome feature.
Cons: While Zoho’s invoicing software is pretty easy to navigate, be forewarned that if you go to the main Zoho page, you might be overwhelmed. The company also offers accounting services, IT management, and CRM software, many of which may be beyond the scope of your needs as a freelance writer.
Free Plan: Yes. You get one user and you can invoice up to five clients.
Paid Plans: $9 per month allows you to invoice up to 50 clients; $19 per month allows you to invoice up to 500 and also unlocks some additional features (and can be accessed by up to 3 users); $29 per month allows unlimited clients, up to 10 users, and even a custom domain through the system.
Best For: Because Zoho also offers a wide range of other business organizational tools, we like this option for freelancers who may expand their company in the future.
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 the variety of viewpoints Harvest gives you of your work. You can set up a variety of projects and access reports that show you exactly how much of your valuable time you’re using on different tasks and clients — which is key for maximizing your rates.
Cons: Our original “con” for Harvest was that their time tracker was tucked away and hard to find on their site; however, they’ve since reconfigured the site and “Time” is now the very first tab at the top… 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.
Best For: Writers who regularly invoice the same client with similar projects (as the software easily allows you to set up reusable templates), as well as those who really want to key into where their time is going.
Pros: Quaderno was specifically made and marketed toward freelancers, and our initial impression was that they “got” us.
And by “got” us, we mean they understand one of the biggest freelancer struggle: taxes.
Quaderno’s whole schtick these days is that they make figuring out your taxes a whole lot easier, automatically calculating and adding your sales tax to your invoices (if you desire). When it comes time to file your return, you can access all the data in easy-to-read reports. And the invoices themselves are clean and minimal: they get the job done in an eminently readable fashion.
Cons: The main “con” with Quaderno is that it doesn’t have a free plan — and the paid plans they do have are pretty pricey (see below). Also, all that functionality comes with a bit of a learning curve, and you’ll need to click around a bit to get a hang of the software.
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: Plans start at the $49-per-month “startup” tier, which gets you up to 250 transactions and 2,500 Tax API calls. While that level would cover a lot of freelancers, if you need more, you’ll pay for it: upper tiers are $99, $149, and $249 per month.
Best For: Quaderno is specifically set up to help you handle both domestic and international clients, so if you’re a remote nomad or your business is worldwide, this might be a great option.
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. While simplicity can be appealing, if you’re looking for other functions (like time tracking), this isn’t the invoicing site for you. Also, the site only accepts payment for subscriptions via PayPal, so if you don’t have a PayPal account, that’s an additional hassle.
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!); $15 gets you 100 invoices, and for unlimited.
Best For: Solo freelancers looking for an uber-simplistic invoice generator.
Pros: Whether you’re a solo freelancer or someone who regularly works as part of a team, Paymo is a great way to track your projects from start to finish, even allowing you to separate out sub-tasks in the implementation, planning, and launch phases. The invoices themselves are easy to make and clean-looking, and the software offers all the other extras that are quickly becoming industry standard: time tracking, expense reports, etc.
But despite the extensiveness of functionality, Paymo still maintains a startup feel — in the good way. For example, the introductory email you get allows you to send a direct reply to the CEO, who even asks you outright to do so.
Cons: We love a lot about the way Paymo is set up on the backend, but the multiplicity of tasks and subtasks can make time reports look cluttered. (That said, you’ll get even more granular data on where your days are going, which could be super useful.)
Furthermore, with only three invoices allowed at the free level, you pretty much have to upgrade to a paid plan to use this system seriously.
Free Plan: While there is a free option, it only allows you to send three invoices per month.
Paid Plans: $9.95/user/month gets you unlimited invoicing capacity and extended functionality; if you work on a larger team, upgrading to $15.95/user/month unlocks Gannt charts, resource scheduling, onboarding, training, and more.
Best For: With its focus on multi-user management, Paymo is our pick for freelancers who are solidly team players.
Pros: If you’re looking for an all-inclusive invoicing platform that also integrates functionality like payment receipts, recurring invoices, expense tracking, and even the ability to run payroll, Wave invoicing has you covered. Honestly, it’s harder to find something you can’t do with this software… but even just on the invoicing front, it’s uber-detail oriented. I mean, you can use an actual hex color code to nail down your exact invoice accent color.
Better yet, this system is honest-to-goodness free at the basic level: you’ll get unlimited invoicing, top-of-the-line accounting software, and receipt scanning for $0 per month, though invoices paid directly through the system are subject to a 2.9%+$0.30 fee (which is pretty standard).
Cons: As with a few of the other invoicing systems we’ve reviewed here, the increased functionality is a bit of a missed blessing. There’s a lot to see, and even with its helpful launchpad and step-by-step guide system, you’re going to have to click around a bunch before you feel like you’re getting the full functionality.
Free Plan: Yup — and it’s actually fully functional. Score.
Paid Plans: You’ll pay an invoicing fee of 2.9%+$0.30 per transaction, as well as ACH transfer fees starting at 1%. If you need to use the program to run payroll, you’ll upgrade to a monthly plan starting at a $20 base fee and moving up depending on what features you need to implement.
Best For: This system is our pick for freelancers who’ve been DIY-ing their accounting and want a free way to take their bookkeeping to the next level.
Pros: Yet another powerful platform offering multiple functionalities, including digital estimates, expense tracking, and the ability to hyper-customize your company’s branding and appearance. Invoicely really stands out to us because it’s one of the few systems we’ve encountered that offers unlimited invoicing for free (though some of the other functionality may be limited).
At upgraded levels, Invoicely offers an easy way to track mileage, so if you’re a freelance writer who frequently travels for work — such as, to interviews or reporting locations — it’s nice to have an easy way to calculate that deduction.
Cons: Although the free level does offer unlimited invoicing, customization abilities are limited and you’ll have to accept payments through PayPal… in which case, it might be more parsimonious to keep everything on PayPal. (See: list item #10!)
Free Plan: Yes. Win.
Paid Plans: Plans start at $9 per month for up to two team members and full access to Invoicely’s functions, and move up from there based on the number of users who need access.
Pros: PayPal is an OG invoice maker for good reason: it’s easy to use, has a great search function for invoice records, and doesn’t come at any additional cost beyond the 2.9%+$0.30 fee assessed per transaction.
These days, PayPal has stepped up its game with built-in estimates, recurring invoices, reports offering sales insights and more.
It makes sense to use PayPal for invoicing if all (or most) of your clients will be paying via PayPal anyway!
Cons: PayPal is really all about the money, and doesn’t offer some of the upgraded business-organizational features the other platforms do, like time tracking. And the home page can be a little inscrutable for new users; it takes a while to figure out where all the functions you need access to live.
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: See above. Same percentage applies.
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?
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The original version of this story was written by Lauren Spear (née Tharp). We updated the post so it’s more useful for our readers.
Photo via Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock