As you all may know, I’ve had to ditch activeCollab, which was a great project management system that even allowed me to generate PDF invoices from within the system. But eventually, it quit running on my hosting environment and the cost became prohibitive to upgrade. Since that time, I’ve been on the hunt for a new project management system, which I have found. And as wonderful as it is, I cannot use it to create invoices. The best I can do is upload PDFs (or other document formats) to my client area under the Invoices tab of each project. This certainly beats what I’ve been doing before, which is simply creating an invoice in Microsoft Excel and converting it to PDF, uploading it to the PM system and notifying the client. I still wanted a way to streamline the process and also to track income a bit better come tax time.
So through a Codester email, I found an invoicing system that was being featured and I had to check it out. It’s called mManager and it pretty much does exactly what I need for it to do: It allows me to input my various fee structures, service credit schemes, design packages and flat rates and use those to create a bill for the client. It also (I LOVE this part) has the ability to import data from a CSV file. Because Rukovoditel has that same capability, I was able to export my client list from my PM system and drop it right into mManager. How cool is that? So nearly instantly, I had migrated all my client contact information into my new invoicing system.
You can import all kinds of data from a CSV file into mManager and the developer has given clear instructions on how to do this, right down to providing an example spreadsheet so you cannot go wrong here. So many other invoicing systems I’ve tried do not have the ability to import data from anywhere; you have to keyboard it yourself. This is a huge advantage when choosing a new invoicing system, IMHO.
The next step was to design (brand) my invoice and quote forms. This is done fairly easily using templates. You can use the default template or you can choose any other template and use it or copy it and make it your own. The instructions for customizing the templates are found within the program itself. Through trial and error, you will end up with a perfectly branded invoice and quote. Here is a screen shot of my custom invoice, using our signature Pixelita blue (#00b5e8) and which includes payment instructions at the bottom (under the “Terms” section). I renamed Terms to Payment Instructions for clarity. And here is where I put specific payment information that the client might need to know. You’ll find that section under System Settings > Invoices and Quotes > Invoices Emails Templates. For Quotes, it’s under System Settings > Invoices and Quotes > Quotes Emails Templates
Now to get busy adding items and services. Here is where you need to carefully consider how you will present your items and services because how they are set up at the outset will determine what ultimately appears on your client invoices and quotes. For us, we have several design and site maintenance packages so we put those under Services, naturally. That makes sense. They will usually be one-off purchases in any event.
But our standard rates for various services (e.g., web development, graphic deign, SEO/SEM), we put under Items, and set the hourly rate for each. This way, we can easily distinguish these items from broader services (packages). Also included under Items are any special rates that our timekeepers have (special relationships set up for specific clients usually).
There seems to be more information extracted from Items and Services when using the Quote form, as you can see. Still, it does not drop the entire description into the form anywhere. You’ll just have to copy and paste that into the Notes section unless the developer decides to expand on this further, and he might. But note that at least with regard to Services, the primary item description (in this case, “Voxel Quarterly WP Maintenance”) does appear in the line-item listing. The expanded description (which goes in to detail about what services are provided) does not.
As with the Invoice template, there’s a place here for Terms and Conditions. Here is where I put my standard language that the quote is good for only xx number of days and that it’s all proprietary and no copying allowed, yada, yada, yada.
Also, the Quote form is a bit more interactive because once you send it to the client, they can accept it as is or decline it. And what’s more, if they accept the quote, an invoice is automatically generated for you, so that’s one less task a busy developer has to follow up on!
As with the Invoice template, there’s even a place for you to create custom messages (configured under System Settings > Invoices & Quotes > Invoices Emails Templates and under System Settings > Invoices & Quotes > Quotes Emails Templates), where you can add custom messages to your Invoice and Quote emails so that you can provide as much information to help the client on their way.
If you don’t already have a project management system in place, you can go ahead and take full advantage of mManager’s ability to send invoices and quotes directly to the client via email. They have the option to pay online via PayPal or any number of other online payment methods, such as Stripe, and also by bank or wire transfer, and check. You can give discounts, apply credits, and do all manner of account manipulation from within the program. And the program creates a downloadable PDF which — if using the mManager system — will password-protect the PDF so that only the intended client can open it. But for me, just the fact that it takes care of invoice creation (I am terrible at math!), and creates a PDF for me that I can ultimately upload to my project management system, is all that I need for the foreseeable future.
As a side note, I find it alarming that several of the “big boy” invoicing systems, such as Freshbooks, for example, do not have the ability to accept Paypal. If you are in an online industry such as web development, it’s practically understood that you and your clients would want a way to continue the online experience, right through to paying for work and services! Come on, Freshbooks! It’s 2018!
Joni Mueller has been designing web sites for hire since 2003, when she first blew up her web host’s server by insisting on running Greymatter. Since then, Joni has designed for Blogger and Movable Type, TextPattern, WordPress and CMS Made Simple. She lives with her cat and shoe collection in a bucolic old section of Houston called Idylwood. For some strange reason, Joni likes to refer to herself in the third person. When she’s not working on web design, she’s ordering lawyers around. And blogging about it. Or both.