I am a freelance translator who has found himself losing a substantial amount of time to billing. My current method is to use Excel templates, which is very inefficient because I still have to tab around and basically create each one from scratch.

I'm looking for a solution that perhaps lets me create a profile for each company I do work for and presents a pre-made form which only requires a couple seconds to input all the relevant information. I work per word, not per hour, so I don't believe time management software will work.

  • What software exists that will help me automate the process more and increase my working hours? Why is this a good choice?
  • What should I look for when evaluating such software and why?
  • Where are you based?
    – levelnis
    May 5, 2014 at 9:58
  • US...no VAT for me
    – emaltman
    May 5, 2014 at 10:55

5 Answers 5


I just avoid invoicing completly by outsourcing it to oDesk. The time I spend invoicing clients is literally the time it takes to hit Ctrl + Alt + Page Up and then Ctrl + Alt + Page Down when I'm done.

Yes, that costs me 10% (or I have to charge 10% more, if you want to look at it that way), but I'm fine with that for a few reasons. First, as you've realized, at its worse invoicing is painful and time-consuming. And even if you setup an efficient automated system yourself, it's still yet another thing on your to-do list.

I don't want to spend my time doing something I'm not actually paid to do. Invoicing is not something that relates at all to what I do. I'm a contract software developer, invoicing is not software development, and I'm very happy to avoid that context switch.

But perhaps the most value I get form oDesk - and this is outside the context of the question, but I'll add it as it's a common complaint when invoicing clients - is that I'm guaranteed to be paid. As long as I use their software client to track the time, oDesk guarantees the payment.

So there's no need for me to match checks with invoices, and remind clients when a payment has not been sent.*

On top of all that, the money is direct deposited to my account every week.

Not sure it could get more simple than two sets of keystrokes, and direct deposit every week.

*Quick note on the obvious response I always get when making this point: Yes, if that were a frequent issue, I'm really bad a picking clients. But it's not just bad clients that miss an invoice, there are a few clients I invoice outside oDesk and from time to time an invoice will get lost / forgotten amidst all the other invoices they get. For my oDesk clients I never have to worry about that, and I don't have to spend any time checking it.

  • This is a great answer to this question and is a great example of what we're looking for on questions like this. As an aside, a good analogy for what you're talking about is "walking over dollars to pick up pennies". Sometimes we avoid paying for something even when the net result is in our favor.
    – jmort253
    May 7, 2014 at 5:48

If you want a simple solution then you can look for a open source invoicing package at github, sourceforge or others, or you can set it up on an MS Access database if you need a little degree of customization.

If you need a more professional solution then look for an ERP package like Odoo (formerly OpenERP), which includes CRM, project management, sales and a lot of other features. Or, buy a commercial software solution. Either of these will be more challenging to set up and customize.

Any of these choices are better for increasing your productivity than excel sheets.

As for managing by unit of work, it will depend on the level of control that you need. Maybe a good choice is the rate of work - words per hour, words per day - so that you can measure your productivity better.


I prefer FreshBooks for automating the billing process.

  • Create a profile for each of your clients, and a project for each of them.
  • Use their time tracker, and track time as you work.
  • Go to invoices > create invoices, and select the client
  • A pop-up that says "this client has unbilled time. add all items" will appear, click it. You're done!
  • click 'Send by email', or 'Send by snail mail' if you're old fashioned.
  • I like the sound of that, will investigate tonight. Am I able to save them to desktop too? Have to be able to upload them on various portals.
    – emaltman
    May 6, 2014 at 18:25
  • just checked. Yes, there is a 'download as PDF' option.
    – GSto
    May 6, 2014 at 19:32
  • After fiddling around with it (mostly figuring out how to remove the payment stub) I think it's exactly what I needed...thanks!
    – emaltman
    May 7, 2014 at 1:59
  • They also have automated reminders, so you don't have to write those awkward "Please pay me" emails. And the latest thing is the ability to ask for feedback after someone pays an invoice. Great way to get testimonials! May 7, 2014 at 16:01
  • @emaltman You can do line items on each invoice, each with a description and cost. When you have received payment, you can enter payment and then archive the invoice. FreshBooks really beats doing it manually, as I used to. Jun 20, 2014 at 2:32

What software exists that will help me automate the process more and increase my working hours?

I would recommend Xero: http://www.xero.com/us/ It's cloud based, and makes invoicing, client tracking, and recurring billing very easy.

Why is this a good choice?

It cloud based. They have a tone of integrations: http://www.xero.com/us/add-ons/ It syncs with bank accounts which allows you to reconcile expenses and revenue.

What should I look for when evaluating such software and why?

Simple software gets used more. Beware of selecting software that only meets part of your needs. Avoid selecting software just because the price is right.

  • To those who have offered suggestuons, do any of them offer the ability to add custom fields to the premade templates? I have a client who requires things like the PO number and PO date as well.
    – emaltman
    May 7, 2014 at 14:35
  • @emaltman, yes for Xero. You can also attach files to individual invoice if you wanted to include a digital copy of the PO. May 7, 2014 at 15:13

Try http://billable.me. Very, very simple.

You could also do quickbooks or freshbooks but in my opinion they're overpriced. If you use an online service, a good feature to have is one that can show when (or if) your client has viewed the invoice.

I've seen this one too (http://www.getharvest.com/) but have no experience with it.

Invoicing should be a HAPPY event. You're printing money!

  • Hi CodeNoire, can you please edit your answer to expand, explaining why this would be the ideal fit for the OP? Right now, it doesn't really tell me what it can do better than anything else listed here, so it seems to be very low in quality. Thanks
    – Canadian Luke
    May 12, 2014 at 22:41

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