Take the pain out of invoicing

August 11, 2008: 9:01 AM ET

Ask FSB's tips for simplifying your payment processing.

Freddie Bates, Springfield, Ill.
Where can I find a template to help me create an invoice for payment, and can you recommend any tips on how to make processing accounts payable or invoicing for services any easier?

By Brandi Stewart, Fortune Small Business staff writer
Dear Freddie: There's plenty of help out there; it all depends how much of the work you want to delegate, and how much you can afford to farm out.
When it comes to getting help with your accounting, you get what you pay for.

If you can do it all yourself, begin by creating a format for your invoicing. Carolyn Walter, an office manager at Time Inc. (part of Time Warner, CNNMoney.com's parent company) who also self-manages her acting career, recommends starting with the invoice template in Microsoft (MSFT) Word. "It's a basic outline that can work for very small businesses across different industries," she says - and it's free.

Internet accounting services are inexpensive and easy to use. For example, Blinksale.com offers an invoicing service that allows users to create, send, and catalogue payment forms in a Web-based format. Depending on how many invoices you send a month, the service can cost between $0 and $49 a month.

The Internet is a great place to find inexpensive software specifically designed to help entrepreneurs. You can look for a program that not only whips up invoices, but also manages other bookkeeping tasks, such as automatic billing, budgeting, and expense tracking. FSB's tech expert Jonathan Blum recommends both Intuit's QuickBooks (INTU) and Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2008.

Last year, FSB reported on a company in search of a program that could track functions such as purchasing and invoicing as well as employee spending. ( See "A speedier way to file expense accounts.") The executives at Baker Communications found what they were looking for in ExpenseWatch, which offers a product that specializes in invoice management.

For business owners who don't have the time or staff to manage their company's payment processing in-house, outsourcing is an alternative.

"Delegating business processes, such as aspects of finance and accounting, including invoicing or payroll, can be a smart move for entrepreneurs looking to focus their resources on their core business," says Mindy Blodgett, a research analyst for Boston-based technology consulting firm Yankee Group. ADP (ADP)and Accenture (ACN) are examples of large outsourcers that work with small and medium size businesses.

Give us your advice: Check out recent "Ask & Answer" questions.

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