‘Your Cheque is in the Cloud’: Taking Accounting Online
Have you considered moving your business’ billing procedures to the cloud? You wouldn’t be alone; IDC researchers peg annual growth rate of the global cloud billing market at about 63 per cent. Besides the time, energy and paper you’ll save after moving to cloud invoices, you’ll probably save money too. American cloud-based billing provider Bill.com estimates that up to $35 billion a year is spent on printing and postage for paper invoices in the U.S.
If you’re still mulling over whether to migrate your business to cloud-based billing or not, I’ve laid out some of the main pros and cons of going paperless, plus some of the more popular cloud-based billing systems out there today.
Ease of use: Cloud systems give smaller businesses a simpler way to manage and centralize many billing functions such as invoicing their customers, tracking billable time (particularly helpful for freelancers), accepting online payments, issuing receipts, and automating invoices for subscription-based clients. And unlike traditional billing software, you don’t have to keep downloading every upgrade to the system since the latest version is always current in the cloud.
Automation: Most cloud billing systems can automatically generate client reminders or calculate penalty fees for late or missed payments.
They’re client-friendly: Some cloud billing systems have portals where your customers can log in to view their invoices, see their total balance owing, make payments and update their contact information. And most can allow your clients to pay invoices via various online payment providers like PayPal in the currency of their choice.
Scalability: Cloud services can scale up or down as your business grows so you don’t need to worry constantly about adjusting your own server and storage capacity (IT support and backup are also taken off your plate too).
Mobility: Many of the major cloud billing systems have introduced mobile apps so you can invoice customers while on the road – and they can pay you from anywhere.
Metrics: You can often track analytics data like where (and specifically who) your revenue comes from, seasonal buying patterns, the dollar value of each customer, and exactly what they purchase so you can target them with specific products or services.
Customization: Many cloud billing systems allow you to customize the look of your cloud invoices with your own logo or templates, and some providers even offer enhanced features to suit your needs.
Lack of cloud control: If a cloud-based billing system goes down, so does your business’ entire invoicing system. If its security is breached, your firm’s billing data could be too. Before you make a purchasing decision, look up any provider’s track record for past outages or breaches. Check if they have SSL encryption, use a PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant method for storing sensitive credit card data, and adhere to SSAE 16 (the auditing standard for financial operations in the U.S.).
Cloud support quitting time: Just because you can use a cloud-based billing system 24/7 doesn’t mean you’ll get 24/7 IT or customer service support from the provider, so be sure to check support hours before making a decision.
Automated or autopilot?: It’s easy for contact with customers to become solely virtual now that the cloud allows us to process huge transaction volumes and generate complex analytics figures. Make sure you’re still available for client compliments, complaints and queries by phone.
Notable companies providing cloud-based billing systems
The following cloud-based billing systems are worth a look:
– WORKetc allows you to manage every aspect of your business, from organizing contacts and gathering leads to collaborating on projects and sending out invoices.
– FreeAgent is an intuitive cloud-based accounting platform that uses plain language (while minimizing the use of accounting jargon) and visual charts to clearly show you how much your business is making and spending.
– Yendo offers an integrated cloud-based CRM and accounting platform for small businesses that allows you to manage your business online anywhere, anytime.
– InvoiceExpress provides users with many visual displays and powerful search capabilities to filter items and invoices.
The bottom line
There are many options in the marketplace, each with their own pros and cons. Before switching to cloud-based billing, be sure to carefully evaluate which option best fits your business.