It’s amazing to me that something as simple as invoicing is so time-consuming. What should take just a couple clicks here and there invariably takes four, five, sometimes six or more just to add a payee or edit working hours. I’ve resorted to creating every invoice of mine in Apple’s Pages app, which allows me to create invoices based off my standard template.
But there’s far more sophisticated software out there for invoicing and expenses that could help me keep track of my work much more easily, and I’m aware of that fact. Recently, I took Nutcache — a free web app for invoices and expenses — out for a spin to see if it would suit my needs. Read on for my detailed thoughts about the services.
Keep It Simple
Nutcache’s pitch is clear: “It’s simple and free!” Simplicity really catches my eye. I want a system I can get in and out of as quickly as possible, without scratching my head. I make a lot of demands from invoice software, and I know I shouldn’t ask for much when it’s free, but I will anyway. Because that pitch makes me expect it.
As far as simplicity goes, the layout of the website is pretty obvious. The design is navigated via the header tab, which is split up into Sales, Expenses, Time Tracking, Reports, Contacts and Maintenance. Each one of these tabs has separate pages to make things as easy as possible to visualize for users. I actually like the setup. For the most part, I was able to get around quickly.
There are some things I wasn’t fond of from the get-go, though. There’s an inconsistency in language. For example, my invoices are all about billable services. On Nutcache, my services rendered are considered Sales when I’m creating an invoice, but they’re considered Services when I’m viewing Reports. It’s inconsistent, so I find it confusing.
But for the most part, the interface is nice enough to use. Nobody’s going to give it Design Award of the Year or anything like that, but some people will appreciate its no-frills presentation.
Taking Care of Business
When it comes to actually managing your invoices, I don’t think NutCache does too poorly of a job. But everybody’s needs are different. I encourage you, after you’re done reading this article, to give the website a shot for yourself because I guarantee you no two people have the same invoicing needs.
For me, one of the things I like about the service is that it quickly allows me to check and see if I’ve been paid yet. I like that I can email the invoices to my clients directly from my website (unless, heaven forbid, they prefer a fax, in which case I can still print an invoice — or save it as a PDF and send it with HelloFax).
I also love that they provide a breakdown of the things you can do using their service, and sort them into different categories: “invoice clients,” “track time and bill clients” and “track project expenses.” This makes it really easy to know exactly where to go for your needs.
Because I really only need to invoice my own clients, I started to create a client and add my services. This is where I start to get into some trouble with the website, because there isn’t quite enough flexibility.
My Problems With It
Most of what I do involves payment by project, and the projects always change. I don’t bill by the hour, usually. What this means is that I should be filling out the New Product form every time I want to add an item to my invoices, but every product is different.
The intent of the New Product form is to allow you an easy way to select an item from your list, but I’m not just writing something as generic as “an article.” I like to have specific information about each article on my invoices, to make things easier for my clients to pay and more to do taxes with at the end of the year. So the New Product list makes things redundant for me.
Fixing this would be easy enough. I would prefer a very easy way for me to select a type of product or service I’m providing, add additional details to make each invoiced item unique and then track reports on how many of which I’m sending off to my clients. That way I can count how many feature magazine articles are sent off, how many app reviews I’ve written or even how many press kits I handle.
The Problem With Keeping It Simple
There are some very nifty features here. Time management is nice, and the reports are great. Little things like that are why I suggest you take a look at Nutcache yourself, because every situation is unique.
But I think there’s a huge problem with a simple solution like this: It doesn’t account for the complications a single user may present. The bottom line is that if you want to gather more users than the few who fit into your app’s criteria, you have to develop apps that can cater to a lot of people.
The easiest way to make sure as many people as possible can use your invoicing software? Create a four-columned table. The first one is blank for a product or service description, and the user can fill this in according to their needs. The second column is for Hours or Quantity, which is selectable per project. And the third column would be price per hour or per unit. The fourth column is the total. That way, if I sell thirty boxes of Cheerios at six dollars a piece, I can punch that information in and instantly see that it’s worth $180. If I do one project and charge $300 for it, I can easily punch that in too. And it takes merely seconds to do.
Keyword searches and other things like that could be used for Reports, and you’d end up having a much more user-independent system. As it is right now, expecting the user’s needs to fit Nutcache’s specifications is shortsighted.
I’m not interested in changing the way I do invoices because I’ve never had a complaint about the way I do invoices. For me, what I have is sufficient, and because Nutcache doesn’t help me get it done faster, there isn’t a use for it in my workflow.
That being said, I recognize that my workflow is very particular. Other people might have different needs, and that’s why I recommend taking a quick look at Nutcache yourself before you make any decisions. It’s free to set it up, and if it’s what you need to run your business, it’s very simple. But it’s not for everybody.