PayPal, the original standard for online financial transactions, is still an important part of most of our lives. If you do any work over the internet, from working on a contract for a remote company to designing a website for someone in your own town, chances are you’ll need to send and receive money using PayPal. For the most part, it works great, and even if its website leaves much to be desired, it gets its job done, everyone gets paid, and life goes on.
But then, today I discovered a reason you might want to use PayPal’s website a bit more than for just moving your money around. PayPal’s annoying pre-load ad screen showed me an ad today for PayPal Invoices, a free tool for creating invoices right inside PayPal. Even though I’d already used PayPal for years, I had no idea you could create invoices right inside it. Since you’ll likely need a PayPal account to accept online invoice payments anyhow, it just might be the perfect solution if you’ve been looking for a free online invoice tool.
Simple invoices for any bill, for free
Making a new invoice in PayPal is quite easy. If you simply need to request money from someone, say to get your college kid to pay back the $200 you loaned them, you could just create a Request Money message in PayPal where you’ll enter a quick message and the amount owed, and it’ll be zipped off to their email inbox. But that’s not enough for most professional invoicing needs. PayPal also has a full-featured basic invoicing tool for creating full invoices and sending them to your clients. Best of all, your clients can then pay the invoices you created in PayPal with their own PayPal account, or just directly pay with any standard credit card.
To create an invoice in PayPal, just login to your standard PayPal account and click the Request Money tab. Here, you’ll see a large Create an Invoice button right at the top, with a list of all invoices you’ve created before underneath.
Unlike most invoicing apps, there’s nothing else you’ll need to do to get started making invoices. No companies to set up, or payment info to fill in. PayPal sends you straight to the invoice creator app, where your contact info will already be pre-filled from your PayPal account. You can add your own logo, set your own invoice number that will automatically iterate with every new invoice you create. You can also set a due date and payment terms, using standard options such as Due on receipt or Net 10.
On down, you can enter your products and services, complete with a name, description, price, and tax. You can also save items to quickly reuse them later in future invoices, or just enter them without saving them for later if you want. The great thing is, you can just quickly create an invoice without saving client and item info first, which is a great advantage over more professional invoicing tools if you really just want to create your invoice fast.
Down at the bottom of your form, you can enter terms and conditions for your invoice, as well as a personalized note for the invoice recipient. You can also enter a private memo at the bottom for your own records, which will be saved in your PayPal account but won’t be visible to your invoice recipient.
Once you’re finished, you can immediately send your invoice to your client’s email address, preview it, save it to finish later, or save it as a template so you can quickly create another similar invoice without having to reenter the info.
Your finished invoice, PayPal style
Previewing your invoice lets you see it in its full printed view, just like it’ll look when your client opens it. While PayPal’s invoices aren’t fancy, they do look professional and would definitely work for most purposes. If your client would rather receive a paper invoice, or if you’ll need to submit a PDF invoice through their own system instead of sending it by email, then you can just click the Print button in the invoice preview mode. There, you could print out the invoice, or save it as a PDF using OS X’s built-in PDF print options, or with a PDF printer in Windows.
If you do send the invoice on via email from PayPal, your client will get a standard PayPal email that looks much like the email you get when you receive money via PayPal. This time, the email will feature your logo from your invoice in the top left, and will include the amount of the invoice as well as any note you added to the invoice. Your customers can see the full invoice by clicking the Pay Invoice button at the bottom of the message. In the browser, they can then pay their bill with their own PayPal account, or they can just enter their credit card info and pay the invoice directly without having to have a PayPal account. This way, it should work for most of your billing needs.
For your offline clients or businesses that would rather pay via cheque or cash, you can give them a PDF or printed invoice as mentioned above. Once they’ve paid their bill, you can then mark the invoice as paid in your account, entering their payment method, amount paid, and the date the transaction was completed. You can then keep up with all of your invoices and the money you’ve made right in PayPal, even when the payment didn’t go through PayPal. While their web interface for browsing old transactions isn’t the best, much like their standard transaction view in PayPal, you can at least always download your data in CSV format to keep up with your invoices and payments in your own finance app.
PayPal Invoices might not be the most feature-rich invoicing option on the web, but it definitely gets the job done. It lets you create invoices right from your browser that your clients can pay via PayPal or any standard credit card, and even lets you print invoices so you can send them on your own and get paid by cash or in any other way that works best for you. It doesn’t have fancy templates, and would not work great for companies since they likely wouldn’t want their regular employees seeing their financial information, but for sole freelancers looking for a free, basic invoicing system, it’s almost perfect.