Pancake: The Self-Hosted Invoice Solution

Invoices are used all of the time by various organisation types. From freelancers to large businesses, a lot of people rely on the need to present a total cost for their services in a standard document form. There are quite a few web apps that make this task so much simpler by providing an online interface to both create and manage these. However, if funds get low and you can’t afford to fork out monthly for access to your favourite invoice app, there are plenty of solutions to solve this predicament.

One of these is Pancake. You pay once, install on your own server and can use the app without limits to your heart’s content. Read on to find out more about this powerful new contender in the invoicing field.

Overview

Pancake is a self-hosted invoice management web app that provides businesses or freelancers with a web-based control panel for their invoicing needs. It doesn’t limit the number of clients, invoices or just about anything else that competing hosted apps do – making it perfect for those who find themselves in trouble when they have too many clients for their web app’s current pricing package.

Overview

Overview

It’s packed with every feature you could possibly need and can be customised to match your branding, meaning that when the clients come to pay, even your invoices ooze professionalism.

Dashboard

Dashboard

Getting Started

Because the app is self-hosted, you’re going to need a web server or hosting package that meets the minimal requirements of having up-to-date PHP and MySQL installed. To install the app, simply log into your Pancake account and download the latest version of the software. Once you’ve uploaded and extracted the package onto the server in a folder of your choice (a typical example being http://www.yourdomain.com/invoicing/), you’ll be ready to begin the installation.

Installing the App

Installing the App

The app will check that you meet the minimum requirements and then asks for the database connection settings. After you’ve entered this and some details about the website – including the administrator account login details and the license key – you’ll then be taken to the app itself.

Database Connection Settings

Database Connection Settings

Installation Details

Installation Details

Clients

With traditional invoicing, time can be wasted copying a client’s information into each invoice individually and this can become a painfully boring task, especially if you’re sending a lot of invoices. Want a solution? Pancake’s got it sorted. It offers a client system where clients can be added to Pancake and once there, can easily be assigned invoices. In the ‘Clients’ view, there is also a ‘Health Check’ feature to instantly view a summarised payment reputation (something I’ve not seen elsewhere) as well as the total costs that have been paid and still awaiting payment for that client. This can make it incredibly easy to find out which clients have the best reputation for dealing with payments swiftly and makes for a pretty useful section of the app.

Managing Clients

Managing Clients

Creating Invoices

Pancake doesn’t take the direction of many other apps and attempt to tackle many tasks at once, instead it just focuses on one area and does so extremely well. This is, of course, invoicing. It offers a straightforward way to create invoices in the system and supports three different types: simple (a standard invoice with a price total), detailed (one with multiple items that are billed together to make one total) and an estimate (detailed invoices that aren’t created to be sent to a client and payment requested – instead, simply for reference). Pancake also allows you to define tax costs and have these automatically calculated as part of the invoice.

Creating Invoices

Creating Invoices

Files can be added as attachments to invoices, too, so you can be sure there’s no delay on getting the work sent to the client once they’ve paid. Pancake also makes it extremely easy to allow payments for invoices to be made through a couple of the most popular payment gateways and this is all fully-integrated into the app – ensuring that your clients don’t have to worry about looking for your payment details and then processing this manually.

Once added, the system will generate a unique URL for the invoice for sending to the client and allows an email to be sent to inform them of the due payment. Should you want to send a hard copy to the client, this can also be done and a PDF version of the invoice is ready to be sent, complete with an additional page detailing the payment method.

Viewing Invoices

Viewing Invoices

Other Features

As well as the clear invoiced-based focus the app takes, it also sports a couple of other features that could be quite useful should the need to use them arise.

Projects

As well as managing invoices, the app also provides some handy features for managing projects, too. When created, they can be assigned to clients and are especially useful for managing tasks. Hourly rates for tasks can be defined and once the start and completion times have been added either manually or with the use of the timer, can be generated into an invoice that reflects the exact amount of time spent on a project.

Managing Projects, Tasks and Timers

Managing Projects, Tasks and Timers

Reports

These can be viewed inside Pancake and show various graphs that show the amount of unpaid invoices in comparison to the paid ones and various other bits of information. These can both be viewed on a client-specific basis or for the whole system.

Viewing Reports

Viewing Reports

Final Thoughts

I was quite impressed with the quality of the app. Because it can be installed on its customers’ servers as opposed to residing solely on their website, it’s incredibly useful for those who can’t afford to constantly fork out cash just to be able to view and manage their invoices. Admittedly, a server is required to install the app onto but web hosting can be purchased for next to nothing nowadays. The interface is really nice and practical, laying out everything perfectly to ensure no learning curve whatsoever is present when using the app for the first time. Overall, I think Pancake is a really good app. It takes some of the useful features of competing apps and removes the ones that aren’t quite relevant for the majority of its users, overall ensuring a pleasant experience.


Summary

Pancake is the last invoicing app you'll ever need. It's self-hosted so you avoid regular costs and comes packed with features to make invoicing bearable again.

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