Caption by: Christian Harris
Zoho recently rolled out a new addition to its ever-expanding suite of web-based business applications &mash; Zoho Invoice. This new application joins Zoho CRM, Zoho Projects, Zoho Meeting, Zoho People, Zoho Creator and Zoho DB & Reports.
Zoho Invoices is an online-only service for creating and managing invoices. It helps you to create and send branded invoices, quotes or estimates, automate repeated invoicing with recurring invoices, as well as export invoices as PDFs. Zoho Invoices is totally free for those generating five or fewer invoices per month (it also comes with Zoho-branded emails), but maxes out at $35 (£17.64) per month for those processing more than 1,500 invoices per month. Luckily there's no customer limit on any of the five available accounts, nor are any compromises made on SSL encryption, firewall protection and data backup.
You can customise the layout and appearance of invoices with templates, track invoices and send overdue reminders (as well as acknowledge receipts), and even accept multi-currency payments using PayPal. It makes the whole process of invoice creation, sending, tracking and follow-up very simple, and should definitely be considered by sole traders and small companies lacking dedicated accounts departments.
The settings page lets you configure a range of preferences, as well as edit your Zoho Invoice subscription.
Zoho Invoices is straightforward to use and makes accounting packages such as QuickBooks seem antiquated. When you access the service for the first time you are directed to the settings page. Here you can set up your company profile, change system and invoice logos, configure your time zone, currency and taxes, set up your estimate and invoicing preferences, configure online payment gateways and customise your email and invoice templates. You can also edit your Zoho Invoice subscription from the settings page. Following the initial setup, you can add items that you sell, add customers and start invoicing. A neat feature is the ability to define Recurring Profiles (Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly or Yearly) and let Zoho Invoice automatically send invoices to your customers. You can also define late fees, tax and discounts for the invoices you create.
After the initial setup, you can add items and customers and start invoicing; recurring profiles are supported for automatic regular invoices.
Zoho Invoices lets you specify the Tax or VAT ID in the invoices that get generated. You can specify your company's and customer's Tax or VAT ID in the invoices. You can also specify up to three custom fields for 'Company' and 'Customer'. The first two fields will appear between the 'Name' and 'Address'. The third custom field will appear below the 'Address'. The idea is to give some flexibility in positioning of the custom fields. If you just have some static value to be inserted into the invoice, which cannot be expressed as label and value, then you can put this in the value field without specifying the label. It will appear as such in the invoice that gets generated.
Zoho is working hard on integrating its business applications. For example, it recently announced a link between Zoho Invoice and Zoho CRM. This is a great move, because now you can use the customer information in Zoho CRM while raising invoices or estimates using Zoho Invoice. This is just a first step towards complete integration: you can use the customer information from Zoho CRM in Zoho Invoice but not vice versa — in other words, the invoice information from Zoho Invoice will not be available in Zoho CRM.
It's simple to import customer information from Zoho CRM to Zoho Invoice, and equally straightforward to keep your records up to date: simply click the Sync link on the left of the screen and any records that have been modified will be updated. It's a shame this process isn't done automatically; there's also no option to synchronise the custom views defined in Zoho CRM, but Zoho has promised this feature for the near future.
A neat feature with Zoho applications is the ability to log in with your Google or Yahoo! accounts. If you already have a Zoho account with your Google or Yahoo! email address, you will be logged into Zoho automatically. If you don't, then you can either associate the Google or Yahoo email address with your existing Zoho account (under Accounts) or create a new one.
Apart from logging into Zoho with your existing accounts, you can also import contacts from your Google and Yahoo! accounts to the Contacts section under Zoho Accounts. This functionality is also useful for sharing documents with your friends who have Google or Yahoo! accounts. They can log into Zoho with their Google or Yahoo! credentials and view shared documents without having to create new Zoho Account.
Zoho Invoice is a useful but limited online tool that allows small teams to manage and track invoices. It's easy to use and customise, and the management interface is intuitive and clearly laid out. And while it supports estimates and invoices, it can't be used to raise RFQs (Request For Quotations), receive quotes, send purchase orders or receive invoices. In addition you can't attach files while sending invoices — at least for now. Sole traders and small companies should take a look, but larger companies with dedicated accounting staff should stick with more powerful offline solutions that can be better managed by multiple users.
Caption by: Christian Harris