When you’re running a small business — especially if you’re a freelancer or sole proprietor — invoicing can be a nightmare. How do you keep track of all your customers, invoices, estimates and payments? Isn’t there an easier way to deal with late fees and accept electronic payments?

The answer is an online invoicing service. What can you expect to gain from using such a service? There’s much more to it than just creating, sending and tracking invoices.

1) Email Alerts and Verifications

Online invoicing for small business owners and sole proprietors enables you to send customers email alerts when invoices are nearing their due dates, which can be a crucial part of getting prompt payment in today’s fast-paced, tech-centric business world. You can also use email alerts to let customers know when invoices are overdue.

Your customers will appreciate email verifications letting them know their payments have been received. You can even receive alerts of your own every time you receive a payment, so you know you’ve been paid.

2) Custom Invoices

Customizing your invoice is about more than adding your company’s logo to the masthead. You’ll also want the flexibility to outline your payment terms, inscribe a custom thank-you note and specify a tax type for your country or region. You don’t have to figure out how to create the best and company branded invoice to get started. You can use a free invoice template generator to get started and save time.

3) Invoicing Flexibility

Plenty of your customers will appreciate online invoicing, but there will still be some who’ll want to be invoiced the old-fashioned way, via snail mail. When you use an online invoicing service you’ll still have the option to print out your invoices and send them through the mail. Customers who receive online invoices will be able to download and print out their invoices as they prefer.

You’ll also have the option to work with your invoicing service from any platform — imagine having the flexibility to create and send an invoice from your smart phone when you’re on the go.

4) Time-Saving Templates

One of the most time-consuming parts of invoicing the old-fashioned way is creating the invoice itself. No longer do you have to go into MS Word or Excel and manually draw up an invoice. Invoicing services provide multiple, professional-looking templates that you can use for all your invoicing needs.

5) Estimate Conversion

You’ve given a customer an estimate and they’ve decided to take you up on it — congratulations! When you use an online invoicing service, you can convert that estimate into an invoice with the click of a button. There’s no need to draw up two documents.

6) Accept Credit Card Payments

If you’re a very small business owner, freelancer or sole proprietor, accepting credit card payments might seem like more hassle and expense than it’s worth. You don’t have to be a strictly check-and-cash business when you use an online invoicing service. You’ll be able to accept credit card payments and any other electronic payments through your service’s direct billing feature.

7) Get Paid in Multiple Currencies

If you work with international clients, currency conversions can be a real time suck, and intimidating to boot. With an online invoicing service you can accept payments in any currency, without the headaches of asking your client to send you the currency you prefer.

8) Organize Customer Data

If you’ve got more than a few customers, keeping track of contact information and accounts data is going to be a job in itself. Online invoicing services keep all of your customer data organized, secure and at your fingertips.

9) Keep Track of Invoices and Payments

Do you know who’s paid for what, who still owes you money and who’s still waiting for an invoice? When you use an online invoicing service, you will. No invoice will slip through the cracks unpaid because you lost track of it, nor will you accidentally bill anyone twice or forget to bill anyone at all.

10) Automate Late Fees and Billing

Late payments can wreak havoc on your cash flow and spell disaster for the health of your business. You need a strategy to deal with late payments. A late fees structure can be part of that strategy — when your customers know that the invoice will get bigger the longer they postpone paying it, they’ll be more likely to pay on time.

Online invoicing services let you automate your late fees structure and calculations, and include direct billing services to make it as easy as possible for your clients to pay.

If you’re running a small business, or working for yourself as a freelancer or sole proprietor, you need help with invoicing. Using an online invoicing service can streamline the invoicing and payment process in ways you wouldn’t believe. Ditch the time-consuming invoicing practices of the past and find out how much time and stress you can save with an online invoicing service.

About the Author: Contributing blogger Jeanne Barley has more than 15 years of experience as a CPA.