Freelancing Dopers: what do you use for invoices/time tracking?

I just recently started working as a consultant for the first time in my life, and it’s getting to the point where I’d really like to get paid for my work.

Any recommendations for software to track hours worked, expenses, and generate invoices? I’ve seen QuickBooks and MindYourOwnBusiness, but as I’ve only got one client and one project, and I’m a total cheapskate, those both seem like overkill. I’m at the point where I think I’d rather write it myself than pay $200 for something with tons of features I don’t use.

I need something that runs under OS X ideally.

When I consulted, I had a few more clients, but did everything just in Excel, including the invoices. Do you need more than that?

I use TraxTime for time tracking. Expenses aren’t an issue for me as far as billing goes; maybe copies once in a while but that’s it. I do my invoices in WordPerfect.

Will you ever be using those features?

Do you expect to grow?

Or are you just a guy doing a job for someone?

Quickbooks is a decent piece of software. My wife has a “sole proprietorship” (or whatever they call it) and she uses Quickbooks for everything.

Another vote for Excel invoices. I have used it for timesheets and expenses as well, although if you subcontract it is worth checking if the agency or main contractor has an online system or their own timesheets they would prefer you to use.

I use openoffice’s excel clone (cheap!) and a notebook by my desk to track my hours. The notebook is good because it’s easier to scribble down your hours and what you did and which client than fire up a spreadsheet each time, plus you have a paper backup. Make the notebook distinctive so you don’t misplace it. Write down your hours immediately after doing work; it’s easy to think “oh, I’ll remember I did an hour on sunday, I’ll enter my time a little later” and then a few days go by and you forget. You can’t bill for hours if you don’t write them down! I keep separate spreadsheets for each client because it’s easier to C&P the excel data from a single sheet to each client. I just color the cells according to which invoice I send out. Very low-tech, but it works for me.

Okay, thanks for the tips. It’s not just the expense of QuickBooks that was turning me off; it’s that I got a copy of Quicken for free with OS X, but no matter how much they tell me it’s easy to use, I open it up and just stare at it like a deer in headlights. Sounds like a simple spreadsheet is the way to go.

Although you’ve already gotten enough answers to sway you, I’ll chime in anyway: Mr. Legend has been a full-time consultant for over five years now, and he’s always just used Excel, in much the same way Gaudere describes. I keep track of the ins and outs and taxes due (and take care of anyone who’s a slow payer), so he saves the spreadsheets in a common directory of the main computer as well as on his laptop. That way, I have access to them whenever I need them.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to set aside a reasonable percentage of what you’re paid for your quarterly taxes. Those can creep up on you, and it can be a nasty shock if you aren’t prepared to pay.

I’m a FileMaker geek so I do mine in Filemaker. Records belong to one of the many projects; each record describes a process (either a payment received or a billable task that I did; the tasks have a start time and end time and calculate cost by rate, whereas payments are input as they arrive in a differerent field. Summary fields tally them up and subtract payments from total amt billed.

Print to PDF and send.