How to streamline proposals, invoices, and so on?
January 12, 2009 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Small home-based business creates its own standardized proposals, invoices, fax cover sheets, and so on. How best to manage them?

This is a bit of an open-ended question, so I'm really sure if I'm searching for anything in particular.

The business in question utilizes a number of fairly standardized types of documents quite frequently: proposals, invoices, and fax cover sheets. At the moment, they're Microsoft Word templates that we fill in by hand (well, typing on the computer) every time. The file gets saved into a folder, and we open up the original template again when we need to make another one.

Any ideas on how to streamline this without much extra cost?
posted by SpringAquifer to Grab Bag (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's possible to do all this in Excel, although it gets a little hairy trying to make it all hang together.

There are a lot of invoice-management apps out there, some of which are open-ended enough to manage all of your business forms. I'm on a Mac and have looked at a lot of them. Haven't quite found one that suits my needs, but I generally like IGG's iBiz and Media Atelier's GrandTotal.

In the absence of an app that really suits my needs, I've been keeping the data in a spreadsheet, and pasting the relevant chunks of the spreadsheet into a word-processing template as needed.
posted by adamrice at 3:43 PM on January 12, 2009

If you use web-based apps, you don't have to keep local template files.

For example, I use Freshbooks for invoicing. I'm not sure if they do proposals as well, but other invoicing apps do, letting you turn a proposal into an invoice. I think Zoho is one of them, but Zoho seemed a little kludgy to me.

To invoice someone, I go to Freshbooks and fill out a form. The invoice is sent from the app, complete with my logo and my custom notes and such. I can also save a copy of the invoice locally. Freshbooks also has a widget that I use to track my time for time-based invoices, so the time gets entered automatically in the invoice and all I need to do is proof it and click Send.

The same goes for faxing. I use Maxemail; there are many other services. I send a fax by attaching the document to an email. Whatever I type in the email becomes the cover sheet. So you could set up a signature that you use just for faxes--no need for a separate document (or a fax machine).

I'm on a Mac but these services work on Windows, too. One advantage to me is that I can continue to run my business easily while I travel, using my iPhone or Windows laptop.
posted by PatoPata at 3:56 PM on January 12, 2009

Instead of Word, I would do it in a PC (or Mac) database like FileMaker, since you can arrange the layouts (templates) however you like once, and get the "free" bonus of the entire old history of other documents saved along the way. Also multi-user friendly.
posted by rokusan at 9:44 PM on January 12, 2009

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