Best way of billing services by quantity?

I’m a translator and proof-reader and bill only some of my work by time. Most work is billed at an agreed rate per number of units, e.g. per thousand words, per norm-lines or per manuscript page, or else are paid at a pre-agreed fixed rate for the job. Mostly the rate is the same, but some clients have special rates.

Typically I collect these tasks as ‘work slips’ on an ongoing basis under a project until enough has come together and then bill them together in a single invoice. As I don’t always know what will come and the quantities, I can’t work with the traditional quote/estimate -> convert to invoice method. In my current invoicing setup (which the vendor is alas discontinuing in the form I use) I can output reports of the unbilled slips and see what has accrued ready for billing.

When looking around at alternative invoicing programs, a lot of them involving constructing the invoice out of saved products at that moment and don’t offer a way to collect together completed task up front for billing together, meaning I would have to note them all down somewhere else first. I thought I’d found the solution with InvoiceNinja, but …

What is the best way of handling billing services by quantity? “Tasks” seem to be only billable by time. “Products” have a fixed price. “Vendors” and “Expenses” are for other use cases (that do come up from time to time). Any tips?

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  • Add a task (you do not have to add dates/times)
  • Invoice for it [this will force Ninja into services invoice mode]
  • Put in rate and quantity
  • Delete the task (if you want) -- keep in mind tasks can not be reused for other invoices anyway . . .

Hopefully Ninja will soon add a “services” category, just like there are products.

I hope for a pick list from which one can choose services (so things don’t always have to be reentered!) and that rates and/or quantities do NOT have to be specified (unless you want that) in the list. It can be handy to change these on a per-invoice basis.

In my opinion, you have hit on InvoiceNinja’s greatest current weakness.

Good luck Jools

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It occurred to me there is another, possibly better workaround.

  • Make a service invoice using the method above (or similar).
  • Use that Invoice as the basis for further "clones."
  • The clones are then already in service invoice "mode."

This might be the better option to quickly create service invoices until Invoice Ninja addresses the shortcoming.

Hillel seems to develop at a furious (positive!) pace, so I am hopeful this will be addressed soon.

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Thank you so much for your honest and useful feedback and suggested workarounds. I was hopeful that I’d just overlooked the services option or failed to see a setting where products can be given different payment units other than fixed. Or perhaps a method where a product might be “translation of a manuscript page” and you sell “x products” equivalent to the number of pages? But it seems not.

Thanks for the ideas about the workarounds, however I’m not sure they are a good way – it sounds like you’re essentially drafting an invoice in advance. Unfortunately, I don’t always know which work goes on which invoice when a client (e.g. a university) uses a mix of funding sources for a job. Also there’s a fair investment of time in getting all one’s data into the system only to find the system changes. But I shall keep an eye on developments in InvoiceNinja, especially given the intention to rebuild it for v2.

Your other point about pre-definable work types is interesting. I have exactly that with my current setup (Billings by Marketcircle). There they call them ‘blueprints’ and you pre-define any number of them according to your needs, then pick from the blueprints and adapt it to meet the current job’s details, including changing the price. Each work slip can be billed by time, by quantity, by a fixed price, etc. Unfortunately Billings has not been updated in a long time (~5 years, the pro version has had minor fixes only) and although it still runs, it is still 32bit and will almost certainly not work with the next macOS update. The vendor has decided recently to switch to the online subscription only, of which the lowest tier is too restrictive (5 invoices a month?!) and the next contains much more than I need (translating is not an of-the-minute activity that requires billing from a smartphone on the go!). In InvoiceNinja, I like the fact that you can disable the aspects you don’t need.

So, it looks like my search will continue …

There are some other aspects that I’ve not yet found solutions too: in Germany even freelancers are now expected to conform to the new stricter digital bookkeeping regulations (GoBD) and to create invoices with an attached XML file (PDF/A format with a ZugFerd XML file) and I have found very few systems that currently fulfil that. The PDFmaker libraries that do support creating these kinds of files are currently also punitively expensive (at least the one’s I’ve found). For the moment, this is more in the back of my mind than anything, mostly because it’s not gained all that much traction as yet despite technically being mandatory already. I’m just aware that needs may shift again in the near-ish future and changing one’s systems is time-consuming.

An afterword: just wanted to say that I installed it just fine on a shared host on a subdomain of my site, pointing the subdomain to the /public directory. The size of the software package is considerable – more than any other system I have used up to now – so the longest part of the entire procedure was actually uploading it.

Has there been any progress on billing by service/unit rather than by hour?

The workaround described did not, when I tried it, eliminate “hour” as the default unit on the invoice.