Right now, this very day, I am in the middle of an accounts receivable nightmare.

A large, very well-known company (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty), recently hired my business to do some work for them. Like a lot of contractors, our contracts call for 50% payment upon execution of the contract and the remainder due upon completion. But this company insisted on terms that were Net 60. I really wanted the gig, so I agreed.

But here we are, more than 90 days since completion, and many, many calls and emails later, and we have yet to be paid a penny. They promise me our payment will arrive this week, but let's just say, I am not holding my breath.

Accounts receivable is an area that is a "have to" instead of a "want to" for small business people. It is a necessary evil. The good news is that these days, there are a lot of new tools available–software, apps, cloud-based, and the like–that can help you manage your accounts receivables. They do so by automating routine tasks, helping you keep good books and avoid errors, and sending out timely notices. These tools make your job as a small business owner easier, and allow your business to be–and look-more professional.

Specifically, what these accounts receivable tech tools can offer, and what you should look for, are systems and apps that are intuitive, easy to use and learn, robust, and affordable. Look for tools that allow you to:

  • Import data
  • Generate bills, invoices, and recurring invoices
  • Track billable hours and expenses
  • Track time
  • Follow up

Here are some of our favorite tools:

QuickBooks online: QuickBooks software is the granddaddy in this field, and its maker, Intuit, has created a fantastic cloud-based version of its flagship product called QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks Online allows you to do everything you need with regard to accounts receivable: Create invoices, track hours, manage receivables, create P.O.s, and so on. The interface and ease of use of this product is superior.

FreshBooks: FreshBooks is another leader in this field, and again, it is easy to see why. The user interface is great, and it is easy to generate whatever tool or invoice you need. Follow ups are a breeze, and what is also nice is the cost, which ranges between $15 and $40 per month, depending on which version you choose.

Xero: Xero is another good online tool that can help you manage your accounts receivables. While it doesn't offer all of the more robust options you can find with QuickBooks for example, it makes up for that, at least partially, by being super affordable. But note that one downside to that is that Xero offers no phone or chat support–it is all online tutorials and email.

Zoho Books: Again, another fine choice, albeit a more limited one. Zoho Books also allows you to generate and track invoices and so on too, but it costs only $19 a month.

Sage One: Sage is the other big name in the small business accounting world. It offers a great dashboard and is quite user-friendly and robust. Managing invoices is easy, and an added bonus is that there are a lot of additional add-ons to choose from, ranging from billing to financing apps.

The good news is that by choosing almost any one of these tools, your accounts receivable will be automated, professional, and organized.

And hopefully, never 90 days past due.

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