4 Awesome Budgeting and Invoicing Tools for Freelancers

13 Jan

Money is one of the scariest things about being a full-time freelancer. Your workflow is unsteady, occasionally you will have to fight/diligently remind your clients to get them to pay you, and the U.S. government will take 30% of your earnings in self-employment taxes. And if you have a background like mine, Excel and Quicken give you the heebie-jeebies and were definitely not covered in art or design classes.

But if you’ve just made the move from a steady paycheck to a life of freelancing, your monthly income and spending are crucial to keep tabs on. Here are the tools I’ve used to keep track of everything.

Invoice Machine


Invoice Machine was my invoicing system when I freelanced alongside my full-time work. The free Small Account version lets you send up to 3 invoices and 3 estimates a month, with options to upgrade if you choose. It’s very lightweight and simple, and being able to have a handy address book of clients (including more than one contact per client, if you need to let multiple people know) automatically who’s paid you and remind people who haven’t beat my old system of “Make an invoice in Word and completely forget about it a month later” by a good margin.

They’ve also got some other cool features like an integrated timer you can start when you begin a project and stop when you finish, and other country codes for international clients. I don’t see a lot of resources being put into improving its features since two years ago, but if you’re just starting out with a few clients and you want something easy, I do recommend it.
Video tour of Invoice Machine


Curdbee became my new invoicing system when I outgrew Invoice Machine and needed to bill more than 3 people a month. They also give you some nice at-a-glance dashboard stats about how much you’ve invoiced and how much you’ve received each month.

It starts pretty barebones for the free version, and the features are handled with add-ons. If all the bells and whistles are important to you, you might find a better deal with Invoice Machine, but if not, you can pick and choose the ones you need as you need them and pay a small annual fee.
Interactive demo of Curdbee


Mint.com is a free web service that helps keep track of your money and set financial goals. It can automatically sort most of your purchases into categories without you touching a thing, which is huge for me. It has given me so much visibility into where my money goes each month, and lets me really hone in on where I’m spending the most. There’s budgeting trackers as well, but as a freelancer with wildly fluctuating month-to-month income and things like quarterly taxes to worry about, it doesn’t give you a lot of tools to deal with that.
Overview of Mint.com

YNAB (You Need a Budget)

So that’s where YNAB (You Need a Budget) comes in. If Mint’s strength is telling me what I’ve done in the past, YNAB’s strength is telling me what I need to do in the future. YNAB is not free and does not auto-track things like Mint, but the clarity it has given me and the phenomenal amount of learning resources they give (not only about using their software, but learning to relax about money) was definitely worth what I paid, and you can occasionally snag deals on Steam for it.

It has strong tools for breaking up things like quarterly taxes so you can save up for them, and just generally some great, approachable advice for getting off of a month-to-month mentality, which is something I’ve definitely struggled with since becoming a freelancer. They do offer a trial period, as well as free live classes if you’re curious about how it works (they give away a copy of the software after every class, so that’s pretty awesome).
Video tour of YNAB

What financial tools do you use that’s made your life easier?  Let me know in the comments!


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