Recently Updated on April 2nd, 2018
If you’re a solopreneur or a small business owner, then you most likely have a hands-on approach when it comes to managing your books.
We all know how tedious and straight up stressful that can be.
On top of actually entering pertinent data into your sheets, there’s also the hassle of retrieving them from the truckloads of emails you get on a daily basis.
There are your social media notifications, private messages, automated reports, and your run-of-the-mill newsletters that somehow snuck their way into your inbox.
As a result, you or your designated accounts payable person lose hours of productivity sifting through these emails.
This changes today.
In this post, we’ll show you how to use an email parser to automate invoice data extraction so you can focus on more meaningful tasks. Doing so also eliminates the risk of human error, which may lead to even bigger problems down the road.
Let’s get started:
1. Setting Up Your Test Email
The first thing you need is a capable email parser software that can tailor its features to your specific objectives.
Of course, that’s where we come in.
Parserr fits the bill perfectly by automatically generating a set of parsing protocols via the initial setup process.
Upon creating and confirming your account, you’re immediately presented with a page that looks like this:
When you see this prompt, all you need to do is forward an invoice sample to the shown address. Alternatively, you can simply create a new one that reflects the format of the invoices you receive.
Once your email is forwarded, Parserr will automatically refresh the page and immediately take you to the next step. This involves choosing the specific part of the email where you want to extract data from.
Since we need to scrape data from an invoice, let’s go ahead and choose “Body” from the drop-down menu:
In the next page, you will be asked to choose if you currently use Zapier or Microsoft Flow — both of which are useful integration tools that will enable you to connect Parserr with hundreds of different services.
Alternatively, you can choose the third option — “No, none of them” — if you’re still unsure what these tools do. Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to use Zapier and Microsoft Flow even if you don’t specify them on this step.
After you select an integration tool, you can specify what you want to do with the invoice data. More specifically, you can choose where you want to send it.
Currently, Parserr supports hundreds of different services ranging from cloud-based accounting software to CRM platforms. But for now, let’s just go with the default option, which is to download the data into an Excel document periodically.
2. Weeding Out Irrelevant Information
When extracting data from emails, Parserr works with “Rules” that enable you to determine what information is important and what must be weeded out.
At first, Parserr will recommend a number of rules based on the test email you sent. For example, if you forwarded a generic invoice to your PayPal account, you may get the following suggestions:
Since you only forwarded the invoice email, some of the auto-generated rules may not be useful to what you hope to achieve.
There are, of course, rules that you can use as is to save time, such as:
- Invoice ID
- Transaction ID
In which case, all you need to do is select their checkboxes to the left and click “Yes, create the rules I have checked above.”
That’s it! Parserr will now automatically retrieve an email’s subject, invoice ID, transaction ID, and sender’s address whenever it gets forwarded to your Parserr inbox.
But what if your test email didn’t have a well-structured table of important information? What if the details you want include extra characters that you want to remove from the final document?
For those reasons, let’s move on to creating and editing your own parsing rules.
3. Creating Parsing Rules
Suppose you chose “No, I can create my own” in the previous step.
Parserr will then let you start with a clean slate by letting you create your parsing rules from scratch.
The first step is to select the email attribute where the useful data can be found. Just like last time, your option should be the email’s “Body” since it has the details of the invoice.
Tip: If you receive invoices in PDF form, you need to select “Attachments” as your source of data. You can refer to this post to learn more about extracting data from attachments.
A sample of your test email should then appear in the “Initial data” field below. You can use this as your reference while you filter out the information you need.
To add a “Filter,” click the green plus button right below your email preview.
Parserr will then let you choose from one of the five rule categories, which are briefly explained to help you find the filter you need.
Let’s say you want to extract the “Invoice ID” from the test email. For this, you need to click “Find content you need” from the drop-down menu:
Next, check if you’re currently selecting “Find rows containing certain text” and then click “Save.”
After which, you need to enter “Invoice ID” into the “Get row containing text” field and click “Update.” This should remove all the excess information in the email save for the line where the invoice ID is located:
Great — you successfully retrieved specific data from your lengthy email. The last step is to remove the keyword “Invoice ID” so that only the actual value remains.
To do this, add another filter and then select “Search & Replace.”
This time, you need to type in “Invoice ID:” in the “find text” field, and then leave the “replace with” field blank.
What this filter does is simple: it scans the remaining data for the words “Invoice ID:” and then replaces it with whatever you type in the “replace with” field.
In this case, the “replace with” field is empty so the text is removed instead.
You can then add a name to this rule under the “Rule Details” section and click “Save.” Rinse and repeat for all the pieces of data you need to extract from your invoices.
4. Exporting Your Results
For the sake of this guide, we also created the following rules that extract certain pieces of data using the previous step:
We can now export and download this data into an Excel document. All that’s left to do is go to the “Export” tab, apply your preferences through the drop-down menus, and then click “Download Now.”
You should then receive a confirmation that your parsed data is sent to your email address. If you did everything correctly, your report should look similar to:
Keep in mind that exporting data to Excel or CSV documents is only one of the many ways you can utilize parsed information. With the help of integrations, you can also send your data straight to third-party services.
Here are some examples of what you can do with your invoice data:
- Export your parsed data into Google Sheets to share with your team.
- Export parsed data into invoices on Quickbooks
- Save your parsed data to Dropbox or Google Drive
Congratulations! You now know how to automate invoice data extraction with Parserr.
The next step is to make sure all invoice formats and valuable data are retrieved. Feel free to use this guide as your reference while you set up the rules you need.
Good luck and have fun parsing!