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App Review: FreshBooks | Sean Kennedy Web Services + Consulting in Vancouver, BC

App Review: FreshBooks

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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

I have been playing with FreshBooks for about a couple months now and trying it out with some of my clients by taking advantage of their 30-day free trial. The great thing was that even after the trial was over, they still have a free version you can use for up to 3 clients. For more than 3 clients, the base pricing starts at $19.95/mo. for up to 25 clients.

The pricing for the software seems pretty comparable to other solutions out there and for what you get I think it’s a bargain. However, I can see a problem arising if you have a large number of clients in your system (such as archived non-active clients) that it would needlessly increase your monthly cost. But I digress.

Highlights

The cloud accounting program covers all the areas you would expect from a good accounting program. There are many more features that FreshBooks offers but here is just a small sample of some of the features I really enjoy.

Import/Export Data

One of the main roadblocks many people may face is that they have been using another system for awhile now and want to change but dont want to deal with data or manually move information. FreshBooks has some handy importing tools to help you migrate from systems like Simply Accounting or Highrise. Also, as long as your current program can export a CSV file then you should be able to import that into FreshBooks.

I’ll admit, I have not used this feature since I don’t have any other accounting programs in use at the moment but it is nice to know they are there and are worth mentioning.

Client Management

Set-up your client information and you are ready to begin billing and collecting money. You have the ability to customize each client so they receive invoices and estimates in the currency of their choice and you can also customize how reminders, late fees, and other behaviours work specifically to each client.

Estimates & Invoices

For all businesses, this is the main feature you use as it is how you make money and ensure cashflow. It is also where FreshBooks really shines.

When you create a new project, you can create an estimate for it and allocate all the tasks and time for the project. You then have the ability to send the estimate electronically via email or by snail mail (do people still invoice this way?). Once the estimate is accepted, it is then just a click of a button and it will automatically create an invoice from the estimate and you are ready to send it to the client for payment once the project is done.

The estimate and invoice templates for FreshBooks are very clean and professional and even come with the option to include a payment stub at the bottom.

Once an invoice is sent out, you can set the system to send reminders every so many days and even automatically apply late fees (free add-on required) if the invoice is not paid by the due date. This is a feature I really enjoy!

The invoicing system is pretty much a set it and forget it type system and allows you to focus more on your work and less on chasing clients.


Expenses

Tracking your expenses can be a hassle! With FreshBooks, they take a lot of the work out of it for you. You can track expenses automatically by connecting your bank to the program and it will import all your expenses on a daily basis so you don’t have to.

Not quite comfortable sharing access to your bank feed? No problem! You can simply take a picture of your receipt and import your expenses manually. With the mobile app (more on this later), it is super simple and quick! Pay your restaurant bill, take a picture with your phone, submit, and on with your day.


Time Tracking

If you have a team or are a freelancer that needs to track your time on projects, you will be happy to know that FreshBooks comes with a time tracking area where you can either enter in time at the end of the day or use their timer to track the time for you. Just select the project and task you are working on and it will allocate the time for you.

This was a great feature for me as I always tend to forget how long I work on tasks for. So to have the timer available was a huge plus!

In the Cloud

Since it is a cloud program, there is nothing you need to install on your computer. All you ever need is an internet connection and your information is there ready for you – wherever, whenever.

White Label & Branding

A great feature of the software is the ability to brand everything, including the client site, with your own colors and logo. This really helps to maintain your professional appearance and company brand.

Reports

The reporting available in FreshBooks is where it really sets itself apart from many other time tracking or invoicing systems. Whether you need a balance sheet, profit/loss, accounts aging, or revenue by staff report – it’s all there. Anything you could think to need as a small business is there for you in nicely laid out reports ready to print and give to your financial advisor.

Add-Ons

No system is ever perfect or provides everything you need. This is why we tend to use multiple programs each specilizing in something. With FreshBooks, there are a large number of programs utilizing its API so that they can talk seamlessly with eachother.

Some of the add-ons to note include:

  • MailChimp
  • Constant Contact
  • Salesforce
  • Basecamp
  • Highrise
  • Zendesk
  • PayPal
  • Gmail
  • Google Apps
  • Shopify
  • Magento
  • and many more!

For a full list, check out their add-ons page.

Amazing Support

One of the best features for FreshBooks has got to be their support. They pride themselves on providing the highest level of support you can get so that you are never fully on your own. This is an area that I find many great apps and software companies sometimes struggle with so it was refreshing to see this level of customer care with FreshBooks. Have a problem? They’re there to help you out.

Mobile Apps

 While the web app is great and covers all the great features mentioned above, what I was really impressed with was the mobile app for iPad or iPhone. The app has a great interface is are very easy to use. In fact, I sometimes caught myself using the mobile app over the web app for this reason alone!

When I first downloaded the mobile app, I never thought I would actually utilize it until I went to a meeting at a coffee shop with a client. As soon as I got to the meeting I was able to start a timer to track the time for the meeting instead of monitoring the clock. We had a great discussion about their project and developed a rough scope for it. While I was still at the coffee shop I was able to quickly put together an estimate and email to the client before I even left. There was no need to haul out my laptop to do anything.

After the meeting, I stopped my timer that I had running, took a picture of my coffee receipt so I could quickly file my expense and I was on with my day.

Everything from creating a client account, creating the estimate, tracking my time for the meeting, and filing my coffee expense was ton from my phone. No computer necessary.

iPad

iPhone

Wish Lists & Pitfalls

As I mentioned before, no system is ever perfect and FreshBooks is no different. While there are many great features that I love about it there are also some features missing that I would like to see.

Desktop Time Tracking

One feature I felt was lacking was the ability to have a desktop app that I could start and stop while I was working. Understandably, I could just keep the internet browser open but then I find I tend to forget it is running. I could also use my phone as my time tracker too but personally I would just prefer an app in my taskbar so I can watch my time as I work. Maybe I’m just being picky.

Deposit Payments

One of the big pitfalls for me was not being able to invoice a client for a portion of the estimate. On my projects, I collect 50% up front and 50% on completion so it would be great to be able to send an invoice for partial payment. However, that feature does not exist currently. The work around solution provided by FreshBooks was to simply edit my invoice for the amount of the initial deposit and then once the deposit was paid to edit the invoice again to the full amount. This does work and then shows the partial payment but I just think there should be an easier way.

On a related note, there is a credit feature where clients can pay you directly and you can apply a credit to their account. This credit could then be used against the full invoice I suppose. I haven’t played with that feature yet but it is there.

Web Interface

While the mobile apps are just simply awesome, the web interface did take me a while to get comfortable with. The navigation is pretty simple and organized but there were times where I just felt overwhelmed. That is always a problem with programs that offer so much functionality. I think FreshBooks does a decent job overall so don’t get me wrong but compared to  some of the other apps out there or the ease of use of the mobile app, sometimes it was just easier to pull out my phone for what I needed.

Recommended?

So with everything said and done, would I recommend it? Absolutely.

For anyone with a small business looking for a solid accounting and invoicing solution I would have no problem recommending FreshBooks. They have been around since 2003 and have over 5 million users. That has to say something in itself. They have really developed the system into one that pretty much anyone could use. Which is a good thing considering accounting is something most people don’t know where to start.

Whether you are running a freelance operation or a small business with a team of staff, I am confident that FreshBooks will not only make your life easier but also show you how easy managing your accounting can be.

Get the Free Trial

If you want to try the 30-day free trial, click the banner below and sign-up! You get the free access as normal but if you decide to stick with it then FreshBooks will help pay for my coffee fund as a referral bonus. Everybody wins!

FreshBooks

  • NickMinolich

    Freshbooks is great. I use it with Bitrix24 and Trello, and that covers 95% of my needs without paying a dime (still have to pay for payroll).

    • Hey Nick,

      Yea I love FreshBooks. I’ve started looking at Harvest again too but can’t deny the great reporting FreshBooks has.

      I have used Trello and it is great but recently made the switch to Asana for project and task management. I am also playing with Podio. As for a CRM, I have BaseCRM set-up but am looking for other options in that arena. Bitrix looks pretty well-rounded so I’ll have to test it out one day and see how it feels.

      Thanks for sharing! 🙂