It's tough to remember exactly when to bill clients and what to put on the itemized bill. If your like most freelancers, Quickbooks is too costly and too difficult to figure out.
Doing billing, invoicing and time tracking manually is a laborious process involving several software tools, including a time tracker, Excel, desktop publisher and a digital filing system to track AR/AP and outstanding and paid invoices.
Freshbooks.com is an online invoicing, time tracking and billing tool that can really help freelancers spend less time on bookkeeping and more time on their business. I've tried Freshbooks and below I will share some of the benefits and drawbacks I've found.
What does Freshbooks do?
Freshbooks allows workers to track their time for different clients and projects. From those time sheets, it will automatically generate invoices and even bill clients via email or mail. The invoices themselves are really sleek and branded with your company logo and color scheme. All of the time tracking and invoicing information in Freshbooks can be exported to Excel and other formats, so that it's easy to hand over to an accountant for tax time.
Using Freshbooks you can bill in multiple languages and currencies and even accept online payments, which some clients will love to take advantage of. For web developers and other project managers, the system also offers support ticketing.
What are the benefits?
Free version: There is a free version of Freshbooks, but they might as well call it a free trial version, because it only allows you to input three clients. However, the free version is a great way to check out the software and see if it really does save you time and warrant an upgrade to the paid model. The free version contains almost all of the same features as the paid versions.
Scaled pricing: Beyond the three-client free version, you can pay $19.95 per month for up to 25 clients. The 25-client level also gives you branded email message capabilities. For $29.95 a month you can work with an unlimited number of clients, and for $39.95 you can get an enterprise-level solution where you can add on other employees who can access the software. At the $39.95 enterprise level there are also team time sheets, time tracking and project management features.
Security: Freshbooks uses the highest level of encryption and security. Data is 256-bit SSL encrypted when transmitted and stored behind firewalls. All data is backed up in real time to different locations and backed up off-site every evening. This is probably more secure than burning CDs or emailing zip files to your cloud email provider (I am guilty of the latter).
Ease of use: Freshbooks is as clean, simple and easy to use as any leading cloud software program. If you use an iPhone, you can access Freshbooks from that device with the MiniBooks app. A cloud solution such as Freshbooks also lets you access your account from any computer with Internet access.
Cost: I would say that the only real downside is the cost of the system. If you have only five or 10 clients, you'll need more than the free version and will have to pay $19.95 a month. To figure out if Freshbooks will be a cost-effective solution, take note of how much time you spend generating invoices, billing and tracking client payments.
You may find that you are spending four hours a week on those tasks and for a cost of $19.95 a month, it may be more productive and efficient to set up Freshbooks and free up that time for more important tasks such as working on projects and finding new clients.
The bottom line: I would recommend freelancers and small business owners try the free version of the software, input clients, create invoices and use the time tracking system. If you find it as easy to use as I did, and it makes financial sense to offload and automate the bookkeeping burden with a cloud provider, then go for it!
Featured photo credit: photosteve101.