I suppose it’s about time to actually write a review on a service that I’ve incorporated into my business. I’m just winging it here as this is my first official review here on Innovative Nurse, but I’m always trying to help other entrepreneurs streamline their process of running a business without a huge impact on the bottom line.
If you’re looking for a simplistic way to keep track of your billable time (whether flat rate or hourly), and then bill your clients with a professionally formatted invoice, then I think you should give Freshbooks a try.
This service was just starting out right when I launched my company, however I believe it was in Beta and I really didn’t give it a thought until almost 2 years ago. Fast forward to today, and we love this billing system for its ease of use, integration with multiple applications (primarily Google Apps), and we find that our billable hours increased by about 25% not just because of more time being billed, but really how we improved our accuracy of the time we were spending on projects and tasks. What company wouldn’t want to stop losing 25% of their revenue? Not to mention, our clients appreciated this kind of accuracy in our billing.
Freshbooks is a cloud based solution that you can access from any PC or mobile device with Internet access, which is a huge selling point for us. We despise having to be tethered to one machine, or having to mess with syncing all of this information across different hardware and platforms. Time is money, and Freshbooks is MONEY! Yes, we are aware of all the great syncing and backup options our there, and I will review some of these products in the future, but I’m a big fan of SAAS software-as-a-service.
If you’re typing client invoices out in a Word or Pages document, formatting the tables, re-entering some of the same data each month, and pulling your hours from a spreadsheet to paste into an invoice, then you need to just stop it right there. With Freshbooks the user interface is so simple. When you’re ready to track time, you click on the time tracking “Timesheet” tab, then click on the project/task from the drop down menu that your hours are being billed to, put in the number of hours, add in some notes to indicate what you’ve done during that time, and just click log hours. All of this will get transferred into an invoice that you can send to your client right then, or at a later time of your choosing.
The timesheet has a timer function on it, which when clicked, will provide a pop-up timer that you can start and stop while working on a particular project or task. I have an Android device so I utilize an app called TimeDroid by Appoxy that also offers a timer function that syncs with our Freshbooks account. When I’m on the go, I just open up the app, click on the project/task, and start the timer. When I’m finished with tracking time for that specific project, I can enter a simple note (to elaborate on further at a later time), and then upload it to my time sheet.
The one draw back that I’ve personally encountered however is that the only way I’ve found to track multiple projects at a time is to have several pop-up timers for each project. Let’s say you’ve started working on a project for client “X” and the phone rings from client “Y” and you need to pull your time/attention to them. Well, you have to stop client “X’s” timer, and then click on the timer tab for another pop-up to track client “Y’s” time. Now, this may not necessarily be an issue for all businesses, and some may see it as a minor step to take, but it is an additional step in the process and sometimes having several pop-ups throughout the day might get a bit confusing.
Also, when I’m in the field and tracking this time, and let’s say I have a similar scenario as above, then I have to upload the current time and then start all over with the other client. So, this could result in multiple fragments of time depending on how many clients you’re juggling. This can all be threaded together later, but again, it can create a few extra steps. Not a deal breaker though.
So, once all of the time has been accounted for, it’s time to send the invoice right? You do want to get paid don’t you? Well, with Freshbooks, you click on create an invoice, choose the client/project you’re billing, click on the date range (typically if this is an ongoing business arrangement), the next screen will populate the invoice with all hours/notes/assigned employees, all pertinent contact information for your client is automatically entered, you review it, and either send it via email or save it as a pdf for final approval. Oh, you can also have a snail mail option for those clients who prefer receiving invoices in this manner and the cost starts at $1.79 per invoice.
The invoices are professional looking (you can add your logo), visually they’re simple for both you and the client, and once you’ve emailed it, you’ll be able to see if your client actually viewed the invoice online. Pretty nifty little feature so you can keep tabs on those viewed invoices without having to wonder if they’ve received it or not. This isn’t a dig at the Postal Service, but things do get “misplaced” either in route, or on someone’s desk once they’ve arrived.
Freshbooks also tracks expenses for you as well. Now let me say that this isn’t going to replace your entire bookkeeping program, especially if there’s a bit of complexity to it, and if you have payroll rolled into an accounting program such as Quickbooks, but for many small businesses this could potentially be your primary bookkeeping software. It’s as simple as the “Money in and Money out” interface where you’re billing for your time, and you’re tracking business expenses (you’ll set up your categories) that can also be billed to the client depending on the work being done and the agreement you’ve established to recoup those expenses. This can all be exported into a report that you can give to your accountant, or use for yourself to input the data if you a DIY kind of business owner with your taxes.
The pricing plans are pretty reasonable, and you can try it out for free with a 3 client maximum.
I can let the Freshbooks folks do a better job at giving you a tour of their products and specific add-on features. Feel free to click the affiliate link below to get started. Happy Invoicing!