September 19, 2014

Stop the Headaches: Review of Freshbooks Invoicing

Freshbooks Invoice creation step2

Let’s face it, billing customers is a pain. Keeping up with outstanding invoices and requests for payment is time-consuming, to say the least. This review of FreshBooks, one of the leading invoicing and financial-tracking solutions, is for any small business owner who needs to get a handle on the “making sure you get paid” part of business.

Invoicing With Freshbooks

FreshBooks signup is easy, fast, and free. No credit card required, which is always helps reduce signup friction. You can trial the software for 30 days for free, then decide on a paid plan or a forever-free plan. Of course, the free plan is limited, but it may work for your business. Paid plans start at $19.95 per month. With over five million users, the company has an established track record.

FreshBooks first screen after signup

FreshBooks started as a tool for managing invoicing, collections and revenue tracking.  The company has expanded to what they call a cloud accounting platform.

To be clear, Freshbooks is not a full traditional accounting package.  For instance, the expense features are more about importing expense payments you’ve made via bank, PayPal or credit card accounts, so that you can keep track and run reports in Freshbooks.  The software isn’t really designed to let you enter expenses directly in it, track payables, handle payroll or other advanced expense payment features.

However, for very small businesses — such as solo entrepreneurs, or an uncomplicated business such as a small Web design firm with a handful of clients — what Freshbooks offers may be quite sufficient for their “accounting” needs.

Roughly half of the small businesses in the United States are single person businesses, or partnerships such as a husband and wife team.  Most of them do not need a full double-entry accounting package in the traditional sense.  They need to get paid on time by their customers. They may need to track their hours in order to generate accurate invoices.  They need to run reports to see if they are earning a profit and for taxes.  They may already have good records about their expense payments (many of which may be already set up as recurring electronic bill-pays or automatic debits, anyway).  So they may have no need to separately enter expenses and bills in an accounting system – doing so would just add complexity.

And when you factor in features such as time tracking and integration with other software platforms and solutions, Freshbooks offers plenty of value.  Sage 50, for example, has an add-on tool, as does MailChimp, Gmail, Zendesk, and others with Freshbooks.

Creating An Invoice

Let me jump right to the core of what most business owners claim is their biggest hassle – creating and tracking an invoice. As you see in the screen below, you fill in the details and, well, FreshBooks generates the invoice. Most likely, you will send it via email, but just about every other way to send an invoice is possible.

I’m sure that when “Deliver by Drone” becomes available, FreshBooks will have it.  Note: This is not a military drone, by the way, but a growing number of startups are testing how to deliver parcels by remote control quadcopters.  No kidding.

What I Really Like:

  • Invoices can be created on a mobile phone, on a tablet or using a computer. They have apps for iPad, iPhone and Android.
  • FreshBooks will print an invoice and send it via postal mail for a small fee. This is great for that one-off invoice for a client who is not digital.
  • Great focus on invoicing and time tracking. They know what their customer wants and they make it easy to get those things done.

What I Would Like to See:

There is a forever-free level account, but you can’t sort out what that entails once you start the 30-day free trial. It is a small point – I’m sure they make it clear after the trial. For the record, you can have three clients on the forever free plan. From all I can tell, you can change those clients and invoice new ones, but the maximum number is three.

FreshBooks is a single-entry system, and does not have a traditional general ledger. That works for many business owners, for whom paying expenses is fairly straight forward. If your focus is on tracking time accurately and keeping your invoicing process in a healthy system, FreshBooks is the package to check out.

10 Comments ▼

TJ McCue - Product Editor


TJ McCue TJ McCue is the Product Editor for Small Business Trends and an entrepreneur who publishes Tech Biz Talk. TJ is a former Wall Street Journal columnist. He also writes for Forbes and American Express OPEN Forum. He loves learning about technology apps and software services - share yours with TJ.

10 Reactions

  1. I’ve just started using this for one of my clients. So far I’m pleased with the results.

  2. Good to hear, Robert. I’ve used them on and off for quite a while. It isn’t that I’ve used another service, but go back and forth on doing it myself… via Microsoft Word… My way is definitely more painful.

  3. I know Freshbooks for a very long time and for me it is really the best invoicing platform out there. I guess this has a lot to do with its branding. The colors it has used looks clean and fresh or less confusing which is what invoicing is supposed to be.

  4. You can change clients on the free plan. @Ivan, yes customers can pay via Paypal and the cost to you is slightly less.

  5. Just like TJ, I normally create my own invoices using Word and there is a free template for that. Very much a DIY person, though it requires more work.

    • hi Diana, thanks for sharing. To be clear: I have to admit I get more paid work done when I use tools like these. But it is a trade-off when things are slower. Probably like that for everyone — when you are busy, you need a system to help you stay “more busy, more profitable” and I believe FreshBooks, overall, can help you expedite a very tedious process. And by doing so, it helps you continue that profit growth.

  6. TJ: I have been using FreshBooks for some time. I like the easy handling and that you could send out invoices via email in a click. Have you read the book by the founder of FreshBooks?

  7. I like how easy that is to use. I have to say that preparing invoices is not my strongest point and having software that actually works would be incredible.

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