If you’re like us, you need most of your team’s time dedicated to solving problems and creating value for your clients. Still, there are necessary administrative tasks that are non-negotiable and often time consuming. You don’t love it, but you accept it. That’s the cost of doing business, you say. And it is. But what if the cost wasn’t quite so high?
When it comes to client billing, it doesn’t have to be. We discovered as much when we started using FreshBooks—and saving ourselves time.
Why We Tried FreshBooks
Unless your current way of executing backroom tasks is actively disrupting value delivery elsewhere in your business, switching tools and processes for those tasks may not seem worth the hassle. It didn’t to us. Not at first, anyway. We knew we spent a good deal of time on client billing, and we knew that FreshBooks promised to shave off some of that time, but geez… you’ve gotta’ set up your account, get your team set up, rethink all the little habits and timelines associated with client billing, familiarize yourself with a new interface, deal with the learning curve hiccups that are bound to pop up when switching tools—all without knowing for sure that FreshBooks can make good. Then it began to niggle at us that we’re making a similar promise with Daycast and for good reason. We know that it’s possible to create new, time-saving ways to tackle long-standing, but-this-is-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it tasks (time tracking, anyone?), and we finally had to ask ourselves not what we had to lose by trying something new but what we stood to gain. Answer: A whole lotta’ time that could be better spent elsewhere.
So we took the leap.
Verdict? FreshBooks Saves Us Time
In a nutshell: We went from a painstaking, let’s-reinvent-the-wheel procedure involving editing line items and tweaking formulas over and over to a click-populate-send affair that takes a fraction of the time.
We were already clocking hours with our desktop app, Daycast, so getting our billable time to FreshBooks was a simple matter of using the integration we built for other FreshBooks users. (You can track time within FreshBooks itself, if you prefer. We’re partial to Daycast. For reasons.) With all of our billable hours collected automatically in FreshBooks, invoicing was shaved down to four easy steps:
Click Create New Invoice from the FreshBooks dashboard
Select the client we want to bill
Select the time entries to add
Boom. Done. We can make any invoice recurring, and we can turn on automatic payment reminders and/or late payment fees in client settings so that following up on unpaid invoices is off our plate too. And we’re not limited to invoicing for tracked time:
"This past month I had to add a special FedEx overnight charge. I wasn’t sure how that would work since it wasn’t a person with a rate and it was a one-time thing. [But it] was easy to add in addition to everyone’s hours."
- Janeal A., Program Administrator
Client billing is a smoother, easier, and less time-consuming process all around now that we’re using FreshBooks.
What To Expect From FreshBooks
Our main takeaways from switching to FreshBooks for client billing:
Getting set up will take some initial investment… once you create your account, you’ll need to create all your clients in FreshBooks and invite any team members you want added to your account.
The learning curve is mild and the interface is intuitive.
Your invoices will look good. Be aware that your branding ability is limited to two choices of font, two choices of template, a logo or image depending on the template you choose, and a custom color (you can specify by hex code).
There are lots of apps that integrate with FreshBooks (including ours).
You can accept payments via FreshBooks too.
Each team member is responsible for their own time entries. If some are lax about submitting their hours, be prepared to prod now and then.
If you send invoices from the FreshBooks interface, you’ll know when your clients open them.
If you need help, FreshBooks has an impressive support team. They have a dedicated phone line, and you’ll get an actual human on the other end if you call it. No automated systems to fight with—real, live people. Amazing.
You can create your project proposals and estimates in FreshBooks too. (See an overview of all features.)
If you’re like us, you’ll spend less time on client billing, which means you can spend more time serving those clients.
In hindsight, it’s obvious that a repetitive-and-yet-not-duplicative process like client billing could be re-imagined from the ground up and made into something that requires far less effort without sacrificing accuracy. Invoicing was exactly the sort of chore that practically cried out for innovation—like time tracking did for us. It’s gotta’ be done. It’s gotta’ be exact. But it shouldn’t eat up loads of time just because it always has.
We Recommend FreshBooks
If you’re a small, client-focused business, and you’d like to spend less time on your invoicing, you probably can with FreshBooks. Depending on what you’re using now, making the switch might require you to spend even more time than usual upfront, but once you’ve got all your clients and projects set up, your branding elements selected, and your team on board, you’re looking at a smooth and simplified client billing process that frees your administrative staff up to put their talents to better use than editing line items month after month.
FreshBooks is unique in the accounting software world. It’ll require some adjustment. For us, it’s been worth it. We’re using our time even more effectively now. Anything that helps us do that is something we want to tell the world about.
Photo by Fabian Blank