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Online Invoicing and Accounting

17 comments

Written on August 17th, 2010 by Erik Reagan

For the past two years I've been a happy customer of Freshbooks (referral link). There came a time, fairly early on, when my business partner and I realized we needed a better system for invoicing our clients. We were a young company still figuring some basic things out. After looking around at various solutions we landed on Freshbooks. I can't say how much hassle their service has saved us these past two years. With those kind words said, I must admit that we're actively looking for the "next step."

Update: After writing this I was directed toward Freeagent. At face value it looks like an excellent competitor. I'll probably add some thoughts about it in this post at a later date.

Why leave Freshbooks?

Freshbooks is great for tracking time around categories, creating invoicing and making it easy for clients to view those invoices. They have some pretty good reporting options and they also make it easy to send clients "account statements." Where they fall short is really anything beyond invoicing. I'm in need of a more well rounded accounting package for a small business owner without an on-staff (or on-retainer) accountant. I've looked into a few other solutions but yesterday I found one that looks golden. Well, maybe more like silver than gold.

Let me explain.

Meet WorkingPoint

Thanks to a tweet from Marcus Neto I found out about WorkingPoint last night. After a brief look through the features it looked like an excellent solution for my needs. It has invoicing, truer expense tracking, much better reporting, better contact management and more. The focus of WorkingPoint is much more "small business accounting" based rather than just "invoicing" based (which is what I consider Freshbooks to be).

Looking through the features tonight made me take the time to really slow down and determine what it would take for me to leave Freshbooks in favor of a better solution. I've come up with a few things that are must-haves for us and then some like-to-haves that would make it that much sweeter. Here are the must haves:

  • Great support
  • Basic contact management (client profiles & the ability to run reports on clients)
  • Reporting that includes breakdown of tasks billed and items billed
  • Easy invoicing
  • Online interface for clients
  • Expense tracking
  • Import and export of data

So far we're looking pretty good since most online SAAS offerings in this department have all of those features. Here are the like-to-haves:

  • Pretty graphs (I'm a sucker for graphs)
  • Mobile interface/application
  • Tax reports
  • Automatic late notices
  • Custom invoice design
  • Banking integration
  • Recurring Invoices
  • Time tracking
  • API for extendability

So now that you know what my must haves and my like-to-haves are let's look at how these two services stack up against one another (in my terms).

Comparison chart of Freshbooks and WorkingPoint

Review

So as the table above indicates, there's no true winner right now (assuming my facts are straight). I don't quite have enough to pull me over to WorkingPoint due to the missing time tracker and lack of API as it stands. I really do hope to find (and transition to) a better all around solution for my business. It's really just a matter of making the call and adjusting our team's habits accordingly.

Technically speaking we could just use another tool for time tracking if we wanted to. The Freshbooks widget for OS X has become second nature though, so that will be a tough one.

What do you use?

I've asked on Twitter a few times this year, but that can only get so far. What do you use for your small business accounting? Do you primarily focus on invoices and estimate for when it comes to SAAS or do you look for a more fully featured accounting package? I look forward to your thoughts!

If you see any erroneous information regarding Freshbooks or WorkingPoint please let me know and I will correct it.

Comments

Good post and WorkingPoint looks great especially the tax stuff. Unfortunately for me it’s U.S. focused. Will have to find a similar service that provides tax stuff for Canada - but for me that can wait until I make the move back to Canada next July.

Sean on Aug 17th, 2010 at 4:46 am

I went through the process of streamlining my accounting / invoicing process for the third time a year and a half ago. At the time, I had looked at numerous “cloud apps” including (but not limited to) Less Accounting, Outright, Xero, WorkFlow Max, FreeAgent, Clarity, and a half dozen others - WorkingPoint wasn’t on the radar.

I chose Xero for accounting and integrated Freshbooks for invoicing.

Xero is hands-down the best invoicing application out there. No rival comes close to its ease of use and UI. It’s also one of the few double-entry systems available (preferred by accountants). Xero is supposed to be adding auto bank statement integration this fall for U.S.-based customers for no extra monthly fee ... My situation is a little different in that my bank does NOT offer downloadable statements for customers who are not using Quickbooks. I’m seriously debating switching to WorkingPoint because I can’t wait any longer for Xero to add auto statement integration. That said, if your bank offers statement download in a format you can import into Xero, their reconciliation process engine is phenomenal.

Why pay the extra monthly fee for Freshbooks when Xero offers a very nice invoicing feature? 
- Freshbooks offers a task timer
- Auto reminder feature for late payments
- and, is one of the only invoicing apps that does NOT charge extra for contractor seats (system users)

For now, I’m sticking with my current costly process, but I’ll likely be revising this process for 2011.

Paul Burton on Aug 17th, 2010 at 6:39 am

I use a combination of Freshbooks and Outright. Outright fills in some of the accounting gaps not handled by Freshbooks, and it integrates with the Freshbooks API. But Working Point looks like a great find. Banking integration would be so nice to have, but the lack of time tracking and no late payment reminders make me hesitate to make the switch. Maybe by 2011 those features will be added?

Andy Johnson on Aug 17th, 2010 at 7:15 am

Thanks for the time and comments guys. It’s great to hear about other’s experiences in not only researching and selecting services/products but where those selections meet your needs.

Cheers :)

Erik Reagan on Aug 17th, 2010 at 7:44 am

I use a Freshbooks to do the following: quick estimates, recurring invoices, automatic reminders, expense tracking, and time tracking.  It is worth every penny I pay each month, and haven’t needed anything more robust. 

As soon as I get an iPhone, I plan to use the integration apps that allow me to snap a photo of my receipt and enter the expense right there.  I can’t think of anything more handy.

Now, I only use the estimate feature of Freshbooks for very simple estimates for existing clients.  To land those bigger jobs, I have a Word template that I tweak to match that project.

Ryan Battles on Aug 17th, 2010 at 11:54 am

Great post.  Love workingpoint and would recommend it to any new small business.  The interface is spectacular and it does everything I need.

CJ on Aug 17th, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Andy: Rather than using two products (freshbooks and outright), try WorkingPoint.  It is integrated and does better what each of the two separate products tries to achieve in combination.

I use it for accounting, invoices, and now its banking integration makes entering transactions much simpler.

CJ on Aug 17th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

CJ: WorkingPoint is making progress, but the reason some of us are using two products relates to a lack of much-needed features that should be considered when deciding what accounting package you should use for your critical business needs.

WorkingPoint does not currently support:
- (critical) double entry bookkeeping - the more business you do, the more important this becomes
- (critical) bank statement reconciliation
- a task timer
- automatic reminders
- extra seats for contractors (or some method of dealing with contractors)
- (convenience) ability to manage more than one account business/personal from your dashboard

Choosing the right accounting/invoicing system for your business is as much about anticipating growth as it is about ease-of-use. It’s also very important to understand your accountant’s needs ... The IRS doesn’t give a shit how simple your process is.

Paul Burton on Aug 17th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Pretty much ditto what Pual Burton said about Xero. I find the double entry bookkeeping method is better for capturing expenses, particularly things like paypal fees, bank fees, utilities, etc. But I’m really getting tired of waiting on the automatic bank integration - would be nice to have a Mint.com explicitly for business.

Bud Parr on Aug 17th, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Bud

Perhaps we’ll see a Mint.com with business features down the road. Intuit didn’t buy them a year ago for nothing… :)

Erik Reagan on Aug 17th, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Paul:

WorkingPoint does have double entry bookkeeping.  http://www.workingpoint.com/features/accounting/ 

Some of the other items you mentioned you are correct, it doesn’t have.  For me, they were not required.

CJ

CJ on Aug 18th, 2010 at 11:53 am

CJ,
Are you at all affiliated with WorkingPoint or are you just a customer?

Erik Reagan on Aug 18th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Erik:
Just a (new) customer.  But very recently went through a brief evaluation process when switching off quickbooks so remain curious what leads some to select one vs. another.

CJ on Aug 26th, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I have tried various cloud based invoicing apps for my business and keep exploring more options. One application that has really impressed me with its features and interface is Invoicera (http://www.invoicera.com). Have just started to use it and it is good.
Cheers!

Steve on Nov 3rd, 2010 at 1:13 am

for invoices and PDF invoices we use http://hostbillapp.com

pwmateo on Aug 25th, 2011 at 2:27 am

We use http://www.startinvoicing.com/ for online invoicing and cash flow and we love it.

Xen on Sep 11th, 2011 at 11:12 am

With the advent of Cloud Computing, access to advanced, low cost accounting and e-invoicing software has never been easier. Accounting services companies are now able to use these solutions in order to achieve an entirely paperless Purchase-to-Pay process for their clients.

This survey, designed by BancTec - a global leader in financial transaction automation - has one purpose in mind; to find out how accounting services companies, and their clients, are benefitting from e-invoicing solutions accessed from the Cloud.

By completing this survey, you will receive a free copy of the research, and you will gain an insight into how organisations like your own are utilizing these new tools to drive business revenue and increase customer loyalty.

ian on Apr 23rd, 2013 at 3:29 am

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