Freshbooks review – first thoughts

Well I finally did it. After a few weeks of messing around with the free account, I finally signed up for the basic paid package from Freshbooks. There are several reasons for this, which I will get to in a minute, but I wanted to write a concise review of this product, along with comparing it with it’s competitors, so here goes.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the features I would like to let you know about the reasons I stood up and took notice of Freshbooks, aside from the very extensive feature set.

Excellent Pre-sales

When I first setup my free account I did a test. I integrated it into the 2Checkout account I have not used in a long time, since a lot of people prefer PayPal. I have since changed my domain name, and so updated my 2Checkout account to reflect this. The problem was, in order for the integration to work I had to provide the Freshbooks url instead, meaning that I couldn’t sell from my site as well. After going round in circles for ages with 2Checkout, eventually one of the Freshbooks team contacted them on my behalf and ironed the situation out! At this point I wasn’t even a paying Freshbooks customer. Now THAT’s service!

Later in the week I was experimenting a little more, and I found that the 2checkout page that takes payment wasn’t as neat as it could be. Mainly this is due to their interface not being the best. Anyway, I posted on the forums and within an hour or so one of the Freshbooks team asked me for a screenshot. I uploaded one and he went and asked the developers. He then came back to me and said they can and will do something to improve this. Again, great service considering I had yet to sign up!

Ok… enough of that, onto the review!

First Impressions

The initial impression of Freshbooks is just how polished it is. The interface is simple and intuitive enough to be called slick, and everything everything is exactly where I would expect it to be. At first it looks almost too simple, but after a bit of playing about you see it is actually very feature rich.

Look and feel

I took the time to customise the look and feel. This consisted of uploading a logo and giving it 3 colours for the menu (the bar, the active tab, and the other tabs). Once I had done this and saved it, the interface was transformed. Even the login screen embraced the new look!

The whole process took just a minute or two. This sounds like a small thing, but I have worked with several other systems that make this sort of thing either impossible or surprisingly difficult.

Ease of use

I can’t fault the system for ease of use. They have done a fine job of selecting the features people want, and implementing them in such a way they are a joy to use. From adding clients, to invoicing is seamless. One of the great selling points for me is being able to provide an estimate, and later take the estimate and turn it into an invoice.

Feature rich

I could go on about this all day, so rather than do that I will simply list some of the features I like most:

  • Recurring Invoices
  • Estimates
  • Automated payment reminders
  • Comprehensive reports
  • Outputting of data
  • Online Payment (PayPal, 2checkout, Authorise.net.. and more!)
  • Custom branding
  • They even deliver snail mail, if you like
  • Time tracking (they even have an OSX desktop widget!)

This product is really quite rich in features, and looking on the forums they are very focused on keeping the features people want and not filling it with crap that just a few people ask for. That said, there is one thing that is in the pipeline that I do very much like the idea of, and that is Google Checkout integration – some people don’t like PayPal, and Google checkout takes less % off the seller. This to me would be a great addition!

Cost

I was going to leave this til last, but it is quite important so I will talk about it now. The basic paid package is $14.95 and includes up to 25 clients and unlimited invoices. This is not bad, and for $10 more you can add another 250 clients… enough for most people, I’m sure you’ll agree. This price point is actually fairly similar to the competition, and of course the free account is great for deciding if you want to sign up for a paid account or not (the free one gives you up to 3 clients).

Comparison

The main competitor in my opinion is Blinksale. Blinksale is an invoicing system but not much else. On the face of it, it does exactly as it says on the tin, and it does it well. It has online payments (PayPal only) and email invoices.

Where the two differ mainly is Blinksale is invoice centric and Freshbooks is client centric. Allow me to explain.

If I am selling we hosting, for example. I will have a silver account. A customer signs up and in blinksale I open up the silver account and add the customer. This sets them on recurring billing and off they go. Simple!

Simple, that is until they come back the next month and say they want another account… ok, back into silver account, try to select the client… can’t… not there… WHAT? This is the crux of the problem for Blinksale, it completely misses my business model.

Freshbooks deals with it in a different way. I set up the products as items and for a new sign-up I select new recurring invoice… select the client, select the product, and away we go… same result, but a whole lot more flexible.

Where Blinksale is different though is they allow unlimited clients on the free account, but a limited number of invoices per month (3). In theory you could remain free longer on Blinksale, providing your billing is spread out throughout the year. That said, $14 is hardly breaking the bank.

Final thoughts

I don’t want this to sound like a party political broadcast for the Freshbooks party (maybe too late?) but my first impressions of this product are great. It is feature rich, easy to use, and has an enthusiastic, professional team working behind the scenes.

I will post in a month or two when it has bedded in. I’m sure there will be niggles along the way, no system is perfect, but for now I am happy.

Signup for a FREE account and try it for yourself

WordPress 2.7 – Two week delay

I just dug up the following about the delay to the 2.7 release of WordPress:

WordPress Development Team on delay of WordPress 2.7 release-

“Speaking of the final release, it will not be available on November 10th as originally scheduled.  We are two weeks behind schedule at the moment.  We need a little more time to finish the visual design, do a round of user testing against that finished design, and do a proper round of public beta testing. Our plan is to keep working as if Nov. 10 is still the release date.  However, instead of releasing the final 2.7 on the 10th, we will make a release candidate available instead.  The release candidate is intended to be a high-quality, almost-finished release that we are comfortable recommending for broad use.  After Nov. 10, the focus will be on fixing high impact bugs turned up by those of you testing the release candidate. I suspect 2.7 will be ready for final release by the end of November.  A specific date will be set as we progress through the public beta cycle and get a feel for how solid the release is.”

WordPress 2.7, where are you?

The buzz in the blogosphere (oh no, I can’t believe I just said “blogosphere”!) is that WordPress 2.7 is due out. This looks to be a really worthwhile update, and brings to the table some much sought after features such as threaded comments, sticky posts and a completely re-vamped menu system.

Word on the street (what street exactly, I don’t know!) is that 2.7 was due out November 10th 2008…. well that has come and gone (in the UK, at least) and no sign of it. I am not too bothered… I am sure it is coming soon, and I would rather have a stable release than a rushed one, but I feel like a kid at Christmas….!

I will be sure to do a full write-up when it finally arrives, but for now I am off to bed! I am going to leave a mince pie and a carrot by the fireplace tonight, in case the WordPress development team come’a’visitin!

😀

Mobile computing – Are we there yet?

Does your site look good when viewed on an iPhone, on a PDA, or ultra-portable laptop? Does it really matter? What percentage of your visitors use these platforms to browse sites?

This is a question I have been asking myself recently. With the roll-out of the 3G networks (pretty much globally) the speed of Internet browsing via mobile devices had increased to a now acceptable level. Couple this with reasonable mobile data tariffs, wi-fi hot-spots, and a plethora of gadgets to go with them, surely more and more people will be experiencing your site through a mobile device.

That said, I have not made the jump myself. Yes, I have RSS options on my sites, so mobile users could use those, but for the casual browser I don’t make any changes to suit their platform. I think this is for two reasons. Firstly it takes a lot more effort to develop a site and tailor part of it to be specific to the portable platform, and secondly the percentage of people using these platforms (certainly according to my stats) is too small to make it worthwhile.

I think blogs are possibly the ideal platform to take advantage of the mobile platforms. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t have a WordPress theme installed that is tailored to mobile computing, and it gets served based on the header information transmitted when the page is loaded. That way the effort would be minimised, while maintaining the user experience. Good idea?

I do think times are-a-changing though, and the market is growing and growing. Sales of laptops now generously outstrips sales of desktop PC’s, and almost all phones now have some kind of browser in them. At some point it will become necessary to make the changes, but when that will be I’m just not sure.

Have you designed a mobile website? How was it received? Do people use it?