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

13 replies
  1. Tertius
    Tertius says:

    Just starting to work with freshbooks today.

    The one thing I need is multiple currencies in one account because I have international clients. So now I have to have multiple accounts.

    That is kind of frustrating.

    Reply
  2. Jim
    Jim says:

    Yeah, I can see how that could be.. have you posted a feature request on their forum? The are usually pretty good at letting you know if it is likely to be implemented or not.

    Reply
  3. David
    David says:

    Hey,

    I’ve just found out about this sort of software through sitepoint.com (Excellent site for tuition).

    I’m considering Freshbooks but I’m in the UK and wondering if I’d be better off looking for a more local solution rather than a U.S company?

    Any other amazing software solutions out there that i’m missing? Seems like I’ve stumbled upon a gold mine with this service!

    Email me if you can. =)

    Reply
  4. Jim
    Jim says:

    @David: I have emailed you with the reply, but in terms of my Freshbooks experience I really can’t fault it. The couple of minor things I have found have been dealt with quickly and effectively, they are great people to work with!

    Reply
  5. David
    David says:

    Thanks Jim, I’ve signed up and it works a treat. This is really going to make managing my time much easier. Not to mention communication and invoicing between clients.

    Have bookmarked your site and look forward to re-visiting. =)

    Reply
  6. Fresh Josh
    Fresh Josh says:

    @Jim – We appreciate the thorough review and detailed rundown of your experience signing up. Glad the team here was able to get you sorted out – we live for this stuff.

    @Tertius – Thanks for the feedback on multiple currencies. While I can’t say when this will be supported by FreshBooks, please know we are listening to what our users are saying & asking for.

    @David – FWIW, we’re located in Toronto, Canada and we have LOTS of UK customers, and even a UK Toll Free support number (0808-101-3408)

    Cheers!

    Josh Newman – FreshBooks
    http://freshbooks.com/team/josh

    Reply
  7. Jim
    Jim says:

    @David: That’s great, please do pop back and let me know how you got on. I will be posting a follow up to this review soon, now that I have had time to get used to it, it will be interesting to see how it compares to your experience.

    …one more thing, if you have any questions, they are v.good at monitoring the forums!

    @Josh: Thanks for popping by, it’s great that you guys get involved with the user base like this.

    Reply
  8. Alex
    Alex says:

    Excellent product, it is something more than invoicing alone. One feature that I an really impressed with is time tracking. The interface is smooth and user friendly. Another great resource that you might be interested is invoicera.com. This is I guess somewhat similar to freshbooks but currently is in beta phase. Worth checking though.

    Reply
  9. Jim
    Jim says:

    @Alex: I have yet to use the time tracking aspect of Freshbooks but from what I have seen it looks good. I had a look at Invoicera but there seems to be no pricing structure in place, so until that happens I won’t be looking into it. One good feature Invoicera has though is Google Checkout

    Reply
  10. Invoicera
    Invoicera says:

    @Jim Thanks for showing your interest in Invoicera. I would like to apprise you that we would be rolling out our application with pricing structure from 8th May, 2009. I hope you would find it more lucrative.
    Meanwhile, please feel free to visit our blog for updates.

    Reply

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