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.
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!
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.
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
- 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!
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).
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.
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.