My wife and I started Bright Oak officially back in January 2010. About 30 days later, it was becoming rapidly evident that we were in need of some sort of accounting software to help organize all of our accounts receivable. At the time, all we knew about was Quickbooks — so we purchased a copy for Mac. By 2011, Heather was sending out approximately 15 invoices a month, and about half-way through the year we got smart and moved over to Quickbooks Online. Now here we are in 2013, and Heather is sending out almost 75 invoices per month — many of which are recurring retainer invoices ranging from SEO, PPC, or Hosting services to Web or Mobile App Installments, and more.
Over the past 3+ years, Quickbooks Online has been our go-to accounting software. It has a lot of great features, but we always felt like it had way too many bells and whistles — not to mention it was extremely overwhelming to learn — and we still don’t fully understand how it all works. Running a web agency with a growing client base and a team of almost 15 is time consuming enough — having to spend nearly 20+ hours a month working with Heather on invoices was getting really old, really fast. We needed an alternative.
So I did what most of us do when we need to find something — hop on Google and start searching. I read a number of reviews and watched a few tutorials. It was reassuring to read about a lot of other agencys who were in my same shoes who made the jump to FreshBooks. After checking out their site and reading more about their services — I figured we’d give it a shot and sign up for their non-required credit card 30 day trial.
We logged into FreshBooks and quickly realized that whoever built this, really understood small business — especially web and marketing agencies like ours. The UI/UX was great. The navigation and hierarchy made sense. Their mobile app — a huge bonus. Below I will breakdown some of the core features that made had us sold on switching, and made the migration painless.
1. Late Payment Reminders
I genuinely do not have the slightest idea why some clients think they can sign up for a service, and then pick and choose when and how they pay for it. Do they go grocery shopping and then explain to the teller that they will come back in 30 days from now and pay for their groceries? Do they pump their gas and then proceed to walk in and tell the clerk that they will send them a check for their gas in a couple weeks? And I digress.
With almost $75,000 of delinquent payments, some as old as 6 months — it was time to put an end to this madness. For every dilemma we were in, or question we had — FreshBooks was there with a solution. For us, we decided to make all of our invoices due upon receipt, and then apply a 5% late fee for each 21 days of being late. FreshBooks lets you plug in your invoice terms, and then allow you to choose to automatically apply late fees to outstanding invoices without you having to click or type in anything.
The other great feature here is the reminders. FreshBooks lets you customize up to 3 notices that will be sent out on whatever day you want. We chose to set up friendly reminders notifying the client when their payment was 7, 14, and 20 days late. The notice that goes out on the 20th day kindly reminds them that a 5% late fee will be applied if the payment is not made the following day — this was all something that Heather had to do manually for every client when we were with Quickbooks.
2. Recurring Invoicing
We spent the first few days plugging in all of our recurring accounts — which makes up about 50 invoices. The process was very user friendly and painless. FreshBooks also lets you set dynamic variables. So let’s say we wanted to set up a recurring invoice for hosting, we’d type this into the description field: Pagodabox Cloud Hosting Management For ::month:: — which would dynamically plug in the month that the recurring invoice goes out. Genius right? We wholeheartedly concur.
On top of that, they let you set the frequency of how many times that Invoice is suppose to be created. This ranges anywhere from 1 to infinity. This was one of the big features that had us sold. Heather and I literally get to now save at least 20+ hours a month, and set nearly 90% of our invoicing to cruise control.
3. Not So Fast [Insert Client Name]
How many times have you heard: “Sorry, I never received your invoice, please send it again.” Or maybe something like this: “We just received an invoice with a late fee, but we never received your earlier invoice. Can you remove the charge, and send me that invoice again? We will take care of it today!”
Well now you get to call your client’s bluff. FreshBooks documents the history for each invoice. They timestamp everything, from when you created or edited the invoice, to what time and day your client opened or viewed the invoice. We’ve only been live with FreshBooks for a couple weeks, but we can’t wait to get the proverbial dog ate my invoice excuse from someone.
The list above is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the core features that had Heather and I sold, but they were the top 3 that made it a no-brainer for us and Bright Oak. Some other cool features include:
1. Employees Can Invoice You Straight From FreshBooks
This is just awesome! And yes, it seamlessly syncs right up to your expenses.
Quickbooks had a lot of intricate reports that you could generate, but we really only ended up using a fraction of them. With FreshBooks, all of the reporting and stats that we used on Quickbooks are still there — plus more. Until you have an in-house accounting team or CFO — I really don’t see the need for all the other reports that Quickbooks offers.
3. Really Really Easy Online Payments For Clients
We’ve always allowed our clients to pay with a Credit Card, or by an ACH payment — FreshBooks makes this even easier. Invoices get sent out with an automatic link to their client portal. There, clients can view their existing invoices, print out a PDF, or check outstanding invoices. They also can securely pay for their invoices online, without you having to do anything except plug in your payment gateway service into FreshBooks — it took about 1.5 minutes to do.
4. The cost
Compared to Quickbooks Online’s $26.95/mo, FreshBooks has a low-cost and scalable pricing model. Their entry level services that are comparable to Quickbooks online is only $19.95/mo.
5. Great Customer Service & Support
With Quickbooks, trying to get a hold of someone for help is not all that bad, but you have to go through typical hoops of… press 1, then 4, then 2, and then you finally get sent off to talk to someone after listening to some awesome jazz music. Another downside with Quickbooks, they refer you to a certified Quickbooks person in your area if you really need help figuring things out. With FreshBooks, we called their Toll-free number and guess who picked up the phone? A human! No jazz music. No Computers. A real human — and a nice one at that. She didn’t even need to transfer us to another department. Our question/issue was resolved in minutes. I know Quikcbooks/Intuit is a much larger company than FreshBooks, but I think that is part of the problem. FreshBooks has a great customer service department and has a nice homey small-business feel to it — the one that actual cares if you close your account kind of thing.
Heather and I just had our first kid a little over 5 months ago — which was the greatest thing to ever happen to us — and all the added stress and time that comes with that massive responsibility has been very taxing for her, and myself included. When we started our journey together, the plan was always to try to get to the point where she could stay home and be a full time mom, and with FreshBooks — we are almost there. With 90% of her job outsourced to FreshBooks, her and I get to spend more time with this little guy…
… and less time stressing out about, or dreading the end of the month invoice cycle. I no longer have to lose sleep over whether or not we got everything sent out to the right people, for the right amounts, at the right time. Gone are the days of spending 20+ hours a month crunching numbers, triple checking our bank account to see who has paid and who hasn’t, and gone are the days of Quickbooks Online.
If you are interested in moving over to FreshBooks and turning a majority of your invoicing to cruise control, then Heather and I invite you to do so. Click this link. You won’t be disappointed.
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