Software offers ‘Fresh’ approach to small business invoicing

By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

FreshBooks is a basic bookkeeping software package that specializes in providing invoices for very small businesses and freelancers. Launched in 2004, FreshBooks today offers cloud-based bookkeeping tools to manage invoices, payments, and expenses, and also to provide minimal time management. The application does not have the full functionality that larger, more sophisticated companies might need, but accountants may well find it suitable for some of their smaller business clients.

FreshBooks offers a 30-day free trial. After that, users can opt for yearly or monthly plans. Tiers are available in each plan. The monthly prices start at $15 for the Lite package, which allows unlimited invoices, estimates, time tracking, expense tracking, online credit card payments, and expenses for as many as five of the firm's clients. The Plus package costs $25 per month. It increases the allowed clients to 50 and adds payment reminders, late fees for overdue accounts, accounting reports, recurring invoice scheduling, and a proposal feature. Finally, the Premium tier costs $50 per month and supports up to 500 clients. Each tier also has an optional $10 per-person, per-month add-on that allows additional staff to access the account. All pricing tiers offer a 10% discount for yearly payment.

Sign-up is simple. Users enter their email address and password. Once those are verified via return email, the setup process begins. Users are queried about their type of business: existing or startup, full-time focus or part-time, and freelancer or retailer or service provider, etc. At this point, users can add members of their team to the account, set up online payments, and select various other configuration choices.

Once the company profile is complete, users will see the main dashboard, where they can choose to customize their brand by adding a logo and choosing colors, a template, and a font style for invoices. I spent about 10 minutes designing a professional-looking invoice.

General usage starts at the main dashboard, where users can select invoices, estimates, clients, expenses, projects, or time tracking. Users can also access support and view outstanding revenue, total profit, spending, unbilled time, and various advanced reports. Additionally, there are options for company profile, apps, and bank integrations. I was pleasantly surprised to find multiple language support for invoices and estimates. I noted Dutch, Estonian, French, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, and a few others.

FreshBooks provides for recurring bills, and its payment system allows businesses to start accepting credit cards immediately. Producing invoices is straightforward. Each invoice includes the customer's billing address, date of issue, due date, invoice number, amount due, description, rate, quantity, and total, including taxes/discounts. The dashboard displays total outstanding invoices and expenses, etc., but it does not offer true double-entry accounting.

Customer details are displayed via the Client tab, where users can view customer contact details through a sort of digital business card. With a click on the card, users can see a display showing all interactions (outstanding balances, unbilled time, unbilled expenses, etc.) with that client.

FreshBooks has mobile apps for iOS and Android that support invoice creation and even allow users to photograph receipts with their phone's camera and then add them to their expenses.

This space includes myriad other applications, ranging from basic and simple to full-featured and complex. Some of those other platforms include BillQuick, QuickBooks Online, Sage Intacct, Xero, and Wave. (Editor's note: Sage Intacct is a partner of CPA.com, the technology subsidiary of the AICPA.) If at least some of your clients are freelancers or very small businesses, FreshBooks is worth a look.

Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA, is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the American Institute of CPAs. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor, at Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com or 919-402-4056.

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