Freshbooks Tip – Ongoing Invoicing Variables

THIS is what I actually was going to put up on my blog today, but I’ve been meaning to write something about Freshbooks for a LONG time. Read the Freshbooks Review  – Freshbooks is extremely friendly as far as being able to do the things that you WANT to do quickly. However, there are a few, “How do I…” things. This one is how to invoice a client annually for something like webhosting. I want to send out an invoice to a customer a few weeks ahead of their annual hosting due date. So if I send out an invoice for hosting that begins NEXT month, I want it to read for the next month through the same month of the following year. With Freshbooks simple variables, it’s a snap.

Setup Recurring Invoicing that Customers Can Understand

freshbooks-interfaceClick on Invoices. Go to the sub bar under Invoices -> Recurring. New recurring profile. Select your start date, your client, your invoice sending method (normal stuff for an invoice) and add this code to automatically let the customer know what they are paying for.  This IS based on me invoicing for a year, sending out the invoice the month prior to the due date (well around 3 weeks prior to the due date).

Annual Webhosting ::month+1:: ::year:: through ::month+1:: ::year+1::

And then save it. Boom. You are now invoicing annually. Or whatever you decided to set it up as. “+1”, “-1”, “+6” – whatever this makes it simple and easy to be clear about what your customer invoice is all about!

Quick List of Variables for Freshbooks

I think there’s more, but these are great for what *I* need…

::month:: (month when invoice is generated)
::year:: (year when invoice is generated)
::quarter:: (quarter when invoice is generated)

Doesn’t it just make GOOD sense??? Simple and easy. Now THAT is how I need my business to be.

FreshBooks Review – Accounting for Small Business

I love some Freshbooks. It’s so much easier to use than QuickBooks for me. I realize that many people just love their Quickbooks – my accountant included – but when it comes to “I just need to send out an invoice”, with no muss and no fuss, you just can’t beat Freshbooks. Period.  How did I get here?

QuickBooks and Me

freshbooks-interfaceI have used QuickBooks since the early 90’s intermittently – and, of course, grudgingly for the most part. There are a lot of folks out there that DO love QuickBooks for their small business management. It pretty much has everything that one could possibly EVER – and I DO mean “EVER” – want. But the thing of it is, a lot of us don’t NEED or WANT *everything*.  I was ripping my hair out with one of those annoying “can’t enter this until you do this” messages that never seemed to stop. And when you tried to do the one thing that was preventing you from doing what you wanted, you got another message about not being able to do THAT until you did THIS. And, oh hey, to do that, you need to do this. By the time I got down to the root of the “You need to do this first” items, I’d either forgotten what the heck it was that I wanted to do in the first place, or was so frustrated that I just really didn’t care any more.

At my accountant’s suggestion, I agreed that we should start a new company file in QuickBooks and get it setup by her to do what was needed. Ideally, I would be able to then just go in and quickly and easily do my business – sans the hair pulling and premature baldness. She’d be able to look at it quickly and easily on a monthly basis, tidy it up, and we’d be moving right along lickety split. How’d that go? Not too good. After I think it turned into about 700 bucks worth of setup, tidying and classifying, I still got into the interface and had the “WTF???” reaction. We DID need to redo the QuickBooks stuff, but it was still unworkable for me. I worked with it for a few weeks – I gave it an honest try yet again. And the thing is, that there was always some sort of question that could only be answered by CALLING my accountant. In the middle of trying to dash off a quick invoice because someone is standing there with checkbook in hand, that’s just not something that I felt I wanted to have to do. After a few more months of working with it, maybe I would have known all the answers, but…

The ultimate final straw for me was after taking the time to setup automatic invoicing for my clients. I got in there to find that not a one had sent out. “Oh, of course, you have to be logged into your QuickBooks, have an email account opened (and the RIGHT email account open – found that out the hard way) and then theoretically, it will work.” There’s was always some other message that popped up about emails being stalled because there was yet another question somewhere that needed answering.  Of course, I had no clue the reason for or the answer to the popup. And realistically, I can’t afford to call my accountant every day. She’s great about quick questions and a lot of fun to talk to in general, but honestly, it was going to get tedious for her to hold my hand on a daily basis – and then it was going to start costing.

And when I need an answer NOW, I don’t have the time to wait half an hour to get the answer.  I realize that I am one of “those types”, but a lot of surviving in business is about recognizing who YOU are and how to best work with your strengths and weaknesses.  When I want an answer, I want it now. Or even BETTER, I don’t need to ASK questions to do what I need. THAT is the best solution.

Bookkeeping REALLY should not be this hard

Raleigh Computer Repair - Ready now?

Generally Accepted Accounting Practices

The ancient Egyptians were able to handle this on sheets of papyrus and clay tablets for God’s sake. I am not an accountant. I am not a bookkeeper. I’m honestly not too bad with just writing stuff down on green ledger paper. That actually seems to work awesomely for me. After the above mentioned last straw with QuickBooks, I went and purchased more green ledger books. And to this day, I *do* keep all my incoming checks in there for safety’s sake. While that works great for incoming, how about that darned invoicing? THAT’s all I really needed. My accountant can account for my bank stuff – I JUST NEED SOLID SIMPLE INVOICING WITH NO SURPRISES!!!

There is NOTHING in the “Generally accepted accounting priciples (GAAP)” that indicates pulling one’s hair out needs to be part of the whole process!

I started off thinking that maybe I could do this with Excel. Yes, while I could actually invoice things reasonably smoothly and save a copy into the customer folder on my computer, now I needed a way to track when these invoices went out and when I needed to knock ugly on someone. I don’t know about your business, but I have more than a few customers who feel that paying invoices is more of a choice than an obligation. I collected last month on an invoice from December of LAST year.

It’s sad when you are working from week to week to meet YOUR obligations and you have customers that live in big fine houses with very successful businesses, you see their Facebook pages yakking about the exotic trip{s} they just took (or are on), and they can’t seem to pay your $100 invoice for 10 months. Really?

So there was really no way to track that easily short of creating a whole new bookkeeping system in Excel or Access. Yeah. And since I *hate* bookkeeping in general, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. So I did some searching. And I came up with Freshbooks.

The Thing that Sold Me

021003_1708_0012_lsmsBasically it was billed as simple accounting for the simple person. That isn’t their actual tagline, but roughly what it amounts to. And that’s me all the way. I’m simple LOL and my NEEDS are simple. I need to be able to generate an invoice quickly and easily, get it to the client and track the payment – and know when to send out Bubba.

I signed up for Freshbooks on a Friday night after my frustrating day fighting with QuickBooks again and finding a dozen or so invoices unsent from as far back as a couple of weeks prior. While it took my bookkeeper hundreds of dollars of paid time to just set UP QuickBooks so a human like me could use it (theoretically), with a quick signup, I was setting up my OWN invoices. I was entering in the basic categories that I would need to use for customers. I was putting in my pre-programmed rates. I was setting up recurring invoices. Honestly, within that ONE NIGHT, I was able to transfer over ALL my invocing details and needs to Freshbooks. WITHOUT a call to my accountant. Granted, I was a bit sheepish about telling her that I had jumped ship and gone to Freshbooks, but I suspected if she didn’t have to field calls from me on a daily basis, she too would see this as a win-win thing for BOTH of us LOL.

Freshbooks is your basic web cloud-based accounting package. If you don’t have internet, you don’t have FreshBooks. Some people are antsy about that kind of setup, but in order for me to work ANYWAY, I have to be on the net, so it’s not a problem here. There is a lot of stuff, even in FreshBooks, that I don’t use. I have contractors, so I am really only concerned about invoicing and being able to see what they earned every Friday when check writing time comes. I hand write checks so I don’t need check printing functionality, though I suspect FreshBooks can handle it.

Now for a doofus like me, one really awesome thing is that Freshbooks can go out and get your bank account info. So it can automatically get ALL those expenses and payments from YOUR BANK and add it to your overall system. This is awesome. Period. It just about goof-proofs your accounting. While my bookkeeper DOES do my work on a monthly basis – and I like it that way – I can get a pretty good idea of what is happening just by looking at the little graph on the front page when I log in.

That Customer Invoicing?

Invoicing is simple as pie. Enter the class of billing (web, service, SEO, etc) and the rate comes up. Fill in the details. DO you want to send that via email, snail mail or just print it out and hand to them? It can’t be a bit easier. It really can’t. When you are ready to take money, you go to “Payments”. Simple.

There are a few ways to do different things. You can accept multiple invoice payments or just one. You can look at a single customer, multiple customers, aging reports on a single customer, overall aging reports and pretty much ANYTHING that I ever feel like I have needed to see what is going on with my business. Do you want the customer to pay online? SURE. There’s a clickable link on your email invoice that they can just follow over to PayPal and pay right there. It’s then automatically marked as PAID in your FreshBooks for you. Like I said – it really couldn’t be any easier.

Freshbooks Integration and Automation

zendesk-screenThey offer additional items like ZenDesk integration – WHICH WE LOVE. We do all of our work in ZenDesk. My techs simply setup a project, import the whole help desk ticket as reference into FreshBooks which automatically notifies ME of the invoice being generated and create an invoice for the customer in one fell swoop. There’s no “Must have your Outlook open to send invoices” – which means you have to have Outlook installed AND open to the right profile, for example, sales@wherever.com, to send invoices. They go automatically with no questions.

I get a notification that an invoice has gone out whenever they are generated. So all *I* need to do each morning is to look in MY Outlook, which IS always open LOL, and see what invoices have gone out. IF you’re not a fan of PayPal, you can also use BeanStream, Authorize.net, 2checkout.com, Braintree, eWay or iTransact for accepting online payments. Options man, it’s all about some options.

Other FreshBooks Integrations

There’s all SORTS of integration possibilities – Google integration, osCommerce, ZenCart, Magento, ZenDesk, MailChimp, Constant Contact, Cake, Basecamp and so much more as far as integrations. Get THAT from QuickBooks. Yeah, some of them DO cost, but this system is setup as an open system – if you’re inclined, you can write your OWN plugins/addons for it.

FreshBooks Upgrades?

Because this is all cloud-based accounting software, there IS no such thing as an upgrade in the sense that QuickBooks has. You are always using the most recent version anytime you log on.  With QuickBooks, I was inundated every year by all sorts of “You have GOT to get the newest $500 QuickBooks version NOW!” and then go through the “How do I pull THIS off? Is it seamless? Will I lose all my data? How do I export my data?”

Yeah, that data export thing I fought with for a few weeks with my bookkeeper (different one) a few years ago. You generally had to be facing east at exactly 5:14 am with the ambient temperature at 67 degrees and your tongue pinched firmly under your right incisors and legs crossed at exactly 90 degrees. You had to find the proper export tool – which I remember being pretty onerous on their site and I believe it was a paid thing. THEN you had a 50/50 chance of it working. Otherwise you would end up staring at it for 20 minutes trying to decide if it had worked, failed, was STILL working, whatever.

Freshbooks Versions

If your needs are extremely modest, there actually is a FREE version.  It comes down to how many customers you have.  I have the $39.95/month version. There are about 500 clients in there.

Wrapup

I can use this program easily. My techs invoice me and the customer at the same time. My customers can get their invoice in one of 3 ways. They can pay online and it is automatically entered into my bookkeeping system. I can easily look at my home page and get a good idea of what is going on. I don’t have to worry about keeping several versions of backups floating on and off site – it’s all in the cloud.

I am so done with QuickBooks forever. FreshBooks is the answer for the small business owner that just needs things to work. Period.

FreshBooks - for Small Business Bookkeeping

FreshBooks – for Small Business Bookkeeping

Autoresponder Google Apps or Gmail

Yup, it’s officially summer time – and that also means vacation time. If you’re like us and use either Gmail or Google Apps for Small Business, an autoresponder can make your life MUCH easier. There’s nothing more stressful than coming BACK from vacation to find a bunch of, “WHY haven’t you RESPONDED???” type emails waiting for you. Of course, if you really ARE like us, then you probably have your handy little phone that gets all your email for you regardless of where you are anyway… but we digress.

Gmail/Google Apps Vacation Responder Setup

Gmail/Google Apps Vacation Responder Setup

In the world of Google and Gmail, the autoresponder is the “vacation responder”. With a little judicious setup, you can get it to send an automated reply to anyone who emails you while it’s active. It’s quick to set up – just a minute or two – and you can easily deactivate at a time of your choosing. BONUS: Start and stop dates can be setup ahead of time if you have a bad memory like me.

  • Sign in to your Gmail account.
  • Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your Gmail interface and then click “Settings”.
  • Make sure you’re on the “General” tab.
  • Scroll down to the Vacation responder section (it’s near the bottom of that config page).
  • Decide when to kick it on. When you click the “Vacation responder on”, it will make today the first day and you can select when to end it. If you want to set it up for next Friday through Monday am, you can do that all in one shot right NOW while you’re thinking about it.  If you’ve just won the lottery and are on permanent vacation, you may choose to NOT end it until you decide to do it manually.
  • Enter the subject and body of your message in the Subject: and Message: fields.
    • Enter either very specific information – will be out of office from date1 until date2 OR just general – I’m unavailable. See above #lottery.
    • If you’ve enabled a personalized signature in your settings, Gmail will automatically slap it on the bottom of your vacation response.
  • Check the box next to ONLY send a response to people in “My Contacts” if you don’t want everyone who emails you (stalkers, people casing your house for the next burglary, etc) to know that you’re away from your mail or on vacation.
  • Click Save Changes.

When the vacation responder is active, you will see a yellow banner across the top of any Gmail page, displaying the subject of your vacation response. To stop Gmail from automatically sending the response, click end now within the banner. Or, if you’d like to edit the response, click vacation settings.

Keep in mind that your vacation response will start over each time you edit it. Normally each email address only gets one response from the autoresponder. If someone receives your initial vacation response, and then emails you again after you’ve edited the subject or body of the message, he or she will then receive the edited response again.

Messages filtered as SPAM or addressed to a mailing list you belong to will not receive a vacation response.

Now, you’re geared up to take a few days off. Go out there and enjoy the world!

Importing UltraEdit 15 FTP Settings to UltraEdit 19

So I just upgraded my computer and I know it’s always a pain.  When I say “upgraded”, it wasn’t an in-place software upgrade or moving to the God-forsaken Windows 8 OS, I mean, “replaced computer from barebones.”  This means that there is always a whole lot of pain reinstalling software, transferring files and settings, making sure everything is “just so.”  If all this is beyond you, you can always contact us for Raleigh computer repair.  Since I do this all the time, it wasn’t a huge stretch, but still… I don’t care how easy the “Easy Settings Transfer Wizard” tries to make it sound, unless you’re running nothing more than a browser, you’re going to have some work to do.

ultraedit-v19

ultraedit-v19

I actually went from a Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit  on an AMD Phenom II x6 to a shiny Intel i7-3770 with 8 cores packed into a Dell XPS 8550.  I couldn’t be happier.  Except of course, for the getting everything “just so.”  When your computer IS your business, it’s not just a one day operation.  I’m on day 10 or so and have just now gone to use the FTP features on my also shiny brand new version of UltraEdit v19.10.

Granted, on THIS app, I did NOT have 150 some accounts like the CuteFTP upgrade, but I had enough where hunting down all the usernames/passwords would have been really annoying. So enough blathering, here’s what it takes to upgrade/import your FTP sites from UltraEdit v15 to UltraEdit v19 – and I suspect most versions are just some variation on this process.

explorer-show-hidden-files

explorer-show-hidden-files

In order to see and do all of this, you will need a couple changes to your folder view settings. Go to Windows Explorer. Go to the “Tools” => “Folder Options…”. Click the “View” tab and click the “show hidden files,…” radio button. Then “Apply” and “OK”. You can change them back to what they were before you started after you are done. This allows you to see these settings files.

Source Computer (Old Version of UltraEdit)

UltraEdit v15 – there is an option to save your FTP files to a user-defined text file under Advanced => Configuration => FTP.  Naturally I didn’t do that.  So where ARE the FTP settings?  They’re under this file – adjust to your particular settings

C:UsersUSERNAMEAppDataRoamingIDMCompUltraEditUEdit32.INI

There is a whole LOT of information in the INI file. Don’t bug yourself trying to figure it all out. You only need a couple different areas. What YOU are interested in are two particular types of information – the individual account information groups and the [FTP Account List]. Unfortunately, the individual accounts are scattered throughout the whole INI file.

Individual Accounts

Your individual accounts will look something like this

[{49124CF8-B69B-42b6-9FFB-833818DB6E0A}]
Account Id={49124CF8-B69B-42b6-9FFB-833818DB6E0A}
Account Name=Portofino
Cache Password=1
Connection Limit=4
Display Filter=*.*00|
Display Type=1
Encrypted Password=1
Filter Type=0
Incremental Paths=1
Leading Character=/
Maximum Recursion=-1
Name Index=-1
Override Passive=0
Passive Mode=0
Password=LONGUNGODLYSTRINGOFENCRYPTEDDATA59E5A7693C42F...
Port=21
Protocol=0
Proxy Type=0
SSH Authentication Type=0
SSH Compression Level=0
SSH Key Requires Passphrase=0
Save Password=1
Separator Character=/
Server Address=111.222.333.444
Server Type=0
Size Index=-1
Sync Clock Skew=300
Transfer Mode=1
Use Extended FTP Commands=0
Use Full Path When Saving=0
Use Proxy=0
Use SSH Compression=0
User Name=yerusernamehere

FTP Account List


[FTP Account List]
0={49124CF8-B69B-42b6-9FFB-833818DB6E0A}
1={B60AF804-B2C7-47ae-5AD5-9529AB77F88D}
2={BEA5CA1B-FBC5-4e7a-3433-94A8ECDDA1C3}
...
28={9224A885-EF18-4d51-8169-B851B73EA9BB}

Destination Computer (UltraEdit v19)

ultraedit settings

ultraedit settings

On this computer, after discovering the whole “Save FTP Setitngs in user selected file” thing, I created a file by checking the little box. Go to the Advanced => Configuration => FTP and check the box. “OK” out on the dialog box. Close the app. At least I think that’s when it created it. Your computer should have this file if that box is checked (or something real similar… C:UsersUSERNAMEAppDataRoamingIDMCompCommonFTP AccountsIdmFTPAccounts.txt

Now what we’re going to do is simply copy the appropriate data sections from the OLD computer .INI file to the new FTP Settings text file. We will create a new file, paste all the info in there, save it, close our UE, rename the IdmFTPAccounts.txt file and pop in our new file. Then when we open up our UltraEdit AGAIN, we’ll have our old list back in place – wooHOOOO!

The Actual Steps to Create the New File

  • Old Computer/Version – Open up UEdit32.INI from your old version
  • New Computer/Version – Open the IdmFTPAccounts.txt file. At this point it’s probably going to be just about blank. Save it as “-IdmFTPAccounts.txt” in the same directory. We’re going to be doing all our work in UE while we’re doing this. I hate using Notepad.

Start at the top of the UEdit32.ini from the old version and grab every entry that looks like the individual entry above and paste it with a blank line following it into the -IdmFTPAccounts.txt file. You’re going to end up with series of individual account entries and then grab the [FTP Account List] as above and paste it in there too. It really doesn’t seem to make ANY difference what order you paste it in as UltraEdit seems to adjust it to its’ own likings when you close. I put all of my individual entries in and then put the FTP Account List part at the top.

  • Save the -IdmFTPAccounts.txt.
  • Close UltraEdit.
  • Open up Windows Explorer and go here – C:UsersUSERNAMEAppDataRoamingIDMCompCommonFTP Accounts. On the new version, rename the ORIGINAL IdmFTPAccounts.txt to anything else – I used two dashes “–” before the name.
  • Now rename the new created file to IdmFTPAccounts.txt by removing the dash.

What you have now done is created a new text file to replace the default FTP accounts file. You have saved the original in case something goes wrong. You have told UE to use your new file and you should NOW have all your FTP accounts showing with ALL the proper information in place. Yeah!

Close Explorer.
Open up UltraEdit and BAM! You should be good to go. It took all of about 5 minutes.

Now go back and change back your Folder view settings so you don’t have a desktop full of “desktop.ini” files.

You may want to try to be a little lazier by trying to import all the data or something along those lines from the Uedit32.ini file – I did NOT as I didn’t want to clutter or possibly corrupt anything. I made a 4 version jump when I bought the new version of UltraEdit, so there is no telling what has deprecated over that time and what may cause issues if brought forward. Just bring what you need and it works like a champ.