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

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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,, 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,,, 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.


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