Have you ever had a favorite bill?
You know, a bill that you love paying because you’re so thrilled with the service or product that you’ll happily pay the fees to keep using it?
I have. Today I’m going to tell you all about the app that has saved my sanity as a freelancer… FreshBooks.
I’m finally getting around to publishing an in-depth review of it… it’s literally been on my to-do list for two years.
You’re about to see why I love it so much!
(Psst… already know you want in? Try FreshBooks free for 30 days, then snag a 10% discount for being a loyal PA community member!)
My FAVORITE Service for Freelancers
FreshBooks is a premium invoicing service for freelancers and other service-based professionals. It also includes client management, time tracking, and reports… everything a nerd like me needs to be happy.
But what I love most about FreshBooks is that it makes it easy to keep track of your clients and your work… which means it makes it easy to get paid.
Invoicing is a funny thing when you’re a freelancer. In and of itself, it’s kind of boring. It’s administrative data entry and sometimes… there’s math involved. (Anyone else abhor math!?)
But at the same time, invoicing is awesome because it means you’re getting paid!
This topic is hardly glamorous, I know. It’s not skill-related (like a post about proofreading would be), and it’s not a go-get-’em mindset post, either. I introduced FreshBooks to you as a bill, after all!
But FreshBooks is an essential tool for any freelancer, and it’s simply the best invoicing tool on the market.
The Major Benefit of FreshBooks
When I started out as a freelance proofreader, I used a spreadsheet to keep track of my clients and how much they owed me.
Let me tell you… that was a major headache. It was impossible to stay on top of the spreadsheet when there were so many moving parts. I never felt organized or in control of my work…
Because I wasn’t organized or in control. At all.
And when you’re a business owner, that is a terrible feeling.
Enter FreshBooks. I’d heard about them for a while, but when I finally decided to spring for the service, my life changed. Once I started using FreshBooks to handle my invoicing and keep track of my income, I finally felt peace of mind.
Everything I needed to see was right there: my active and inactive clients, my sent invoices, payment records… all of it.
Plus, because FreshBooks was so darn easy to use, it was like a breath of fresh air. I didn’t have to wrestle with my business anymore… I could just do the work, update FreshBooks, and get on with the next thing.
No more chaos. No more overwhelm. Just peace of mind. (And paychecks!)
FreshBooks: The Basics
FreshBooks promises to make running your freelance business “easy, fast and secure.”
They’ve got just about everything you could need built in, and their interface is simple and intuitive. It’s also cloud-based, which means everything is stored “in the cloud” and will never get lost or deleted.
You can access it anywhere you have an internet connection — including on your smartphone using their app.
Now, here’s the thing: If you look closely, you’ll probably notice all over the internet that it looks like there are two types of FreshBooks, and that’s because there are!
Toward the end of 2016, FreshBooks launched a completely new version of itself. Users who signed up before the launch are plugged into what’s called FreshBooks Classic, and everyone else is using the brand-new FreshBooks. For that reason, I’m just going to talk about what’s available in the beautiful new FreshBooks.
I set up a brand new account just to show you!
A lot of the features and functionality are the same between the versions. That said, the new FreshBooks is all about simplifying and streamlining the user experience, which means that some features (like PayPal business payments and the ability to send estimates) aren’t available to new users. That’s okay, though, because in my opinion BOTH versions of FreshBooks are awesome!
One final thing to note: There’s also a smartphone app so you can handle everything on the go. They’ve truly thought of everything.
The Features Are Killer
Here’s an overview of what you can do with your FreshBooks account (new or old!):
- Send beautifully branded invoices via email, with payment options built right in so your clients can pay you quickly and securely. Payments can be made via PayPal or through the FreshBooks payment processor, which is safe and secure.
- Track your business expenses. By linking your credit card and/or bank account, you can keep track not only of your income but your expenses right in FreshBooks. No need for fancy software — you’ve got it built right in! (You can also import expenses manually.)
- Track your time. When you work by the hour (or when you just want to keep track of how you’re spending your work time), you can use the handy time-tracking feature in FreshBooks. You can track each project or client individually and see exactly where you’re spending your time (and know exactly how much to bill!).
- Run real-time reports. FreshBooks has tons of useful reports built right in. Want a quick P&L? You can get one in FreshBooks (if you’re importing your expenses). Want to know which clients take longest to pay you? There’s a report for that. Need to see a quick view of how much time you’ve tracked in a given period? Handy report.
Plus, here’s something many people don’t know about FreshBooks: They have a project management feature! It’s built into all the plans for the new FreshBooks, and FreshBooks Classic has it available in their Mighty Oak plan.
If you want a simple way to stay in touch with your team while you work on a project, you can do so right in the Projects tab! Invite your team members to join, and you’ll have one centralized location for conversations, files, milestones, due dates, and more.
I couldn’t survive as a blogger without my project management software, and it’s fantastic that FreshBooks has one built right in! It’s perfect for freelancers who need to outsource this service but don’t need some majorly robust project management software yet.
On the Fence? Read This.
I hate it when companies offer a free trial, but you have to fork over your credit card number so they can auto-renew you if and when you forget to pull the plug. FreshBooks doesn’t do that.
Whenever you’re ready, you head over to their site and start their free 30-day trial. You don’t have to give them a credit card number… you just plug in your email address and password, and you’re set up. I LOVE this about them because it really shows integrity. Nothing scammy going on whatsoever.
If you’re not sure yet why having a custom invoice is so crucial, you can sample FreshBooks without signing up for a thing. They have a free invoice generator right here where you can enter the information, do some custom branding, and either send the invoice over email or download it as a PDF. There’s no payment processor connected to it, so you’ll probably need to add payment instructions to the notes section.
But really, the paid plans are awesome and absolutely worth the monthly fees.
How to Use FreshBooks Like a Pro
Starting the FreshBooks free trial is actually the only real way to get a profile set up (unless you’re migrating over from FreshBooks Classic), so getting started is incredibly simple. You plug in your email address and password, and then click the link on the verification message they send you. Then it’s a matter of entering your name, address, and some basic business info.
Once you get going, you’ll see your dashboard when you log in. The dashboard shows you what money is coming in, how much is going out, and what your total profits are.
Click on the Invoice tab to create beautiful invoices that you can send to your clients in a snap. Customize your invoice with a logo, tweak the template to match your branding if you want, add in the items and costs, and hit Send.
You can also save an invoice draft for later (which is great when you’re working on a bunch of different things for a client but only bill once a month — you can just add it to the invoice when you’re done, and then send it all on invoice day).
To get paid, you can use the FreshBooks payment processor (run through WePay), or you can connect a Stripe account. FreshBooks Classic still uses PayPal, but a lot of people find PayPal clunky and difficult to use, so the new FreshBooks has gone in a different direction.
To use the expenses feature, either connect your bank and credit card account(s) or import your transactions.
Then, with all your income and your expenses tracked in FreshBooks, you can pull together detailed profit & loss statements, sales tax summaries, expense reports, and more.
Automatic Invoicing? Yes, Please!
In addition to the project management and the expense tracking (did you see the part about the P&L? That is GOLD!), there are some other hidden-gem features of FreshBooks that I think you’ll love.
If you have a monthly retainer with a client, you can set up FreshBooks to invoice them automatically. It’s one less thing for you to do, and you’re still getting paid. Each time you create an invoice, there will be a button you can hit to make that invoice a recurring one.
FreshBooks can also send payment reminders and even apply late fees to clients who are late paying their invoices. (Isn’t that the most uncomfortable email you can send? Now you don’t have to think about it!) Just set them up when you create a new client — it’s an option you can turn on easily.
You’ve Got Options
Right now, FreshBooks offers three plans.
These plans are exactly the same except for the number of clients they can support. You can still access every single one of these awesome FreshBooks features, but there’s a limit to how many active clients you can have. Right now, the lowest plan gives you five clients.
But here’s a tip: You can “store” extra clients in your Deleted Clients list. When it’s time to send an invoice, go to the Deleted Clients list, un-delete that client, and send an invoice. Once a client pays, you can re-delete.
The main thing to keep in mind here is that your clients won’t be able to pay you if they’re deleted.
It’s not the most convenient thing and it certainly won’t work if you have more than a couple extra clients. That said, this is a great way to “stretch” your FreshBooks client quota when you’re hovering right around the limit and it doesn’t make sense to jump to the next plan.
The Final Word on FreshBooks (and the Discount!)
I love FreshBooks because it is totally newbie-proof. The new FreshBooks is so slick, so streamlined, and so intuitive that it really is the total package for any freelancer. Plus, it’s cloud-based, so you’ll never have to worry about losing your financial records if your computer dies.
If you’re ready to use FreshBooks to drastically improve your business TODAY, you’re in luck! Sign up for FreshBooks using this link (or any link in this post) and you’ll get a 10% discount on your FreshBooks membership after your 30-day free trial. SCORE!
What do you think? Will you give FreshBooks a shot? Already love ‘em? Let me know your take in the comments!