Easy Time Tracking and Invoicing with FreshBooks

There’s quite a few invoicing apps out there, many of which do a fantastic job. One of my favorites though, and the one I actually use personally is FreshBooks. It’s arguably the best time tracking and invoicing web app available, certainly making billing far less painful.

Several Freelancers I’ve spoke with say FreshBooks feels too complicated or offers more than they need. Today I’ll take a quick look at just how easy it is to track your time and quickly invoice with FreshBooks and why those extra features should be more than welcome.

FreshBooks Home

FreshBooks Home

Pricing & Signup

FreshBooks offers quite a few pricing options, allowing you to manage up to 5000 clients with up to 20 staff members and custom branding. If FreshBook’s pricing plans don’t quite fit your needs, feel free to contact them via email or phone to see what they can do for you.

Pricing

Pricing

I won’t get into the more complicated uses of FreshBooks today so all we need to worry about is FreshBook’s Free, “Moped”, level account. A commonly missed piece of information here is that while the Free plan only allows for 3 clients, that is only the maximum allowed number of currently active clients. When a client isn’t active, it doesn’t count against your client allotment. I’ll get into this a little more later on.

If you’re interested in trying FreshBooks, take note that they offer a full 30 day money back guarantee.

Sign Up

Clicking the Signup button under the Free plan column drops down a sexy and simple sign up form. This is great use of JavaScript and great form design.

Sign Up Form

Sign Up Form

Enter the necessary information and click the large Create Your Account button. You’ll automatically be sent to your unique login page, which displays the message at the top for the first login only.

Note that as you fill in your company name, the login page field is automatically filled in. If you would like your company name and login page to be different, you can just change it once you get to that point in the sign up form.

First Login

First Login

You don’t have to mess with any account confirmation steps but you will be sent an email with your account information in case you need it later. Once you click Login on the page shown above, you’ll have to go through a one time setup that’s pretty painless.

One Time Setup

One Time Setup

Something worth noting here is that certain form fields, such as the “Enter Your Profession” field, use JavaScript enhancement to help you choose a profession commonly selected by others if you aren’t sure exactly. Moving down to the company address form, an image to the right quickly fades in showing you what the information your entering is for. This is really great use of JavaScript, which I wish more web apps would take advantage of.

Once you’re finished entering the necessary information, you’ll click Get Started!. You’ll be taken to your account homepage, which seems a little overwhelming at first due to the amount of text on the page but is actually quite helpful.

Account Homepage

Account Homepage

Create a Client

Before you start invoicing the world and making all that lovely money, you’ll have to get a few minor things setup. You’ll likely already have a client that needs some work done, otherwise you wouldn’t be looking for an invoicing app. So let’s create a client first. I’m going to ignore the links on the homepage since they won’t always be there.

Click the Clients tab, near the top, to navigate to your Clients management page.

Clients Tab

Clients Tab

To create a client, simply click the + New Client button. You’ll enter the client’s information (not all fields are required) and click Save at the bottom.

You’ll notice that pages throughout FreshBooks display helpful bits of information near the top of the page to help you get started using features. Just click the small “X” in the top-right corner to close these.

New Client

New Client

Now that you’ve created a new client, just click the Clients sub-tab to navigate back to your list of clients. This list shows your active list of clients. In the Free plan you’re limited to 3 active clients but you can just delete a client when they aren’t active. Deleting a client does not delete the client from the system but simply “deactivates” the client, placing the client information under the deleted clients list.

You navigate to the archived and deleted clients list using the three links at the bottom right of the Clients page.

Delete Client

Delete Client

Making a client you’ve deleted active again, is as simple as visiting the deleted clients list, selecting the client and clicking Un-delete.

Un-delete Client

Un-delete Client

Time Tracking

Before you invoice your client, you might need to track the time that you’ve been working on the client’s project. To do this, head over to the Time Tracking tab.

Time Tracking

Time Tracking

From here you can view and manage your timesheet, open the smaller timer window, etc. It’s pretty straight forward stuff so I won’t really get into it in this article. If you’re interested in learning more about these features though, feel free to let me know in the comments below and I may do a more advanced how-to for FreshBooks.

Visit the Projects tab to view and manage your projects, which will be used when tracking time and invoicing later on.

Invoicing

Once you’re ready to invoice your client, click the Invoices tab to view a list of previous invoices or to create a new one.

Invoices

Invoices

Click + New Invoice to create a new invoice. Using this feature for the first time, you might be asked to select the best invoice and estimate headings to match the way you invoice most often.

Invoice Headings

Invoice Headings

Creating an invoice is pretty straight forward. You’ll start by selecting a client from your drop-down list of clients. Notice that many elements of FreshBooks, especially the invoicing area, are enhanced with JavaScript, making it a much more seamless user experience. That means it’ll be less of a pain for you to handle invoicing!

Create Invoice

Create Invoice

If you’ve setup online payments (such as Paypal), you can allow clients to pay you via FreshBooks via payment system such as Paypal. This makes it easier and less confusing for your clients to pay their invoices.

Next, you’ll enter the items or work you’re invoicing your client for. You might want to create new tasks (predefined work) for future invoicing but you don’t have to select a task if you don’t want to. Just enter the entry notes, your rate, hours and tax if necessary.

Enter Tasks and Items

Enter Tasks and Items

Once you’re done entering information you can choose to save the invoice as a draft, send it via email or even send it via post (what we call snail mail).

Save or Send

Save or Send

If you don’t want to send the invoice yet but you want to download a PDF version of the invoice, just click the Save as Draft button. Your invoice will be created and you’ll see a message confirming this at the top of the page, which will also give you links to preview or download the invoice.

Invoice Created

Invoice Created

Final Thoughts

While FreshBooks has tons of features that can make it seem a little overcomplicated for your purposes, many of these features actually make invoicing and managing clients much easier. This how-to itself may make this process seem a little long but it all happens within a matter of a few minutes. If you would like to see a demonstration from sign up to client invoicing via screencast, let me know in the comments below and I’ll update the article with one.

Having used several invoicing apps over the years, I found my match long ago when I came across FreshBooks. While it won’t be the top choice for everyone, it’s certainly one of the best out there and it shows by the number of FreshBooks users out there.

FreshBooks doesn’t have pricing between Free and $19/month, which leaves somewhat of a gap in my opinion. An in-between pricing plan would be a good addition but for most people’s basic needs, the Free plan will be able to do the job and more. Check on the FreshBooks web site to find out more.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on FreshBooks and it’s competitors, so feel free to share via comment below. Thanks!

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Responses

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  • I love Freshbooks!

    In addition to invoicing, I use it to track the time I spend on certain work-related, but unpaid projects, such as marketing. It allows me to see exactly how much time I spent working, for who, doing what, and how much was paid vs unpaid.

    Definitely a must-have app for anyone who freelances.

  • I’ve never understood why people use apps like Freshbooks when for the same amount of money you can use apps like http://www.freeagentcentral.com/ or http://www.xero.com/ which offer the same functionality and so much more.

    I adore FreeAgent and my account thanks me for finding it as well. It makes bookkeeping so simple as well as offering time tracking and invoicing. You can even create professional looking estimates/quotes that automatically turn into invoices if you win the job. FreeAgent even syncs with my CRM (capsulecrm.com).

    ~ David

    • Out of curiosity, have you used FreshBooks for an extended period of time? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what the apps you mentioned can do that FreshBooks can’t.

      Right off the bat, I can say that neither of those offer an entirely free account. They do offer trials but you’ll eventually have to pay if you want to use them. For people out there looking for something free that gets the basics done, Freshbooks still looks like the better choice.

      Thanks for pointing these out, I’ll have to look into them further. :)

  • Disclaimer: I have not used Freshbooks for more than an hour. But the differences based on their websites seem to be that both have:
    Estimates, Time Tracking, Invoicing, Expenses, Contacts

    While FreeAgent also has:
    Banking, Accounting, Taxes

    FreeAgent does not have a free plan, but their most expensive plan is $39 compared to $149 for Freshbooks.

    But if accounting is already sorted for you – then something like Freshbooks is the way to go. I personally found that FreeAgent finally got my bookkeeping under control.

    • Interesting, thanks for the info! I’ll have to give FreeAgent a try. :)

  • There is a new free web application for invoicing and time tracking, it’s called nutcache.

    Did you already tried it ?

    http://www.nutcache.com