Anyone who is self-employed or works a job that involves dealing with numerous clients and projects will tell you that one of the most annoying parts of the job is the administration. Planning, keeping track of your work, invoicing and analysing the project can be a pain in the neck. Of course this serves to distract us from the important work; actually getting the job done and satisfying the client.
In a previous life I had complicated Excel files, PDFs and saved emails scattered around my desktop. These were complimented by bits of paper, to-do lists and reminders tacked up on a memo board over my desk. They all had but one purpose in life; to keep me on track. At times it became a nightmare when a reminder would go missing or a bill accidentally went unpaid.
When I came across the open beta testing of a web application that promised to solve much of my problems I was excited and sceptical at the same time.
When you first log into CronSync it’s understandable to feel a little overwhelmed. I know I was. There’s quite a few drop-down menus, tabs, charts, options and buttons. I got the impression it was going to be like relearning Excel. Thankfully the opposite was true; once you have a poke around it’s all pretty manageable and easy to use.
Setting up CronSync doesn’t take long. You input your current clientele along with their details such as address, contacts and so on. You also assign your hourly rate (can be client specific) and VAT/tax for your country.
Every time you land a new gig from a client you create a project in CronSync. When you work on these projects you log the time using the ‘Time’ tab. You can either log the time manually or start and stop CronSync’s timer to get a more accurate figure. Once the project has been completed you navigate to the ‘Client’ tab. Under that particular project you select ‘Create Invoice’. An invoice (along with your own logo) is generated using all the data you’ve in-put so far. This can either be printed or downloaded so you can send it to the client.
If your business has multiple employees, CronSync supports multiple users on a single account so they can each log their work.
Not so complicated, right?
I found that just after my first few days of usage, managing my workload became a lot easier. I also enjoyed going to the homepage to check out all the charts and graphs that CronSync generate automatically which gave me a snapshot of how my business was doing at that point in time. It also assisted me in analyzing my working time by giving me visual representations of exactly what I was working on (and earning) throughout the day.
It’s worth noting at this point that CronSync is geared towards a certain type of business or individual: service providers. Freelancers and companies that focus on things such as design, writing, development and other creative pursuits would be a great fit for CronSync. Companies who sell physical items wouldn’t get much use from it.
CronSync also shouldn’t be mistaken for an accounting program. While it does keep track of your sales, cash flow, invoices, expenses and employee wages, it doesn’t prepare accounts and falls far short of keeping track of everything you’re legally obliged to. It does however make it a lot easier to keep accurate records, so when the times comes to draw up accounts, the sting has all but vanished.
Another thing I liked about CronSync was that all the graphs, charts and invoices it generates can be easily printed off. They look as though you’ve spend ages tinkering with Excel to get them just so. It makes compiling a financial report a lot easier. And for your your peace-of-mind and security, the site used leading security software to keep your business and its data safe from peering eyes.
Finally, the bank of tutorial videos and manuals are always just a click away and are a treasure trove for those who encounter any difficulty.
As you can see from the screenshots, CronSync has been really well designed. Aside from the visually pleasing graphs, the website itself is very easy on the eye. Nice shades of grey, silver and mauve keep it professional without being bland.
The applications itself is powered by Java which means tasteful animations and transitions aplenty. These would be a great help when giving on-the-fly presentations in meetings as opposed to creating a PowerPoint presentation. Helpful info boxes also appear when you place the cursor over most elements of the app which inform you of an items function or bring up related data.
One minor downfall of the the design/usability of the application is that at times, drop-down menus and buttons can take a second or two to respond. Not a major let down, but it can be annoying when you’re in the zone and a website decides to start taking its sweet time.
CronSync really has a lot to offer the fledgling freelancer or business. First off, it organizes your workload and clients. Secondly it takes care of invoicing, not to mention keeps track of them too. It also helps you keep track of expenses related to a project, with the added option to add them to the final invoice. Finally, it offers you a ‘snapshot’ of your sales and productivity levels.
The results I’ve experienced from using CronSync have been entirely positive. The time I used to spend recording data for later entry into the accounts can now be used to improve my business or just take a break. I also found that I can relax more knowing that everything is being kept track of and that I haven’t forgotten anything important.
There are many webapps that are great for managing your business, but I’d recommend CronSync to anyone that is self-employed or manages a small to medium sized team of people. It will make the day-to-day running of your business (or at least the administrative side of things!) so much easier.