Freshbooks: the Gold Standard for Timekeeping and Billing

freshbooks

I have been using Freshbooks for timekeeping and billing since March 2008, when I quickly realized it is a better solution than anything I had used before (Time Matters, Timeslips, ProLaw, and Amicus). I’ve used it ever since, and it is getting better as my practice grows. [Edit: I'm still using and loving Freshbooks in September 2013!]

Freshbooks has become one of my “gold standard” applications* — it is the standard by which I judge all other timekeeping and billing software.

(FYI, Freshbooks is not QuickBooks. They do different things.)

Easy Timekeeping and Billing

Freshbooks makes timekeeping simple and easy to use. You can set up clients, then set up one or more projects for each client. You can bill based on the timekeeper’s default rate, a project rate, or different rates for different tasks. You can also track expenses and assign them to clients and/or projects. There is a pop-up timer, if you like to bill that way, or you can just enter your time manually.

If you want to, you can allow clients to log into Freshbooks to see the progress on their file. They get their own login information and you can control what they can see.

Billing is easy with Freshbooks, too. The easiest way to do it is to simply send your invoices by email. Freshbooks sends an email with a link to the invoice, and your client can just click to see it (no login necessary). This keeps the contents of your invoice confidential, instead of dumping it in your client’s email inbox by default. You can also connect your Freshbooks account to a PayPal or credit card merchant account so your clients can pay their bills by credit card just by clicking on a link.

If you prefer sending bills by mail, you can download and print them to send yourself, or you can have Freshbooks send them for you. I love having the option to just click a button and have Freshbooks send a paper invoice so I don’t have to lick the envelope myself.

Freshbooks Plays Well with Others

Since I frequently work with independent contractors and co-counsel, the software I use must be easy for them to interface with, too. Freshbooks has two important features that make this possible: (1) a free account for up to 3 clients; and (2) easy contractor integration. The first means it is easy to ask contractors to use Freshbooks to track their time on my projects. The second means I can receive their invoices in Freshbooks, then convert them to an expense or add their time to an invoice.

I am not aware of any other timekeeping and billing software with such easy contractor integration, and it has become one of the most useful features for my practice.

Freshbooks is also easy to use as your practice grows. Your staff can easily access Freshbooks through their own login from any web browser. You can assign them projects, set their billing rates, and so on. Since it is web-based, you don’t have to muck around with setting up servers, either. Just get them a computer with a web browser, and they are good to go.

Mobile Options

If you like tracking time from an iPhone, Freshbooks has got you covered with apps for iOS and Android. Both work great for timekeeping, recording expenses (you can snap photos of receipts to attach, too), and even sending bills.

Customer Service

Freshbooks has the best customer service I have ever used, although I have only used it twice. The first time, I wasn’t seeing what I wanted in the default Freshbooks pricing plans, so I called. To my surprise, an actual human — Levi — answered the phone and helped me construct a custom plan (1 staff and up to 150 active clients for $19/month).

The second time, I needed to figure out how to use a particular setting. Levi answered and got me straightened out quickly and pleasantly.

In short, I love Freshbooks. I have been a loyal customer for over two years, and I think it’s the best timekeeping and billing software available. Best of all, you can even start using Freshbooks for free.

Summary

Freshbooks is the gold standard for timekeeping and billing. It’s easy to use, mobile-friendly, and comes with world-class customer service.

Score: 5 (out of 5)

Freshbooks, originally reviewed on July 6, 2010, and updated on Sam Glover on .

*My other “gold standard” applications include Gmail, Google Calendar, Basecamp, and Remember the Milk.

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  • http://www.andrewflusche.com/ Andrew Flusche

    I couldn’t agree more, Sam. FreshBooks rocks!

    It works great for a flat fee practice as well. 99% of my income goes through FreshBooks, and clients pay the invoices themselves online through my merchant account (Authorize.net).

    Even cooler (for the nerds in the room) is the FreshBooks API. I use it to connect FreshBooks with my client database. I can setup a FreshBooks client, create an invoice, and send it with a single click.

  • http://www.aciresystems.com Randy Jones

    I agree FreshBooks works great, and if you are looking for a BlackBerry app to use with FreshBooks try “ReportAway! for FreshBooks”. If is the most complete mobile integration to FreshBooks on the market. It has tight integrations with the BlackBerry calendar and phone applications which allow you to do things like import your meetings and phone call logs as billable time against clients and their projects. Of course all the usual FreshBooks features such as creating/sending invoices, logging expenses and administering clients/projects/tasks/tax codes/ etc are supported.
    You can learn more and download a free trial from http://www.reportaway.com or BlackBarry App World in the Business->Time Tracking category.

  • http://myshingle.com/ Carolyn Elefant

    Count me as another Freshbooks fan. I have actually gotten several client compliments over how nice my Freshbook invoices look! I also have a couple of clients on monthly retainers and the auto-billing feature just sends the bill on a designated date each month without any intervention on my part.

  • Daniel Gonzalez

    I cannot rant and rave enough about how great fresh books is. It is SO versatile because of the project feature, it allows me to construct flat fee packages for the services I provide to lawyers, and bill them as projects.

    It is very versatile, helps expedite payment, provides notices and reminders to clients via email, and reduces the time you have to spend on getting pad.

  • Kelly

    I used to love Freshbooks! I mean, I still do… but I switched over to Tallyzip because they do CRM and accounting also. They don’t yet do time tracking, but I hear that’s coming. Their invoicing is really similar, and some cases a bit nicer than Freshbooks.

  • http://Berryessalaw.com Samantha

    How much is Freshbooks?

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Go to Freshbooks.com, click on Signup, then on View our Paid Packages.

  • http://www.mktlawoffice.com/ Mark K. Thompson

    I really liked Freshbooks too, but it didn’t have any way to keep and track trust accounts. EBillity.com has all the positives stated in this post plus it can handle trust accounts and prints the monthly balance on the invoices too. Love it.

  • LoungeLegal

    Does anyone have a workaround for the Trust accounting issue with FB? I really like using it, and their customer service is top-shelf, but the Trust accounting issue makes me nervous.

    • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

      I don’t understand why it would make you “nervous.” Timekeeping and billing aren’t the same as accounting. You do your trust accounting in your accounting software.

      • Bryan Hill

        I’m long time Time Matters user, and my clients are use to seeing their trust account balance on the invoice. How do you share that trust account balance information with them using FB invoices.

        • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

          First, Freshbooks is not a replacement for Time Matters. TM is practice management software. Freshbooks is just timekeeping and billing.

          While you can’t do full-on trust accounting in Freshbooks (again, it’s timekeeping and billing software, not accounting software), you can track trust account balances and keep your clients updated.

          You can’t have the invoice itself show the account balance by default, but you can easily send your client a statement any time. So when your client gives you an advance, record it in Freshbooks. As you bill, bill against the advance. And send your client an account statement every month along with their invoice.

  • Craig Hensel

    Does Freshbooks + Basecamp + Accounting Software really have a significant advantage over an all in one practice management solution like Clio or Rocket Matter? The cost appears to be about the same, and cloud practice management solutions have timekeeping, tasks, calendar integration, and accounting. Of course, I mean something substantial, not FB’s envelope-licking service.

    Not to be negative about them. They seem very good for their purpose. I just don’t understand how it’s a significant enough improvement to fragment my software. I hope I’m wrong.

    • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

      Advantage? No.

      Some people prefer an all-in-one solution. Some prefer to use discrete software. I’m in the latter category, because I find that purpose-built software does a better job than general-purpose software.

      Remember the Milk or Wunderlist, for example, are light-years better at task management than Clio or MyCase. They don’t integrate, but they work just fine. It’s the same for Freshbooks and timekeeping and billing, or Google Calendar for appointments.

      It comes down to preference. If you prefer the convenience of an all-in-one package, do that. If you want to use the best stuff, use the best stuff.

      • Craig Hensel

        Fair enough. Just didn’t know if there was some enormous difference between the all-in-ones and the purpose-builts that I was missing. If not, I’ll stick with the lazy approach.

        • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

          I think if you compared the timekeeping and billing features of Freshbooks to the same features of Clio, you’d favor Freshbooks. Whether the difference is “enormous” will totally depend on what matters to you. To me, it’s enough of a difference that I use Freshbooks (and Remember the Milk and Google Calendar, and so on).

  • Sanjeev Kumar

    Yes..there are people who prefer all-in-one solution and there are those who like best-of-breed. None of these is the right or wrong choice. But an all-in-one solution minimizes the integration headache say getting a lead, converting to an opportunity, signing up a customer, creating a project, assigning resources, tracking time and expenses, billing to clients and doing analytics at the top of all the business processes. If one solution can do these well, you have less issues to deal with data coming in and out of diverse apps and probably you can keep a better tab on your business. iBE.net is such an all-in-one ERP for professional services (full disclosure: I work with iBE.net)

    Sanjeev Kumar
    iBE.net
    http://www.ibe.net

  • Susan Bailey MSN RN

    I agree, Freshbooks is a fabulous cloud accounting system. I just love it. Makes my life so much easier!

  • Scott Kimberly

    A few questions. I started the free trial of Freshbooks, but there were a few features that seemed far from simple. When I tried to bill for a client, it asked for a project and a task, instead of simply billing something to a client. I couldn’t bill without creating a project and/or creating a task. For each billable item, does a user have to create a project and a task? Maybe I’m making this software more complicated than it really is, but that seems incredibly cumbersome.

    • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

      You can definitely bill without creating a project or creating a task. Just start a new invoice, pick the client, and start filling in the invoice. Projects are optional, although if you’re billing by the hour, you’re going to want to use them to track your time and make invoicing easier.