Who should use FreshBooks for client invoicing? There’s a surprisingly easy answer: Anyone who has multiple clients wants to do some serious tracking of expenses and income – and anyone who likes a really easy system with strong support during business hours.
FreshBooks is available on the iPhone App store. In fact, it’s available across all your devices. You can access and manage your data, or invoice your clients, from anywhere. And your data is always backed up, with top-level security. Another great advantage in using FreshBooks: If you need more than one person to access your accounts, they can easily do so. On top of that, you can accept payment through twelve different payment gateways (including PayPal and major credit cards).
FreshBooks was designed especially for small business owners, its mission being to make accounting as simple as possible: And expense and time tracking stops being a chore. (You can even import data from your bank account or credit card).
You can also take advantage of multiple add-ons. Granted, these are not free, but they perform functions such as:
- Allowing you to integrate FreshBooks directly with Basecamp, Zen Cart and other popular project management and sales cart software and systems
- Allowing you to use it via your Android, Windows Mobile or Blackberry – in addition to iPhones
- Tracking your team members’ time remotely
- Lead generation
- Sending out emails related to sales campaigns
Most of all, if you have multiple clients, FreshBooks can save you hours of billable time.
Pricing is set to suit your business budget, starting with a limited free account that allows you to manage up to three clients (although you don’t have access to automatic expense import or team timesheets or expense reporting).
Many small business owners find the “Seedling” plan at $19.95 per month more than adequate to all their needs, but if you need team collaboration and access, you will want to sign up for their “Mighty Oak” plan at $39.95 per month (with $10 per additional staff member accessing your account).
There’s a free, 30-day trial and “no credit card is required” – so let’s give FreshBooks a whirl…
Step 1. Setting Up your Free FreshBooks Account
Register from any of the green “Try it free” buttons on any page you’ve been exploring. When you click, you’ll instantly be taken to a set-up and registration page.
Once you’ve entered your company name (or your name, if you’re a sole proprietor) and business email, you’ll be taken to a page and asked to enter your contact information, much the same as any other online registration page.
Be sure to enter your business address – this information will automatically appear on your invoice.
Next, enter the currency you usually do business with, plus your time zone…
Then input your professional information.
Verify your PayPal email address by providing it, if you want to accept PayPal payments through FreshBooks.
Finally, set up your username and password – and be sure to check the radio box to accept FreshBooks’ terms (after reading them carefully, of course).
You will be sent an email with your account details. Check your email inbox and make a note of these.
Press the green “Get Started” button.
Step 2. Customizing Your Account
Your new account will open, and immediately you’ll be offered the chance to watch a simple video on how to invoice clients.
Click away from it for now (you can always access it later in the “Help” section). Time to customize your account!
- Upload your logo (150 X 100 pixels). Click on the anchor text…
…and drag-and-drop or select your logo file from your computer.
- Next, customize your colors by clicking on the “Menu Color” graphic.
The color interface is a little sticky when you slide the 3-digit arrows, so the best way to change to your company colors is to input your 6-numeral color code.
- Click on Create an Invoice to see your new custom invoice template, complete with your logo and colors. This is what your client will see.
That’s all there is to customizing a basic template. So let’s create our first invoice…
Step 3. Create an Invoice and Add a Client
You can bill three ways: For…
- Time (hourly billing)
- Items (products, service packages, payment per project)
- Both of the above
You can also add taxes – to the entire invoice or to individual qualifying items.
When you create your very first invoice, you will automatically be prompted to add your client, so don’t worry about inputting all your clients first unless that works better for you.
- From your Overview section, click on “Create an Invoice”.
- Since this is a first invoice, you will be prompted to set up your client’s profile. Enter all the information you want to add for the client you are about to bill – but note this can be as little as an organization name and email address.
Be sure to Save Client.
(Note: If your client is a sole proprietor or individual, simply enter his or her full name in the “Organization Name” field.)
Later on, you can easily add new clients by pressing the drop-down menu in your invoice, whenever you create a new one.
- Enter your billing details, such as the type of item billed for. And notice that your first invoice automatically starts at 0000001: You can manually change it, and even add a P. O. number.
- Once you have inputted your entries…
…You can add your payment terms and notes for your client.
- Finally, decide what you want to do with your invoice.
- Save it as a draft while you set up payment gateways or make other client profile edits
- Send it immediately by email (you’ll see an exact preview of what your client will receive)
- Send it as a snail mail invoice. Note that you can “buy stamps” so that FreshBooks sends the snail invoice directly, without you having to print it out and manually process it.
Step 4. Setting up Online Payments
If your clients prefer to pay online, you can quickly set up customized options for them to do so, via:
- Your merchant account(s)
- Credit Card
Simply click on the “Set up online payments” anchor text within your invoice:
You’ll see a notice that your changes will be discarded, so be sure to “Save Draft” first.
A new page will open up…
Select your relevant payment gateways, and Save.
Credit Card Payments:
If you want to collect credit card payments via PayPal, you must access your PayPal account and upgrade from a Standard PayPal account to Premiere or Business. (Don’t worry – it’s free!)
Once you do this, your clients will see the option to pay via credit card through PayPal.
(For more information on online payment gateways, check out FreshBooks’ Help section.)
Step 5. Setting Permissions
Get to know your horizontal menu tabs and sub-tabs. These will allow you to get the most out of your FreshBooks account.
For example, by clicking on the Permissions tab, you can allow both staff and clients access to selected areas of your FreshBooks account.
You can also create estimates – and allow clients to view these instantly, online. (Select the “Assign Clients” anchor text link.)
Changing permissions is often as simple as checking or unchecking radio boxes.
You can also allow clients to dispute invoices or even create their own new folders.
Allowing clients and staff to access selected areas of your FreshBooks accounting system helps build transparency – and trust.
Step 6. Tracking Your Time and Expenses
Tracking is where FreshBooks really comes into its own.
To add staff or contractors:
First, you will need to add staff members to your FreshBooks team. Click on the People tab and select the “Staff and Contractors” sub-tab.
Click the green +New Team Member button and input the relevant information.
Select your team member type:
To set up tracking:
- Click on the Time Tracking tab and select “Projects”; then the green + New Projects button.
- Enter a Project name and select the appropriate client.
- Select your billing method (this is how you will track the hours).
- Add tasks that you want to track for time. Enter the task Name and Description.
- Add the names of team members or contractors working on these tasks. (If you have more than one team member or client, you will need to select from a list.)
(You can also add a time estimate if you wish.)
- Scroll further down and set up a username and password, as well as contact info, for your team member (optional).
Instruct them how to log their hours by following the process below, beginning at #4 – except that your team member will press the green Start/Stop Hours menu button on his or her Timesheet to begin logging hours.
When your employee stops the timer, his hours are automatically entered in the log.
- Go back to your main tabs and select Timesheet. (If prompted instead, select the “Start logging hours” anchor text.)
- Select Month, Week or Day.
- Choose the date.
- Select the project
- Select a task
- Enter the number of hours billed for your time
- Add notes
- Press the green Log Hours button to start logging for this project
Step 7. Generate an Automatic Invoice
Once the project is complete, go back to your main menu sub-tabs click on Generate Invoice.
- The client
- The project
- The date range spanned by the project (or the particular phase you are billing for, if it’s a large, ongoing project with many stages)
- Make any adjustments you wish to make using the options available
- Click the green Create Invoice button.
Your client will receive a detailed invoice – and all you did was literally click a button!
FreshBooks has many more functions, options and features you can explore and adapt, but what we’ve covered here will more than get you started in effectively managing, tracking and invoicing your more complex projects.