with Aliza Sherman
If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.
To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.
I’ve always struggled with keeping client estimates and invoices straight. I forget to invoice or invoice really late which means I get paid much later than anticipated. Recently, I accidentally numbered my invoices incorrectly and had to go back to clients asking them to use a different invoice number. Frustrating. And unnecessary, even for the chronically discombobulated mommy-brained person like me.
While I’m still toying with the idea of turning all my billing over to a bookkeeper (probably a smart idea, but I’m chronically slow at outsourcing things), I’ve taken the plunge and payed for an online service that is whipping me into shape. I thought I’d share this with you if estimates and invoices are under your purview but making you a little crazy.
I finally signed up for Freshbooks. I have to admit I’ve been getting press releases from their PR firm for over a year but could never wrap my head around the information so tuned out. I wish someone had just said something like “QuickBooks made simple and totally online.”
I’m paying about $24/month.
Freshbooks is helping me do two very important things:
1. Create estimates for clients so I can keep a running tally of work I’m doing for them. The estimates can easily be converted into invoices so at the end of each week or month, depending on billing cycle per client, I can go through my estimates and make invoices as needed.
2. Create, automatically number and email invoices either from a converted estimate or as a new invoice. I can also do recurring invoices, however, I haven’t tried this feature.
I have to admit that I’m not taking full advantage of all the features of Freshbooks - just what I need right now, but that is how I tend to use applications. I will, however, start examining the data to see what areas of my work make the most money and also how estimates compare to actual work rendered so I can see where I’m making and losing money.
In addition to managing client invoicing, I allow an independent consultant I’m working with to access my company account so we can track her time while she works from home. When she is working on an online project for me, she just goes to my company’s Freshbooks page and turns on the handy time tracker. She can assign her time to a specific client project, and it automatically tallies when she hits submit. At the end of the month when it is time to pay her, I just go to her time sheet for the total amount I owe her.
There is a free version of Freshbooks to try out the service, but as soon as you need to give access to more than one staff member, costs kick in. Still, for $24/month, I’m getting more than my money’s worth. I have kept up with all my invoices since I started using it, have taken full advantage of the estimates feature, and no longer get invoice numbering mixed up. I was also able to download a new widget for the Mac that puts the handy timeclock on my desktop so I can track time when I’m not online.
At some point, I may turn everything over to my bookkeeper who is amazing at keeping the company books in order no matter how often I mess them up. But until then, I feel empowered and just a little bit smarter for using a tool like Freshbooks.
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