I have been an avid Quickbooks fan and user for a long time. Currently, I was using Quickbooks Premiere Professional Services Edition 2009 (that is one long name) user. On top of that, I had their time tracker application, their online billing service and their merchant account. Way back when I had started out on Quickbooks, I switched to Freshbooks for quite a while, then switched back to Quickbooks because it had a feature I wanted.Now, I’m back on Freshbooks for good. Here’s what I was doing and how I have improved on it and reduced my costs at the same time.
My typical process of billing clients worked like this:
- Retrieve time from the quickbooks time tracker application (which cost me a monthly fee).
- Clients who are billed monthly already had their invoices created in a draft. I would go to each one and add my billable time and expenses to it.
- Email invoices through Quickbooks online billing service (which costs a monthly fee). Clients receive an email notification they have an invoice, they click on the link and can view their invoice online.
- Clients can pay their bill online, print it out, etc. Paying their bill online costs another monthly fee to me.
Seems fairly simple, right? Well, it’s not quite so simple. Whenever I got a new client, I would enter their information into Batchbook (my online CRM) tool. I also would have to enter their information into Quickbooks.
If you are a Quickbooks user you know that it takes a while (even on a robust machine like mine) to load quickbooks, login, and get going. If you are like me, it’s also not a program you keep running all the time. So, if I needed to find out anything about a client: what’s their account status, etc., I would have to start it back up. Also, I was getting really tired of all the monthly fees. It felt like a death of a thousand cuts!
Update Dec 11, 2009
For a better alternative to Quickbooks consider Outright. A free accounting website for Small Business Owners. It ties in seamlessly with Batchbooks (An excellent CRM program) and Freshbooks (My favorite online invoicing application). All these applications are free to either use or try. Outright is free to use and Freshbooks is free to use with under 5 clients. Batchbook is free for 30 days and only 9.95 after that. I’ve been very happy with this setup after working with and paying Quickbooks a lot of money for a long time. As a Small Business Owner this worked for me and I’ve never been happier.
Another thing that irked me was that I had to manually sync Quickbooks to the online payment processor so that it new an invoice was paid. If I received a payment via the mail and didn’t sync with it afterward they would get an email reminding them to pay their bill. This can be emberassing to say the least.
Finally, I decided I was going back to Freshbooks. Here is my new improved process and why I feel it is much better and believe you will, too. I will show you how I manage my customers.
Let’s say I have a person who is no longer just a contact but has become a client. Happy days are here and the birds are singing! I log into my batchbook account and do two simple things. First, I add the client tag to the contact. This is what Batchbook calls a “super tag” that I created that will allow me to add extra data about the contact including contract signing date and projects that I’ve worked on. The second thing I do is click on the “add to freshbooks” button. This will add the “freshbooks” tag to the contact and it will also send the data to Freshbooks. I don’t have to enter it twice!!!
Now, I have them marked as a client in my CRM, all their data has been sent to Freshbooks so it’s over there, and we can move on.
One of the benefit’s of Freshbooks is that they have opened their API (just like Batchbook) so that people can create third party addons. Also, this has allowed different services to integrate with each other. Another company that has joined the party is MailChimp. I can create a list of people in Batchbook, then send that list to Mailchimp, so I can email them.
Mailchimp lets me send out email newsletter campaigns for myself and for clients. I can track who opens them, forwards them, and clicks on links. It also handles new subscribers, auto responders, and unsubscribers. It makes my life a lot easier when it comes to my email marketing.
From Freshbooks, I can track my time spent on projects, track my expenses, invoice clients, and get paid. It’s a super fast website that is very friendly to use. Right from the home page I can see who has logged in to view their account, if an invoice has been paid or not, i get a snapshot of my receivables, expenses and billable hours for the week and month.
There’s no more mistaken reminders being sent to clients who have already paid their invoice. Everything is handled in one tightly wrapped package.
Another benefit is that I don’t even have to log into freshbooks to see what my clients are up to. From within batchbook (which I have open almost all the time) I can see my clients invoices, balance, etc. I also can see any related tasks, communications, contact information, staff, etc. that are related to the company.
Now, when I first started this post I said it improved my process and saved me money. Before, I was paying a monthly fee for the time tracking application, the online billing, and the merchant account and the gateway provider. Since switching back to freshbooks I don’t have a merchant account fee or time tracking fee. My processing fees have dropped and I no longer have a minimum statement fee. I have a fee for freshbooks, though. However, I now have greatly reduced the amount of time I spent juggling between different applications and the redundancy of entering information multiple times. My personal satisfaction with my work process has increased as well.
I firmly believe that if you are a solo entrepeneur you would be much better off switching to a system like this. These three apps together have made my life a lot simpler and a lot more streamlined. Before, I was juggling seperate tools that wouldn’t talk to each other. Now, the three all work together as a team. It’s worth it for you to give these a shot. All three offer free accounts without even asking for a credit card. So, check out Outright, Freshbooks, Batchbook and MailChimp and see if you don’t agree with me.