Introduction & Background
FreshBooks is a Canadian company that, since 2004, has been providing an online invoicing and time/expense tracking service to SMBs. Despite being a Canadian business around 60% of their 400k customers are in the US but they have customers all around the world.
FreshBooks have a plethora of pricing plans check out the summary chart below.
The user experience
FreshBooks does what it does simply. Their site is friendly and intuitive, with a nice tabbed layout. They go heavy on the customer support – any question or problems are pretty readily answered on their forum or via their help support.
FreshBooks is built upon the premise that SMBs get most of their advice from their peers rather than from their professional advisors. To this end the user experience on all levels is friendly and almost club-lie, displaying a casual and inviting feel.
The basic functionality
First up I have to say that FreshBooks isn’t a full accounting package. It does invoicing, accounts receivable, collections, and basic time tracking. In order to prepare financial statements, such as profit and loss and balance sheet – businesses have to use another package – depending on your perspective this could be either a good or a bad thing. From the positive point of view it removes the sales and invoicing functionality from the accounting one – providing for more security and audit control. However the opposing view holds that having to run an integration exercise between FreshBooks and a back -office accounting application is an annoying requirement. You be the judge on this one.
In order to facilitate the movement of data, users can export and import data to and from accounting programs that can use data in CSV (Comma Separated Values) format. This is a useful setup option – users can upload an entire customer list from another application and get invoicing in an instant.
There is some nice and simple expense claim functionality that should ease this traditional pain point for SMBs.
FreshBooks has rudimentary time tracking functionality – not enough to run high level project management but plenty for contractors working for a few different clients at any one time.
FreshBooks doesn’t do inventory. Users can create their own products within FreshBooks and invoice those products, but they can’t use FreshBooks to track their inventory.
FreshBooks also doesn’t allow for multiple currency invoicing within the one account – users that need to invoice in multiple currencies need to set up separate accounts for each currency – in my own business I run invoices in a number of different currencies, and setting up multiple accounts for each one is a bit of a pain.
The value adds
Benchmarking – one of the biggest gains to be made by moving software into the clouds, is the ability to aggregate discrete sets of data to give a meaningful benchmarking analysis. FreshBooks provides a "report card" that basically gives a business benchmarking data that enables to compare their performance against their own industry average.
FreshBooks also publishes some basic benchmarking data on a quarterly basis, free to the public. This obviously goes a long way to showing potential customers the value they could gain through using FreshBooks, but it’s also a nice piece of SaaS democratisation in action. FreshBooks CEO tells a benchmarking story in the video below;
Bits to Atoms in an interesting twist on the "moving the physical to virtual" trend, FreshBooks provides an add-on service whereby businesses can have their invoices printed remotely and sent via U.S. Mail. I hate stuffing envelopes myself and kind of like this idea for businesses dealing with other parties that, for whatever reason, still need paper-based invoicing. (Thanks to Ponoko for the Bits to Atoms tagline).
Payment Processing Integration – FreshBooks directly integrates with payment-processing systems (including PayPal) and will collect income automatically if you have set up recurring invoices. really useful for a contractor with a regular client billing situation, it provides for no-touch invoicing, payment and reconciliation.
Support Ticketing – FreshBooks has support ticketing built in, allowing for a business to manage their client’s support tickets. Like many of their other value adds, it’s not something that many small businesses could justify spending money on, but when it’s included within another application, it might just be the value add that makes the buyers mind up.
The security issue
Wow – FreshBooks get’s a definite 10/10 for the up-front articulation of their security and privacy policies and procedures. The treatise on security, privacy, backups and SSL runs to four pages and builds real confidence in their product.
APIs – connecting the dots
Not surprisingly given that their offering isn’t a complete accounting package, FreshBooks has fantastic API support – all parts of their application are open to integration with third party products.
FreshBooks is nice! I’s a user friendly offering that is well focused on providing what it’s customers need. The jury is out on whether providing standalone features, as opposed to a full accounting offering, will prove a winning formulate but the success that FreshBook have had thus far would indicate it’s working for them. Given their "part of the pie" approach, much rests on the breadth and robustness of the API and FreshBooks delivers on this front.
It’ll be interesting to see how FreshBooks develops in the months and years ahead.
Accounting 2.0 at CloudAve
In an ongoing series of reviews and analysis pieces, CloudAve will be taking a deep look into accounting software for the new world.
See the other posts below;