When I first started doing freelance web development I was only accepting checks as payment. This worked out for about two years, but was always a pain point requiring clients to write and mail checks and then I had to physically go to a bank to deposit them. As my business picked up, I started looking for an easy way to accept payments online, and I considered a few options:
- Paying for an online invoicing service
- Building a simple payment system on my website using Authorize.net
- Using Paypal’s “free” invoicing feature
At the time, I didn’t see the benefit of paying for an invoicing service and I didn’t have time to build a personal payment system. Another strike against building my own payment system through Authroize.net’s gateway was their $99 initial fee and the money taking a few days to be deposited into my bank account.
This left me with invoicing through Paypal.
While this worked great for me, I was constantly receiving messages from clients who were having issues paying my invoices. A few sticking points that kept coming up included:
- It wasn’t obvious to some clients that they didn’t need to have a Paypal account to pay their invoices.
- Clients with Paypal accounts thought that they had to transfer money to Paypal before being able to pay me.
- Paypal has a limit to how much money a card can be charged for through their service before they require the card owner to create an account.
These pains led me to start looking for a different service, and while I was looking I decided that I wanted something that would allow me to consolidate a few of my other tasks into one billing tool.
Before I opened a FreshBooks account, I was tracking my time spent working on projects manually and adding my work notes to a word doc that I was saving as a PDF to send to clients as an invoice, then following that email with an invoice from Paypal. I had also, at one point, suffered a coffee-cup-to-the-laptop accident that left me without access to my unbilled hours for almost a month and unable to send out any invoices. So I determined that I needed a service that fit my needs:
- Online payments
- Online time tracking
- PDF invoicing
- Recurring invoicing
FreshBooks fit the bill on all of those and then some. It’s allowed me to use their time tracking pop-out tool to accurately track time spent on each of my projects, and to set up recurring billing for ongoing services like web hosting. They handle the PDF creation, sending out payment reminders, and even help me to keep an eye on my actual time spent on a project vs. my estimates.
Speaking of estimates, they have a simple to use estimate tool that allows clients to “accept” their estimates right from my branded FreshBooks portal. This has cut several steps, and back-and-forth emails, when proposing on new projects.
Their service has allowed me to move my time tracking and billing fully to the cloud, which means that I could throw my laptop in a river and still be able to get paid. This fits right in with my goal of staying mobile and reducing my workflow’s possible points of failure.