Tracking time and invoicing clients are important office tasks that you may often wish you don’t have to do. If only, right? But regardless of whether you’re a freelancer, a consultant, a small business, or a corporation, you just have to have some form of system to keep that income stream running smoothly – plus, of course, a staff member employed specifically for the purpose of managing that system.

Enter FreshBooks, a web-based accounting, time billing, cost estimate, and invoicing application that has been dubbed “the leader in online invoicing”. It’s designed to help users save time and money in performing such accounting tasks as tracking income, managing estimates, creating and sending invoices, receiving customer payments, and generating accurate year-end financial reports.

It’s definitely a great concept, but does FreshBooks perform better than if you just hired an accountant or a third party?

Our answer: yes. A resounding one. We here at Lakeshore Branding have recently incorporated FreshBooks into our daily operation, and the experience of using the application has so far been very pleasant.

FreshBooks comes with a great set of features that are as good as – if not better than – what you’ll normally find in desktop-based accounting programs like Quicken, QuickBooks, FirstEdge, and AccountEdge. Here are some of what we have been really impressed with:

Invoicing online: With FreshBooks you can streamline and automate the whole invoicing process – painlessly. The interface is pretty easy to use, and it removes the need to keep filling up that confusing invoice template that you’ve saved on Microsoft Word. Freshbooks gives you the ability to auto-bill your clients, collect online payments through a number of payment gateways, send automatic late payment reminders, and invoice clients in any currency. Invoices are generated based on your time, expenses, and/or fixed cost services and items that you yourself can establish. They’ll also look a lot more professional than if you merely attached a Word document onto an E-mail to your clients.

Meanwhile, if you want to stick to envelopes, the application can help with that, too. FreshBooks lets users send printed copies of invoices via the United States Postal Service (USPS) with pre-printed envelopes containing your return address.

Time tracking / time sheet management: Billing clients for your time? Forget time sheets on paper. FreshBooks offers a neat and easy time tracking feature that not only optimizes the time you spend on client projects and helps you meet deadlines, but also allows clients to keep track of your progress and their budget. FreshBooks can get as detailed as the hardest-working accountant, as it can list down information like your notes on the project, number of unbilled hours, project tasks, and more.

There are also options for sharing projects with your contractors and tracking the time spent by your staff. This means you can create teams and projects separately for each individual client. So, apart from being a useful accounting tool, FreshBooks can also get several human-resources-related things done for you, especially in cases when you’re simply too busy to manage everybody working on your projects.

FreshBooks mobile apps and add-ons: If you’re on the go and out of the office most of the time, worry not. FreshBooks has an iPhone app – plus a number of great integrations and add-ons – to track, report time, and send invoices via a mobile platform. There are also add-ons for other aspects of your business, like project management, expense tracking, CRM (customer relations management), and even a set of invoice importing features for e-Commerce sites.

Data security: Financial information is always sensitive information. FreshBooks makes sure you’re protected by backing up data in multiple locations, and securing the site with 256-bit SSL encryption, which is better than the industry standard.

Other FreshBooks features that have been really useful include:

  • The ability to create professional-looking cost estimates (it sure has helped us attract new clients and grow our business);
  • The ability to create a conversation – or a process – based on those estimates, which clients will then be free to comment on and accept;
  • The ability to add branding elements to invoices, reports, time sheets, estimates, and other financial documents; these elements include your company name, logo, or even your own custom log-in page.

To summarize, FreshBooks is an awesome online invoicing and accounting tool that not only makes you look more professional; it also streamlines a bunch of billing and time tracking tasks that you often wish you could do without. One-man teams, freelancers, and start-ups will love FreshBooks, but so will bigger-sized companies and enterprise-level organizations. FreshBooks packages start at $19.95, complete with a 30-day money back guarantee.