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FreshBooks Review: Best Small Business Invoicing Software

FreshBooks Review
Credit: FreshBooks

Small businesses that invoice their client base need accounting software that makes it easy to customize, create and send invoices. It should allow you to track invoice status so you know when customers see and pay their bills, and it should also facilitate online invoice payments, so customers can pay you directly from the invoice. We also looked for software with invoice-related timesaving features, like recurring invoices, the option of sending invoices from a mobile app, and the ability to track billable time and expenses and add them to invoices.

After much research and analysis of accounting software, we recommend FreshBooks as the best invoicing software in 2019.

Like other accounting software, FreshBooks offers several pricing plans. These plans are based on the number of active clients you're working with, though the lowest tier lacks some of the features included in mid and top tiers.

Discounts are sometimes available; for instance, when we reviewed the company, it was running a promotion offering a 50 percent discount for six months. The company also offers a 30-day free trial so you can thoroughly test the software yourself before you decide if it's right accounting software for your business. Here's an overview of the subscription plans and add-ons that FreshBooks offers.

  • The Lite plan costs $15 per month and allows you to bill up to five clients. This tier allows you to connect to your bank feed, send unlimited estimates and invoices, track time, and accept online invoice payments.
  • The Plus plan costs $25 per month and allows you to bill up to 50 clients. In addition to features included with the Lite plan, you can send proposals, automatic payment reminders and recurring invoices. You can also charge late fees. New to this plan is double-entry accounting and financial reports.
  • The Premium plan costs $50 per month and allows you to bill up to 500 clients. This plan has all the features included with the Plus plan but allows you to bill many more clients.
  • The Select plan has custom pricing. If you have more than 500 clients, or if you bill more than $150,000 annually, you may qualify for FreshBooks Select. You'll need to contact the company for a quote specific to your business. It has all the features included with the Premium plan but you also get a dedicated account manager.
  • Each additional user you add to your account costs $10 per month. This cost includes business partners, employees and contractors. There's no additional cost to add your accountant. For example, if you added one business partner, one accountant, two employees and one contractor, you'd pay an extra $40 each month.
  • FreshBooks Payments costs 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction. This service allows you to accept online invoice payments. Or you can accept payments using a Stripe account.
  • The Advanced Payments add-on costs $20 per month plus 3.5 percent and 30 cents per transaction. This credit card processing service includes a virtual terminal, so you can accept payments over the phone and in person. It also allows your clients to authorize recurring payments.

There's no additional cost to use the mobile app, though you need to subscribe to one of the paid plans mentioned above to use it.

One unique aspect of FreshBooks is that it supports financial education for college students by offering free accounts and classroom materials to college-level educators and their students.

FreshBooks describes itself as a "simple and intuitive" cloud-based accounting software that's easily accessible across all your devices. To see just how easy it is to use, we tried the software ourselves. Signing up for a trial account took just a few minutes. The signup process doesn't require a credit card – you simply enter your email address and password then check your email and click a link to verify the setup.

The home screen has an uncluttered layout, with navigation to everything you need on one screen. The left sidebar has easy access buttons for the dashboard and key functions, such as invoices, estimates, clients, expenses, projects and time tracking. It also has a Create New button on the dashboard, a shortcut that lets you quickly create new invoices, estimates, client profiles and expenses. Each screen has a box at the top of the page with tasks, tips or videos to help you get started. Overall, we found the FreshBooks as easy and intuitive to use as the company claims.

When we asked small business owners what they wanted most from their accounting software, the consensus was that it should save time. Here are some FreshBooks features that can help you accomplish your accounting tasks faster.

Invoicing. FreshBooks helps you create, send and manage invoices efficiently. The invoice screen shows you exactly how your documents will look when you send them, so you don't have to click a preview button to make sure they look right. You just click on the screen to add new customers, products or services, descriptions, terms and notes – you don't have to create them on a separate screen before you add them to an invoice. If you want to rearrange lines on an invoice, you simply drag and drop them into place.

Here are more invoicing timesavers:

  • Customize invoices and other documents to match your branding by adding your logo or a photo and changing the template, font and accent color.
  • Convert estimates and proposals to invoices in two clicks rather than creating new invoices from scratch. The software also allows you to duplicate a past invoice and tweak the details, which may be faster than creating a new invoice.
  • Add a discount, deposit request or payment schedule with just a few clicks.
  • Schedule the system to automatically send recurring invoices and payment reminders; you can also set it to add late fees to past-due invoices, either as a percentage or flat fee.
  • After your invoices are sent, you can see when clients view your invoices, so you don't have to wonder whether the invoice was received or got lost in a spam folder.
  • Use the mobile app to send invoices when you're away from the office.
  • FreshBooks supports multiple languages and currencies, which is a useful feature if you have international clients.

Faster payments. When you set up FreshBooks Payments or connect your Stripe account and send invoices to clients electronically, you can accept credit card payments through the system, allowing your clients to pay online by clicking a payment button on the invoice. Each invoice records how much your client has paid and whether there are any outstanding balances so you don't have to manually track this information.

Mobile app. Available for both iOS and Android phones and tablets, FreshBooks' app includes nearly all of the features found on the browser version of its software. You can track billable time, take pictures of receipts and record expenses, create and send invoices, chat with clients and accept payments.

FreshBooks offers customer support by phone, email and in-program live chat. Its representatives are friendly and knowledgeable. When we clicked the live chat button in the software, the representative responded quickly and answered our questions thoroughly, without pressuring us to upgrade our trial account. He also volunteered helpful links where we could find more information and encouraged us to sign up for the company's weekly webinar.

Support isn't available 24/7, but it has extended weekday hours: Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

On the company's website, you can find a collection of resources to help you learn more about the program and find answers to your questions on your own. These include a searchable knowledgebase, a free webinar, a blog with helpful accounting and business tips, and free e-books.

FreshBooks has made some significant updates to its software since our last review, adding double-entry accounting to its mid- and top-tier plans and announcing that bank reconciliation features will soon be available. You can now create a chart of accounts, and run balance sheet, general ledger and trial balance reports.

Here are a few more notable features:

  • Expense tracking. Using the app, you can photograph receipts and log them as expenses. You can then categorize them, connect them to transactions imported from your bank account or credit cards, and mark them as billable so you can add them to invoices. Expenses can be attached to projects or clients so you can see what you're spending, helping you stay on budget.
  • Project management and time tracking. FreshBooks can serve as the hub for your projects. After inviting contributors, clients, and employees to projects, you can share files, discuss the project and set deadlines. Your contributors and employees can track their time, allowing you to easily monitor the hours spent on a project. You can also bill clients for hours tracked and expenses incurred on their projects.
  • Integrations. Nearly 80 apps and integrations are available for FreshBooks, allowing you to add features or connect this accounting software with other business programs you already use for analytics, scheduling, marketing, tax help and more.
  • User roles. When you add users to your account, you assign them a role that determines what features they can access. Business partners can do everything except add or remove apps and integrations. Accountants can access your dashboard, reports, invoices and expenses. Employees can access projects, track their time and add expenses. Contractors are a little different in that they have their own account. With their account, contractors can only see the projects you've invited them to and track their time against those projects.

Although FreshBooks offers the best invoicing for small businesses, it isn't without its drawbacks. For instance, it lacks vendor and inventory-management and purchase-ordering features, so it isn't well suited for businesses with inventory. Rather, it's designed for service- or project-based agencies, and includes time-tracking and project management tools.

Another drawback with the application is that you can't view reports or manage team members from the app. While you could use the browser on your phone or tablet to access your FreshBooks account to do this, it's inconvenient if you're on the go.

FreshBooks' mobile app isn't yet available for the Apple Watch or Android-powered smartwatches.

Lastly, although document customization couldn't be easier, with only two templates and two font choices, it provides fewer options than most of its competitors.

Ready to choose your accounting software? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's note: Looking for information on accounting software for your business? Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information and quotes you need.

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Lori Fairbanks

Lori Fairbanks has years of experience writing and editing for both print and online publications. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, she worked as an editor for Creating Keepsakes magazine and then as a freelance writer and editor for a variety of companies, including marketing firms and a medical university. She now writes for Business.com and Business News Daily.