Usually when a new PC application is introduced, there's a mad scramble by other developers to create a similar set of features in a different way. The kind of online invoicing provided by FreshBooks is no exception. There are numerous sites that will guide you through the invoicing process. They all look a little different, and each has built itself out to incorporate additional tools and elements of accounts receivable (and even accounts payable, since some track expenses). FreshBooks is the best of them.
FreshBooks does what all of the online invoicing sites I've reviewed do. It lets you create—or import—databases of companies, contacts, and products/services (Billing Boss (Free, 2.5 stars) lacks the latter.) It provides customizable invoice and quote/estimate forms that you can either fill in manually or complete using lists. FreshBooks lets you dispatch these forms by e-mail or U.S. Mail, and you can record payments and expenses. Reports give you a birds-eye view of your finances.
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FreshBooks also builds in a lot of collaboration. For example, clients and contractors can access pertinent subsets of the site; this is unusual. FreshBooks' extensibility also is better than anyone's: Besides a host of add-ons, it integrates data with sites like Outright (Free, 3 stars). It incorporates time-tracking and support tickets, and it lets you upload documents to a shared area, something competitors don't do. Basically, it does everything that everyone else does, and a lot more. Multiple subscription levels are available, ranging from free (three clients, unlimited invoices) to $39.95/month (unlimited clients and invoices).
TypeBusiness, Personal, ProfessionalFreeYesOS CompatibilityWindows Vista, Windows XP, Linux, Mac OSTech Supportphone and email More
As on competing sites, with FreshBooks you get a clearinghouse for all of the options that serve as the site's backbone. When you click on the 'Settings' link, a number of tabs appear that open informational screens. Here, you can set up things like taxes (four are allowed); colors and logos; and invoice templates (only two are offered, where Zoho Invoice (Free, 4 stars), for example, lets you choose from many).
You can edit default e-mail text for new invoices, late payment reminders, and so on. You can also set permissions for staff and clients who will have access to portions of the site. FreshBooks only allows one person to access the system unless you sign up for the priciest level ($39.95/month), and then it's only one additional individual. It's $10/month to add another. That's not cheap, compared to the competition. The next-best scoring service, Zoho Invoice, gives two people access in even the free version, but it doesn't let you set permission levels like you can do in FreshBooks. And FreshBooks lets clients and contractors to view pertinent data.
You'll also have to make decisions about payment gateways. FreshBooks supports several: three flavors of PayPal; several merchant accounts, including Authorize.net and iTransact; and Google Checkout. These options are more generous than competitors. You can also set up several defaults, like levels of client and staff access to Documents.