No matter what type of business you’ve built it’s vital you find an accounting system or software that keeps tracks of your business income and expenses.
Ensure your small business is using the latest technology in every way possible. Small businesses are losing out on billion dollars a year around the world (including Tonga) because they do not offer credit card or debit card payment options.
According to a recent study by Barclays; 42% of SMEs in the UK currently offer card payment provisions to their customers. Globally we are increasingly becoming a cashless society and its imperative that small businesses free themselves from old inefficient payment systems that are holding them back.
When I started my own business, I already knew the importance of establishing an accounting system. But I had no clue what kind of bookkeeping software to use. I knew I wanted an online bookkeeping program that allowed me to run my business from anywhere and not be limited by a specific operating system (like Windows or Mac). After testing a few different ones, I came across Freshbooks, which also allowed me to track my time and create invoices to all my clients.
Since I am a Certified Freshbook Accountant, I would like to share with you my honest review of FreshBooks and how I use it to keep my own business finances organised and running smoothly.
What is Freshbooks?
FreshBooks is a cloud-based accounting program that mainly focuses on creating invoices, project management and time tracking. But they also make it easy to organise your client list, manage team members, collect payments, sync reports with your accountant and review bookkeeping stats.
As you can see, it does quite a bit and they are constantly improving how it works. One of the cool things I really like about FreshBooks is that you can send professional looking invoices, with your brand colors and logo, right into your clients inboxes or mailboxes each month.
Getting paid on time is one of the most important parts of being a freelance business owner, and FreshBooks makes that happen - for free.
How I use FreshBooks for my Small Business?
1. Make invoicing simple and effective.
As I mentioned, the foundation of FreshBooks is creating and sending professional looking invoices. When you click the Time Tracking button, you’ll be able to clock the hours you log for a client or project. At the end of the month, all of your time can be exported to an invoice automatically, or you can create an invoice summary manually.
You can see when your invoices are viewed, and if they’ve been paid or not. If you receive checks in the mail, you just log into your FreshBooks account (they also have an iPhone and iPad app so you can track it on your mobile device anywhere), and record the payment.
2. Stop wasting time.
The benefit to being able to track your time so easily, is so you can see where you’re spending your time. If a client or project is sucking up too much time, you might want to think about phasing them out.
3. Save hundreds of dollars in fees.
Before finding FreshBooks I was billing all my clients through Paypal, and paying a ton of fees. Since then I only pay .50 per transaction no matter how large or small the payment is. When I compared this to receiving a payment through Paypal directly, I was paying a lot in fees!
4. Share reports with a bookkeeper or accountant.
This is a new feature that was just rolled out and I’m so excited about it. As an ex-accountant myself, I know the value of creating monthly reports and staying on top of the financial part of the business.
Earlier this year I hired a bookkeeper to help me stay on track, create reports and organize my accounting process. We can both see the invoices, clients, reports and discuss them in our monthly meetings. She gets her own login information, and can only see the info I allow her to see.
Here’s a list of accounting reports FreshBooks supports:
5. Integrates with other accounting programs.
FreshBooks seamlessly integrates with other bookkeeping programs, like Outright, QuickBooks, Xero and more. You can set it up to work with a few different types of tax software or payroll systems. It also syncs with task management systems like Basecamp and client proposal software like Bidsketch. Check out their site, for a complete list of programs and add-ons FreshBooks integrates with.
The options are nearly endless for what you can use FreshBooks with to manage your business finances.
6. Create professional estimates.
I have a friend who recently started managing her husband’s construction business and she needed something he could use to create professional estimates for potential jobs and clients. I told her about FreshBooks and they’ve been using it ever since.
Once you’re logged into your FreshBooks account, you just click on the Estimates tab to create a new estimate. You then choose your client, input the information, track time for the project and send the invoice once they’ve accepted the terms. You can even invoice them for a percentage of the job upfront.
7. Sync your bank accounts and expense transactions.
Each day when I log into my FreshBooks account I can see all my transactions at a glance. I have a business checking account that syncs with FreshBooks so I can bill any client expenses and create monthly accounting reports.
Nothing is more important to a successful business than making sure you’re making enough revenue to cover expenses, and spending your money on the right projects.
And the best part is that you get all this from Freshbooks for free!
FreshBooks Pricing Plans A good FreshBooks review wouldn’t be complete without the pricing plans. Yes, it’s true that you can use FreshBooks online accounting for free, but it’s limited in the features it provides.
If you need a more robust version, check out their tiered pricing plans:
This is the number one bookkeeping software I personally use and recommend to other freelancers and business owners. Try Freshbooks out for free and stop wasting time on getting paid.
“Customers are a pain. That person is so difficult to serve. I wish we didn’t have to deal with customers.”
Customer service is a business subject that is often covered time and time again but it is not until you deal with real customers and you’ve got your business up and running that you realise how much of an impact they have on your business. Without customers, you would have no business - unless you magically make money from thin air.
Have you experienced the pain of that special customer that we strive to please and exceed their expectations but nothing seems to work? They are never happy and aren’t afraid to let you know. They steal your time and energy until you have none left to give. What would you do in this situation? And is the customer always right, when you know they are deadest wrong?
In my opinion, the product or service you offer is often not targeted to every single person. You have your “ideal customers.” They are the ones that will bring in the most profit with the least amount of energy and resources. These are the customers you should be targeting in your marketing, branding and service.
As your business grows, you will begin to have the liberty of streamlining your products to suit your target market. For example, we used to create custom fancy cupcakes that used to take our bakers 3 times longer to produce than a regular cupcake. At the start up phase of our business, we were looking to survive and pay bills so we took on board any and every customer. As we approached a comfortable stage where we were able to cover expenses easily, we started to revisit our products and remove the items that were time consuming or attracting the customers we weren't targeting.
When we initially introduced this strategy, some customers didn't return, but most were happy to choose something off the shelf. Essentially, we started ‘choosing’ who our customers were and we discouraged difficult customers to do business with us. It was also interesting to note that Pareto’s 80/20 principle rang true for us. We started to see the trend that 80% of our revenue was coming from 20% of our loyal customers.
Within a few short months we saw how dramatically this strategy boosted our bottom line and our efficiency levels shot through the roof. We had less customer complaints and we started to create a fan base because we provided consistency, quality and were meeting or exceeding their expectations.
So to answer the question: Yes, the customer is always right if they are the customer you are targeting.
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One of the best things about being your own boss means you have flexibility over your schedule. You can take time off if you need to, or sleep in a bit later knowing you can make up the work during the evening.
As long as you get your work done, and your clients are happy, you can work as much or as little as you like. This sense of freedom and control is even more evident when you run an on-the-go-online business, like I do. As long as I have a laptop/iPad and a good internet connection there are no limits. This is where implementing frequent work-holidays can come in very handy, especially if you need some extra inspiration. And embracing technology is the way to go.
What is a work-holiday or work-vacation?
The term was made popular by Noah Kagan of AppSumo, who has perfected the art of travelling all all over the world without ever taking a holiday from work. Basically it is a work and holiday all wrapped up into one. He has built a mobile business, by creating software, that allows him and his team to see the world, visit family and friends, all while balancing their work alongside having fun. Part of his days are spent working and the other part is spent enjoying the surroundings and social events.
How to prepare a work-holiday?
Although it sounds easy enough, after testing out a few work-holidays myself, it can still be difficult to balance your life with family, friends and doing the touristy thing, while running a business. Unexpected things come up, fires need to be put out and clients demand your full attention.
Here are five steps to prepare for and get the most out of your work-holiday:
1. Establish clear boundaries with friends and family.
Most of my work-holidays consist of visiting family members or friends who are spread across the country. The very first thing I do before committing to a trip is explain my intentions to everyone. Communication is key! Of course there will be days set aside for sightseeing and exploring, but then there will be days (or full afternoons) dedicated to getting work done.
It’s important to establish clear boundaries (with yourself and your friends) before heading on a work-holiday, so they know there will be times you have to be productive. This also keeps everyone from being annoyed or offended if you aren't able to give them your full attention on any given day.
2. Create a work-life system with your team or employees.
Just as your friends and family should know what’s up in advance, your team members need to know the importance of balancing work and life — which is one of the main advantages to going on a work-holiday. You’re able to work hard and play hard, and should encourage your employees or contractors to do the same.
I wrote about putting systems in place on last week's newsletter. Put systems in place now so they know how to handle client emergencies if you’re unable to respond. Create clear guidelines on how projects should be handled and the chain of command that needs to be followed in certain situations.
Let them know what times of the day you’ll be available, and share your calendar so they understand where you’ll be at certain times. This is especially important when you’re out to lunch with friends, or in a location without internet access. If you equip your team properly, they will be able to handle any situation that arises — giving you peace of mind.
3. Work and plan ahead with your goal in mind.
Another great thing about going on a work-holiday is that you don’t have to plan too far ahead to make the trip happen. Most of the time business owners have to schedule out their trips far in advance so they can prep the team and clients, but a working vacation allows you to have more flexibility while only planning a few weeks in advance.
How many hours a day will you be able to work while on your trip? Will you only work in the early morning or late evenings, while taking the middle of the day to do touristy stuff?
When I prep for a work-holiday, I always act as if I’m on the vacation several weeks prior so I can work out the kinks. It takes time to carve out a new schedule successfully, so work ahead with your goal of going on a workcation in mind. Determine your best work-life schedule and practice it a few weeks before your trip.
4. Do research in advance to prepare for setbacks.
Not everything will go as planned. Sometimes personal issues will take priority over your work (as they should) and you’ll be forced to change up your schedule.
There may be an event you just don’t want to miss with your friends, but that means you’ll have to miss a client deadline in the process. Or maybe you expected really good internet, and then a huge lightning storm rolled in and blew out everything.
You can — and should — do research in advance to prepare for any emergencies and changes that pop up. But you also have to know that being away from your home office, and the consistent schedule, allows for a lot more problems. Take them in stride and be flexible with yourself and your business.
How do you take your business on holiday?
Working while on holiday is possible, if you know what steps to make it happen. Your business can provide the freedom you’ve been looking for to travel more, see friends and family, and go on adventures, if you implement these simple steps.
Set realistic boundaries with yourself, your team and everyone you come into contact with. This will enable you to successfully take your business on holiday, so you can recharge, get refreshed and find new inspiration.