Freshbooks, Xero and Shoeboxed – All are SaaS Products that I use and are Web 2.0

Freshbooks, Xero and Shoeboxed are all excellent programs that I use to manage my business.  It would be nice if they were all built into 1 application but until then, I couldn’t be more happy.  Software as a Service, SaaS is a term that has been around for a few years.  Back then, I only looked at the negatives of having to pay a monthly fee instead of an upfront fee and be able to use the software for as long as I liked.  I admit that was a little short-sighted at the time.  I never really thought about it as a cloud based service.  Probably because that term didn’t exist.  I did fantasize that wherever I went I wanted access to my server that would run all this software for me.  Now, for me, it is all about being platform neutral and still being able to run all my software from a centralized location.  However, it’s now “access with any device.”  Each of the 3 mentioned products does 1 thing well.  Freshbooks does excellent time-based invoicing.   Xero offers me my simple double-entry accounting and Shoeboxed is a dream come true for me tracking receipts and business cards.  Remember when Microsoft controlled everything?  Every product had to be a Microsoft product to achieve compatibility between applications.  With APIs, I have the ability for shoeboxed to import my receipts into freshbooks and freshbooks to import their invoices into Xero.  The importing into freshbooks doesn’t apply to my line of work but it is nice to have everything in another location with just a click of a button.

To be honest, I actually have 2 billing systems. Besides Freshbooks I use a program called WHMCS which is a virtual necessity for my web hosting business. It is installed on my web server and is accessible from my web browser but it doesn’t sit in a cloud.  Unfortunately, while I can enter in billable hours on an invoice, tracking isn’t as accurate as it is with a Freshbooks timer that you can start and stop and automatically post for you.  I also have this unfortunate issue of Freshbooks not supporting my Quantum gateway for credit cards.  I”m working on a work around for that.  Freshbooks will also allow me to mail the invoice with a click of a button.  Xero can also do invoicing but like my WHMCS it is very simplified and doesn’t provide enough value to me.

Xero has some cool things with it.  It seems to be a very simple double entry accounting system to use and it certainly doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a Quickbooks.  Then again, Quickbooks is a closed platform, charges you for everything and is updated only once a year.  Xero is constantly being updated.  One of my favorite things about Xero is their filter system.  When reconciling my checking account I can have filters setup so that specific transactions, say credit cards, go to the right account automatically.  Once you get these filters setup it makes reconciling so much easier.  I have been using Xero for a short time and am still exploring certain aspects of it.  Another one I like is expenses.  I can enter in receipts I need to be paid for and it will request approvals and I can create a check from the proper account.

Let me talk a little about Shoeboxed.  Shoeboxed allows you to scan, email pics or mail your business cards and receipts to them.  For example, I am at a luncheon and I have just received my receipt from the waiter.  I immediately take a picture with my phone and email it to shoeboxed.  If I had an iphone there would be an app for that.  The receipt is uploaded and they categorize it and extract the pertinent info off of it.  Some places (hyatt for example) it will know right away it was a travel expense.  Others, once you have chosen the right category, any additional receipts will automatically be assigned to the right category.  You can also mail them in.  We do this with business cards.  They scan in the front and back and then extract the information off the business card.  Everything is exportable!  Usually receipts would end up in my back pocket all crumpled up.  Get wet, ink smears.  Now, I take a picture of them right away and the business cards I put in an envelope to be sent off.

I didn’t talk much about Freshbooks but it has a lot of great features that specialize in time-based invoicing.  I have a gadget on my desktop and an app on my phone that all I do is select the project I am currently working on, type in some notes as to what I am working on and hit the start button. I can pause or even upload at anytime.  This way I can more accurately determine billable hours for my clients.  Like I said before, my credit card payment gateway is not supported at this time.   Freshbooks has plenty of requests for the Quantum gateway so hopefully it will be soon.  In the meantime, I plan on sending invoices through my WHMCS program for those clients that pay with credit card, otherwise there might be a trick to get quantum to act like which is supported.

Except for Xero; and I do hope they go this route, I am able to click on shoeboxed and freshbooks right in my google apps account.  I don’t have to re-login!

The first thing I think about when I see all these services I subscribe to is that it must be expensive to have all these things.  This is true to an extent.  On face value, yes the costs are higher than I would like.  However, when you consider that I don’t need a bookkeeper (saving thousands a year) because of these services, I get paid more timely and am even more transparent with my clients.  The main question you should ask yourself is why am I not already signed up for these services as a business owner?