It used to be that small businesses and new operations could run into trouble finding a suitable small business software platform that didn't break the bank. No longer. Today's software landscape offers a host of great solutions delivered through the cloud and aimed at everyone from smaller companies on up to enterprise accounting platforms. Even among this large vendor landscape however, a few platforms stand out, and for small business, one such is Freshbooks.
There's a lot to like about FreshBooks, from its top-notch expense and time-tracking features to its deep financial reporting and long list of add-ons and integrations. But the platform also holds many hidden features and options to improve both the business and client experience. The following are six of the most useful tips and tricks to simplify invoicing, improve client care, process payments, and track expenses so that you can make the most of your business's FreshBooks investment.
1. Painless Payments
For sole proprietors and owners of small to midsize businesses (SMBs), particularly in the service industry, setting up online payments and integrating it with billing software can be a hair-pulling endeavor. One thing many SMBs aren't aware of is that FreshBooks offers a redesigned payments experience specifically designed for SMBs.
FreshBooks accepts payments via credit card as well as online payment gateways such as PayPal and point-of-sale (POS) software, including Stripe. The FreshBooks payments experience allows businesses to accept credit card payments and clients to pay invoices right away, automatically imports payment transaction fees as expenses to save time, and includes free auto-billing functionality. On the New Invoice page, check the FreshBooks box in the Online Payment section which, when selected, lets business users view the status of a payment directly in the account dashboard; it also gives clients a Pay Now option in invoice emails leading to a Secure Payment page. If your business is built on simple transactions without a complicated billing structure, check the FreshBooks payment box and skip all of the setup forms.
2. Greasing the COGS
For service-based businesses and online retailers or e-commerce websites logging a lot of product sales, there's arguably no more critical accounting expense to track than Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) or the carrying value of goods sold during a particular financial period. If you need to mark an expense or a profit and loss category in FreshBooks as COGS, it can mean anything from merchant account fees and custom branding bought for clients, to supplies or services for a physical product, and the cost of shipping an order.
To wrangle and log all of these moving COGS in FreshBooks, head to the Profit and Loss section of your expenses and edit expense categories to choose what type of COGS expense a given charge is. Options include advertising, contractors, employee benefits, office expenses and postage, professional services, travel, and numerous other categories. Beneath those main categories you can also create and check subcategories of COGS expenses. Adding an expense category is simple as well; simply click Edit in the expense list, open the Category dropdown menu, and name a new category or subcategory in tax-friendly language.
3. Unlock Helpdesk and Project Management
A cloud accounting platform is never just a cloud accounting platform anymore. For all FreshBooks can do with invoicing, expense tracking, financial reporting, taxes, and more, it also includes subtle functionality to create and fulfill items, projects, and tasks as well as a built-in client support system. A useful trick to keep things organized and make estimates and invoicing easier is to designate price items in FreshBooks. This sort of project management functionality simplifies billing workflows by creating items and tasks to insert directly into an invoice or report at a fixed value.
To start taking advantage of the FreshBooks built-in help desk, simply go to Settings and Permissions and enable the Client Management and Ticket Administration settings. This allows business users to manage tickets directly in FreshBooks, and deal with client requests and issues as they come up from within the application—without having to interface with a separate help desk platform.
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4. How to Keep It All Synchronized
Synchronization errors are the bane of many FreshBooks users' existence. Especially if you're hooking FreshBooks into other applications, sync issues can often result in data duplication or lost files and contacts, especially when you get bookkeeping involved. FreshBooks has top-notch time-tracking and invoicing capabilities but, if you get another application involved for bookkeeping or for interfacing directly with e-commerce websites such as Amazon or eBay, changes in one app don't always make it to another.
While there's nothing you can do in FreshBooks to prevent a sync issue in another application, the easiest and most comprehensive way to cover your bases is to create revenue and receivables reports in each app. Cross-referencing those totals, along with creating a monthly checklist of areas for yourself and your clients to review, will give you an easy way to ensure that totals match and build in some redundancy in case of a sync error, be it a missing or mal-adjusted invoice or a payment item that doesn't add up.
5. Customize, Customize, Customize
FreshBooks includes a ton of built-in customization, formatting, and templating options that many businesses don't take full advantage of. Take the time to improve and tailor your client experience. In Setup Options, click the Colors & Logos page to change the menu color to your company's color scheme and upload your company logo. The client should feel as though they're logging in to your company's online accounting website, not FreshBooks'.
In Templates, you can choose how your invoices look and customize the title of the invoice, estimates, and credit headings with the option to show a payments stub for those clients printing their invoices. You can also customize the emails a client receives when an invoice is sent, so take the time to craft a custom subject and email body to the client.
Finally, on the Miscellaneous Settings page, you can enable direct email invoice links, decide how many lines you'd like to appear on the invoice, unclick the FreshBooks Branding option to get rid of their logos and color scheme in favor of your own, and add other bells and whistles such as text below your logo and pop-up welcome messages for when clients view their page. FreshBooks offers a more visually compelling client experience than most other online accounting platforms so don't waste your monthly subscription fee by only scratching the surface of what it can do.
6. Have FreshBooks Reach Out to Deadbeats
Every business has its share of clients who never pay their invoices on time – or maybe even at all. This is a problem for any organization, but especially so for small businesses and startups that not only need their money on time, they might also lack the extra funds to hire credit bureaus to chase these deadbeats down. Fortunately, if you're in this situation, FreshBook has you covered. Simply click over to the email template section and you'll find several handy templates you can customize, including a late payment email that can be automatically kicked off if the client is late or on some other schedule you can set up yourself.
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