Wondering if FreshBooks invoicing software is right for your company? It's probably not. Here's a few reasons why.

We know: Why FreshBooks Doesn't Work for Companies Who Sell Products

Who is FreshBooks?

FreshBooks is a web-based SaaS (Software as a Service) company based in Canada who launched a their core product relating to Invoicing and Billing in 2004. They purport to have had 3.5 million signups since that time.

What product does FreshBooks provide?

FreshBooks' core product is a web-based application that handles Invoicing and Billing for small to midsize companies. The system lets a company create invoices to send to their customers for payment. Some features include:

  • Professional look and feel of the invoices
  • Integration with several popular payment gateways to make receiving payments easy
  • Expense tracking within the software
  • Integration with some CRM systems.
  • Integration with some e-mail marketing systems.

What does FreshBooks cost?

FreshBooks has several pricing tiers starting at Free (supports up to 3 clients) through $39.95/mo for unlimited clients plus additional staff at your company - (then $10/mo for each additional staff member with access). Note that certain services cost extra, such as receiving a payment through their system (50 cents per transaction) and mailing paper invoices ($0.99 to $1.79 each depending on quantity).

Who is FreshBooks designed for?

According to the Company, Freshbooks is designed for "every business" - purportedly meaning those who sell time-based or project-based services (designers, etc.) as well as those who sell products.

Is FreshBooks a good solution for intangibles companies or individuals such as those who are paid for ther service based on time spent?

We feel it should be a good match for individuals or companies in the service industry.

How does FreshBooks fail when it comes to supporting companies who sell physical goods?

Our staff tested and evaluated Freshbooks for multiple weeks in 2012 as an invoicing solution for companies who sell tangible goods (physical products) on the Internet, and ship those products to customers. There were plentiful and serious shortcomings of the service, some of which are described below. We feel, based on the outcome of our test and communications with the FreshBooks support and product teams, that FreshBooks is not interested in resolving or solving these shortcomings, and we cannot support FreshBooks as a serious option for companies or individuals who sell tangible goods. We also researched what others are saying online about FreshBooks regarding these issues and more.

Here are some of the shortcomings we found when attempting to apply FreshBooks to a real business:

  • General lack of features real businesses need: FreshBooks proclaims their emphasis is on service-based companies but they are doing a disservice promoting it to physical-goods companies as well. For example:
    • Shipping costs cannot be summed up at the bottom of the invoice above the grand total. The only way to accomodate shipping costs is to make it a line-item in the invoice. If a discount is applied to the invoice, it discounts shipping costs as well.
    • No packing slip option - FreshBooks is unable to create a standard packing slip that is put in with the shipment. It's simply a copy of the invoice without pricing.
    • No ability to let the customer supply their own shipping address in case it is not in the system.
  • Paypal integration isn't complete: For orders paid with Paypal (and possibly other gateways), the customers' shipping address is not sent through from FreshBooks to the gateway. This is critical because:
    • Without a shipping address in the transaction, Paypal does not offer sellers protection against fraud or chargebacks. This has been an issue with FreshBooks customers since at least Spring 2011, but FreshBooks has not addressed this issue.
    • Without a shipping address passed through, Paypal cannot be used as a shipping service to print a label for the package. It has to be done some other way.
  • General useability issues:
    • FreshBooks requires you to log in each time you access their site. Explained away as a security issue, all the other services we tried that have the same type of sensitive info in them keep a persistent login session; why can't Freshbooks?
    • "Create new item" selection is at the BOTTOM of the list when creating an invoice. If you have a long list of items, you'll be scrolling down to the bottom each time you want to add a new one while creating an invoice.
    • Invoice columns cannot be customized. Want to remove the two (yes, two!) "Tax" columns on the invoice, because tax doesn't apply to your business or sale? You can't! Want to add other product descriptors (e.g. time, color, etc.?) to the invoice? Not possible.
    • Invoice cannot be customized beyond selection of a simple template. Want to show your customers' contact information (phone number or e-mail address) on the invoice? You need to "hack" it and put that info in their address. That's the only way.
    • More to be added as we further research other shortcomings described by other users.

How does FreshBooks customer service fare?

We experimented with FreshBooks on a trial basis, so we can't comment on the level of support FreshBooks provides if we were to become a paying customer. But in our experience, Customer Service was quick in responding to our questions, typically within 24 hours, by e-mail. Staff was courteous, though our specific questions were sometimes not addressed.

The most frequent response from Support was to the effect of: "We apologize. Hopefully in the future we can be a better fit for your business." When pressed to ensure our suggestions and questions would be provided to the Product team, FreshBooks support said they would be, but looking back in their forums, some of the same issues had been requested by others for many months or years, so we don't feel Product is adequately listening to customers and trying to improve their product offering.

This guest column was written by Brian H., whose company exhaustively tested FreshBooks in Jan. 2012

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