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Summary:

In a single day, I signed up for not one but two fee-based Web applications/services that are transforming the entire way I manage my home-based Web working business. Why did I wait so long to embrace these apps? Was it the fear of an insurmountable learning […]

In a single day, I signed up for not one but two fee-based Web applications/services that are transforming the entire way I manage my home-based Web working business. Why did I wait so long to embrace these apps? Was it the fear of an insurmountable learning curve? Was it the thought of paying for a Web app when most of the ones I use are free?

Whatever the reason, I admit that I’m a janey-come-lately, and I hang my head in shame. I’ve actually known about both applications for several years, but it wasn’t until I forgot to invoice a client yet again and then numbered several invoices incorrectly and having to go back to the clients with corrections that I became desperate. I posted on Twitter that I was seeking solutions to manage clients and projects. The response tweets were almost unanimous.

So without further ado, my new bacon-saving apps are (drumroll, please)…

Freshbooks to the rescue! Signing up was quick and easy. I opted for the cheapest fee-based level at $14/month to manage up to 25 clients and 1 staff member versus the free version that handled only three clients and 1 staff person. Adding more staff to my account is $10 per person.

By the end of the first day, I had entered all of my client information; started several estimates including using the handy time tracking widget; sent some invoices in a timely manner; and was relieved to find that the invoice numbers were inserted automatically and sequentially. Wonder of wonders.

freshtimetrack

Next, I signed up for Basecamp. I opted for the $12/month base level versus the free one so I could manage three active projects at a time instead of one. All fee-based levels for Basecamp come with a 30-day free trial.

My challenges with project management aren’t atypical but weren’t being addressed by my current “system” such as needing to keep all email correspondence organized and easily accessible and being able to collaborate on documents, manage large files, track project progress and keep an ongoing group To-Do list without having to juggle a different application for each task.

So far, I love how all the conversations between all the participants in a project is in one place on Basecamp and how everything is accessible by only the people who need to see it. The Writeboard (whiteboard) feature is working out well so far and the fact that it is only a click away from all other project management features is a plus.

I find the Basecamp Overview page to be an easy-to-understand capsule of all recent project activity and having a record and archive of everything could really save my bacon in the long run.

basecampoverview

Less than a week into using both apps, I’m still puzzled by why it took me so long to try them out–especially since they both offer free versions. Here is what I’ve learned from this experience:

1. Don’t be shy. If a Web app has a free version, try it. You have nothing – other than a little bit of time – to lose, and if the app ends up working out for you, you have everything to gain.

2. Don’t rely on your memory. If you have to enter your credit card number before you can use a free trial, mark your calendar or set an alarm several days before your free trial expires to remind you to cancel the subscription if the app isn’t working for you.

3. Query the masses. Here is one more place where your social networks can really help you in your Web work: ask them for recommendations for tech and Web-based solutions to your business challenges. Or ask their opinions on Web apps you’re exploring.

4. Bite a smaller bullet. Opt to pay for 6 months in advance but unless you are 100% certain you’ll be happy with the app, don’t splurge on the 1-year subscription. Get the discount without overcommitting.

5. Don’t snooze it. Use it! I find that once I pay for a Web app, I am more likely to use it. It is like the same theory I have that if I pay for a health club membership, I’ll work out. You know what? I’m working out several times a week. And I’m using Freshbooks and Basecamp several times a day.

Will it last? Ask me in a few months.

Until then, tell me what apps you’ve been eyeing but are afraid to embrace. What is holding you back? Come on now, confess!

  1. All though both of these are great programs I can’t justify the price tag…especially if you’re a small company.

    Try ActiveCollab” and Invoice Journal for free alternatives.

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  2. I love Freshbooks. I have a couple different accounts with them for my businesses. The invoicing is piece-of-cake, and the timer feature is nice, though I’ve not used it extensively.

    I played with Basecamp when it first came out, and still go occasionally, but can’t pull the trigger on the service fee yet.

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  3. @Ryan – ActiveCollab is only free if your web host provides it. Otherwise it’s $199 per year.

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  4. Backpack’s new multi-user features provide a lot of the same Basecamp functionality and its a little cheaper.

    If you integrate them into your work process, they pay for themselves.

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  5. I was using Dotproject for project management. It’s open source and I have it uploaded on my server, but I’ve just started trying out Liquid planner at: http://www.liquidplanner.com/ which could help to free up some space on my server.

    So far it looks pretty good. The real thing that puts me off is actually taking the time to enter all the information and get the projects organised and set up properly.

    Oh well.
    Best
    Nik

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  6. Our group decided to work with Joint Contact. In addition to task management, calendaring, document management and discussion groups Joint Contact also includes additional modules for Contact Management and Email.

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  7. Does freshbooks import into Quickbooks easily?

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  8. Ron Sheldon Friday, March 7, 2008

    Come on! Aren’t you tired from Basecamp discriptions yet? There’re better and more innovative tools out there. Seriously. Aren’t you eager for something fresh and probably more helpful? For example, two months ago I made my discovery of this tool. It has some really great features that you won’t ever find in Basecamp.

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  9. For both apps, I’m paying $26 per month so that is…$312 for the year?

    That is peanuts compared to what I spend on other work-related things that don’t help me in my business.

    It is weird how we perceive that something is soooo expensive because it is more than free and yet it is a 3rd of what I spend on lattes a year!

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  10. @Timmy

    They do not right now but are working on it. It would be nice to not have to do double entry but the customer facing system that Freshbooks has makes it worth it. The time that it took for people to pay invoices went down dramatically once I started using FB. It is worth it’s weight in gold!

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