There’s been a steady dose of silence to go around my little corner of the Internet-neighborhood and it’s mostly due to the fact that I haven’t set aside enough time to write.
As I mentioned a while back, I’m about as max’d as I can get business wise and had some success offloading a bit of the work on others.
I’m actually pretty far off from being out of the woods at this point which means that areas like writing and the dreaded business side of freelancing often get back-burner’d.
I was reminded yesterday though how it could potentially be worse. Dealing with collections for my work is a necessary evil. I realize that I have to send invoices to actually be paid for my services but the time and effort that used to go into it was dreadful.
My old system included tracking my time in one program, exporting to spreadsheet and then using a pretty outdated, local-based system to create invoices. It was arduous and time-consuming to say the least.
Add in the fact that I was manually sending invoices by email and having to track and follow up on unpaid invoices all by hand and it usually got relegated to the bottom of the to do list. Only when I saw the bank account get to an uncomfortably low mark did I then realize it was time to do it all over again.
As the calendar year rolled for 2011, I decided I was going to try and go a different route. I was willing to spend money on a new invoicing/tracking system. I hadn’t fully decided on a local application or a web-based one but I knew I was willing to spend money on the right one.
After a bit of testing, and having to enter time/client/invoice info into multiple different avenues, I found the best solution for me and my work-flow, Harvest.
This by no means is a paid endorsement by Harvest, but I’ve now paid for three months worth of their service (plus the first month free) and I haven’t looked back.
Out of all of the systems I used, Harvest has been the easiest for me to enter my data and build my invoices, gave me the best combination of decent looking invoices and ease of distribution and offered the easiest UI/workflow for me to get to the things I need to do. From one page I can see unsent invoices, sent invoices, past due invoices and even recently paid invoices. That’s good thinking. Not to mention the fact that they have some good reporting tools as well that I know I haven’t fully digested.
I don’t want to come off sounding like a complete homer, like most software, Harvest does have some drawbacks that I personally could benefit from.
First off, I have over five years invested in time-collecting in a little application called Toggl. It would be a poor decision for me to up and drop that history all together. Adding to that fact, I don’t find Harvest’s local timer to be currently all that useful so all of my time tracking is done outside of the application itself. I’ve heard rumors on the Toggl side that they are working to create a Harvest connection through the API which would result in a home run for me. Harvest, if you’re ever reading this, please feel free to pursue any joint venture with Toggl from your end for my sake. Thanks.
The only other small issue I’ve ever come across is that in certain situations I have needed to have a column or two added to their current invoice template and as of right now, it isn’t an option. It wasn’t a deal breaker for me but I did have to have a conversation with one client about the data they receive on their invoices and if they were going to be OK with the new format. Thankfully, they were. Any options/updates down the road would be useful and one less roadblock for some potential users.
Finally, I was pleasantly surprised to see this week that Harvest has a bit of thinking after my own heart. Turns out they are turning five this month and in celebrating they are taking hours tracked by their users and giving back to three different charities (of which users get to choose from) for a current ten day period.
If you’ve been around for any certain period of time, that’s the kind of thing I rally around. Understanding our place in this world is a pretty big deal to me and when businesses step up to the plate they can often find themselves with one more loyal user.
If you’re a freelancer/business owner, I highly recommend Harvest for your time-tracking and invoicing needs. While I understand adding another monthly charge isn’t ideal, they’ve shaved hours per month of my business admin time which in turn makes me feel like I’m stealing from them at only $12/month.