Introducing: FreshBooks’ first book, Breaking The Time Barrier

Click here to download the book.

I believe anyone who provides a valuable service should get paid for the value they deliver.

In January 2003, I was running a small design firm when I finally snapped. I was using Microsoft Word to bill my clients when I accidently saved over an invoice. The frustration of billing my clients overwhelmed me, and so did the thought of using accounting software—so I built my own solution.

Building my own product company quickly became a passion, but passion projects don’t pay…at least not on day one. To keep the lights on I moved into my parents’ basement for 3.5 years to save money and I completely revamped how I ran my design firm to the point where I worked 19 days in one year and generated over $200,000 to fund my side project. How did I do that? This book will show you—and help you do it too.

Thinking back, my ability to work so little and produce so much income had a lot to do with how I priced and positioned my services, something most small business owners struggle with. So I sat down with Donald Cowper—a best-selling author who joined FreshBooks as our small business writer last year—to try and capture the essence of things. The result is this book—a business fable designed to share the lessons I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.

This book will take you one hour to read, and you can read it for free. But a free book about pricing, that’s ironic, no? Yes. So here’s the twist: I hope that once you have read this book you will find it so valuable you will WANT to pay for it to recognize its value. Should you feel that way, please do two things. First, share it with others so they can benefit too. Second, go to where you can pay what you believe this book is worth to you and your business…it could be one dollar, could be $5000—you decide.

With that, enjoy.

Mike McDerment
Co-founder & CEO FreshBooks

P.S: Bestselling authors Tim Ferriss, Michael Gerber and Daniel Pink believe the hour you’ll spend reading this book is well worth it. Click here to download the book.

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  • Eliot Jones

    First off thanks for writing this! I found it very entertaining, inspiring, and thought provoking. If moving away from billing by the hour toward a “valued based pricing” model is one of the major key to success why doesn’t Freshbooks offer this in it’s invoicing system?

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Thank you, Elliot, for sharing your thoughts on the book. I’m pleased to hear that it has inspired you. If you want to apply value-based pricing to your business with FreshBooks, you can charge a flat rate for your project by tracking hours as unbilled or you can manually make an invoice instead of generating from it from your tracked time. Additionally, you can offer multiple options on estimates when quoting customers for your services.

      For more info see:

      Hope this is helpful.


      • Eliot Jones

        thanks Donald. that was helpful. just one additional question…is it possible to only display your “Items” and not “Tasks” on estimates and invoices?

        I feel that leaving in this section invites the customer to pin you down on an hourly rate.

        • Donald_FreshBooks

          Hi Eliot, glad to hear the info was helpful. With regard to your question about “Tasks” and “Items” on your invoices, if you don’t bill for any “Tasks,” they won’t show up on the invoice that your client sees. You can also remove either “Tasks” or “Items” from your invoices by changing the default column headings under Settings—>Misc. On the Misc page, go to the section “Invoices & Estimates”, where you’ll see a field for “Default Column Headings” – you can make the change there.

  • Boyink

    What I would like, and haven’t been a able to find an elegant way to do in Freshbooks is:

    – Estimate a project for a given amount.
    – Get estimate approved for that amount.
    – Invoice in 25% chunks over the course of the project.

    I can do it, it just doesn’t feel like it’s a workflow that FB supports elegantly.

    • Steve

      Hey Boyink!

      There are a few ways to get those 25% instalments working in FreshBooks. Would it be possible if you sent us an email at and we can hook you up with a really detailed walk-thru.



  • Zenzealot

    One challenge I have with this type of approach is this: “How do you get the client to disclose the value of your services?”. I have a client who was reselling the end product of what I was creating to someone else and was very tight lipped about his prices.

    I’m a software developer and I think this is fairly common in my industry.

    Another question: How do you price ongoing work? Say I value-price a piece of custom software then later they ask me to add updates. I can easily price the first piece but do we just try to figure out the ‘value’ of the upgrades?

    I think some business people are ‘trying’ things to see if it will make money (in the example of ‘upgrades’ above) and don’t really know the value. What then?

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Those are great questions. With regard to your “tight lipped” client, the book outlines a process for building high trust relationships, which means both parties feel a sense a trust. So it comes down to a judgment call on your end – if you don’t feel comfortable with your client, remember that you choose who you work with.

      You answered your second question, so good job there.

      As for your last great question – the opportunity to try something is valuable. If your client has an idea and you’re the one who can bring it to life so they can test it in the market – that opportunity to test it is worth something to them. Without you, all they have is an idea – and ideas are a dime a dozen, but bringing them to life – that’s worth many, many more dimes.

  • Belle

    Loved this! I was always teetering with this idea, but this book gave me the push to do it. I sent over a $8K quote which I originally quoted around $2,500. And the client accepted without blinking an eye. It’s all about the perceived value…and this book also encouraged me to go back and make sure I REALLY pull out the clients needs so that I can properly offer them the right package. AWESOME!

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Thank you for sharing your story, Belle! I was thrilled to read it and know it will inspire others.

  • Chillik

    Really well written Donald! Seem like the style of writing is adapted from E-Myth Re-visited.

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Thank you, Chillik. And the comparison to Michael Gerber’s work is a tremendous compliment!

      • Chillik

        btw. who would be the real life Karen? How can we get in touch with her?

        • Donald_FreshBooks

          Hi Chillik… you’re peaking behind the curtains a little here :)
          Karen is a composite character who essentially represents the authors.
          There are lots of Karens out there. They’re the leaders in their industries. Finding a mentor like Karen isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it can be done. You might find helpful suggestions here:

          • Zain


  • Seb

    Love the book, thanks very much for writing it. One question I have is, suppose you’re doing a redevelopment of an online shop which is currently turning over $5m and you think you can improve the conversion rate such that they will turn over $6m within a year and you charge 10% ($100k) for the work. What happens if their turnover only reaches 5.5m, I guess it does happen, there are so many factors which may not be directly related to your work. How do you word the contract with the client so that they can’t come back to you for a refund?

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Hi Seb,

      So glad you loved the book.

      Your question is insightful and one that a lot people would have. I would first point out that value-based pricing is distinct from performance-based compensation arrangements, such as revenue sharing, where you take a percentage and are paid according to the actual results. In these cases you’re bearing the risk of what will actually happen. If things go great, you’ll reap the reward. If they stink out, you’ll be out of luck.

      Value-based pricing is different. You set your fee beforehand according to what both you and your client agree is the value to them. You’re asking your client to make an investment in you and your services. As with all investments, there are risks and it’s vital for anyone making the investment—in this case your client—to understand and appreciate those risks, so that if the results are less than expected they still feel they made a sound investment. With value-based pricing building a trusted partnership is key.

      Another aspect to consider is that both you and your clients will have deliverables on the project. Your job is to ensure that you deliver everything you promised. But it’s also true that your client needs to deliver as well. Any fall down on either end puts the expected results in jeopardy. So you have to be vigilant and take care throughout the project to ensure that you and your client are doing the work required. If either of you feels the work quality of the other is less than expected, that becomes a relationship management issue that you’ll have to handle with care.

      Bottom-line: be clear with your client that you are pricing your services based on value. You are not participating in any upside or downside. The client is making an investment and they bear the risks—for better or worse. You will both do what it takes to minimize the risks to give the client the best chance possible of reaching or exceeding their goals. If the client you illustrated saw a return of $7m instead of $6m, that’s all gravy to them, not you. It’s one reason they are investing in you, rather than offering you a percentage. And finally, monitor the relationship every step of the way and keep the trust high.

      • Seb

        Hi Donald,

        Thanks for your reply, I think I now understand it :) As you say it’s all about making your pricing clear from the start and that it’s an investment/risk. I’ll have to give it a go!

  • Toronto Computer Help

    This calls for a change in the FreshBooks interface — a third option for billing and quoting (besides hourly rate for time and unit costs for items)

    • rshok

      Hi there Toronto Computer Help,

      Thanks for your comment and I agree there are things we can do to further promote value-based pricing in the web app and I will record your feedback for the rest of the product team. Have you already tried using the flat-project amount option on the project (where you can enter the price that you and your client have agreed upon based on the value you will be delivering)?

      There are some workarounds that you might want to try. If you need to provide multiple options on your estimates, you can follow this FAQ post:

      Finally, there are something things you can try with some of our integration partners. You could use a service like Formstack and create a form that has multiple pricing options that the client can choose from. The client can then make a selection on the form and the integration can automatically create a invoice, estimate, or recurring profile on your FreshBooks account once the form has been submitted. If you want more info on the Formstack integration, just give our support team a call and they can walk you through it.


      • DD .

        I like NiftyQuoter for estimates / project proposals, it allows you to include line items in the estimate that are optional – as the client checks / unchecked the options the total/s update. love it. and it integrates a little with Freshbooks (import clients). but i wish the totals and links to the estimates would appear in the estimates area of my freshbooks account – that would be a much better integration.

  • Toronto Computer Help

    This calls for a change in the FreshBooks interface — a third option for billing and quoting (besides hourly rate for time and unit costs for items)

  • Gemstone

    I have so many freelancing ebooks on my computer, and this is FAR AND AWAY the best guide I’ve ever read about pricing one’s services fairly (to both yourself and your client). I’m really excited to implement what I’ve learned with my next few projects.

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Thank you for letting us know that you loved the book! I’m really thrilled to read that you plan to bring the learnings to your business. Keep us posted!

  • Gordon Dahl

    I’m sorry, but I’m not impressed. The book is nicely written. I like the story format.

    But the whole book sounds strangly similar to everything in the books “Value Based Fees” and “Million Dollar Consulting” and “Getting Started in Consulting” by Alan Weiss.

    It’s actually so similar that I find it shameful that you ask readers to pay for it (if they want to).

    Would have been nice to, at least, quote the obvious sources of your inspirations.

    • Mike McDerment

      Hi Gordon – Mike here, one of the authors of Breaking the Time Barrier. First up, thanks for writing to share your thoughts on this matter, and great to know you are a fan of Alan Weiss and his work. Thanks also for the kind words – I’m glad you thought it was well written and you enjoyed the story format – you have Donald to thank for that.

      Alan has been in touch with me suggesting that this work was taken from him so I will tell you what I told him: neither Donald or I had read or heard of any of the books he mentioned prior to releasing Breaking the Time Barrier (or since), nor ever seen him speak. I think he found this hard to believe. I can understand how he feels, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

      I had a mentor who was a consultant when I was doing design work. He introduced me to the concept of setting your prices based what impact you deliver to your client. Everything from there – the lessons from Breaking the Time Barrier and how they were conveyed – were all common sense developed when I did design consulting. I stopped consulting about 10 years ago, but over the last 10 years at FreshBooks I came to realize that few small business owners possess this kind of thinking, and I came to believe all benefit from it, so I wanted to share.

      As for pricing the book, the truth is – anyone can read it for free. We set the pricing up for people to come back and pay for it if they found it valuable…because after all, how can you write a book about pricing and positioning your services, and not offer a mechanism for people to pay you? That wouldn’t make sense to me.

  • Rick Wolff

    I’m a graphic/web designer, so halfway through this book, I forgot that the chosen field of the main character is as hypothetical as the woman herself. (FreshBooks users = freelancers.) I cringe at the thought of developing the acumen I’d need to tell a business owner who wants a website how to prioritize their needs and goals. But that’s equally metaphorical, isn’t it? The man who’s bending her ear HAPPENS to want to do the exact same thing as she. Depending on who my ideal client is, that might not be the added value I provide. I could only triangulate on that when you introduced the dog walker — who couldn’t care less about the financial goals of dog owners, just the health of the dogs. To me, it’s the dog walker who’s the hero of the story!
    So now, in the next half-dozen readings of this book, and with the notes I take, I’m going to see who MY ideal client is, and what value I can add.
    And it ain’t business advice!

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Hi Rick,
      Thanks for your insights. The dog walker example is a revelation for many readers. So I’m glad that you got a lot of it too. It’s also different from the designer example because it’s a B2C model, where – as you point out – the customer’s goals often don’t have a financial aspect. BTW, the freelancer designers aren’t really hypothetical. They’re based on real examples. In their case, because their clients were businesses, in order for them to position value-based prices, they had to learn to connect their services to their client’s objectives. They discovered that that usually meant being able to talk at a strategic level. Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      • Rick Wolff

        My point is, at age 55, a life-long employee whom no one will hire now, I’ve got no time to get an MBA. I’d like to position myself as a designer the biz-dev types can go to to follow through on design when that solution is called for. Those are my ideal clients. That really crystalized once I realized I could stop following “Karen” literally.

        • Donald_FreshBooks

          I hear ya. Thanks for the clarification. I’m with you on not having an MBA — as are lots of others who price based on value, so you’ve got company. I’m pleased to hear that you’ve found a way to make sense of Karen’s lessons for you personally — that’s what’s really important. No business is the same, and everyone’s way forward will be unique. Keep us posted on how it goes.

  • Jonathan Fletcher

    I used to recommend Ronald Baker’s book or Alan Weiss’ book on the subject of value pricing, but now I tell everyone to read this book FIRST! Then, if they like the subject they can get more in-depth with the other ones. Thanks for a wonderfully accessible introduction to the concept that so few people have a clue about.

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Thank you for the high praise, Jonathan!

  • sian_richardson

    Totally dig this book. Because of the insane amount of value it provides, and I also dig it when CEO’s & the people behind these awesome companies tell us a bit more about how to got to where they are, and just let us in on their way of thinking.

    Also, one of the reasons I dig Freshbooks so much is because it allows me to quote flat fees and enter my own prices, as opposed to pricing & tracking everything by the hour, which is one huge problem I found with a lot of other accounting software, especially for self employed/freelance creatives.

    Thanks again dudes!

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Sian, so glad you dug the book! And great to hear you liked the approach of sharing our experiences. Also, thanks for sharing how you use FreshBooks to fit with your approach.

      • Donald_FreshBooks

        Thanks for letting us know you found the book so valuable! That means a lot to us!

  • RedGramLiving

    Mike has provided as much value as a three figure information product offered by a famous Internet marketer. I love his clear and relevant examples on how to view pricing based on value. It covers many of the concepts from Alan Weiss’s book BUT and this is a big BUT, Mike’s style is compelling in a different way. I borrowed Alan’s book from the library. Will I pay for Mike’s book, Why YES!

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Thanks for letting us know you found the book so valuable! That means a lot to us!

  • sonofabit

    Hi, just discovered this book and looking forward to reading, but forgive me if this is a silly request: is there an epub version of this book? PDFs are not the easiest thing in the world to read on the small 7″ nook color I own…

    many thanks either way!

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Hi there, thanks for inquiring about the book! As of today the PDF is the only version available to read. We’re looking into other formats but don’t have any answers on timing. Hopefully the PDF works okay on your device!

      • Roger Anderson

        Hi Donald,
        I’d love an Epub too, Epubs are the open format and make it so much easier to read / listen to the book it would increase the reach of your book and I’d request you to make it available in the ebook format too.

        Please reconsider releasing an Epub book to help spread the message further.

  • Andrew P.

    The first sale I made after this quick read was over $10,000 higher than my previous best. I have started investing my time in clients and their interests long before they sign on the dotted line. The attention and consideration I put into my proposals blows my competition out of the water and gets me contracts even with aggressive competition. Thank you for the generous thought and insight to get me thinking and acting in the right direction. Getting the money I deserve has made me a better designer as well as better salesman.

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Hi Andrew,
      What a fantastic story! Congratulations on the successes you’ve had applying the book’s insights. Very inspiring.

  • Vernessa Taylor

    This was an easy read, with simple yet powerful scenarios reflective of what freelancers and micro-business face today. Forget about those who say the book was “copied,” one an idea for something is released into the FM waves, they just might look like other ideas out there.

    I’ve included Breaking the Time Barrier in my weekly roundup of good reads at:
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Donald_FreshBooks

    Thanks, Vernessa, for your comment and for including our book in your roundup!

  • Andrew Threadgill

    I think as humans it is sometimes unnatural to think in these terms. When society blasts a set way of pricing and value everyone just goes with the flow. As a whole most people vastly under value themselves & consider themselves an expense to be added to the accounting books. This view of an investment, a product and a valuable asset is just perfect. I look forward to further books!

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Well put, Andrew. The weight of tradition can be pretty powerful, and a challenge to overcome. The more of us who do it, the better.

  • StacyRyan

    This should be required reading for anyone making the transition from employee to entrepreneur!

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Hi Stacy! Thanks so much for sharing that!

      • Donald_FreshBooks

        Thanks, Anna, for sharing your own experience and valuable insights on the issue of spec work! Great advice.

  • Lamar Pierce

    Just read this book and what a good read. Love the story format. I had started to make very small steps towards value pricing and backed off on it a bit. After reading this, I’ve decided to continue down that path and of course make sure I provide the right “value” for value pricing. Thanks for the book!

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Hi Lamar – thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m thrilled that the book re-inspired you to find the right pricing solution for your business. Wishing you the greatest success!

  • Mohamed Hamad

    This book is incredible. Has totally changed my pricing model and i find my clients very receptive to it. Its been my number one recommended book to anyone freelancing or starting their own business.

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Hi Mohamed,
      Thank you so much for sharing that! It’s a thrill to know that book has had a positive impact on your business.

  • Sophia Ojha Ensslin

    I just read the book, yes it took me an hour as you wrote and I feel that I have just hit a breakthrough. I too will go and think about the principles that Karen shared with Steve in this book. So so grateful to you for writing and sharing this book. May great health, love, peace and prosperity be yours always.

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Hi Sophia,
      Thanks so much for sharing that wonderful sentiment! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, and feel you’ve had a breakthrough. All the best.

  • Caleb

    Hey Mike, thanks for writing this book. I have been studying for the past year how to provide more value to my web design clients. I really want to provide them with huge ROI for their business, and charge a better rate in relation to that return.

    This book was another big step on my journey to a more successful business!
    Thanks, and thanks.
    – Caleb Mellas

  • Roger Anderson

    Hey Everyone Get the epub version of this book from KOBO here

    You will have to create an account, add the book to your library and then download the epub from your library, I will try posting a link later, it’s a good read, Thanks for sharing.

  • DD .

    I enjoyed this read. I have been transitioning from thinking only in terms of time to a more value based / combination type approach which is really working well for me. However although I have found Freshbooks to be a great tool for time tracking and invoicing in the past – the more i make this transition the less helpful I feel Freshbooks is as most of the tools are related to tracking time, budgeting time, etc. Now that i am “Breaking the Time Barrier” as the books suggest – i need Freshbooks to do things that it simply does not, such as:

    – Set a money (not time) related budget

    – Apply expenses to a project and mark them as rebillable at a separate markup rate (nice to have options each time to choose from for the rebill rate, such as: % markup or a specific amount)

    – Have the billable equivalent for any time that is logged on a project, in addition to the rebill rate for any expenses marked to be rebilled deducted from the budget so i can stay on track (current budget tools in Freshbooks are not helpful unless you are billing for time only)

    – Easier method to bill progress payments in % increments in some way, i.e. 50% deposit and 50% balance on completion, or 3 payments of 30%, etc.

    – Ability to view what the profits are per project and per client, i.e.:
    – total expected profit: $budget – $all actual expenses (not the rebilled amount, but the amount i need to pay out)
    – current profit: $payments received to-date – $actual expenses paid-to-date
    – remaining expected profit: $budget remaining – $remaining expenses to pay

    These features would make Freshbooks useful for billing that is not strictly based on time as proposed in this book :)

    • DD .

      I already use the Flat Rate Billing option in Freshbooks and have found ways of just making it work …. my comment is that as much as i love Freshbooks and continue to use it, it is not really setup to provide many tools or insights / reporting / data, etc that are useful for value based billing models. I hope that Freshbooks continues to improve the product and keeps this issue in mind as they roll out updates at the same time as promoting a book that encourages a billing method that isn’t supported well by their own product.

  • Michael Templeman

    Mike, as a consultant, this book was invaluable. I read it the day it came out. I finished it in an hour. Since then, my firm’s growth looks like a freaking hockey stick on a graph. We’ve increased in every measurable KPI and our revenues have never been higher. Your rock, sir. I would recommend this book to anyone in the service industry. In fact, I do and I know for a fact that at least a dozen of my contacts have downloaded it as well.

    • Donald_FreshBooks

      Hi Michael – Donald here, co-author of the book. We loved your comment! Hockey stick on a graph — great image!! We’re so happy to hear about your success.

  • Tommy

    Excellent reading! I’m an IT consultant, and it makes sense that my experience and expertise brings more value than a simple hourly rate. Thanks for this great book. It’s simple and fun to read, and the lessons learned are very valuable. The two main ways of doing business in my field of expertise are either fix-bid, or time and material. You already answered below about this, but I think it will be a challenge to bring the concept of value-based work and to make it clear it doesn’t means a fix-bid project where all the risks are assumed by the consultant. The concept of “packages” (to bring value) could looks like “fix bid projects” (to manage risk), but this is not the same thing. Even if I understand the difference, I think it’s not so easy to explain it to a client and to make it clear.

  • Rafael Viana

    This book is perfect! Thank you :) btw I love share it with some friends non-English friends of mine so I have almost finished to translate your book to Portuguese. Could you please give me permission for that?

    • FreshLindsay

      Hi Rafael! Lindsay here from FreshBooks. Glad you liked the book and want to share! Let’s chat further. Can you send me an email at

  • Rafael Viana

    This book is perfect! Thank you :) btw I love share it with some friends non-English friends of mine so I have almost finished to translate your book to Portuguese. Could you please give me permission for that?

    • FreshLindsay

      Hi Rafael! Lindsay here from FreshBooks. Glad you liked the book and want to share! Let’s chat further. Can you send me an email at

  • Segovia Smith

    I’d love to read it, but the download link is broken. Any chance you could update that.

    • FreshLindsay

      Hi Segovia! Link should be working now. Apologies for the inconvenience – hope you enjoy the read!

  • Debbie Campbell

    I just found this book – this is the most understandable book on value-based pricing I’ve read! One question though – how do you deal with scope creep?