FreshBooks Blog http://www.freshbooks.com A blog about our thoughts on entrepreneurship, teamwork, our services, the Web and anything we find interesting. Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:02:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 WANTED: Your Halloween Spirit in Exchange for a Chance to Win Big http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/24/wanted-your-halloween-spirit-in-exchange-for-a-chance-to-win-big/ http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/24/wanted-your-halloween-spirit-in-exchange-for-a-chance-to-win-big/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:28:27 +0000 Faraz Shafaghi http://www.freshbooks.com/?p=46939 Check your calendars – Halloween is just one week away…and you’ve likely been so busy working ’round the clock to serve your clients that as much as you might love Halloween, you find it tough to get in on the action. But it’s not fair for ...]]>

Check your calendars – Halloween is just one week away…and you’ve likely been so busy working ’round the clock to serve your clients that as much as you might love Halloween, you find it tough to get in on the action. But it’s not fair for you and the small business community at large to miss out on the fun. That’s why FreshBooks would like to infuse a little bit of the Halloween spirit into your routine. So break away from business as usual and put on your Halloween costume for a chance to win some serious prizes. Keep reading for the details:

How to participate

Participating is a cinch – all you have to do is:

  1. Wear your costume to work on Halloween
  2. Snap a photo of yourself at work
  3. Share it on Twitter or Instagram, tagging it with #Freshoween14 OR post it on the Freshoween Contest app on FreshBooks’ Facebook page

And that’s it! Just be sure to get your submission in between 9 a.m  and 11:59 p.m. ET on October 31.

Prizes for getting your halloween on

Sharing your photo automatically enters you for a chance to win. Here are the prizes:

  • The gift of time: Get dinner delivered to your doorstep three times a week for a month to free up your evenings for rest and relaxation
  • Cleaning, schmeaning: Take back your weekends by having a house cleaner come to declutter, clean, and get your life back in order
  • The ultimate test drive: Experience life in the fast lane behind the wheel of a luxury car rental
  • The spirit of Halloween future: Win gift certificates to ensure your future Halloweens are spooktacular!

Winners will be chosen by a panel of FreshBooks judges. More details will come over the next few days, so be sure to come back to the blog and follow FreshBooks on Facebook and Twitter.

PS – Tell your friends – all small business owners are welcome at this party.  So don’t be a halloweenie – have some fun at work October 31st.

]]>
http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/24/wanted-your-halloween-spirit-in-exchange-for-a-chance-to-win-big/feed/ 0
Uniting a community, one bean at a time – The story behind #FreshBrew http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/23/freshbooks-freshbrew-story/ http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/23/freshbooks-freshbrew-story/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:03:15 +0000 FreshBooks http://www.freshbooks.com/?p=46669 Today, the FreshMobile will be delivering free #FreshBrew coffee—a unique blend of Ethiopian and Honduran coffee beans—to entrepreneurs attending the Small Business Forum at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Everyone loves coffee, especially free delicious coffee brought to you by FreshBooks, but ...]]>

Today, the FreshMobile will be delivering free #FreshBrew coffee—a unique blend of Ethiopian and Honduran coffee beans—to entrepreneurs attending the Small Business Forum at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Everyone loves coffee, especially free delicious coffee brought to you by FreshBooks, but what you may not know about this particular brew is that it has a very special story behind it.

In a pre-dominantly male-driven industry, Maira Manzanares defied the cultural norm and took the reins of her father’s coffee farm in Honduras. Smart, strong-willed and passionate, Maira had an idea—to create the first, progressive, all-female managed coffee collective. Despite seemingly insurmountable cultural obstacles, her collective, known as COMISUYL, banded together and thrived.

Maira’s taste for exceptional coffee could only be matched by her determination to innovate. Through a partnership with the Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI), the Café Solar program was born, providing innovative new technology to farmers in the region. These farmers now process their own coffee, are able to gain access to specialized training and, in turn, benefit from increased employment opportunities. Considering there are few professional jobs open in rural communities, this boost in employment has had a significantly positive impact on Honduras’ youth.

A first of its kind, Café Solar coffee is not only Fair Trade and Organic Certified, it’s also the first solar-dried coffee to be processed 100 per cent off-the-grid using clean renewable solar energy, and comprises 75 per cent of the #FreshBrew blend. The solar-fueled program has also introduced a wealth of benefits to farmers in the area.

Maira’s story is a reminder for all of us: whether you dream of owning your own business or have owned it for years,  it all starts with an idea and the courage to pursue it. There’s nothing easy about being a small business owner. No matter if you’re dealing with money management, staff retention, or balancing quality and growth—stick to your vision and keep working towards your goals, and you too, can beat the odds.

Happy Canadian Small Business Week from FreshBooks.

]]>
http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/23/freshbooks-freshbrew-story/feed/ 0
Introducing #FreshBrew – Just in time for Canadian Small Business Week http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/22/freshbooks-freshbrew-small-business-week/ http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/22/freshbooks-freshbrew-small-business-week/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:47:14 +0000 FreshBooks http://www.freshbooks.com/?p=46644 What do small business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers thrive on? Simple. Coffee. OK, it’s not necessarily that simple, but let’s face it, when those late nights and early mornings kick in, coffee becomes every entrepreneur’s best friend. With this in mind, during Canadian Small ...]]>

What do small business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers thrive on?

Simple.

Coffee.

OK, it’s not necessarily that simple, but let’s face it, when those late nights and early mornings kick in, coffee becomes every entrepreneur’s best friend. With this in mind, during Canadian Small Business Week this week, FreshBooks is going to be fuelling entrepreneurs in Toronto with the very special #FreshBrew.

Beginning today, FreshBooks, in the aptly-named FreshMobile, will be driving around the streets of Toronto giving away FREE coffee. This delicious original blend, called #FreshBrew, is a fair-trade-friendly Honduran blend that was crafted in partnership with Merchants of Green Coffee. The #FreshBrew has notes of toasted caramel and a sweet syrupy texture—and the team cannot wait to hit the streets of Toronto this week to share it with everyone.

Keep your eyes peeled for the FreshMobile as it tours the downtown GTA area. It’s big, it’s blue, and it’ll be manned by a Rockstar squirrel from the FreshBooks support team. Exact locations will be shared each day on Twitter so be sure to follow @FreshBooks.

Attending the Small Business Forum at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre? Then look for the FreshMobile near the North Building this Thursday, October 23 from 8:00 am–11:30 am and 4:o0 pm–5:30 pm.

Of course, there’s something for FreshBooks fans and coffee aficionados outside of Toronto as well. What fuels you? Share what inspires you the most in the comment section below for a chance to win a bag of the #FreshBrew coffee beans.

Happy Canadian Small Business Week from FreshBooks!

]]>
http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/22/freshbooks-freshbrew-small-business-week/feed/ 2
Freelancing 101: Find the right productivity tools http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/18/be-more-productive/ http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/18/be-more-productive/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 15:51:16 +0000 Andy Haynes http://www.freshbooks.com/?p=44861 This post is the third in a 4-week series that will focus on advice, tips and tricks from long-time freelancer, Andy Haynes. Andy shares some of his biggest mistakes made during his first year freelancing to help first-time freelancers navigate their first year with ...]]>

This post is the third in a 4-week series that will focus on advice, tips and tricks from long-time freelancer, Andy Haynes. Andy shares some of his biggest mistakes made during his first year freelancing to help first-time freelancers navigate their first year with success. 

When I started out as a consultant, life was simple. I had a couple of clients and the work was straight forward enough that I didn’t need anything more complicated than post-it notes and email to keep track of what had to be done and when.

The same is true of a lot of solopreneurs. Most don’t need complicated productivity systems when they’re a business of one with a limited number of clients. Often, ad hoc, ‘back of the envelope’ solutions work just fine.

But what happens when you hit a level of complexity that overwhelms your simple planning approach?

More complexity requires a new approach

For me, things came to a head when I started a large project that involved working with several different departments within an electronics firm. Almost immediately things started breaking—the time I narrowly avoided missing an important phone call, the time I had to race to a meeting—progress started to slip. I started worrying that I was going to seriously drop the ball and it would cost me a big client.

So I took my system to the next level. I transitioned everything from Post-Its and email into Word and Excel—creating my own schedules to help me manage the growing amount of work.

But it only helped for a little while.

Soon it seemed I was investing more time on my homemade scheduling solution than the work I was meant to be doing. My solution had turned into its own problem.

Michael’s story

I found an answer to my problem when I talked to productivity guru Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe.com and author of the ebook, “It’s All About Passion”.  He’s an expert now, but he too struggled with managing his work in the early days. In fact, his struggles were what spurred him to create Nozbe.

With Nozbe Michael he could record tasks, set up projects and most importantly mark tasks as next actions. It helped him prioritize what needed to be done now, today—and to move his projects forward.

Using a productivity tool made him better at forecasting and estimating jobs because he could break projects down and see what he would need to do. But also see how that work fit into the scheduling of all the other work he had going on.

“I always think that something can be done in five minutes. Which of course, it can’t. With Nozbe, I was giving clients better answers,” Mike told me. “Now I would say, it can be done, but for Friday, not in five minutes.”

Use the right tool to get organized

Michael’s advice to me was simple. When your business becomes complex enough that Post-Its or Outlook isn’t working anymore, you need to find a good productivity tool. Get your tasks out of your head and into a system that will help you make sense of everything.. Once you’ve captured all your tasks in one system, you won’t have to worry about where things are or about forgetting or getting confused.

Then use your tool to organize your tasks into projects. Divide the big tasks into smaller, manageable steps and schedule them. And most importantly, define your ‘next actions’—the key tasks that need to happen next to move each project forward.

Getting back on track

After talking with Michael I decided to try using productivity software. I put every task I had into the inbox, started organizing them by project and splitting the bigger tasks, like writing an article on business types, into smaller tasks like Research, Outline and Draft.

Shortly after I started using the software, I landed a new group of clients—six insurance brokers who ran their own businesses and needed planning help.

The system kept me organized as I tried to integrate these six new streams of business into my existing workload. Because I generated the all-important ‘next actions’ in the software, I always knew what to work on next, the work never stalled and I never felt overwhelmed.

The clients were happy, and I found I spent more time on productive work and less time trying to stay organized and keep my head above water.

About the author: Andy Haynes is a writer for FreshBooks. He is the co-author of two best-selling business books, a successful entrepreneur and business consultant.

Do you have a helpful productivity tool that you use to stay organized? Share your tips below.

Read more about Andy’s lessons learned as a first-time freelancer:

Freelancing 101: The importance of becoming a sticky vendor

Freelancing 101: Watch for commitment flags early on

]]>
http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/18/be-more-productive/feed/ 0
7 end-of-year planning tips for your small business http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/17/end-of-year-business-planning/ http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/17/end-of-year-business-planning/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:29:07 +0000 Nellie Akalp http://www.freshbooks.com/?p=46209 With the fourth quarter under way, it’s time to start thinking about 2015. There is still plenty of time left before 2014 wraps up, but planning ahead is the key to ending the year right. To that end, here is your Fall Playbook ...]]>

With the fourth quarter under way, it’s time to start thinking about 2015. There is still plenty of time left before 2014 wraps up, but planning ahead is the key to ending the year right. To that end, here is your Fall Playbook to help you tie up any loose ends and get a running start as we head into the New Year.

1. Get caught up on your bookkeeping

You can’t make any sound financial or tax planning for the future if you don’t know where things stand—and that means understanding actually how much you’ve taken in and how much you’ve spent year to date. If you are not working with an accountant, there are plenty of apps to help automate most of the work for you. For example, you can take a look at FreshBooks’ expense tracking.  By getting caught up on your revenue and expenses now, you will have an easier time come tax season, and you’re in a better position to make sound end-of-year decisions.

2. Revisit your pricing

Once you understand your business’ financial picture, it’s time to get honest about how things are going. Is your business model sustainable or do you feel like you’re working as hard as you can, but still treading water? Many freelancers and small business owners make the mistake of undercharging their clients: is your pricing adequately compensating you for your time, experience, and costs (which include taxes, retirement plans, health insurance, and more)?

The start of the New Year is a natural time to bump up your rates. And if you are billing clients by the hour, I also recommend reading FreshBooks’ eBook “Breaking the Time Barrierto better understand how to put a price tag on your services. 

3. Do some end-of-year tax planning

The majority of people think about taxes just once a year. As a result, they lose the chance to make any meaningful changes to help their tax situation. It’s smart to set up a meeting with an accountant before the year comes to a close, so you can follow any tax advice while it still matters for 2014. For example, if after organizing your books, you realize that you’ll have a larger-than-expected profit this year, consider pulling the trigger on that new computer or other expenses you’ve been considering. And by all means, see where you stand with your estimated tax payments for the year and get caught up if needed.

4. Change your business structure

If you have been thinking about “upgrading” your business structure from a sole proprietorship to an LLC or corporation, now is the time. That’s because you can simplify your record keeping and taxes by starting 2015 as the new structure. In fact in the U.S., you can even have a document filing company complete the paperwork now, and then send it in to the state office at the start of 2015. Read “Business structure: choose the best one for you” to learn more about the various business structures, and their pros and cons.

5. Update your website and social media profiles

Throughout the year you undoubtedly make time to help your clients prosper, but how much time do you dedicate to growing your own business? Is the content on your website and business social media profiles up to date? Dedicate one day this Fall to touching up, revamping, or overhauling your digital presence. If you simply can’t spare a full day from billable work, then spend two hours per week for one month. You can even hire someone if needed…just don’t let your own business languish while you help everyone else move ahead.

6. Close an inactive business

Maybe you started a dog-walking business before you got serious about your design work. You haven’t walked a dog in ages, but various government agencies may still think that dog-walking business is active (and they’ll be expecting your tax return, annual fee, etc.). By the end of the year, you should officially close any inactive business. This is particularly true if you incorporated (formed an LLC), filed for a reseller’s license or any other kind of permit. The last thing you want is to find out that you owe three years’ worth of annual fees for a business you assumed was shuttered a long time ago.

7. Plan your holiday schedule

Your clients will expect you to take time off around the end of the year; more than likely, they’ll be quiet around the holiday season, too. However, you should still give all clients ample notice of your plans and set their expectations for your availability. Planning ahead is the best way to ensure a smooth and stress-free vacation.

About the author: Nellie Akalp is the CEO of CorpNet.com, an online incorporation filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs incorporate, Form an LLC or File a DBA for their businesses. Connect with nellie on Google+

More great ideas to grow your business

Explore how to dramatically increase your online visibility with directory listings

Discover 6 ways your accountant can help you achieve your business goals

Learn more about email marketing for freelancers: 9 steps to drive revenue

FreshBooks Tip

Looking for an accountant or bookkeeper to partner with for a smooth end-of-year? Check out the FreshMap to find a FreshBooks friendly accountant in your area.

 

]]>
http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/17/end-of-year-business-planning/feed/ 0
Freelancing 101: Watch for commitment flags early on http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/09/getting-clients-to-commit/ http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/09/getting-clients-to-commit/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 13:34:59 +0000 Andy Haynes http://www.freshbooks.com/?p=44916 This post is the second in a 4-week series that will focus on advice, tips and tricks from long-time freelancer, Andy Haynes. Andy shares some of his biggest mistakes made during his first year freelancing to help first-time freelancers navigate their first year ...]]>

This post is the second in a 4-week series that will focus on advice, tips and tricks from long-time freelancer, Andy Haynes. Andy shares some of his biggest mistakes made during his first year freelancing to help first-time freelancers navigate their first year with success.

Early in my freelance career, a tough experience with a potential new client taught me how to avoid doing free work.

It started with a call from Jill, a woman I had previously worked with and who had taken a new role at a start-up IT firm. She asked if I’d be willing to do some business planning consulting for the young company. They’d never done any planning before and it seemed like an ideal time for me to flex my consulting muscle. I was excited despite the fact that the CEO was too busy hustling sales to meet or talk with me. In absence of his approval, Jill suggested we get started and I agreed to start the work.

Over the next couple of weeks I conducted interviews with different department heads, talking about vision and markets and possible strategies. I still hadn’t met the CEO, but everyone I dealt with felt the urgency to put strategies in place to focus their efforts.

I created a draft of the business plan and sent it to Jill.  And that’s where things started to unravel.

Jill was happy with the plan, but when she shared it with the CEO for feedback, I began to see I’d made a big mistake. A mistake that was realized when we got not response to the draft plan—AT ALL. I should have seen the red flag right from the get go—without the CEO’s buy-in I was vulnerable. He was the one who controlled the budget.

A week passed, then two. The CEO was travelling. Then vacationing. Doing everything but responding to the plan I’d spent weeks developing.

Everyone became frustrated, and a little embarrassed.

By that point I was starting to realize how things were going to end up, but I’d spent a lot of time on the draft and didn’t want my effort to go for nothing. I eventually sent in an invoice.

It never got paid.

What I learned

It cost me time and income, but that experience taught me some very important lessons about how to judge a potential client’s seriousness, and when to say no to an opportunity.

It taught me to ensure I have commitment from my clients for the work I am prepared to offer. I ensure that the person that controls the purse strings is also involved even when they won’t be my point of contact. Going forward without their support is a recipe for disaster. If they aren’t willing to sign-off on the work up front, it’s better to say no and walk away than to and start work, only to later find out you were doing it for nothing.

The purse strings are often the key to whole thing. If a company doesn’t have a plan, that’s a business opportunity for me. If they don’t have a budget, then that’s a problem.

That’s not to say that I won’t sometimes do work for free to win the client. I will often offer to help my clients get organized and support them to a place where my services are needed. This ultimately helps them identify their needs, their budget and builds a relationship with me. More often than not this leads to me being hired. It also lets me gauge if they’re disinterested. If their response to the upfront discussions is lukewarm and they balk at committing funds to the project, I know it’s best to walk away

The way forward

While I had lost my time and efforts, I learned a valuable lesson, and have since become determined to focus on clients who are ready to commit.

A few months ago I received a call about a similar opportunity. I explored the company’s situation and outlined what it would take to create the business strategy they needed. Again, the CEO wasn’t around and he controlled the budget. This time I said, no.

It wasn’t an easy call, and the next month was a bit of a cash-flow struggle, but I knew I’d made the right decision. A few weeks later I got an email from that same CEO apologizing. His execs had convinced him they needed help and recognized that what I had proposed was the best way forward.

I’ve never looked back. Not all situations resolve themselves as well as that last example, but even if they don’t, walking away is the best choice for you and your own bottom line.

About the author: Andy Haynes is a writer for FreshBooks. He is the co-author of two best-selling business books, a successful entrepreneur and business consultant.

More great ideas to grow your business

See the first post in this freelancing series on the importance of of becoming a sticky vendor.

Learn the best advice I ever got about how to write winning proposals.

Explore email marketing for freelancers: 9 steps to drive revenue.

 

]]>
http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/09/getting-clients-to-commit/feed/ 2
Invoice like a pro: Advanced tips and tricks for using FreshBooks http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/06/advanced-invoicing-tips/ http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/06/advanced-invoicing-tips/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 20:09:44 +0000 Tim Lee http://www.freshbooks.com/?p=43901 As a Support Specialist for FreshBooks over the last five years, I’ve received a lot of calls from customers wondering if there’s more to FreshBooks than what they see. It’s true, FreshBooks likes to keep it simple—with the goal of making running your ...]]>

As a Support Specialist for FreshBooks over the last five years, I’ve received a lot of calls from customers wondering if there’s more to FreshBooks than what they see. It’s true, FreshBooks likes to keep it simple—with the goal of making running your business as easy as possible. But, we’ll let you in on a secret—there are a few tricks up our sleeve that will help you optimize your business and save you time. Here are my quick tips for advanced invoicing.

Sharing documents

Have a document that you need to share with your clients along with their invoices? You can paste a link from your documents storage solution (like DropBox) right into the description, terms, or the notes section of the invoice, and FreshBooks will automatically make it clickable.

Copy

Customers often call in and tell me that they invoice the same thing a lot of the time to multiple customers, and that re-creating an invoice multiple times is a pain. No worries—FreshBooks has a copy feature you can use. Just check the box to the left side of the invoice you want to copy, and click “Copy” on the grey bar above, and voila, a brand-spankin’ new invoice with the identical content, without all the hard work.

 

Recurring invoices

If you have a subscription-based business, or have long-term clients that you send invoices to on a schedule, you can set up recurring profiles. This will automatically send invoices for you. Think of how you learned to copy an invoice above – but this puts it on automatic pilot. You can easily set up a recurring invoice by going to “Invoices” -> “Recurring” -> “+ New Recurring”.

If you accept online payment with the right payment gateway, you can even set up Auto-Bill, which will allow you to automatically deduct from your clients’ credit card on file.

Some Helpful Links:
What Are Auto-Billing 
How do I create Recurring Billing

 

 

Schedule an invoice

Speaking of Recurring Profiles, did you know that you can use the same feature to help you schedule a one-time invoice as well? This is a handy trick for a future-dated invoice that you’re not ready to send just yet.

To schedule a one-time invoice, take the same steps as above to set up a Recurring Profile, but just remember to set the “How many” field to “1” when creating the new recurring profile. This will prompt FreshBooks to send out an invoice on the start date you’ve specified before automatically stopping itself. Set it and forget it!

Search

Sure, archiving invoices could help with some organization, but there are a plethora of fields you can search for in FreshBooks that can help you identify certain invoices faster. Here are some examples of helpful searches.

1)   Unpaid invoices

You can search for unpaid invoices by selecting “Unpaid” in the “Paid/Unpaid” drop down box. This will show you all invoices on the list that are unpaid. You can even confine the search to within a specific date-ranges, or specific clients.

2)   Particular status of invoices

Want to see all the invoices that currently have a failed or retry status, or all the unviewed, sent invoices? Just select both statuses under the “Status” drop-down box to have FreshBooks display those invoices for you.

3)   Categorization of invoices

Some savvy customers of FreshBooks have known to insert a particular code either in the invoices’ “Notes visible to client” field, or in the description field of the items. You can use FreshBooks’ search function to then show all invoices that contain a particular code in the Notes or Description field.

Payment reminders

We all have clients that may need a little reminding of the due dates for their invoices. You can set up to three payment reminders under “Settings” -> “Emails” -> “Edit” the Late Payment Reminder.

FreshBooks will automatically send out reminders to your client, so you can say goodbye to spending time tracking down payments.

 

These are just a few of the tips and tricks that you can use to help maximize your use of FreshBooks to save time. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can reach our helpful support team here: http://www.freshbooks.com/contact.php.

About the author: Tim Lee is a Support Rockstar at FreshBooks. When he’s not making customers laugh on the phone and helping them use FreshBooks to run their business, Tim enjoys perfecting techniques on the piano, singing in a choir, and learning about nerdy science-ish stuff online.

]]>
http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/06/advanced-invoicing-tips/feed/ 0
Freelancing 101: The importance of becoming a sticky vendor http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/03/first-time-freelancer-advice/ http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/03/first-time-freelancer-advice/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 14:03:34 +0000 Andy Haynes http://www.freshbooks.com/?p=44881 This post is the first in a 4-week series that will focus on advice, tips and tricks from long-time freelancer, Andy Haynes. Andy shares some of his biggest mistakes made during his first year freelancing to help first-time freelancers navigate their first year ...]]>

This post is the first in a 4-week series that will focus on advice, tips and tricks from long-time freelancer, Andy Haynes. Andy shares some of his biggest mistakes made during his first year freelancing to help first-time freelancers navigate their first year with success.

In my first year as a freelance writer and business coach I made mistakes that cost me business. The first big one happened when an internal change cost me the business of one of my most valuable clients.

The firm was a medium-size tech company. They were what I’ll call a ‘regular’ client, and I’d been doing consulting and writing jobs for months.

Everything seemed to be going well. I developed a good relationship with William, the marketing manager, and the steady work helped me stabilize my income flow in the critical early months. The steady work with William took a lot of stress out of my decision to go freelance.

Good news turns to bad news

A few months in I got a call from the William apologizing for the short notice but asking if I could turn around a quick writing assignment for a project that had sprung up unexpectedly. Wanting to help him out I said sure and worked through the weekend.

I sent my piece in, got an email back saying good stuff—I’ll get back to you once it’s live.

And then that was it. I never heard from my contact again.

I tried emails, calls, I sent in my invoice…nothing.

Two weeks later I learned that William had left the company. I was in a bind. I realized that over the past few months I spent a lot of time cultivating him as a client, but now that he was gone I had no relationship with anyone else in the company.

The marketing manager who replaced William brought in her own people. They started using a different supplier for their writing and consulting. That last quick job I busted my hump to complete for them turned out to be the last job I ever did for that client.

Only then, did I realize I’d made a crucial error.

What I should have done

I’d mistaken the marketing manager for my client. When, in reality I should always have focused on the company as my client.

If I had done that I would have acted very differently. When I thought about what had happened I realized I should have made myself what I’ve come to call a ‘sticky vendor.’

By recognizing that the company is your client, not your contact, you can find ways to add value to the company and make yourself useful to them beyond the work you are currently contracted to do. Make connections beyond your primary contact and don’t be afraid to offer your expertise for free if it will help the company and increase their attraction to you.

The last word

Ever since that relationship management disaster I’ve been working at being a stickier vendor. After William’s departure and the subsequent loss of a client, I treated the next client differently. I made a point of calling and emailing more, sharing articles and information that I thought they’d find useful, and taking time to visit with people in different areas of the company. Without being a nuisance I take an interest in learning what they do, how they do it, what challenges they’re facing. And, if they are open to it, I’ll offer my take on what’s happening.

I don’t charge for any of these things. All of these activities are investments in my future with that client.

Almost a year into our relationship, we’re still going strong even though I’ve seen two of my contacts move on to other companies. Because I’ve established my value with the company rather than just the contact I initially made, I’m not affected by changes in personnel like I used to be.

The big pay-off from being a sticky vendor is that my clients are getting more value from their relationship with me, and, although some of the value I provide to them is done for free, I am at less risk of losing them as a client when there are changes on their end. At the same time, I am able to provide more value to their entire business and ultimately increase my revenue with my clients significantly. It’s a win-win!

About the author: Andy Haynes is a writer for FreshBooks. He is the co-author of two best-selling business books, a successful entrepreneur and business consultant.

More great ideas to grow your business

Discover how to effectively use inbound marketing to get clients to come to you.

Learn the real problem with a lot of proposals.

]]>
http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/03/first-time-freelancer-advice/feed/ 2
Introducing: Payments by FreshBooks http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/01/introducing-payments-by-freshbooks/ http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/01/introducing-payments-by-freshbooks/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:01:36 +0000 Faraz Shafaghi http://www.freshbooks.com/?p=44756 Ever tried to set up online payments? As it turns out, what should be a simple task is actually quite the nightmare. Whether it’s choosing the right payments company for your billing habits, figuring out how to navigate the complicated maze of setup forms, creating ...]]>

Ever tried to set up online payments? As it turns out, what should be a simple task is actually quite the nightmare. Whether it’s choosing the right payments company for your billing habits, figuring out how to navigate the complicated maze of setup forms, creating all types of different accounts, or trying to integrate it all with your billing software – it’s pretty messy. Even if you manage to get it set up properly, you still have to deal with multiple companies to handle a simple payments-related issue, and chances are there’s a ton of hidden fees that you just don’t know about. Needless to say, the payments experience for service-based small business owners is broken.

That’s where FreshBooks comes in. Starting today, there’s a new, easy way to accept online credit card payments – and it’s been exclusively designed by FreshBooks with the service-based small business owner in mind, helping you skip all the headaches and reap all the benefits. Curious to see what it’s all about? Keep on reading for the details.

Why should I care?

If you don’t accept online credit cards payments from your clients today, you’re likely spending a ton of time and effort trying to get money you’ve earned into your bank account. Whether you’re chasing clients for checks, constantly having to make bank runs, or manually updating your FreshBooks account every time you get paid, it can get cumbersome.

And let’s face it – even if you already get paid online, your client’s payment experience can be disjointed and confusing (i.e., your client might jump from FreshBooks to another website to pay), manual effort is needed on your part to keep your books up-to-date (ex, adding transaction fees as expenses in your account), or you have to call an entirely separate company to get help on important payment-related matters – what a headache.

Enter: online payments designed and supported by FreshBooks, and integrated directly with your account so that you can:

  • Accept credit card payments right away without the painful setup
  • Give your clients the easiest and most convenient way to pay your invoices online to help you get paid faster
  • Automatically import payment transaction fees as expenses to save you time
  • View the status of a payment directly on your Account Dashboard to give you the comfort of knowing what’s happening with your money at all times
  • Auto-bill to your hearts content for absolutely no extra charge (that’s right folks – free auto-bills!)

Best of all, it’s backed by FreshBooks’ award-winning support team, so you only have to deal with one company for all your payment-related needs – huzzah!

How does it work? 

FreshBooks users are already set up to accept credit card payments from the get-go. The next time you’re creating an invoice, you’ll notice a checkbox that prompts you to “Accept Credit Cards”:

Note – if you already get paid online through another online payment gateway (Stripe, PayPal, etc.), you can continue to accept payments as you normally do. You’ll simply see a new option (“FreshBooks”) when creating an invoice that you can choose to enable if you’d like:

Once you click the checkbox for the first time, you’ll see a pop-up that’ll provide you with more information, including pricing (note – pricing is discussed in detail further below):

Once you send your invoice and your client clicks on the link in the email, they’ll see the option to “Pay Now”:

Clicking on “Pay Now” will lead your client to a secure, simple payment page, where they can enter their credit card information and pay your invoice in a jiffy – woot!

If it’s the first time you’re getting paid online through this route, you’ll receive an email from FreshBooks’ payment partner, WePay, with instructions on how to verify your business and connect your bank account to complete the transaction (note – you only have to do this once):

As soon as your business is verified and your bank account is connected – you’re done! All future payments will appear in your bank account in just a few business days.  Side note – WePay is FreshBooks’ payment processor. They’ve processed over $5 billion in payments over the last 5 years! They also have a kick-ass support team (Stevie Award winners) and use advanced risk algorithms that specifically help small business owners just like you get paid even faster. Plus, their platform allows for deeper technology integrations, enabling FreshBooks to serve you even better as time goes on.

Transaction fees automatically imported as expenses

No more having to calculate transaction fees or manually enter them into your FreshBooks account. FreshBooks will automatically import and categorize transaction fees as an expense every time you get paid:

View the status of a payment on the Account Dashboard

Need to know when you should expect to get your hard-earned cash?  You’ll get your very own widget right on the Account Dashboard that gives you the comfort of knowing when to expect your next deposit:

How much does it cost?

Pricing is simple and transparent:

  • Visa / MasterCard: 2.9% of the payment amount + $0.30 per transaction
  • Amex: 3.5% of the payment amount + $0.30 per transaction (Amex is only currently available for U.S customers)

…and that’s it! There are no setup fees, monthly fees, minimum charges, or costs associated with validations or failed transactions. Plus, auto-bills are free so you can really put your billing on cruise control.

What if I’m happy with my current setup?

If you currently use Stripe, PayPal, or any other payment gateway currently supported by FreshBooks, don’t sweat it – your current setup will remain intact and completely unaffected.

Get started today

If you’re ready to give it a whirl, try it out on your next invoice. Note that we’re taking a phased approach to rolling this out for existing FreshBooks users, meaning you’ll receive an email from FreshBooks as soon as it’s enabled for you. If you’ve stumbled on this post without receiving an email and want to give it a go, contact FreshBooks’ Support Team and we’ll turn it on for you.

As always, if you need a hand along the way or have a question, give us a ring at 1-866-303-6061 or send an email to support@freshbooks.com – FreshBooks Support Rockstars are always eager to help!

]]>
http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/10/01/introducing-payments-by-freshbooks/feed/ 103
7 ways FreshBooks can help you save time http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/09/29/enter-receipts-on-phone/ http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/09/29/enter-receipts-on-phone/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:09:43 +0000 FreshBooks http://www.freshbooks.com/?p=44106 time_saver Raise your hand if you could use a few extra hours in your day. From dog-walkers to graphic designers, we could all use more time to put the finishing touches on a project, run some personal errands or squeeze in a little ...]]>

time_saver

Raise your hand if you could use a few extra hours in your day.

From dog-walkers to graphic designers, we could all use more time to put the finishing touches on a project, run some personal errands or squeeze in a little time to recharge. Time is more than just money. It is where we find inspiration, plan for the future and develop new skills. Sadly, time is something they’re not making any more of. So with that in mind, here are seven ways to elude father time.

Emailed Invoices

If you invoice your clients through the postal service, a “best-case-scenario” is that your client receives an invoice within the week. It can take much longer for you to then receive payment.  For any business owner in need of some positive cash flow, this time limbo can feel more like a month in hell. Shave down some of that excruciating time by sending invoices via email in FreshBooks. As a bonus, you’ll even know exactly when your clients view their invoice—right down to the minute.

Online Payment

Now that you’re sending invoices straight to your client’s inbox, make it even easier for them to pay by accepting payments online. With FreshBooks you can create and send invoices to clients online and possibly even receive payment in the same day. All your client has to do is whip out their credit card to pay. No more checks or bank transfers. Just the money you need—lightning fast.

Late Payment Reminders

Late invoice payments can cause more than just sleepless nights. Consistent cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Yet somehow, this reality can be lost on a late-paying client. Almost as frustrating as late payments is reminding clients to pay up. There’s hardly enough time in the day as it is, plus the task is, shall we say, less-than-enjoyable. Why force yourself to do all the reminding? Use the late payment reminder feature in FreshBooks to compose up to three messages that are automatically emailed to clients after a selected time period. It’s like having your own collections agency—minus the expense, of course.

Recurring Invoicing

If your billing is subscription-based (as in your clients pay the same amount on a set schedule) you will weep tears of joy after using FreshBooks’ Recurring Invoicing feature. Instead of creating and sending an invoice to your clients every cycle, simply make a single, repeatable profile to generate and send invoices for you. Reclaim literally hours of your life by putting your billing on cruise control—and try not to think too much about the time you did your billing manually.

Expense Imports

You financially-savvy business owners know the importance of accounting for each and every expense your business encounters. To stay on top of the numbers, you could manually enter these expenses into FreshBooks, or make things a little easier on yourself by connecting FreshBooks to your business bank account or credit card. Automatic, daily expense imports make it an absolute cinch to ensure every expense is accounted for—and you never had to manually enter a single item.

Mobile Time Tracking

If you bill for your time, you may be familiar with how time-consuming keeping track of all that time can be. The freelancer’s routine frequently involves doing the work, jotting down what they did and for how long, then compiling all the entries into an invoice come billing time. Now imagining a new routine, one where all you have to do is open FreshBooks on your phone or tablet, start the timer and log your hours when the work is done. No more fighting with spreadsheets, or entering time twice. When you’re ready to invoice your client, you can generate one from all the time you’ve logged in just a few clicks.

Mobile Expense Capture

Believe it or not, most business purchases take place outside of the office. So why wait to track your expenses until your return? Use FreshBooks on your phone or tablet to take photos of receipts and log expenses wherever you are. Gone are the days of crossing your fingers, hoping you’ll remember to do something when you get back to the office. By tracking expenses on the fly with FreshBooks for iOS and Android, you’ll save heaps of time and have one less ball to keep in the air.

Most of us would part with a limb to get an extra hour a day. Some of us would use that time to see loved ones, some to recharge our creative batteries, and some might even choose to work a little more (admit it, some of us would). Let FreshBooks do the heavy lifting of your day-to-day business activities and help save oodles of time where it counts. Reclaim your workday and hold on to those limbs—you’ll need them for all the high fives that will be coming your way.

Are you already billing like a boss or a master of mobile in FreshBooks? Share your productivity tips with other FreshBooks users and let the time-saving games begin!

More great ideas to grow your business

Check out why I stopped compromising with clients.

Learn more about inbound marketing: 10 ways to get clients to come to you.

Find out if you’re too nice to succeed in business.

 

]]>
http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2014/09/29/enter-receipts-on-phone/feed/ 0