[The following is a lengthy post that outlines directions FreshBooks will be taking in the next few months and why. This post was inspired by a post by Canadian venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky who posed the question, “Where is the FreshBooks of accounting?” because FreshBooks appears to be just focused on invoicing. The answer is FreshBooks will be the FreshBooks of accounting.]
Perspective is everything in business – it influences strategy. You don’t always need a great new idea to be a success; often it’s better to take an old idea, tweak it slightly and make a success with that. So it is with FreshBooks.
When we were running our web design and development consultancy before FreshBooks, we struggled to find the best way to invoice our clients. What we wanted was a solution that saved us time and made collecting money easy. We had to choose between Microsoft Word and Excel or more complex traditional accounting solutions like Intuit’s QuickBooks or Sage’s Simple Accounting and I said, “Forget it, there must be another way”. Since neither Word/Excel nor QuickBooks were the right tools for the job we built our own system and traveled a third path.
Most businesses start using Word and Excel to manage their invoices because one day they need to bill a client and they have not prepared for it. The need almost comes out of the blue since it’s the nature of entrepreneurs to be more focused on doing interesting work and serving clients; billing is an afterthought. I once read that 3.5 million US businesses are using QuickBooks, and 6.5 million use Word/ Excel. So entrepreneurs use Word or Excel because those tools are there when the time comes to send that first invoice and they rarely look back…until the pain sets in.
What kind of pain do Word and Excel create in your billing process? First, invoice formatting is a pain and your documents don’t look great. Then there is the management of your files. Have you ever tried to track which of your invoices have been paid in Windows folders, or tried to tell how much an invoice was for by looking at files in a folder? Total nightmare.
In the other ring we have QuickBooks. There is no doubt that QuickBooks is a great tool and Intuit is a fabulous company. I met Scott Cook (the founder of Intuit) at the Web 2.0 Summit and basked in his creativity and ideation. But you know what? When I repeatedly get emails that say “FreshBooks does 10% of what QuickBooks does – the 10% I need”, I know the QuickBooks pain of having to go through five steps to get one thing done is too much, and I know FreshBooks is on to something.
In the months to come you can expect to see FreshBooks tackle more fundamental accounting functions things like expenses and estimates. I won’t say anything else now except that you can expect us to deliver these services the “third way”. They will be UnAccounting services that are fast to use, save you time and make your business look more professional. We’re excited to be forging the path, we hope you come along for the journey. To see the benefits of FreshBooks’ UnAccounting services, read our 2006 customer survey results.