Gathering Data for the Greater Good

So … Version 3.5 is out the door.

Many of you (FreshBooks *active* users only) will notice a special message the next time you login. It is a prompt to tell us what profession/industry you are in. It’s optional, but here is the kicker – if you tell us, we are going to deliver some real value to you and your business.

Applications that use the web as a platform have the potential to begin an era of providing new value for their users. Never has there been a better opportunity for users to learn from other users. Some may call this social software (I would), but it’s not all about creating a profile page on a web, uploading photos and hoping someone finds you online. This is a different kind of learning.

All the users that profile themselves (e.g. tell us “I am a web designer”) will begin receiving useful comparative business metrics they can use to benchmark their business. For example, a web designer might like to learn:

  • What is the average invoice size for web designers?
  • How long does the average web designer take to get paid?
  • What is the average monthly revenue of other web designers?

We’re going to tell our active users their industry average AND their own average, so they can see how they stack up. “If everyone is getting paid faster than me, why is that and what can I do about it?” Good questions.

We’re going to take things one step further too. We’re going to scour our records for the best performers for various metrics and interview them to get tips. We will then feature them as experts so other businesses can learn how to run their own businesses more effectively.

Remember when you had to pay Forrester $1200 for a report like this? It’s times like this I catch a glimpse of how our service – and services like ours – will begin to move markets.

Just so we are clear, the data collected will only be used in its anonymous aggregate form. We’re not looking into your data on an individual basis and it won’t be copied or shared outside of our organization. Also, the request to have users profile themselves, and the access to the comparative industry reporting, are only available to users who have demonstrated a commitment to using FreshBooks. Our active users.

So sign up, use FreshBooks and join the data party.

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  • Ali

    Hey Mike.
    I’m not a Freshbooks user but I still read your blog just for inspiration. You have a great service and a website. I see myself in your shoes an year from now (though we’re in different markets).

    I read that you have 80,000 user accounts created. Do you want to share how many active members you have, and how many of them are paying?

  • Mike McDerment

    Ali – looks like your product is coming along well – congratulations. I was asked a similar question, and I replied, over here.

  • smallbiz

    It is ironic that you ask your customers to share information about their business while refusing to share information about yours. This practice is common but comical when such a company encourages its customers to share information with them…for the greater good of course. 😉

  • Mike McDerment

    Good point, however we are not asking anyone to publically disclose their individual company’s information. We are only gathering information for aggregate release. And for the record I am working on a project where I am collecting information from web application service providers (i.e. businesses like ours) for release in aggregate form.  I will be publically releasing that information. Fair is fair.

    For anyone interested in participating in that project, you can find out how at the bottom of this article.

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  • Shaula Evans

    Mike, it is such a pleasure to watch you and the FreshBooks team in action.

    Data capture is where it’s at!

    I’m impressed that your’e doing it, and that you have come up with a way to do it that presents a clear benefit to Freshbooks users like me. (I’m a very happy Freshbooks user.)

    Guess this means I’m submitting my expenses today instead of Friday so I can log in and check out the new question…. :)

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  • Jean Jordaan

    How is a featured expert going to be anonymous? How is scouring your records for the best performers only using data in its anonymous aggregate form?

  • Aaron Adams

    That’s a good question, Jean. We’re not actually looking at the data itself, we’re simply examining the results of the comparisons being made. If users then choose to share their results beyond that, we’re all ears; but we certainly don’t make a habit of examining our users’ financial details, we simply get in touch with the top performers in a chosen category to see if they’re willing to chat about their methodology.

  • http://jasonwallphoto Jason Wall

    Hey. I’d love to add my profession, but its not listed. How about adding “Photographer”.

  • Mike McDerment

    Jason – thank you so much for piping up and telling us this. We need to revamp those professions and it is currently on our list of “to dos”. We will add photographer for sure – thanks again.

  • O.J. Hollander

    Freshbooks fell into my lap when I was just surfing. I was getting ready to order business quicken software, I was formerly doing all this stuff by hand. Yuck

    It certainly had everything I needed, only one suggestion, I would like to send the clients invoice to the client and to the rep and myself at the same time. Is there a feature where I can do that, that I might have missed?
    Thanks O.J.

    Lowest cost ink and toners on the net. Personal pricing only saves you more money. We don’t charge Fed Taxes if purchased via the internet or out of the state of Wisconsin. Good Deal all around. 😉

  • Aaron Adams

    You can add multiple contacts to each client on the screen where you edit them. Once you’ve got multiple contacts in there, you’ll be asked to select who will receive an invoice anytime you’re sending one out.

  • Monica

    hi there,

    just getting started with FreshBooks but already loving it and recommending it.

    quick request/suggestion:

    please place “Translation Services” under the “Professional Services” category and not “Education”… although we do educate and consult with our clients as to how to communicate effectively with their target audience, what we do is provide professional translations by professional translators and proofers.


    Monica Nainsztein
    Spanish Media Translations, Inc.

  • cecilia

    Hi! I’m an illustrator and a graphic designer (nt only web). Why my profession is not in your list?
    thanks in advance

  • martinkorben

    i wish you guys would add photography as a profession so i could stop choosing “other” !

    ( that and adding multiple currencies … )

  • David

    hey mike et al,
    i have just signed up for a free account, your product looks good and…. in response to one of the really high-up posts about asking for details to your users, i think it is not intrusive at all, in fact i would be interested in participating in any customer feedback project you may be running

    I will see how I go along with using your little gem, probably better than before as all my billing processes are manual

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  • Jeff Canniff

    Looks like a dead in the water business. No current comment in the comment section

  • Mike McDerment

    Jeff – you might want to look at some more current posts, this one a few years old.

  • J.Thompson

    Definitely not a dead in the water business, has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine in the past few months and is helping our business operate with low overhead and headcount during this recession.

  • David

    I use MYOB for my company accounting but needed a way to speed up my invoices and automate some of the recurring invoices and follow on invoices.

    Will see how it goes, and do like the idea of sharing industry data to see how you rate against those in your industry.

  • Dave Stott

    jeeese louise. what’s so difficult about asking how you use the product? I already know what freshbooks does. they want to know what I do with their stuff. seems like a useful piece of info for us both. I suppose if you’re billing illicit drug clients you might want to keep quiet. but if there are a bunch of web guys using the product, my guess is that there will be a little something extra in it for us. and if not, hey, so be it.

  • Loue

    I am trying it and I like it so far. Can the invoice be customized

  • Heather Wood

    Where can we find these metrics? I’d like to see them.

    I signed up for the first time today and I am loving fresh books so far!

  • Mike McDerment1

    Heather – inside your FreshBooks account click the “view report card” link.

  • filorich

    Hi there!
    I loved the system,I am on trial period!
    Also I wanted to keep books for my client,I am private bookeeper,is this software capable of doing that task.
    And what about receipt for costomers?

  • Nandra Sidabutar

    Hey Mike,
    I think a budgeting module would be nice to have for the future. I kinda need a module that i can make budget and see what happen in actual. That would be a bomb to release.

  • Jasmine

    Hi Mike,

    First off, I love your software and it makes my life much easier, so thanks :)
    In terms of viewing the metrics you speak of in the above article, I see your instructions in the comments here to “view report card” link in my account, however I have looked everywhere and can’t seem to find it.
    This is such a great feature to have and it is a shame many people don’t know about it, and many of those that do (including myself) can’t find it readily. I am renegotiating a contract with my primary client and it would be nice to have this info.

    • Khürt L. Williams

      I second that.

  • dharm

    can you give an option on goods .
    there is vat and surcharge on vat amount in india which vary state to sate .
    polz modfy accirdingly

    • merylmanning

      Hi Dharm,

      Thank you for reaching out.

      You can definitely add more than one tax option to your account, and certainly decide which one you want to use on an invoice by invoice basis. This may solve the issue of differing rates in different states.

      If you wanted to e-mail me at with any further questions I can definitely help you out :)

  • Joyce

    Hi I want to add another company to Freshbook. I am also the owner of another how do I go about added this without having to purchase freshbook again thanks.

    • merylmanning

      Hi Joyce,

      You probably don’t want to add the information for this business to your existing account, as you won’t be able to change the company name or logo. If you wanted to open a second account for the business you can definitely do so. It will be free if you have three clients or less for your second business. Alternatively the second account would be discounted as you have an existing account already :)

      I would love to send you some more information, if you could e-mail me at I can definitely make sure to get all the information to you.

  • Andy White

    Hey guys. Where is this data then? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it – and this was posted in 2006. Am I missing it on the system?

    • merylmanning

      Hi Andy,

      This should defintiely be in your account :)

      We have renamed it ‘report card’ which always reminds me of being at school and comparing grades with my classmates 😀

      If you log into your account and scroll to the very bottom of the page you will see 4 options in the very bottom left corner, under the title Product

      Pricing & Upgrade


      Report Card

      New Features

      If you click on Report Card, you will be able to see a comparison chart showing information from your account vs a collection of others in the same industry.

      One full quarter has to have passed since you signed up to show the information, but after that the information is there whenever you need it :)

      If you have any questions or need any further help at all, please feel free to e-mail me at


  • jas

    I don’t know how much of a discussin this is since the last installment is 0 months ago but I waould like to make reports on income and break it donw to more detail. for example I have wholesale sales and under that galleries and stores. under retail sales I have shop sales and shows. I don’t see options to make sub categories

  • Donna

    if I purchase your software will the bank download info allow me to decide how far back to download? Would love to dow
    nload info into this program for the past year.