Our review of Freshbooks
We liked the Freshbooks interface enormously, but we’re finding it difficult to get past their approach to MTD. Rather than submitting your VAT return directly from Freshbooks, you'll need to download your data as a spreadsheet, and then use bridging software to submit it. This was a huge sticking point for us, especially considering that most other providers offer a built in solution.
With MTD for Income Tax on the horizon too it is a little worrying. It will be interesting to see if this is something they reconsider before it rolls out.
Though there's lots of media content available, some users might also find the lack of live chat support to be an issue these days.
Ease of use
User Review( votes)
Ease of Use
Freshbooks scores really well here, with a well-thought-out user interface making the software easy to navigate, and a pleasure to use. There are lots of pointers to help users get started too, though the ‘handwriting’ font of these descriptions might be visual issue for some users.
The welcome dashboard highlights some of the most commonly used features. Having confirmed during the account setup that this was an existing business, we’d expect to see a section here for entering Opening Balances, importing information and so on, although there is an option to import customers.
In general, Freshbooks do make it very easy to get started with the software, providing videos and links to what the user must do next. The lack of prompting to enter Opening Balances could potentially trip up inexperienced users transferring to Freshbooks (in fact the process for entering these when we did find it, isn’t that great either).
We did notice that, despite setting our country to ‘UK’, some of the vocab used in the software reminds us this is a Canadian software company, such ‘fiscal year’ instead of ‘financial year’.
The software can be slow to load between pages, and especially so on sign-in. Entering transactions manually can be a bit slow, too. Sadly, this is yet another software provider continuing to include bank reconciliation in their processes, despite bank feeds making this redundant.
Freshbooks does well on the features front, especially when it comes to invoicing, links to Stripe, and customisation. The receipt uploads tool looks nice, but our favourite feature is Time Tracking. As well as manually adding in time spent, you can start a timer and then fill in the customer’s details to make the billing easier. Simple, but beautifully done and a cracking idea.
Though they do include VAT reports and are registered for MTD, this is a weak area for Freshbooks. You’ll need to download a spreadsheet to see what you owe, and then sign into their separate MTD portal to submit your return. We feel this misses out on the smooth convenience which drove MTD in the first place.
Telephone, email and web content (including videos and webinars) are all available and included in the price. However, there’s no live chat support, which can be frustrating if you need help quickly but can’t really talk on the phone.
Their cheapest package (£15 per month) throttles invoicing by restricting you to 5 clients, so most users will want one of the mid-price tiers, starting from £25 per month.
As you’d expect, the really good features are only available on the most expensive package, but this is quite pricey considering:
- What’s available from competitors with similar pricing
- What’s available from competitors at a much lower price
- And especially considering how weak the VAT reporting is. There isn’t a stock control feature either, which you’d expect for the price.
The big sticking point is how much it costs to add each subsequent user. You're looking at an additional £8 per user per month. Ouch!
What level of bookkeeping knowledge will I need?
A novice with little or no bookkeeping experience should be able to use this software, although anyone with more experience would probably want to use something more efficient.
The software does look good, and all the ‘handwritten’ pointers do feel like you’re being shown round the place by someone who actually wants to help. The timer for billing clients is lovely. Their visual communication does a lot to explain things easily, too. For instance, the paperclip which shows you where to attach receipts to your expenses.
VAT handling just isn’t good enough, especially given the cost – so that’s a real shame. Entering banking transactions manually gets really tiresome once you get over how nice the design is, and working with nominal accounts was difficult.