How I Narrowed Down 9 Invoice Clients to One Champion

In 2017, I was pretty happy with Freshbooks and Docracy. My process was:

  1. Receive email
  2. Create a proposal in inDesign (ah! so manual!)
  3. Send contract via Docracy (free!)
  4. Send invoice via Freshbooks

This took about 2 hours per new client. And if they didn't end up following through, that's 2 hours lost. I was using 3 different softwares / clients (inDesign, Docracy, and Freshbooks) just to complete one flow.

Then, Docracy announced they'd be closing up shop, starting in April. 

This changed everything.

This meant I had to switch contracting services - and Docracy was free. Would I add ANOTHER service for ANOTHER monthly payment? No, no I wouldn't.

It was time to look at other services. This proved to be a massive headache - where would I start? I had been using Freshbooks for so long that it was second nature, and I was even close to their support team. Unfortunately, Freshbooks doesn't do contract sending, and their pro plan is $50/mo (crazy high compared to others) which sent me into a frenzy of testing, researching, and narrowing other services down.

Here's my roundup in handy chart form:

Proposal Creation

Time Tracking

Contract Sending

Project / Task Based

Enables Deposits

Expenses
(Auto or Manual)

Payment Method

Cost

Harvest

Estimates

Yes

No

Yes

No

Manual

Stripe

$12/mo

HoneyBook

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes – One per Client

Yes

Manual

Stripe – sort of*

$40/mo

Bonsai

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Auto

Stripe & Paypal

$24/mo (or $29 for monthly)

Freshbooks

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Auto

WePay

$50/mo

Wave

Estimates

No

No

No

No

Auto

Free

Zoho

Estimates

Yes

No

No

No

Manual

$19/mo

And Co

Yes

Yes…but not great

Yes

Yes

Yes

Auto

WePay

Free

Ballpark

Estimates

No

No

Yes

No

No

Stripe & Paypal

$19/mo (with extra costs)

Dubsado

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Auto

Stripe, Square, Paypal

Varies

And here's my thoughts on each one:

Harvest: Harvest is incredibly efficient and powerful. The time tracking is really second to none - and it integrates straight with my Mac's top toolbar! At only $12/mo (with no other plans! that's it!) it's an incredible deal. But, it didn't solve my problem of sending contracts with my estimates, and there's not really a way to send a beautiful proposal, either. 

HoneyBook: I actually paid for HoneyBook for a whole month, thinking it was the answer. With an incredible suite of tools, including gorgeous proposals, contracts, project pages, and more, it's an amazing platform for photographers or freelancers with ONE type of audience. Where HoneyBook fails is variety of clients and clean UI - and a flawed integration with Stripe. My larger clients don't want a single project page - they need an entire portal. And while they connect to Stripe, they don't connect to my exact account - meaning I can't track those payments. Huge miss for me. Lastly, the expenses aren't automatic, meaning it was officially struck from my list.

Bonsai: Bonsai is gorgeous. That has to be said first. The cleanest UI of the group, it's a breath of fresh air to use. It checked off everything on my list - including an amazing proposal > contract > invoice flow and automatic expenses, but it doesn't allow for deposits. How would I invoice my first 50% to a client?

Freshbooks: Oh, Freshbooks. I used Freshbooks for two years before finally saying sayonara. The most expensive of the bunch at a whopping $50/mo (and $10/mo extra for my accountant!) Freshbooks almost had it all - except for contracts, which was the catalyst to my entire hunt for a new solution in the first place.

Wave: Wave lured me in because it's free - exciting - but it was lacking pretty much every feature that I needed. If you need a free, solid invoicing-only software: Wave is your answer. But if, like me, you're on a journey to find a complete flow, then you need to head to the next stop.

Zoho: One look at the blocky-styled branding of Zoho, and I was hesitant to even try it out. I'm a stickler for good design and this didn't meet the mark. Paired with missing several of my core needs, it was an immediate "no." I didn't even sign up for a trial.

And Co: AND CO from Fiverr seemed like a dream - it's FREE, it checked off ALL the boxes, it knew exactly what freelancers needed and wanted, auto expenses, and UI that was pretty on top of it. To be perfectly honest, though, the UX was a bit confusing, and I'm extremely suspicious of the "Free" price tag. For how long? I didn't want to start using something, fall in love with it, and then suddenly be charged monthly. It wasn't quite clean enough and there weren't enough reviews out there. I do have a client that uses it and loves it - but it wasn't for me.

Dubsado: My favorite Facebook group - LWS (Ladies Who Squarespace) - has several amazing women who are huge fans of Dubsado. It checks off all the boxes and has an amazing price tag at only $25/mo (and they run deals all the time! ALL the time!) My biggest gripe with Dubsado is the terrible branding and the horrible UX/UI of the platform. It's a mess to navigate, their logo is strange, and the dashboard is full of things I don't need. (I really don't need those planning blocks - they take up 50% of the screen - why can I not remove them?) I have a trial on Dubsado and every time I log in, I'm immediately cringing by the lack of cleanliness on the app. 

But who did I pick?

You've read this far and now for the big reveal - who did I end up using as my main invoicing star? I might have said one champion in the title - but truly, I ended up with TWO!

Harvest and Bonsai!

Bonsai was by far the cleanest, prettiest, and most functional of the pack. It sends clean proposals which then flow to contracts, and then I can send invoices right after that with a click of a button. Though it's missing the deposit feature, the customer support when I asked were incredibly open to introducing it as a feature, and for now, I just send two invoices - and my clients have a portal to see both of them!

But why Harvest?

As lovely as it is, I have a few clients who need robust time tracking - and the Mac app paired with a cheap price tag of $12/mo was just too sweet of a deal to pass up. Using both platforms means I have all my clients covered - big and small.

What invoicing software do YOU use? Have one I missed out of the list that I should review? Contact me!