Since I started taking clients for my business last fall, I’ve been careful to track my time. I don’t usually charge by the hour, preferring the simple honesty of flat-rate prices for tasks, but even then I still track my time religiously.
Until now, I’ve been using a combination of MarketCircle’s "Billings2" application, and the Harvest web time tracking application. I had to use two apps because neither was capable of doing what I wanted by itself. Billings couldn’t handle a simple weekly time entry or summary. Harvest can’t track bills or anything but hours.
Yesterday I got fed up with the pain of keeping two systems in sync, and began looking for a new time and billing app. I’ve found what appears to be nearly my dream application in Cashboard.
(Note, this is not a paid review, and I won’t receive anything for the following almost 100% positive review.)
What it is
Cashboard is a Web 2.0 app for managing & billing project hours. It understands and handles smoothly:
- Multiple projects
- Multiple clients – including multiple projects-per-client
- Multiple employees or subcontractors – each can enter time, without an additional fee for each user.
- Clients who want to login and view hours – I can delegate access to them to view only their projects.
- Hour/Task estimates – with later analysis of the real time taken to that estimated
- Varying tasks. Each project can have custom tasks.
- Invoicing, it will generate invoices and allows you to apply payments to one or more invoices (which not even my accounting software does).
- Agreements with countersigning (I don’t use this, and don’t plan to do so). Basically this is a locked down estimate and Statement of Work, with recorded digital signatures.
- Weekly and summary timesheets.
- Flat-rate tasks, even alongside tasks which are hourly.
- Basecamp integration of projects and tasks.
Why I like it
There’s a lot to like. The feature list above is extensive, but it is also focused. It doesn’t try to take over my whole business, it just helps me match time to billing. That’s pleasant.
Also pleasant was the price. In Harvest, I was using the $9/month plan, but to go above 10 projects, I’d have needed to upgrade to $24/month. In Cashboard, I am paying $15/month and I’m not even half-using my available projects. Also, to have multiple users in Harvest, I’d have had to use the $40/month Business plan, but all Cashboard plans, even the free one allow multiple users.
What is even more pleasant is the ease of adding projects, time and tasks. I spent a total of 7 hours, loading in all 17 of my projects so far this year, and back-entering all hours for the entire year. It was boring, true, and it forced me to face the fact that I’d underbilled two clients due to synchronization problems in my old workflow.
But when I was done I got this incredible screen:
That screen told me so much about my business, my work, and my status. It also told me who needs billing and who needs me to get much more aggressive with about payment. I knew that before, but this screen shows it to me so much more clearly and in a way that promotes useful, efficient action.
What I don’t like
The system does let you apply downpayments or retainers without having to attach them to invoices. But it seems awkward, and it messes up the totals. For example, if a client pays me $1000 down, and I haven’t invoiced him yet, then my "amount uncollected" is decreased by $1000. For me, that seems to hide the negative balances of slow-paying customers. I’d rather it did not combine those downpayments.
Also, there is no way to partially invoice. I usually require 50% down to begin work on a project, and I can enter the flat-rates in my tasks on Cashboard, but I can’t bill for just the 50% down. If I invoice, I invoice the whole job and the remainder looks like an unpaid balance due, even if it is not *really* due yet, since I haven’t finished the job.
Lastly, during prime-time today, it seemed like the system was quite a bit more pokey than when I was entering most of my data last night. Harvest seemed much snappier, but then it was doing much less.
Cashboard is an invaluable tool for my business. It works the way I want it to work, and it gives me information not easily tracked in existing business workflows. I plan to be a long term user.
I give it a well-deserved 8 out of 10 rating. Cure those last functionality quibbles and I rate it a 10.
- Great First Impression – A Bank of the West Review I'm pleased to say that the people at my new...
- Lessons Learned from 18 Months of GTD I've been using David Allen's "Getting Things Done" method for...