Billings: Time Tracking & Invoicing

After posting a recent roundup of Mac applications for freelancers, I’ve decided to take a more in depth look at one tool in particular. Billings competes with many other similar apps for tracking the time you spend on a project, managing clients, and sending statements/invoices.

This review will focus on the main features of Billings, investigate how it enables easy time tracking, and outline how it simplifies communication with clients. I’ll also touch upon competing applications and web based software to help with similar tasks.

Clients, Projects & Slips

The main ‘Projects’ area of Billings is broken down in three ways. Firstly, clients are the people you do business with – Billings provides a central way to keep track of all their details and contact information. Each client can have several projects (such as ‘Web Design’ or ‘Poster Design’), and each project can contain a slip for a particular piece of work or time slot.

This is how clients, projects and slips are organized in the Billings interface:

Showing the layout of clients, projects and slips

Showing the layout of clients, projects and slips

If you start to use Billings on a regular basis, you’ll find that some sort of organization of clients is needed. This is achieved through grouping people in the left hand pane into different categories. A notable feature of projects is the ability to attach files, emails and URLs as ‘links’, to ensure you have all the information at hand to complete the task.

Two types of slips can be created – those for an estimate, and ‘working’ slips. You can either add all the details from scratch or start with a pre-defined ‘blueprint’ which can be reused across several different clients and projects.

As well as client projects, you may often find yourself needing to allocate time for your own work. The ‘Personal Projects’ area works great for these types of tasks, which are often unbilled and don’t require the same invoicing or rigor as client work.

Tracking Time and Expenses

If you bill clients at a flat rate, Billings is perfectly capable of handing your requirements. However, charging by the hour is often more complicated – the app takes a sleek approach to running working timers and integrates very well with OS X.

A small timer is placed in your menu bar, which allows you to quickly add a new slip, or start a timer for any of your existing slips and projects (see below). There’s no need to open Billings itself and after a while it feels natural to start and stop timers as you work throughout the day. Usefully, Billings knows when you are idle and not operating your Mac – when you return, you’ll find a window offering to automatically remove the time you weren’t present from the current slip.

Timers and expenses in Billings

Timers and expenses in Billings

If a project you’re working on covers expenses, you can assign a new slip to act as an expense, set the value and attach a link to the receipt for later reference.

So far we’ve dealt with the ‘Projects’ area of Billings – managing your work and clients. Clicking ‘Account’ in the top left takes you away from your work, to deal with the intricacies of your finances…

Sending Invoices & Statements

Sending your client an invoice is really simple, and it’s possible to send one for a specific project or send a consolidated invoice for all completed work. If you find that someone has an overdue payment, you can send a reminder in the form of a statement. Billings also supports recurring invoices, which can be very useful for certain tasks. The app will automatically remind you that the invoice needs to be sent out, and can do so with one click of a button.

Invoice design is taken fairly seriously (which is nice to see), following what Marketcircle call the “anatomy of a professional invoice“. A number of different invoice styles and formats are included, or you can create your own business template with the appropriate branding and logo. Some of the pre-built templates look great, whilst others do leave a little to be desired:

Browsing and sending invoices

Browsing and sending invoices

Invoices can be automatically entered into an email, printed, or exported as a PDF.

Generating Reports

The great thing about having all your information (clients, timers, finances etc) in one application is the ease of creating reports and financial summaries. A range of in-built options are available for areas such as client balance, unpaid invoices, monthly income billed and collected, mileage and expenses, and activity/time spent on a particular project. It’s a great way to ensure you aren’t missing any invoice payments and analyse the time you are actually spending on different tasks.

Generating time and finance reports

Generating time and finance reports

Limitations & Future Features

There are a few downsides to Billings which mean that it isn’t perfect in my eyes. Notably there isn’t support for more than one user – it would be great if the app allowed for several users or team collaboration. As it stands, it’s targeted solely at individuals. I’d also like to see better support for viewing projects and deadlines/timelines in a calendar format.

According to the site, you’ll be able to purchase a companion iPhone app in early 2009. This will allow you to track time and expenses, wirelessly syncing with Billings at home or at the office. This would be a great addition, and add a new dimension to how you can use the software.

Other Solutions

Billings is a great app, but there are a number of other solutions available which may suit your needs in a more exact way. Similar Mac applications include:

You don’t need to be confined to your desktop, however. Online web applications can help provide much of this functionality and are, in many cases, even more popular than desktop counterparts. A few popular invoicing and client management apps are:

We’ll be giving away a copy of Billings within the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned to twitter or our RSS feed to ensure you don’t miss out!

Conclusion

Billings is an excellent tool for managing clients, projects and the time you spend on particular pieces of work. The interface looks good and it integrates well with OS X menu bar. It might take a little while to pick up and understand fully, but can definitely assist with invoicing and tracking client payments.

It’s up to you to decide whether you’d happily pay $39.99 as a one off payment, or whether you’d rather pay a small monthly subscription for a web based service. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

What tools do you use (if any!) for invoicing and time tracking? Do you think Billings provides an attractive solution?


  • http://www.luismedel.com Luis Medel

    Great review!
    Another online billing app you can use is Endeve http://www.endeve.com

  • http://envato.com Collis Ta’eed

    That is one futuristic icon they have there! :-)

    • http://another-perfect-world.org/ Vasili

      I have to agree with that. It’s very sleek and shiny.

    • http://pieter-de-jong.nl Pieter

      Every time Billings open up, the icon reminds me of Eva. Wall-E you know :P

  • Jake

    Good review. I think the web-based products are cool because you can do the work almost anywhere, but Billings looks like its a very good desktop product. Will have to try it out.

  • http://vectips.com Rype

    Great review. I have been looking at Billings for a while and this review will help my decision!

  • http://www.triathlonjones.com Brett Cornwright

    I’m trying to decide whether to stick with FreshBooks or give this a try. I can see benefits to both.

    • http://www.suberapps.com Ben

      Billings is sleek but I think why web based invoicing apps like Freshbooks (which I’m also using now) have an edge is because it can automatically send reminders to your clients when an invoice is overdue, furthermore you can see if the client have viewed your invoice which proves to be very useful.

      I’m sticking with Freshbooks for now, also looking at the sexy Invoice Machine (http://www.invoicemachine.com) but they still haven’t released the “estimates” feature.

  • ZombieSkin

    I’ve been using SideJobTrack for a few years now, very nice for free.

  • http://lemonproductions.ca Chris Enns

    I’m using Freshbooks right now but very tempted to switch to Billings as the monthly costs of $15 starts to add up over time ($180/year!) where a single cost of $40, even if it’s every couple of years, is much easier for my small business to handle.

    • http://claimid.com/toddprouty Todd Prouty

      I’m not sure FreshBooks (http://bit.ly/UU6xp) would want me advertising this fact, but I was having the same thoughts and e-mailed them to suggest they add a lower-level option. They sent me a coupon code for $7/mo and 13 clients. This was perfect for my purposes. That was in their early days, but they might still do it if they know you’re considering something else. Their customer service is awesome and I can’t see giving up their invoicing features, time-tracking widgets, etc. Their referral fees are nice, too, though I would recommend them even w/o that.

  • http://theweeklyreview.ca Chris

    One nice touch not mentioned here is that you can set your slips to simply stop timing after five minutes of idle time. I prefer that to having to remove time after the fact when I return to my computer.

    And for online offerings, Harvest should definitely be mentioned here. I’d say it’s the best time tracking and invoicing web application available.

  • dave

    I have been using Billings for awhile now & I do like like it but for the life of me I can’t figure out why they don’t add the ability to print or send a receipt. The latest version added a “receipt” but you can’t print or send it without screen shotting it which is a bit unprofessional. It would also be nice to be able to adjust invoices after they have been sent and have them recompiled in the system.

    I would like to see a recurring billing feature.

    Other than that it is a great app.

  • http://www.ribbonsofred.com Renee

    I purchased Billings thinking it would be a fantastic application for my new business. It is great, but sadly, I failed to realize one thing and it ended up being the deal breaker. Billings doesn’t let you put a long description for each service with out stretching the invoice into several lengthy pages. Hopefully this is something they correct in the future, but being a creative, I like to put long descriptions in the contract of what the client is getting, especially if it’s a website because I need to include all the specs. Since billings couldn’t fill this void, I’ve been still using Photoshop for all my invoicing.

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  • http://www.wangapoa.com Sebastian

    I agree with Renee, it’s a little hang up the descritption thing, but hey, billings just works very fine for me. It even made me change my way of working somehow!

  • http://adrian-rodriguez.net Adrian Rodriguez

    I just recently bought Billings. It is my first actual purchase invoicing software and works perfectly for what I do. I like the sleek design as well as it’s easy functionality. I like desktop software rather than web-based. I also like the flat one time fee, rather than paying monthly.

  • http://www.parisvega.com/blog Paris Vega

    Used it. Loved it. Need it.

  • http://www.deezignink.com Shade

    MacFreelance FTW. Why has it not been featured yet?

  • Brian

    InvoiceMachine is free… and simple. Mmmmmm.

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  • veepee

    would like to win. deciding on either on the job 3.0 or this. hmmm….

  • http://www.designchuchi.ch Peter

    Billings is nice and looks great, but does have some drawbacks when it comes to the template editor and multiplue currency capabilities. We’ve ended up using GrandTotal http://www.grandtotal.biz/GrandTotal/

  • http://www.brianfidler.com Brian Fidler Interactive

    Billings is great especially if you use Daylite, also from Marketcircle, as your CRM. I love Freshbooks and own Billings and will switch to Billings exclusively once I can solve the issue of automated invoicing for clients that require recurring billing. For those clients, Freshbooks is well worth the $180/year for me.

  • http://www.racccfl.org simon

    Its convenient & hassle free..

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  • http://azzcatdesign.com Catherine Azzarello

    I switched from Billable to Billings earlier this year. For the most part I’m pleased–FreshBooks’ monthly fee is overkill for my solo business. But I do have a couple of gripes:

    1) It’s damn near impossible to fully customize an invoice with my fonts and colors. I’ve settled for just adding my logo. But as a creative, I sure would like my invoices to look (at least) similar to my estimate & contract forms. Argh!

    2) I work from two computers: an iMac and MacBook Pro. But I can’t have Billings on both and syncing w/o buying multiple copies. So I added an Air app on the laptop for basic timer and then transfer hours to iMac. That’s clunky. I’d be happy if I could just have the Billings timer installed on multiple machines. Would want it on my iPhone, too–if I had one!

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  • http://www.robbiecoutts.com/billings/ Robbie

    Great review of a fantastic application. I also wrote a review of this great app however it is more brief than in-depth.

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  • phenomenia

    Great description!
    What I want to add to the things I realy miss with billings is the ability to manage expenses as well. There is a feature which allowes me to keep track of things I bought but not the way I want it.

  • http://www.goodgood.com.au Pete

    Excellent software.. i use it.. love it.. especially the iPhone version.. so i can bill people as I walk out of the meeting.. love it.

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  • http://www.freshdesk.com Sreelesh (Sr. Marketing Mgr, Freshdesk)

    You can use Freshdesk to track how much time your support agents spend on each ticket & each customer – http://freshdesk.com/time-tracking/ . Freshdesk is integrated with Freshbooks and Harvest, so you can invoice too using the time-tracking entries.

  • Kent

    Time tracking is one of the most useful tools that a freelancer should have. It can help freelancers to manage time effectively and efficiently. These ways freelancers can do different tasks and get more things done. Time tracking tools helps limits wasted time and boost productivity. There are also lots of time tracking tools that can be use all over the internet and there are also different features. Another is invoicing, which helps freelancers to bill clients easily and get pay. Time tracking tools like Freshbooks is a tool that can track time at the same time invoice.

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