We first reviewed Marketcircle’s Billings 3 back in February ’09. If you haven’t already seen that article, why don’t you start by clicking through and reading it, since it covers in depth all the significant features the app has to offer. I’ll wait…
Okay, so now you know how Billings 3 works, and how useful it can be if you need to keep track of expenses and manage invoicing clients. It’s a sign of how popular and important this kind of app is in the life of freelancers that when we ran a Quick Look piece on the app more than a year after that initial piece, the vast majority of readers were interested in seeing an updated review.
This isn’t that article. I have used Billings 3 for few years now, and although I’ve tried a few different options along the way, for all the reasons given in our original review, Billings 3 just seems to make more sense and work with less friction than the other apps I’ve tried. Now Marketcircle have taken a step forward and released Billings Pro, and that’s what I’m focusing on today. Stick around, and I’ll walk you through its main features and tell you how it works.
Who Needs Pro?
If you fly solo, freelancing here and there, then Billings 3 is going to be enough for you. Used in conjunction with the excellent Billings Touch (which was reviewed on iPhone.AppStorm, and is available on the App Store), it really is an excellent way of keeping track of your billable hours, expenses, and so on. It offers enough for most freelancers.
But if your business is bigger and more complicated, then Billings Pro is definitely worth a look. It adds several new features that will help maintain a smooth workflow in keeping track of multiple workers, and will especially make a manager’s job much easier.
On the face of it, Billings Pro isn’t cheap: $199.95 per user (costs vary per region, so a direct currency conversion might not give you the exact price you’ll pay – head on over to Marketcircle’s store for pricing in your area).
There is also a monthly pay-as-you-go option, and an upgrade price if you’re moving up from Billings 3. And Marketcircle offer a bundle price to get you up and running for a little less than buying x number of individual licences.
If you compare these costs with setting up accounts for several workers on one of the online time-tracking services, you’ll find that it doesn’t take very long for your monthly subscription costs to amount to a comparable sum – and then you keep on paying for the online service, whereas Billings Pro belongs to you and there’s no ongoing monthly charge.
So What Do You Get?
All the functionality of Billings 3 is included in each user’s version of Billings Pro, with a few new features added in (recurring invoices among them), along with some new invoice templates:
I’m not going to say much about the client app, especially since readers have requested an updated review of Billings 3, and there’s not very much difference between that and Billings Pro for each individual user.
What makes all the difference though, and pulls everything together, is the new Billings Pro Server app. This needs to run on the Mac that’s going to be the central store for the users’ information – in a team, most probably the manager or team-leader’s machine.
So the first step is downloading and installing the server on this machine, and then each user needs to install Billings Pro on his or her computer. The new Switchboard built into this server app makes setting up network connections very simple and straightforward, so you really don’t need much technical knowledge to get things running smoothly.
To take things on the road with your iPhone, you’ll need Billings Pro Touch, which is a free download from the App Store. Again, connecting to Billings Pro Server is a cinch, so you should be up and running in no time.
And whereas you need to upgrade the non-Pro version of Billings Touch to enable Wi-Fi-only syncing with Billings 3, Billings Pro Touch gives you this functionality out of the box, along with Edge or 3G syncing.
The Web Interface: Timecard
But you don’t actually need the iOS app for remote working with Billings Pro, because another new feature is a nicely conceived web interface, Timecard, which allows you to keep track of time and expenditure on any web-browser.
The interface is well designed, and includes a version optimised for mobile browsing, whatever phone you happen to be using. Here’s what it looks like on an Android phone:
And on a Blackberry:
And, Briefly, How Does It Work?
Billings Pro’s most important advances are its multi-user features, allowing central oversight and management of a multitude of projects. Individual users reporting to a manager submit their slips, which then appear in the Approvals section of his or her copy of Billings Pro:
It’s the attention paid to getting networking right that really pays off with Billings Pro – it makes working with the app really straightforward and frictionless.
The multi-currency support introduced to Billings 3 a while back means that it’s possible for individual projects to be billed in local currencies.
Billings Pro is much more than I need for my one-man show, but there’s much to admire in how Marketcircle have implemented their app.
If you’re a small or medium-sized gang of workers frustrated by the limitations of not being able to bring together your various projects, without needing to pay sometimes hefty monthly subsciptions, then Billings Pro is an excellent option.
It brings all the features that make Billings 3 such a compelling choice for freelancers into a multi-user environment.
Billings Pro on the Mac is built for managers, business owners and partners. With the award winning Billings interface and an acclaimed 4th generation automatic background sync technology, you get a unique blend of multi-user power and ease of use.9