12 Mac Apps for Running a Freelance Business

Running a freelance business requires you to be an expert at everything – from communicating with clients to meticulously tracking your time and expenses. Doing all this manually can be dramatically time consuming, and it’s easy to make mistakes – nobody is perfect. Fortunately there are a range of Mac applications which can lend a hand and assist in the day to day running and organizing of your business.

This overview will focus on two key areas:

  1. Invoicing, Accounting & Time Tracking – Tools to ensure that you’re on top of finances and invoicing, whilst devoting most of your time to work you enjoy
  2. Organization & Utilities – Applications for managing thoughts, research and speeding up the day-to-day use of your Mac

Invoicing, Accounting & Time Tracking

Billings 3

Billings 3


Billings allows you to manage clients, projects and time within a simple and well integrated interface. Time tracking is well thought out, and details reports can be generated to determine how long a particular project took. The app comes bundled with a selection of great looking invoice templates, and an iPhone companion app is currently in development.

Price: $39.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later
Developer: Market Circle




Money allows you to handle… money – both for your personal life and business. Various tools allow you to create budgets, invoices and spending reports. Cover Flow is used to make the interface look pretty, and it’s an eye catching application.

Price: $39
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard or later
Developer: Jumsoft

On The Job

On The Job

On The Job

Despite the crazy bee icon, On The Job is a great app for managing your clients and your time. It offers support for multiple currencies, automatic invoice creation, custom hourly rates and four main types of cost: Timed, Fixed Cost, Quantity, and Mileage. Versatile, with a lovely interface.

Price: $39.99
Requires: Requires OS X 10.5
Developer: Stunt Software




Billable is keeps track of the billable services you perform for a client and then lets you create and manage invoices based on those services. It doesn’t quite have the same interface polish as the previously noted apps, but does come slightly cheaper. I love the ‘Paid’ stamp applied to invoices which are settled.

Price: $34.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4.4 or later
Developer: Clickable Bliss




iBiz is the most expensive app in this category, but does have a good range of features. You can associate documents with iBiz to track the time you work on them (particularly useful for freelance writers), see a useful overview of your whole business at once, and the app integrates with almost everything else on your Mac – Spotlight, iCal, Address Book and Automator.

Price: $49.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or higher
Developer: IGG Software

Organization & Utilities




A simple and effective way to manage your time and organize tasks. Great for ensuring you don’t get bogged down in different projects, and scheduling to-do items for a future date. It comes with a companion iPhone app, and we posted a review a couple of days ago.

Price: $49.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later
Developer: Cultured Code

Text Expander

Text Expander

Text Expander

If you find yourself regularly writing the same thing over and over again, TextExpander can help by providing customized abbreviations for your frequently-used text strings and images. It’s great for email signatures, commonly used paragraphs of text, and inserting the current date and time into documents.

Price: $29.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 and above
Developer: SmileOnMyMac




Dropbox is a great way to backup important files, and share them with clients. It creates an additional folder on your Mac which is automatically kept in sync with a copy in the ‘cloud’. You’ll probably need another backup solution as well, but this is a good start.

Price: Free for 2GB Space
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 and above
Developer: Dropbox



Quicksilver / LaunchBar

Both these utilities help you use your Mac in a quicker and more efficient manner. Providing all kinds of shortcuts for searching, sending emails, and navigating the web. They take a while to get to grips with, but both can make you a speedier and more effective freelancer.

Price: Quicksilver (Free), Launchbar (€24)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4+
Developer: Blacktree / Objective Development




Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere. It’s great for collecting all your thoughts, notes and inspiration in one place.

Price: Free, Paid Premium Version ($5/month)
Requires: Requires OS X 10.5
Developer: Evernote Corp




If you use the web for freelance work, using secure passwords is vital. 1Password takes care of all your online passwords so you can use strong and unique passwords for every site and never forget any of them! Automatic entering and anti-phishing tools keep your online activity safe.

Price: $39.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher
Developer: Agile Web Solutions

Growl Notifications

Growl Notifications


Put simply, “Growl lets Mac OS X applications unintrusively tell you when things happen”. It provides a central notification system so all applications inform you of an event in the same way. Great for ensuring you aren’t distracted from your work, but stay informed at the same time.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or higher
Developer: Growl


Whilst I’m sure you won’t need to use all of these applications, many can be really useful to ensure you stay focused and feel in control of your freelance business. I’m a huge fan of Billings, Growl and Things – three applications which keep me focused and productive.

In future weeks, I’ll be taking a look at the applications which can help for a specific area of freelancing. Whether you’re a designer, writer, developer or musician – your Mac can prove to be far more powerful than you’d expect with the right software.

Obviously, this list isn’t comprehensive. If you know of any more apps which can help with running a freelance business, please share – I’m always looking for new software to keep me free to do the work I enjoy most!

  • Edwin

    Nice list, but maybe it’s also a good idea to come more often with freeware / opensource alternatives?

    • markokaup


    • Cesar

      Mac $oftware, Mac O$X, Mac $ystems… what else can you expect?

      • method

        … and what else we can expect from you with your comment? Nothing.

    • http://www.m65jacket.com m65

      well put Edwin. this would be much better.

  • Worki

    And Squirrel?

    • http://www.totushi.com totushi

      yeah i use Squirrel all the time and has a sync with my iphone :)

  • http://www.deezignink.com Chris

    Why was MacFreelance not even mentioned here? By name alone i think it qualifies, not to mention it’s a pretty great piece of software, i’ve been using it for years.

    Of the items you listed i use the following: Things, Growl, DropBox. “i thought everybody used growl”.

    But really in all honesty i think this post was kinda half thought-out, there are alot of things missing that would be great in this sort of article, and i don’t get why some things are even in there (such as growl).

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      Chris: Thanks for the tip regarding MacFreelance – Despite it having an obvious name, I’ve never come across it!

      It’s difficult to cover every possible area, though I do feel that a mix of those mentioned can really help out someone who’s working for themselves, managing finances/time and staying organized.

  • LockWesMonster

    YouControl Desktops ( http://www.yousoftware.com/desktops/desktops.php ) is a hidden gem. It allows you to create virtual desktops and switch between them like your switching Spaces.

    It works great if you create a desktop for each of your current projects. I also create a “Play” desktop that do allows me to hide all of my work for the weekends.

    I used to use this when I was employed at a marketing agency. I set up a “Work” and “Play” environment. When the boss would come around, I could switch from my “Play” desktop to my “Work” desktop with a simple keystroke. Very handy indeed.

    The link above is very much worth checking out.

  • http://appleinfused.com Ray

    I don’t use any of the above, should I invest in any of them?

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      I’d recommend trying a trial of Billings to see if you find it useful on a day-to-day basis.

    • http://www.theadfeed.com Travis

      I’ve purchased licenses for two of those apps; Things and 1Password. I can’t live or work without Things, so that was a must buy for task management. 1Password was just handy for keeping track of the hundreds of passwords you end up creating on different websites and apps.

      I recommend both.

    • http://samanthaarmacost.com Samantha Armacost

      I love On the Job. I purchased the older version in early December and have never regretted buying it (fortunately for me, I received a free upgrade when the new release came out recently). It has certainly paid for itself many times over.

      The review mentions that another application has a Paid stamp for settled invoices, but On the Job also has this feature. You can also create your own layout and design for PDF invoices in a snap.

      I also use DropBox to send files back and forth to clients. It works wonders on weak public connections when Gmail can barely paste on an attachment.

  • http://polypink.com Wit

    for personal finance apps, I’ve tried Money but I think it didn’t suit my style. sorry that I can’t remember why, it’s been a while. I also tried Squirrel and love it. almost bought it, but I found a serious problem. There was error on one of my previous transaction which I didn’t change anything. This issue happened to me twice. So I give up with Squirrel.

    Now I’m using the demo of Cha-Ching ($40). I love this way of trial, free for 100 transactions. Squirrel do the same thing, free 50 transactions. Money allows 15 days of trial which I don’t think it suit this kind of apps.

  • http://polypink.com Wit

    iClockr is an interesting app for simple time-tracking and, furthermore, it’s free.

  • http://www.heinmaas.com Hein Maas

    Nice list,

    I’m using Billable for 1 year now and it does exactly what i need, a simple and effective way to invoice my clients. Very good app for freelancers.

  • http://thedreamapps.com/involer/ Christian

    What about Involer???

  • http://twitter.com/NaorSuky Suky

    Great list! very helpful
    i recently start working with Things and i just can’t stop. i’m lovin’ it!

    another great app: busySync.
    I really recommend it for syncing between your iCal and Google Calendar. works just great!

  • http://alishabdar.com Ali Shabdar

    Nice tools, lots of eye-candy!
    For freelancers and startups I strongly recommend moving on the Cloud.
    Using tools like Zoho, will help you enhance your productivity and save a lot of moeny too!

    You will need to sacrifice Leopard UI effects, though!

    • http://www.belafontecode.com Aaron Belafonte

      I was using a lot of web-based products to manage my work. But, after some thought, i realized that I was locking myself into something that I would never own.

      There are benefits to working “in the cloud”, but to me, local desktop apps feel more solid and I don’t have to worry about monthly fees and upgrading my pricing after i reach a certain point.

  • LockWesMonster



    Using Google’s Calaboration, you can sync iCal and Google calendars for free!

    • http://twitter.com/NaorSuky Suky

      interesting, at all my searches for a free good way to sync my cal i never came a crossed that..

      do you use it? how is it working?

      what i need is the ability to sync my Google Calendar with iCal while sharing it with my co-workers. (and let them sync and make changes at the same time)

      BusySync was the answer to that…

      • http://polypink.com Wit

        I used Calaboration for a while, personal, not share. one problem I encountered is some events created in iCal were shown in GCal as invitations.

  • http://www.suberapps.com Ben

    I know this is about Mac apps, but there’s a web app I’ve found recently for invoicing, Invoice Machine, it looks awesomely beautiful, if you’re looking for sex in an invoice app, it’s Invoice Machine. http://www.invoicemachine.com . But it doesn’t support Estimates yet, I’ve spoke to the developer and Estimates will be implemented in one or two weeks time.

    Sorry for being off topic but this post is related to the freelancer and I thought I might share this.

    • Daniel

      It does look gorgeous.

    • http://callmecrazybut.com Michael

      I’ll ditto that apology for off-topic (sort of comment). However, as it comes with a very sweet widget, and is available as a free-app. Off-topic comes in that it is a WebApp.
      Might I know suggest “FreshBooks” ?

      • http://davidmichaelthompson.com Mick Thompson

        Definitely, Freshbooks is a winner! Widget, iPhone app, and web based, great cause all my time is tracked online, and available from anywhere. Clients can access their own account and view past and current invoices. Freshbooks is great. Free if you only have a few clients.

  • http://www.wangapoa.com Sebastian

    Haha I’m using seven of the apps nearly every day!! my top 3: billings, things and 1Password

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  • Michael

    I use Paymo for time tracking and invoicing, works great thus far… but i read they’ll start charging for the invoice module in the future!

  • http://www.htootayzar.com Htoo Tay Zar

    Wow, Nice list you should include Checkout also, It’s great App. May I know “Will post only Mac Apps? How about Mac Games?”

  • JAA

    OmniFocus anyone?

  • http://www.twoexpats.com/ palmamod

    Free alternative to Text Expander is RapidoWrite, which does exactly the same thing, on top of saving you $30.

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  • Chris

    Versions. http://versionsapp.com/

    Nobody in this business should be working without versioning software. There are free subversion clients (including command-line) but this one puts the nicest interface on it.

  • http://simplyblog.net Miguel

    Nice, it’s good to be aware of these even if I don’t have use for them, yet. :) Thanks for sharing. Oh, I do have the 1Password- certainly worth it!


  • Bill

    FreshBooks, Outright, Harvest, Remindr and maybe even Mint…

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

    I’m also a fan of Growl and Billings. Haven’t used Things, yet. iBiz looks interesting.

  • Daniel

    A great list. I use Billings, 1Password, Things (although I’ve been using The Hit List lately and might consider switching on the basis of interface prettiness alone if there was an iPhone client), DropBox, Growl, Quicksilver and Money on a regular basis.

    I couldn’t survive without Quicksilver or a GTD app. I’m going to run out and check out Text Expander and Invoice Machine now. Two apps I use regularly that didn’t make the list are Skype and MobileMe. Both would make nice stand alone articles.

    Of course there are going to be apps that didn’t make the cut but I’ve tried most of the ones in the comments and I think you did a great job of separating the wheat from the chaff.

  • http://www.mariepoulin.com Marie Poulin

    Huge fan of “Things”,
    been looking for a great money management app as well as time tracking; i’ll have to try Money and Billings. Thanks for a great list!

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  • Seth Howard

    Hey, I’d also like to say, nice list. The two programs I was going to give you a heads up to – though one was already mentioned by someone else – was MacFreelance, and Omni Outliner. Omni Outliner I use a lot to organize my daily banking needs, but it has application far beyond that. It’s a simple program using columns and rows, and you can organize what you’re doing, write little bios on companies, if you’re writing a story, you can break down chapters and what not. Great program. You can check it out at omnigroup.com. And I’m new to MacFreelance, but it seems to be a good one. You can check that out at macxware.com.

    Seth Howard

  • Dan

    1Password, Things, and Macfreelance are all quality apps. I’ve used each of them religiously for a while.

  • http://www.neolithmedia.com Sebastian

    Wow. I have spent a lot of time of the years trying to assemble a set of software tools to help me be more productive and efficient, so there are quite some similarities between my list and this one.

    I used to use iBiz but have come to love and live by Billings; it’s definitely worth a trial look. Dropbox is also a very useful tool and makes file delivery rather simple. However, be aware that you will have clients that will not use software like this unless you install it for them and would much rather stick to email (!?). But when used it makes life very easy. Quicksilver has replaced many of my icons and other shortcuts and even spotlights quick-search.

    I recently purchased the iPhone version of Things as a standalone tool and absolutely love it. I have yet to try the desktop version.

    1Password was most likely the best purchased I have ever made. Even though I used the built-in keychain a lot 1Password makes using multiple browsers with one password app a breeze. When doing site testing that have user logins I no longer have to duplicate passwords from keychain to Firefox, Camino and Safari. While Camino also uses the keychain it uses a different type of form so Safari won’t recognize it and vice versa. The best part is the sync between Desktop and iPhone/PalmOS.

  • http://www.timothybsmith.com Tim Smith

    Great post!! I need to get some of these!!

  • http://www.sametomorrow.com Adam

    Nice list of apps. I haven’t used any of those before but some of them seem really helpful.

  • http://1password.com Dan V Peterson

    Awesome to see 1Password on your list (I’m their designer)! I’m a big fan of Things, Dropbox, Growl and Billings and I also use TextExpander and Evernote on a regular basis. For financial management though I love mint.com. It’s all automatic rather than having to manually input my transactions and has tag support and great budgeting.

  • guru

    great list, i use billing for tracking my workflow, expenses and timing on any givien project. !password, is also get to remember or generate passwords for all the sites you visit… you can also use it on multiple computers you own. and drop box, i just never really got that into , but still use it… i like box.net better for that

  • http://lyraspace.com Lee Probert

    Nice list … most of the apps I use are web apps and by far the best thing for managing your time, expenses, tax, invoicing etc has to be FreeAgent … http://www.freeagentcentral.com?referrer=2ji2hl88 … I wouldn’t still be freelancing if it wasn’t for this web-app. It does all your books and they even have FreeAgent friendly accountants who will use the software with you … there’s a subscription but if you pair up with an accountant the fee is included in their fee. Highly recommended.

    For everything else … Versions, BaseCamp, Beanstalk, Acrobat.com, the aviary suite … etc etc

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  • http://www.samuda.com samuda

    http://www.nch.com.au/ has a nice set of free and fee software that match the purpose of many on the list here

  • http://michal.withoutthee.com Michal

    Most of those tasks can be nicely handled by Studiometry. See: http://oranged.net/studiometry/ for details. It is pricey but worth it.

    • http://www.zetozet.nl Arjan Terol

      I agree with Michal… tried them all but studiometry is the ‘Office Suit’ for freelancers. It’s a lot off apps in one (good for the workflow). Pricey but certainly worth it.

    • http://www.bloqhead.com Daryn St. Pierre

      This application looks awesome. Thanks for posting this. It looks like a one-stop solution for pretty much everything listed on this article. Great software comes with a price tag. You get what you pay for. This seems like an application that will pay for itself within no time at all.

  • Karen

    Nice list, but you left off Fanurio.
    Fanurio http://www.fanuriotimetracking.com helps with the less appealing aspects of freelancing like keeping track of time and invoicing. It’s a useful application, with a user-friendly interface.

  • http://www.constantinpotorac.com Constantin Potorac

    One cool app I am using and I could not even work without is SteerMouse. I am a graphic designer and I need my mouse to move a bit faster on my 24 inch iMac so SteerMouse gives that extra something I need. It is a great app.

  • Rob

    Not even kind of the list I was expecting to see when I saw the title of this article. Very disappointed. Definitely agree with one of the prior comments, OpenSource software should have been the gems this article presented.

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  • BaiterHater

    The usual stuff everybody knows. Linkbaiting.

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  • http://www.oasiscreative.com Andrew Bossola

    I could not survive without my Quicksilver! Nice article…

  • Jayme

    Does anyone know of a product you can download that will import basecamp contacts into the software?

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  • http://www.infinitumstudios.com Ryan

    What about a program to remove programs and clean up system files?

  • http://amberweinberg.com/ Amber Weinberg

    Great list..I started using Growl not too long ago and I love it!

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  • http://www.makepapereasy.com ProjectCenter

    Yeah, DropBox is great. I have to give Text Expander a try. Thanks.

  • http://www.iclimer.com N!C

    ON THE JOB is the best. I have been using it since Stunt first released it many many years ago. I still use Version 2 at the agency where i work, But use 3 at home for freelance work. These guys know whats up. One thing i hope they do is launch an iphone app that can help people in the agency world track jobs, pin to clients, pin to job numbers, etc.

  • http://www.bloqhead.com Daryn St. Pierre

    I highly suggest http://paymo.biz/. It offers invoicing, time tracking, etc. and it’s free for up to 3 users on your design team (if you have one). Any number of designers above that and you pay a monthly fee, which is $3.99 per user, per month. I use it and love it. There is also a Dashboard Widget for time tracking. No one ever mentions this and it surprises me. It’s a diamond in the rough for those with a small to no budget.

    I also have experience with Billings, Growl (I also thought everyone used this, heh), 1Password and Evernote. All of them are must-haves. Evernote is a livesaver. I use it at both work and home to share items between the two. It’s saved me from trying to remember a URL on many occasions.

    I also agree that more freeware should be mentioned because there is loads of it out there. Regardless, investing in Billings or 1Password is a worthwhile purchase. Both serve their purpose very well.

  • http://www.ondesignworld.com/ Ronnie Roper

    Thanks for the list. I have been using Billable for about a year and like how simple and quick it is, and I love the shortcut option for Things. When i think of something I can quickly do a keyboard shortcut and get my note, thought, reminder or whatever out of my head and managed. I really like the notices with Growl also. Although I had to turn them off for Twitterific, too many updates poppin up, go crazy.

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  • http://www.myintervals.com John

    If anyone is looking for web-based alternatives that run in Safari or Firefox, check out Intervals. it does time tracking, task management, and several other key project management functionalities.

  • http://www.twitter.com/_luuk Luuk

    Where’s daylite (www.marketcircle.com/daylite)? Combines serveral features. It’s entry level price maybe a bit higher then all the other apps listed, but it combines the features of serveral apps listed here.

  • http://colincall.blogspot.com WalrusCP

    I prefer Typinator to TextExpander and The Hit List to Things. Overall a nice list though: Dropbox, 1PW, and Growl should be installed on any mac user’s machine.

  • arsenalarmada

    Freshbooks is the best solution I’ve found for Time Tracking and Billing; I work on-site for a lot of my clients and since the work I do is so visual, I like screen real estate, so laptops aren’t my thing. Freshbooks.com was a lifesaver for me. I’d spent countless hours, that I could have been billing for, configuring iBiz & it’s server.

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  • Jake Collins

    GrandTotal finally got the Invoicing App right, all the listed ones got it so wrong.

    Check it out here: http://www.mediaatelier.com/

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  • http://www.hourdoc.com/ Regan

    I recommend HourDoc Time Tracking tool. http://www.HourDoc.com is right treatment for time tracking of virtual assistants, has to be an easy-to-administer and affordable solution for Freelancers and it’s free for up to 50 users on your team.

  • http://www.phonefreelancer.com iphone developer

    Cool article. Check out http://www.phonefreelancer.com if your a freelance iphone developer. Its a website with tons of iphone development jobs. Great for developers that like to work from home!

  • Damien Lavizzo

    MacFreelance is a great little program – I managed to snag it for 10$ off at the Apple store – I mentioned to the guy behind the counter I was a freelancer and he pointed me towards the program. MacFreelance doesn’t sync up with the iPhone however, a feature that Billings seems to have out-of-the-box. If you care about portability, that may be a concern for you, since Billings is about the same price as MacFreelance.

  • http://www.m65jacket.com m65

    good work on this article cant belive all the great information provided in this. looking forward to future posts

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  • http://www.martinvaresio.com.ar Orfebre Martin

    Not even kind of the list I was expecting to see when I saw the title of this article. Very disappointed!!!

  • http://www.fuego-liquido.com.ar Esmalte

    I was wondering if anyone here has experience using them for clients who already have great local search rankings in Google.

  • carwin

    Having used MacFreelance for nigh on a year now, I can say with utmost certainty that I hate it. It’s the most god-awful thing I’ve ever used. There is no real customization of invoices, constant backup errors resulting in loss of data and on top of that the update that supposedly fixes these problems errors on install across multiple machines.

    Customer service is awful.

    • http://www.sebashton.com Seb Ashton

      I almost considered buying MacFreelance, so glad I didn’t after reading about your experience with it.

      Think I’ll be getting Billings, looks like a nice app

    • Ed Denton

      After spending half a day trying to get my head around MacFreelance, I certainly would not recommend this product. It is poorly laid out, the help section which leads to a website is not very helpful and the ability to contact support is almost impossible. For a freelancer in the film industry who bills by the day (not hour) and who often bills for multiple days this is not a good choice. I couldn’t find any way to bill for a range of dates other than by adding new lines to the invoice which makes a very messy invoice. I’m going to try Billings and see how that goes.

  • http://www.pandorajewelry.ca pandora jewelry

    Having used MacFreelance for nigh on a year now, I can say with utmost certainty that I hate it. It’s the most god-awful thing I’ve ever used. There is no real customization of invoices, constant backup errors resulting in loss of data and on top of that the update that supposedly fixes these problems errors on install across multiple machines. Having used MacFreelance for nigh on a year now, I can say with utmost certainty that I hate it. It’s the most god-awful thing I’ve ever used. There is no real customization of invoices, constant backup errors resulting in loss of data and on top of that the update that supposedly fixes these problems errors on install across multiple machines. Having used MacFreelance for nigh on a year now, I can say with utmost certainty that I hate it. It’s the most god-awful thing I’ve ever used. There is no real customization of invoices,

    onstant backup errors resulting in loss of data and on top of that the update that supposedly fixes these problems errors on install across multiple machines. Having used MacFreelance for nigh on a year now, I can say with utmost certainty that I hate it. It’s the most god-awful thing I’ve ever used. There is no real customization of invoices, constant backup errors resulting in loss of data and on top of that the update that supposedly fixes these problems errors on install across multiple machines.

  • http://www.phototradingcards.com.au/ Kids Sports Photography

    1password is the best program for looking after all my login deatils. I wish I had found it sooner!

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  • Patrick Rafter

    Nice list of Apps— Look forward to trying some.
    Another great Mac Biz app: TimeTrade Mobile — makes scheduling appointments on the road booking “office hours” a snap:

  • http://jonathanbucaro.com Jonathan Búcaro

    Don’t forget about http://www.wunderlist.com for organization and utilities!

  • mschwartz

    Missing an app I use all the time In The Office

    I always levitate back to this app to organize my day. Very simple to use

  • http://hartongdigitalmedia.com M A Hartong

    We love Invoice2Go over Billings. No annual fee. Nice reporting.

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