Freshbooks and Basecamp - Two of Our Favourite Things!

Freshbooks and Basecamp

I was recently interviewed by a local blogger who asked me my favourite, could-not-live-without tools. That got me thinking. That can be a scary situation. But in this case, it was very productive. It gave me the idea for this blog post. Then I was speaking to a prospective client about the two tools noted below. I assumed that 'everyone' knew about these great apps. I was wrong. So now it's my time to share!

The Challenge? We're Virtual!

If you know our company, you know that we are a web consultancy working without 'border constraints'. Most of our team members live and work locally in Whistler/Pemberton BC Canada, but one team member lives in another province, another splits time between our 'world headquarters' and Vancouver, while another is a resident of a west coast state… that's the US of A.

Part of the benefits of working for Custom Fit Online, so I have been told, is the flexible work schedule we offer to our team members. We can adjust work hours to suit family schedules or the weather. After all, we do live next to one of the world's best ski resorts and there is this thing called "the powder rule". When the snow falls, and is light and fluffy in Whistler, some team members might be taking the morning off to ski or snowboard. Our team members also like to do some travelling from time to time.

Plus our clients are located in various parts of North America from Eastern Canada to California and Texas. We even have a few clients located in our home province of British Columbia, Canada. Imagine that!

Yes, you could call us a virtual company. And for me to run a successful, profitable & sustainable business, I need powerful tools to help make our virtual company run effectively. The "cloud" makes this possible. So having said that, here are two administrative applications we use that are critical to our success.

Freshbooks - Cloud Accounting

For several years, especially before we hired our business manager, I struggled to get invoices out at the end of each month. And that didn't help cash flow… the lifeblood of any business. Then I discovered Freshbooks*, the web-based online invoicing application. The two most critical components of Freshbooks for us are the timekeeping and automated invoicing features.

Time Keeping

As soon as anyone starts working on a project they log-in, start the timer, then pause or log their time for each project as required. It's absolutely wonderful knowing the exact time spent on each project for so many reasons. We share this information with our clients. They can log-in anytime to see what we have been up to on their behalf.

This online timekeeping is also an amazing resource for looking back on projects when creating proposals and quotes. I know how much time any completed project took, what type of work was required, and if we went over or under our allotted time. That's powerful info when figuring out quotes using data from similar completed projects.

Automated Invoicing

The automated billing ensures that our monthly services and retainers go out on the first of the month, or whatever other time we schedule.

Secure Online Payments

Freshbooks and Basecamp - Two of Our Favourite Things!

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Clients tell us they love the online payment system. We offer payment options via PayPal or credit card and that helps us maintain our cash flow by freeing us up to spend more time attending to actual client project work vs. fussing with paperwork and account receivables. Freshbooks also allows us to send reminders at scheduled intervals when a client exceeds the time noted in their payment terms. It's pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it type of system.

And Freshbooks is a Canadian company, operating out of Toronto, with their main offices not too far away from where I was born. Since 'we are all Canucks' we like that. Heck ya... so learn more by watching the video below, eh!

And Then There's Basecamp

I call Basecamp our online filing cabinet. But it's more than that. It's a powerful web-based project management application that we have been using since 2006. It's affordable and it's the heart of everything we do when it comes to project planning and information sharing.

Milestones, To Do Lists, Messages, File Storage and More

When we start working with a client, the first thing we do is set up a new project in Basecamp. Team members working with each client get access to the account. We also provide our clients' access so they can see all Milestones, To Lists, messages, files, and even their account passwords for applications such as Google Analytics… in a secure, password protected setting.

Secure Availability 24/7 Online

For each project, everything is in one place available 24/7 online no matter where our team is. Need to fetch a spreadsheet or video for a project from 2008? Or need to review the latest messages from members on the status of a task in one 'thread'? And you're on top of Blackcomb Mountain? No problem. Log-in with the mobile version of Basecamp on your smart phone, find the files, attach it to a message copied to the client and co-workers and you are in 7th Heaven (pardon the pun for all your skiers out there who know Blackcomb.) The message is recorded in Basecamp so there as a historical record whenever needed for all to access. Of course, desktop access is also available.

We also use Basecamp's sister application, Backpack, to set schedules that kick out reminders via email or text message whenever we have a meeting or a time sensitive action needs to be taken. The video below gives a quick introduction to... go ahead, guess..... yes, my friend. Basecamp!

Basecamp and Freshbooks Working Together?

Well, kind of. We can import data from Basecamp directly into Freshbooks, if we choose that option. That saves the time of entering client information like company name, address, phone numbers, contacts, email addresses, etc. in two different locations.

If you are looking for a great way to organize your invoicing, time keeping, and project management I recommend you have a look at Basecamp and Freshbooks*. I should note that there are several alternatives available online for both applications. But we have found great success in our business with these two tools that we regard as indispensable!

More of Our Favourite Things?

I kind of feel like Oprah here. Unfortunately I don't have any cars or trips to Australia to give away. But I will be writing more over the next few weeks about the other tools we just love and help us carry on with the biz that is Custom Fit Online. That's more of our favourite things coming to a blog post near you over the coming weeks.

Now It's Your Turn!

Do you use Freshbooks or Basecamp? Perhaps you like other applications better. We would love to get your feedback and views. Feel free to enter them in the comments section below!

P.S. Disclosure RE: Links noted as Freshbooks*. We didn't develop this post to make money and we sincerely use and love these apps but we're linking to the companies using 'affiliate' links. If you use these links and sign up for either application we'll receive a few bucks... maybe enough for a beer after the next "powder day" in Whistler!

Roy McClean
Feb 05, 2013
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