As a designer, don’t you wish sometimes that the business side of your work could be simpler?
Nobody exactly wants to deal with creating invoices, following up on overdue payments, and keeping track of outgoing payments.
Nobody wants that added stress, particularly when that latest project is due.
So how do you address accounting?
If you are wondering where to get started with accounting, consider Warren Buffet’s wise words:
“You have to understand accounting and you have to understand the nuances of accounting. It’s the language of business and it’s an imperfect language, but unless you are willing to put in the effort to learn to account – how to read and interpret financial statements – you really shouldn’t select stocks yourself.”
~ Warren Buffet
The billionaire is talking about stocks, but the sentiment remains the same when it comes to business accounting for creative freelancers.
If you don’t know much about accounting, you probably shouldn’t be balancing your own balance sheets on Excel.
Unless you want to dive into creative accounting, which I doubt is the case.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of simplified accounting software, designed with the freelancer, small business, or independent contractor in mind.
With Software as a Service the new norm for consumer technology, it has become much easier for the freelance creative to find affordable options for everything from billing to stock photography.
Included in these SaaS offerings are accounting and tax software services.
Both have offerings geared to freelance designers or small businesses, and both have affordable price points, and both have great reviews.
So, what is the genuine difference between the two, especially for designers?
To get to the bottom of that question, let’s dive into FreshBooks and QuickBooks reviews from designers to get a better idea of what will work for designers.
No software solution will be perfect for everyone, which is why it’s important to consider the pros and cons of a tool as a designer.
FreshBooks pricing starts at $19.95 per month, which includes unlimited invoices up to 25 clients.
The highlighted features include customizable invoices, payment reminders, recurring invoices, and credit card processing.
With an 8.1 out of 10 rating on TrustRadius, it’s pretty clear that FreshBooks is doing something right.
But let’s see what designers have to say about FreshBooks as an accounting solution for creatives:
“It is perfect for new business owners or businesses that want to be able to keep their own books. Of course, it is still important to check with an accountant, but this can certainly save some time and money. This is also great for freelancers because you can choose between billing by project or hourly. You can even keep track of how many hours you are working on each project.”
~ Mandy Cramer | Graphic Designer | Miss Mandible Designs
Designers have also given a breakdown of both the pros and cons of using FreshBooks.
Some of the benefits of the software solution include:
- A great free trial option so you can get your feet wet.
- A great design and UX
- The ability to accept payments from various places
- Automated invoicing to stay on top of payments
- The time tracking tool
- Easy payment feature
In contrast, some of the potential drawbacks of FreshBooks for designers are:
- A cap on how many clients you can bill
- High credit card fees
- Inflexibility in late payment options
- It is difficult to maintain consistent branding when using the FreshBooks platform
These ‘cons’ aside, a few designers have highlighted FreshBooks as a great option for creative freelancers.
Take a look at Lisa’s review here:
“FreshBooks is a great fit for small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and solopreneurs that invoice on a regular basis. The suite of tools it offers make it a great fit for a freelancer with a few dozen clients, thanks to the ability to create quotes, charge deposits, and create custom projects and tasks with their own individual rates.”
~ Lisa Keyser | Web Designer & Marketing Consultant | LMK Web Design & Consulting
QuickBooks: The Good and the Bad According to Designers
QuickBooks is an established FreshBooks competitor and has the reputation to match.
The SaaS solution to accounting starts at $15/mo. for the basic level.
This includes income and expense tracking, as well as unlimited clients and invoices.
The online version has the benefit of automatic data backup, and the ability to easily upload and download into Excel sheets.
Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks pro have a 7.8 out of 10 rating with TrustRadius, placing them right in the middle of our TrustMap.
There is plenty for freelancers and designers to like about QuickBooks.
For example, Eric highlights the ease of use of the software as a work from home professional:
“QuickBooks Pro is great for any small business who needs to keep track of payments, vendors, revenue, etc. Obviously, there are many online services these days that will do the same thing. But I still find QuickBooks Pro to be a viable option. This particular edition may be best suited to those who don’t necessarily need to access their data via a mobile device. I work at home and rarely leave the office, so this suits me just fine.”
Reviews provide a good idea of both the pros and cons of QuickBooks.
Some of the benefits of the software, according to designers, include:
- Easy client access to compiled contact information
- Tracking of outgoing payments to vendors
- Invoice generation is very simplified
- Snapshot feature gives a quick look at revenue numbers, as well as who is late on payments
- Inexpensive, particularly compared to hiring a dedicated accountant
In contrast, some of the ‘cons’ of QuickBooks for designers include:
- Over the top advertising for upgrading your service to the next level
- Keyboard shortcuts are difficult and not user-friendly
- For the desktop version, performance can sometimes be slow
What these pros and cons boil down to is asking yourself what will be important to you as a designer.
As a summary of the usefulness of QuickBooks, Nathaniel highlights how the simplicity of the product is great for the design field:
“It works perfectly for what we need it to. It’s easy to create an invoice and keep track of the invoices you have out. I think it might be less appropriate for a small business that had a large amount of inventory and was selling a product as opposed to a [media design] service like we do.”
~ Nathaniel Holt | Co-Owner | AppleMedia Production
The Breakdown: Designers Value User Experience
The reviews of QuickBooks and FreshBooks from designers above give a breakdown of both the pros and cons of each accounting software solution.
But what does using the software look like in practice?
Where have designers found QuickBooks and FreshBooks to be most useful?
In the “Use Cases” portion of TrustRadius reviews, designers are given the chance to outline how they primarily use the software.
This should give you a better understanding of how FreshBooks vs. QuickBooks will work for you.
Eric goes into more detail about how, exactly, he uses QuickBooks to stay on top of invoices, overdue payments and clients.
Not only is he able to use it to track the status of invoices and whether clients have paid, but also to see the payment history for clients’ month over month or year after year.
Take a look at Eric’s breakdown of his use of QuickBooks as a designer:
“I use QuickBooks Pro to keep track of my clients’ invoices and payments. It helps me to stay organized and lets me know who has paid and who hasn’t. At the start of each month, I generate both paper and PDF invoices to send out for remittance. Also, I tend to use it to view client payment history over a long period of time.”
~ Eric Karkovack | Owner | Eric Karkovack Web Design Services
Lisa also provides an overview of how she uses FreshBooks, both with clients and contractors that she brings on to complete work.
More than that, she enjoys the automatic reminders sent to clients to avoid late payments.
Consider Lisa’s thoughts on how to best use FreshBooks as a designer:
“I use FreshBooks for invoicing clients for both hourly and project-based work. I can also invite contractors to track and bill hours through FreshBooks, which is helpful when re-billing hours. One of the biggest issues we continually face is late payments. FreshBooks help us manage that problem with automated invoice reminders and late fees.”
~ Lisa Keyser | Web Designer & Marketing Consultant | LMK Web Design & Consulting
The breakdown here is that users of both FreshBooks and QuickBooks have found a user experience that works well for their context.
In other words, neither QuickBooks nor FreshBooks will turn out to be a perfect solution for everyone.
While both have some great features, users will find that some are more useful for their context.
In short, you will need to find which one fits the uses that you are looking for.
Customer reviews are a great place to start if you’re looking to jump into the differences between the different accounting software tools available to you.
With these reviews, you can find more detail on the uses, benefits, and drawbacks of each software tool.
From there you can determine which tool will work best for you and have a confident start to accounting as a designer!
Author Bio: Brooklin Nash writes about the latest tools and small business trends for TrustRadius. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading YA dystopian fiction (with guilty pleasure) and cooking.