One of the worst parts of freelancing is the paperwork. Am I right, or am I right?
Most people consider these kinds of things to be the pits. (Okay, confession time: I’m that weirdo who actually enjoys bookkeeping and accounting stuff, even though I’m not an accountant. Yay?) So when I went full-time for-realsies this year, I knew I needed something to help me manage my paperwork and clients.
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UPDATED February 25, 2018, to reflect new features in Dubsado since the original publishing date!
Having used QuickBooks (the Big Boy in the market) with one of my clients, I knew that I didn’t want to use that. Nothing against QuickBooks; it’s a great program for some situations. It just didn’t fit my criteria for Unit 25 and my own freelancing.
My next choice was FreshBooks*. I think I heard about it a while ago while doing some research, but the Being Boss podcast reminded me to look into it. Around the same time, I started hearing about Dubsado*, an intriguing new entry to the CRM/bookkeeping market. Unfortunately for me, Dubsado was still lacking some team management features that I needed, but their team is amazing and responded back to my questions SO fast. They assured me that those features were coming down the pipes, so I decided I should give them both a try! And now I’m so glad I did.
TL;DR: In the end, I chose Dubsado, after trial periods of both Dubsado and FreshBooks. If you don’t want to get the down-low on WHY and want to just take my word, then use the referral code* Unit25 to get 20% off when you join! You can do a trial and still get the 20% off afterward, as long as you use the referral code when you sign up for the trial. You’re welcome!
Both programs offer trials, though they vary a bit in implementation. I’m going to compare Dubsado and Freshbooks on some key features and then give an overview, so feel free to jump to the parts that matter most to you!
Dubsado and FreshBooks’ Interfaces
Both interfaces are pretty basic, which I find to be good, as it reduces distractions. Overall, this sort of thing is going to be personal preference in the end, but Dubsado doesn’t force you to scroll, and they’ll be making the Dashboard more customizable, so in my book… that’s a definite bonus!
WINNER: Dubsado – but in the end, it’s personal preference
Invoicing and Payments in Dubsado and FreshBooks
When it comes to invoices, you want them to reflect your business. After all, it is kind of how you get paid! FreshBooks has nice-looking templates… but you only get two choices (plus color and font). So. Boring! Dubsado’s invoice customization is all done through your brand settings and while it’s pretty basic, I love the clean, streamlined look of Dubsado’s invoices. Honestly, it can be kind of nice not having choices sometimes (no decision exhaustion!). Dubsado also lets you create packages of line items that you can then insert into your invoices, saving you some extra time in assembling items that you use frequently. Always love saving some time, eh?
Both systems allow you to accept credit cards, paid through emailed invoices or outside the system, but they differ a little bit in how that works. Dubsado integrates with Stripe, Square and PayPal, and you can choose to enable or disable credit cards and/or e-checks (which saves you money on processing fees!). FreshBooks has a built-in credit card processor, though you can also integrate with Stripe. You can also apply automatic late fees and late payment reminders in both systems. To do this, Dubsado uses payment schedules, and you can have multiple payment schedules, giving you additional control over late fees and payment reminders.
SIDE NOTE: If you use Square, you can process $1,000 of payments fee-free for every person you refer. Since credit card fees are a cost of doing business these days, this could save you $29 per referral! You can also process your first $1,000 of payments you receive through Square for free by using my link: https://squareup.com/i/EC3D3EB5* And yes, you’ll still be able to get even more fee-free processing after that first $1k for referrals that you send to Square too.
Dubsado* also lets you create quotes/proposals before booking a job. The best thing about quotes is that YOU CAN AUTOMATE THEM. Yes, you heard that right: you can automate your quote/proposal process. Using workflows, you can tell the system to follow up on a lead capture with a particular quote, based on which package they select. FreshBooks lets you create Estimates, but they’re very basic and don’t allow the flexibility that you get with Dubsado.
For those of us who offer discounts or specials, you’ll be happy to know that both Dubsado and FreshBooks allow discount line items. Both systems have the ability to accept deposits/retainer fees on invoices, and Dubsado gives you the flexibility, through their payment schedules tool, to customize deposit amounts. Whoot!
Client Management in Dubsado and FreshBooks
Keeping track of your history with your clients is juuuuust a bit essential for freelancers. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) Providing a consistent, easy-to-follow system is important for us freelancers AND our clients, and this is where Dubsado* really shone for me!
Starting from the beginning of the process, Dubsado gives you the ability to create beautiful lead capture forms that you can embed and share all over the place. You can then set it up to automatically send out a questionnaire to get more information about the potential project once you receive a lead inquiry, using Dubsado’s workflow, which I’ll talk about later. Dubsado also integrates with your email provider! I love this because instead of getting an email from Dubsado themselves, clients and leads receive their forms (invoices, contracts, etc.) directly from YOUR email. It keeps it very streamlined and makes it less confusing for your clients (not to mention makes it less likely to go to spam since it isn’t coming from a third party), which is always a plus!
Speaking of contracts, this is an amazing feature in Dubsado*. I cannot for the life of me understand why FreshBooks doesn’t offer contract options! This is where a lot of projects can get snagged – I hate sending out the “Please print out this contract, sign it, scan it, and email it back to me” message. With Dubsado, you can capture e-signatures and YOU can sign it digitally too! Ahhh, it’s amazing; I love it SO much. You can also create sub-agreements if you need to have multiple contracts in a single job (e.g. photo release forms for photographers) or if you need to update a contract (e.g. add additional services later in the project).
Two things that both Dubsado and FreshBooks share in terms of client management are the client portal and relationship feeds. However, once again, Dubsado blows FreshBooks out of the water, in my humble opinion. FreshBooks allows you to invite the client to their project; they can make comments and share attachments in that project portal. There’s also a ‘relationship feed’ of contact (emails and such), invoices, etc. However, in FreshBooks, only you can view this information; in Dubsado, you AND the client can view this (and they can edit their contact info), which makes it SO much easier on everyone! This means that the client can see all of the forms that have been sent, so they don’t have to scroll through their inbox to double-check what you or they said about something. Less work for you + easier for client = everybody’s happy!
Job Management in Dubsado and FreshBooks
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that job management is a big part of just about any freelancer’s life. Regardless of what kind of freelancing you do, you need to be able to manage your projects. This is where the rubber met the road for me in my decision between Dubsado and FreshBooks!
FreshBooks’ job management services pretty much consist of time tracking and attaching files to conversation threads. Honestly, I was not much impressed, and this was one of the FreshBooks features that I had been most excited about. Not cool beans. Sigh. Anyways, the time tracking feature allows you to start and pause a timer for a specific job, and then either save or discard the time when you stop the timer, so that you can log time for billing purposes (you can generate an invoice off of the logged time from you and/or team members).
You can invite clients and team members, be they employees or contractors, to you projects in FreshBooks. This team/client management aspect of FreshBooks allows you to post a message, with attachments if you’d like, and you can reply to these messages, to create threaded conversations (see picture in last section). You cannot seem to tag any clients or team members, to bring messages to their attention, and there isn’t really anything else that you can do. You can’t restrict access to anyone, either; for example, if you wanted clients to be able to see suggestions about the project and deliverables and provide feedback on these things, but not see any conversations from team members… well, you’re out of luck, Jack.
Dubsado*, on the other hand…. oh man, I love it! Before I tested them out, I wanted to know if team management was in the works (it’s since been released), so I emailed them. I got a reply back from Becca (one of the Dubsado founder) within hours, asking me to let Becca and Jake know what team management aspects I wanted to see when they release that feature. Can I just say that Dubsado has AMAZING customer service! Becca especially is crazy active in the Dubsado Facebook group, where you can ask questions and suggest features. This is one of the best things about Dubsado, in my opinion. They’re also completely transparent about what features they’re working on and when they’re anticipating releasing that feature.
Dubsado offers time tracking as well as team member accounts. You get three team accounts with your brand account at no additional cost, so you can add your accountant and VA and be ready to go! My accountant was impressed with how easy it’s been to access my business financial records through Dubsado, by the way. Dubsado is also working on adding vendors, which means that you can add other service providers that you work with (collaborators, freelancers, etc.) as well, making your finances and records easier to keep track of.
Here’s the crazy thing: this is just scratching the surface of Dubsado’s tools for job management! Firstly, they have built-in to-do lists… and they released Trello-style task boards. GASP! That means that you can set up project phases and move aspects of the project through these phases on task cards. These to-do items also show up on the Dubsado dashboard, so you’ll see everything that’s coming up when you log in. The Dubsado team is also working on a booking feature along the lines of YouCanBook.Me, Calendly, and Acuity. So rather than having to use yet another program for booking (and, quite possibly, have to pay for the features that you need for that), soon we’ll be able to do that in Dubsado. Woohoo!
The biggest job management time saver in Dubsado*, though, is probably workflows. What are Dubsado workflows, you ask? Oh man, let me tell you! It’s your crowning automation jewel. Workflows let you set up a whole series of automation for different aspects of your business. For example, say you have web design and branding services. Your processes for each are a little different, so when you get a branding lead, you add the workflow to that job and it immediately sends out your branding questionnaire to gather more information from the potential client. Then, once the system sees that the questionnaire has been returned, it can send an email thanking the potential client for their response and letting them know that you’ll be getting back to them with a quote within X time.
Oh, and just for kicks and giggles: you can create canned emails. That means you can select a pre-written email, tweak it if needed, and send it to the client from your own email address. Because Dubsado is just awesome like that.
WINNER: Dubsado – by a landslide!
Finally, Dubsado and FreshBooks’ Pricing and Trials
Okay, so the big question is always “How much is it?” (This is the best part, too!) To start with, they both offer trials, so that you can try before you buy. I highly recommend this, because you may find that just because one person loves something doesn’t mean that it’s the right fit for you.
The trials differ a bit between FreshBooks and Dubsado: FreshBooks has a standard 30-day trial. So, if you’re just getting started, you have limited time to build up some clients to test it out on, or you have to wait until you have some clients to test it with. It also isn’t full-featured; I don’t even know what to do with that. You can’t process payments or make automatic late fees/reminder emails, which really seems to me to defeat the purpose of a trial. If I can’t make sure that everything works the way I need it to, then how does that help me? This definitely cooled off my FreshBooks excitement, sadly.
Dubsado* has a really cool idea behind their trial, though: its based on the number of clients. You can add three clients while on the trial. I think this is genius! When starting a business, it may take you a little while to build up a client base. That’s why 30 days seems a subjective limit to me. I started with a single client, and that was when I decided to try Dubsado. I didn’t want to be switching programs 50 times, so I wanted something that met my needs right away, but which would also grow with me. Dubsado fits that bill, especially with the incredible customer service (Becca replied to one of my Facebook community posts within ONE MINUTE!!) and their transparency about their feature goals.
As for pricing, this is yet another place where I love Dubsado. They offer three options: monthly, annual, or lifetime. I’m not there yet, but I foresee a point soon where I will be upgrading to Dubsado’s Forever plan! Dubsado’s* pricing is $25/month or $250/year at the time of this writing, but check their pricing page to make sure that’s still accurate. BONUS: When you subscribe to one of Dubsado’s paid plans, you lock in that rate for as long as you stay on that type of plan. Gotta love not having any surprise price increases!
FreshBooks has several tiers of monthly pricing: $15 (up to 5 clients), $25 (up to 50 clients), and $50 (up to 500 clients) per month, as of press time (check their pricing page, though!). It doesn’t look like they lock in the rates, though, unfortunately, and the tiered pricing can be frustrating when you’re growing a business and feeling like you’re getting penalized for it. No beuno!
Both programs also offer great referral programs! In fact, their referral programs are the same, in that you get a free month of the service for each referral. A couple of variations: FreshBooks offers an affiliate program as well, where you get $5 per trial sign-up and $100 per paid account that you refer. If you’re on Dubsado’s Forever plan (which is no longer available; sorry!), you get a refund of the price of a month’s subscription, since you don’t pay per month for that plan.
WINNER: Dubsado – because of locked-in lower pricing, unlimited clients, and options for monthly/annual plans
Overall winner in my book: clearly Dubsado*!
If you’re ready to give Dubsado a try, use Unit25 as your referral code* when you sign up to get 20% off after your trial. Let me know if you have questions – I’d be happy to answer whatever I can! Also, email me with your first Dubsado receipt, showing Unit25 as your referral code, and I’ll give you the Conquer Google Analytics! Lite course, which is a $99 value and not available to the public. This will help you get your business’s website in order while getting the rest of your business in order with Dubsado*!