Review: MakeSomeTime Invoicing App

In my never-ending quest for the perfect project management (PM) system, I recently came across MakeSomeTime (MST). “That’s an interesting name,” was the first thing I thought.

MakeSomeTime Dashboard
MakeSomeTime Dashboard

The interface is shiny and the dashboard is decent, but it is slow, and it doesn’t have the basic feature I require now from a PM tool when adding projects and tasks. In MST, like many other PM tools, you have to enter the task, then click a button, add another task, click a button. Asana and Basecamp understand how painful that can be when setting up a project or just doing a brain dump of tasks and ideas. They allow you to just type and hit enter over and over as you build out your list.

Besides the dashboard, the interface is clunky. There’s a lot of wasted space. Here’s the “add new task” screen.

Adding a Task in MST
Adding a Task in MST

Notice in the background for this project, the actual project details and lists are way down on the screen rather than front and center. Every panel of this interface has a huge header area with counts and data that isn’t really critical. I’d like to see this information on the dashboard, but not taking up this much space on every screen.

The big draw for some people will be the pricing. It’s cheap. Dirt cheap. $3 per month for a freelancer gets you unlimited everything except for additional staff. $25 per year ($2.09 per month) gets you two staff members and unlimited everything and more storage. That’s very cheap.

I tend to spend a lot of time signing up for apps to test and never end up writing my review, so I wanted to throw this one out there while I had a few minutes. My recommendation: stay away from MST unless you are so strapped for cash that you can’t afford a few more dollars per month for a better system like Freshbooks or Harvest. And, if you’re that strapped for cash, you probably shouldn’t be worrying about an invoicing system.

I’ve been testing Teamwork PM’s new version for the last few months. I’ll try to post a review for that one soon as well.

Cheers!


Links for this post

MakeSomeTime
Asana
Basecamp
Freshbooks
Harvest
TeamworkPM

Choosing Asana Over Basecamp

I have a long history of testing every known tech service or product on the market. I also have a history of never committing to one and the constant state of flux was manageable when I was just doing a few freelance projects on the side.

Since taking my business full time, though, I’ve struggled to find my happy place with a project management tool. Until recently. A few weeks ago, Asana and Harvest introduced time tracking within Asana. This was a great integration for me.

I had been using Basecamp for about six months, but had not completely committed to it. Most of my clients and subcontractors never used it, and it was moderately expensive for a tool that only I was really using. Finally, time tracking and scheduling was pretty weak.

I’ve played with Asana for over a year, but also never committed to it. When I finally decided to switch to Harvest full time from Freshbooks, and I heard that Asana had added Harvest time tracking right inside each task item, I was sold.

So far, it’s worked well. I still have one issue because I have separate Harvest accounts for Duce Enterprises and Learning Ninjas, and only one Asana account with different workspaces. As far as I know, you can only link one Harvest account, so that’s something I’m still working and I’ll let you know what happens.

Basecamp is excellent. It’s simple, easy to manage, has project templates, calendars, and many other features. But it’s limited in time tracking (none in the new version) and is a bit on the pricey side for one user. If you have a team, or a committed group of subcontractors, or clients who love to “watch” a project, then Basecamp is a solid choice.

Most of my clients don’t want to watch the task lists. And if they did, Asana still allows for that (though it’s a bit more work for the client to set up an account and join a project in Asana than in Basecamp). So, for me, Harvest time tracking inside of my task manager was perfect.

I’m still looking for the ultimate calendaring and project management tool. Somebody go build it for me, please!


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Farewell Freshbooks. It’s Not You, It’s Me.

After much deliberation, I decided to use Freshbooks exclusively in 2009 for my small business. I loved it. It was simple, it was easy to use. It was fast. Paired with Fluid on my Mac, it was almost perfect.

They are decent at adding new functionality, but mostly they just got it right with the core app, except for one thing:

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$14 per month.

Doesn’t seem like much, does it? But look at it this way: $168 (one year). Now how about $336 (two years). That is a LOT of money for one tool in a freelancer’s/small business owner’s toolbox.

Less Accounting ($12/mo, $144/yr) and Blinksale ($6/mo, $72/yr) are other options, but they’re still expensive.

I’m switching to Billings for a one-time payment of $39. If I upgrade, it’ll probably be once, maybe twice over the next two years ($25 or $50), bringing my total to a max of $89 over two years.

I’ve been drooling over some amazing graphics and diagrams recently, but this is the best I could do to show my potential cost savings over the next two years:

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Just thought I’d share my thoughts and recommendations. Freshbooks is awesome. Less Accounting seems like a good tool. Blinksale is good also. If you run multiple computers or have more than one employee, it might be worth the extra cost for the online services.

But as a freelancer/small business owner with one or two employees (the wife does some HR consulting occasionally), and only one responsible for estimate, invoicing, etc., I’m going with the cost savings, while retaining the same functionality (albeit local to my machine) as the web-based tools.

I’ll probably have more on this subject after a few months or a year with Billings.

(Thanks to Aaron for the nudge).

Small Business Software Dilemmas

So I run a small business. It’s not hugely profitable (yet), but it’s a nice side gig to my day job, which I thoroughly enjoy and could not possibly give up right now.

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My goal is to grow my business gradually, building long-term relationships with non-profits and small businesses.

I believe the most important tools for a small business are, in no particular order, customer relationship management (CRM), accounting and invoicing, and project management.

Now for my dilemma. For the first few years of business, where I had a very small number of clients, and several one-project clients, I hopped around between Blinksale, Freshbooks and some others on their free limited accounts, trying them out. They all seemed to work pretty well, and eventually Freshbooks won me over with their frequent feature enhancements and their wonderful product team and support.

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So when I reached the next level in my business, I imported everything to Freshbooks and went with their lowest paid plan, at $14 per month. Since then, I’ve had no complaints, and no issues whatsoever, except for that monthly email notifying me that my card has been charged $14.

I absolutely love the simplicity to administer my account, monitor payments, automate recurring invoices, etc. But I’m wondering if something on my local machine, like Billings, would be a better solution at a one-time fee of $39 (less than three months of my current plan). At the same time, the simplicity and time savings of using a great SaaS app like Freshbooks is nice.

I’m hoping a few small business owners and/or freelancers read this post and can provide me with some feedback on what they are using.

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Aaron is setup with Billings and Basecamp, which I’ve used sparingly. I’m not sure if they play nicely together, but it works for him. I’d love a fully integrated solution (or solutions) to manage my clients, both active and potential, billing, and project management.

Freshbooks and Basecamp play nicely together, as do several other SaaS tools. 37signals makes their case for web-based software. What do you use? What’s your experience? What’s your monthly bill for running your business? What other tips do you have for me?