Looking for an effective way to track time, keep on top of expenses and get invoices out? Try Freshbooks.

In addition to the personal injury work my firm handles, I also handle some hourly litigation matters. Consequently, I have to track my time on those matters. Not good. Dating back to my early days as an insurance defense lawyer, I was never any good at billing. And they made it easy for me. The billing sheets were right there on my desk. Neatly divided into little squares. Each square with lines denoting “Date” and “Matter” and a separate column for the time entry. All I had to do was enter the appropriate hourly increment whenever I picked up the phone, drafted a motion or appeared in court. And yet, I still sucked at it. At the end of each day I was scrambling to figure out what the hell I had been doing for the previous eight hours. Actually probably closer to five hours or so, after subtracting the time I spent annoying my neighbors, listening to sports radio, making personal phone calls and going to lunch. There were a number of occasions where I would work into the wee hours desperately combing through weeks of my diary trying to find lost hours so I could get them to accounting and the monthly bills would to out.

Flash forward twenty years or so. Now there is a little more urgency when it comes to billing. Those mortgage envelopes just keep coming every month. Scribbling my hours on a piece of paper and hoping I find it three weeks later wasn’t working. Then I stumbled upon Freshbooks. Freshbooks is a company out of Canada that has developed an incredibly user friendly and efficient cloud-based time tracking system for the small business owner. You can track your time; keep track of expenses; issue invoices and generate reports – all with a few keystrokes.

There is a wee learning curve but if I could master it, anyone can. Basically you have to create Projects and then Tasks. Each of my clients – even contingent fee clients – are designated as a Project. For each project you then can create tasks[court appearance; file review; deposition; legal research; settlement discussion] and so on. When you track your time all you have to do is select the Project, select the task, enter a comment or two and then enter your time. One of the coolest functions is the invoice function. Let’s say you bill on a monthly basis. At the end of the month, you simply hit the Invoice tab and then select hit “New Invoice”. Your then select the client[or project] and you then see an icon letting you know there is unbilled time and/or expenses for the client. Hit the icon to bill that time and Presto! The unbilled time is carried over to a professional-looking invoice. You can enter comments on the invoice as needed. Hit another tab and the bill is emailed to your client. So no more time wasted printing and mailing bills with form cover letters. And, another nice feature – Freshbooks gives you the ability to track the invoices – you can see when the email was reviewed. Nice.

Couple more nice features – every month Freshbooks creates a summary of your outstanding bills and expenses. And, perhaps most importantly – Customer Service. When you call Freshbooks, you get an actual live person who seems genuinely interested in helping solve your problem. I have called a couple of times and the first person who picked up the phone was knowledgeable and able to quickly help me out. Additionally, each time Customer Service actually seemed enthusiastic. The last time I called the woman who picked up showed me a couple of neat tricks that I may be able to incorporate down the road. Live, capable and friendly customer service – what a concept.

Great product for anyone trying to improve the way they run their business.