A review of FreeAgent
Unfortunately, a fairly sizeable chunk of being self-employed or running your own business involves maintaining accounts. Having never done any kind of accounting before I knew I had to find the right software for the job that would make doing this as pain-free as possible. In the first few weeks of operating as a freelancer I simultaneously trialled three different online tools – Intuit Quickbooks, Xero and FreeAgent. After the trial periods expired I concluded that the one that I found easiest to use and ultimately enjoyed using the most was FreeAgent. Below is a list of things I like about FreeAgent. This list isn’t suggesting that other accounting software can’t do these things, it’s just that I found them more intuitive on FreeAgent.
Simple contact and project management
Adding ‘contacts’ is simple and it is nice that you can specify two emails, one for the primary contact and one for the billing address if your client prefers to keep invoices separate. Once a contact is added, you can add and assign an infinite number of projects to this client. Each project can have its own characteristics such as hours per day and billing rate (per hour or per day) which is useful if you are charging different rates for different projects or disciplines.
Easy time tracking and invoicing
Most of my time on FreeAgent is spent tracking time and invoicing clients. Time tracking is incredibly simple, as is invoicing (minus a small gripe I’ll explain a bit later). The best thing about invoicing is that you can customise your invoices in a variety of ways. This could be through selecting one of many templates through the ‘theme gallery’ or simply uploading your company logo to make your invoices more personal. You can also upload your own CSS if you want a completely unique invoice template. In addition to editing your invoices you can also personalise your emails, whether that be for a new invoice, invoice reminders, a thank-you after an invoice has been paid or a new estimate. You can add tags if you want to send more detailed emails with dynamic data. When invoicing a client you have the option of overriding these templates if you need to amend or add invoice specific notes.
Managing expenses is easy in FreeAgent. When creating a new expense you can link it to a project and upload an attachment to explain the expense. On the mobile version of FreeAgent (not an app on Android just yet, but the web interface is good) when adding an expense you can trigger the camera on your phone and take a photo. This has proved to be extremely useful when recording expenses such as train tickets and most importantly allows me to forget about keeping old receipts and tickets. When invoicing a client you have the option of including expenses and expense attachments in the email which allows you to bill the expenses back to your clients whilst also providing evidence of the expense cost. It’s great being able to send my clients one email that includes both an invoice (including expenses) and a selection of photographs/documents explaining these expenses.
I’ve had to email support a few times for help with some early quirks and more recently for tax-return related queries. I have always had a response within 24 hours, and in the vast majority of cases the response is within the hour. Responses are always thorough and helpful, and it gives me peace of mind knowing that the support team are trained accountants (as well as being experts on the ins and outs of FreeAgent). If you have a particularly complex question you can generate a support ticket which grants a member of the team access to your account so they can remotely investigate further. And of course all of this comes as part of the monthly fee.
Things that could be improved
I don’t have any major gripes with FreeAgent, but there are certainly a few minor quirks that could be ironed out to improve the experience.
When creating new invoices you are asked to pick the client you’d like to invoice and then select which projects you want to include on the invoice. I think being able to select a start and end date from which you would like to invoice would be helpful as this could automatically select any projects which had work carried out on them in-between those dates, ensuring you don’t miss anything through user error.
When tracking time on a project, if you track hours that don’t equate to a full day you can be left with a nasty decimal figure on the invoice. On a recent invoice for example I tracked 6 hours of time to a particular project. Because I work 8.5 hour days the figure that came out on the invoice (when grouping the invoice by task) was ‘0.705882 Days’. Being able to round this number to a specific number of decimal places would be an improvement.
You have the option of connecting your bank account to FreeAgent which allows you to do things such as explain expenses and mark when invoices have been paid. Whilst the feature is useful, during my time using it I have found that it can become out of sync and take quite a while to show recent transactions. It doesn’t make too much of a difference as all of the tasks you can do via the bank feed can be done manually, but it would be nice if this feature was a little more reliable.
Ultimately, I’m extremely happy with FreeAgent and have no hesitation in recommending it to those who are self-employed or running a small business.
One other perk of FreeAgent is that they have a referral scheme which allows you to save 10% off of your monthly bill for each person you refer. If you enjoyed this review and are going to sign-up then I’d appreciate it if you would use my referral link (or alternatively you can use this referral code – 4416nb11) which will save us both 10%!