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HarvestApp: How I Cut My Invoicing from Hours to Minutes

Accounting work is invoiced hourly.  Sure there is the occasional fixed fee project but more often than not I’ll invoice clients hourly.  This means I need to track my time.  Every minute of every day is accounted for in some way, shape, or form.  It’s not all chargeable but it’s all in my timesheet.  Previously I had used QuickBooks timesheets to track my time and then move it into an invoice to send to a client.  As I had mentioned in a past post I ditched the QuickBooks for LessAccounting and was thus presented with a problem: how do I track my time and subsequently send invoices and track my receivables?

I tried a few different web applications for time tracking but each had a quirk that lead me to hate the program.  I finally stumbled upon Harvest (www.harvestapp.com).  I was vaguely familiar with the software as a client of mine used it to track time for their employees.  Using their 30 day trial I gave it a shot and immediately loved what it offered.

Previously, I knew only the billable time that I spent on a client.  I didn’t have the ability to easily breakdown the non-billable time nor could I easily run reports to show realization (how many billable hours vs. total hours) or how my day broke down.  In Harvest it’s all right in front of you and easily accessible.  Over the last two months I’ve been able to see the clients that are profitable and those that have low realization rates.

Also, I was able to bring freshnesses to my invoicing.  In the past it was a pdf from QuickBooks attached to an email that I prepared.  It took some time, I’d have to review the time, ensure I used the proper rate for the project, determine the appropriate template, print to pdf, prepare an email then send.  If it sounds like a hassle, it was.  With Harvest I can review my ‘uninvoiced report’ select the client to bill, click 2 buttons and the invoice is sent.  It’s convenient and easy.  Recording payments is a 2 step process: 1) select receive payment; 2) enter amount received and check number then you’re done.

Last, Harvest has little features that are pretty convenient like one click reminder emails to late payers and thank you emails when payment is received.  The reports allow you to see how much uninvoiced time you have, realization, receivables outstanding, and money collected for any selected time period.  It’s an accountant’s dream!

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Skype is Brilliant

If you haven’t embraced Skype consider doing it and doing it soon. Recently, my sister went over to Italy and we figured we would try to use technology to communicate while she was over there (novel concept, eh?) The objective was to find a cost effective application that allowed calls over wifi and was easy enough to explain to our parents. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

We looked at Google Voice and a handful of other applications but each would only do part of what was needed. Then we looked at Skype. We had used it occasionally, mostly for instant messaging and I have clients that use the program. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to embrace (the free side) of Skype. And we were impressed.

Within 15 minutes we set both of our phones up on Skype, put it on our computers, set up our parents and had them download the app to their iPhones. After 20 minutes my mom was calling and texting through Skype and my Dad was video chatting me over the network. In under a half hour, we created Sykpe monsters.

Anyone that has used Skype before is thinking, “Wow, welcome to 2002″ and I’ll admit I was behind the trend. But as the adage goes “better late than never.” Get off my case. Skype simplifies the communications process and makes it truly mobile. Everything I can do on the computer software I can accomplish on the phone. A rarity today in software.

Skype-like applications are the future of business. They will allow seamless integration from the office to the golf course. While I don’t recommend video chatting while you’re on the course, you’ll be able to remain connected through one communication point, in this case, Skype.

Some will claim communication overload; sure, that’s a concern. But unless you learn to adapt you’ll be left behind. To those that are worried: you keep your land lines and fax machines, I’m moving into the future. Join me if you’d like. Hell, it doesn’t cost you anything!

Apple iPad2: I Went Mobile, Finally

When the iPad was first released I wrote a blog raving about the potential of using the iPad to take your business on the road, figuratively speaking of course, or maybe not.  I said it was going to be awesome and cost effective.  How could anyone avoid this unbelievably perfect piece of technology???  I was going to get one the day it was released!  The problem was: I never did.  I got busy, I wanted to wait for the second generation, the litany of excuses goes on and on.

In April I finally went to the store and got my hands on an iPad 2.  I’ll be honest, I bought it only because I wanted a new toy.  Busy season had just wrapped up and I wanted to treat myself, I deserved it didn’t I?  Of course.  Little did I know this little piece of technology changed the way I worked, some would say I work more, maybe I do, but I say I work more efficiently.  I no longer have to poke at my phone sitting on the couch at night or have my huge laptop sitting there to respond to emails.  I run through them quickly and easily right on the iPad.

Through the use of apps I have been able to provide myself access to everything I need at the click of a button.  It’s more portable than my MacBook (amazingly) and has a better battery life.  I currently read all my news on the iPad by linking my Google Reader feed to Flipboard along with subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal and the Daily, each delivered to my iPad daily.

Document review on the go is much easier.  Ever try to read a document on an iPhone?  It’s not a pleasant experience.  You’re scrolling left to right, up and down, it’s miserable.  On the iPad you can view full documents.  You can then pull these documents into an app (I use QuickOffice Connect) and sync them to your computer with Dropbox, Google Docs, Box.net, or SugarSync.

The drawback is you’re carrying another piece of technology.  That’s a hassle.  And it gets expensive, 4 cases, a screen protector I don’t use, and 1 bluetooth keyboard later I think I’m good, but the price tag adds up.  As an accountant I try to keep costs to a minimum, but in this case I’d tell most business owners with the means to go buy one.  Embrace all it has to offer and you’ll love every minute of it!

Making Moves: LessAccounting

Accountants are fickle, trust me, I know.  For the past 10 years I have used QuickBooks to manage my accounting, client’s accounting, everyone’s accounting!  I liked the ease of use from an accountants view point and I like how people pay me to spend time updating their QuickBooks.  It was a good arrangement.  My QuickBooks was always kept up to date and it was a pretty reliable tool.  Then this last tax season hit and I was swamped.  As I worked to service clients the QuickBooks got pushed to the back burner and updates became scarce.  When I finally resurfaced my QuickBooks was 4 months out of date and I had no clue how my business was doing.  As an accountant that’s embarrassing to admit, but I buckled down and managed to reconcile my accounts and get back up to date.  Then I started thinking: there has to be a better way.  Luckily, there was a better way.

I had a couple clients on a variety of platforms other than QuickBooks so I started to play around with them.  The number one things for me was automatic update.  If it didn’t link to my bank account I didn’t touch it.  I checked out QuickBooks Online (sucks), Xero (no link to Chase), and InDinero (meh).  Then I came around to LessAccounting.  Smooth simple and available via iPhone app.  How could I go wrong?  The best part about it is the integration into Chase and the automatic updates.  Granted I still have to link transactions but that’s minor compared to creating entirely new transactions.  While QuickBooks remembers prior transactions, you still need to ensure the numbers you enter are correct.  And entering the numbers correctly is mildly important when you’re doing your accounting.  LessAccounting on the other hand brings in the numbers automatically from your account and all you have to do is tag and explain and you’re set.  Not bad.  Also, their quick charts allow me to see a trend analysis of my cash flow so I can take a cash at where I stand on a daily basis.

On the downside I’d like to see a balance sheet.  Without a balance sheet as anything but a service company you really can’t use LessAccounting.  It also presents a problem for owners of LLC’s as they have to ensure they properly record the payments to themselves and not this to the accountant so it can be addressed properly on their tax return at the end of the year.  I ran into that issue with a client and we created a separate account titled “Owners Distributions” that is backed out of the income statement prior to tax preparation.  Also, you’re not going to be able to track inventory or fixed assets in this system as everything is immediately expensed.  Last, I’d like to see better invoicing.  I still haven’t embraced the invoicing in LessAccounting (I use Harvest App).  The main reason is I can’t get comfortable with LessTimeSpent, the time-tracking app you have to use.

While I have my gripes, one month in I’m still a huge fan of LessAccounting.  Manufacturing companies with fixed assets and companies with inventory should avoid the program but service based businesses should learn to love this web app, it really will lead to less accounting!

 

Remember your Accountant

So many small businesses overlook the benefits of consultation with an accountant throughout the year.  Regular discussions between you and your accountant will allow you to properly plan for year and and avoid any unforeseen problems in your tax preparation.

 

Additionally, your accountant will be able to give you a different perspective on the accounting at the business.  He will be able to analyze a situation unemotionally and help you determine whether it is best for your business.

 

When you consult after the fact, changes become much more difficult and you may be stuck with a decision that is wrong for your business.  Call your accountant today and see how they can help you, it’ll help avoid a long-term headache!

 

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Go Mobile with the Apple iPad

Many business owners think you need deep pockets to run state of the art technology at their company.  They’re wrong.  As technology has developed it has become cheaper which is exactly what entrepreneurs need.  Released today was the Apple iPad with a starting price of $499.  Bigger than a smartphone and smaller than a laptop, the Apple iPad allows the user to check mail, manage calendars, or surf the web all in a small 1.5 pound device.  For those out there who have yet to warm to a smart phone or shy away from the $40 per month service fee, the iPad has WiFi which allows you to hook into the web from any WiFi hotspots for free.  Apple also offers a 3G model through AT&T’s network, much like the iPhone.

 

There are drawbacks though.  For example, you cannot load Microsoft Office onto the device, but you do have access to the Apple App Store where you can find a program to read Word and Excel documents.  Hardcore users may find the 9.7” screen too small for certain applications and the maximum memory available currently is 64GB.  This is sufficient for the majority of users but if you plan to store large files on your device you could run out of space.  Also, be cautious of first generation devices as they often have glitches and may require frequent software updates.

 

Regardless, developments such as this open doors to businesses which may not have thousands of dollars to spend on technology.  Have a tight budget but you’re looking for mobility and functionality?  Check out the Apple iPad.