We are in the process of switching from an extremely basic system of invoicing and accounting to a slick, automated, cloud-based service. Hurray!
I would like to say we painstakingly researched a long list of contenders - and we did glance over quite a few - but we only seriously considered two - Freshbooks (referral link) and Harvest - because they both integrate with TeamworkPM,
our new online project manager (a great service, but we had to change our plans - details in a later post).
Except for project management features, which we really don't need, our criteria for comparing the two services was pretty fine-grained. And since we put in the effort, why not share? Hopefully this saves someone a bit of trouble.
Our conclusions are at the bottom of this post.
Comparison table: Freshbooks vs. Harvest
Please note: Project management features were not assessed. Where there is a dash (-) we were unable to find sufficient information or it is non-applicable.
|Company location (country)||Canada||USA|
|Built on (platform)||-||Ruby on Rails|
|UI look-and-feel (10 = excellent)||6/10||7/10|
|Professional-looking invoices, estimates (10 = excellent)||6/10||9/10|
|import invoices||CSV||Freshbooks, Blinksale|
|customize invoice number*||Yes||Yes|
|default values (e.g. terms, summary)||Yes||Yes|
|track invoice views||Yes||Yes|
|recurring automated reminders||Yes||Yes|
|turn off reminders for a client||Yes||No|
|multiple reminder messages||up to 3||No|
|late payment fees||Yes||No|
|attach PDF invoice to email||No||Yes|
|customizable email messages||Yes||Yes|
|paper invoice (sent by mail)||Yes (for a fee)||No|
|* Both will increment numbers; Freshbooks will also increment letters.|
|** Freshbooks offers credit receipts, which can be used quite effectively when dealing with retainers.|
|import clients||CSV, vCard, Simply Accounting, Highrise||Excel, CSV, Freshbooks, Blinksale|
|manage client contacts on-the-go (mobile)||Yes||No|
|track sent emails||Yes||No|
|disable late fees for a client||Yes||n/a|
|email multiple clients||Yes||No|
|convert estimate to invoice||Yes||Yes|
|attach file to email||No||Yes|
|import expenses||CSV, QBO, bank account, credit card||CSV|
|upload image from mobile app||Yes||Yes|
|attach image to invoice||Yes||No|
|track unbilled time||Yes||Yes|
|round tracked time||No*||Yes|
|* Freshbooks add-on TimerSync will do rounding.|
|export formats for reports||Excel, CSV||Excel, CSV|
|profit & loss||Yes||No|
|compile receipts (images)||No||Yes|
|accounts aging (accounts with past due amounts)||Yes||No|
|revenue by client/staff||Yes||No|
|time to pay (how long, on average, it takes a client to pay)||Yes||No|
|track time per client||No||Yes|
|uninvoiced hours & expenses||No||Yes|
|revenue by client/staff||Yes||No|
|track time per project||Yes||Yes|
|Mobile app||iOS, Android, Blackberry||iOS, Android*, Windows|
|* Harvest's Android mobile app does not permit you to specify a tax type/amount with a submitted expense. Bummer. :(|
|For payment gateways, see INTEGRATION.|
|Select PayPal payment type per invoice||Yes||No|
|PRICES & PLANS|
|Plan structure||per # clients||per # users|
|Free plan available?||Yes||Yes|
|Paid plans price range||$19.95 - $39.95||$12 - $99|
|Transparency (clear and readily available info on services and pricing)||disappointing||great|
|PRIVACY & SECURITY|
|vulnerability scanning & intrusion detection||AlertLogic||-|
|hosting service provider||Rackspace||-|
|redundant storage & servers||Yes||Yes|
|replication across multiple geographic locations||Yes||Yes|
|backups||nightly, offsite storage||1-2 times daily|
|server status page||No||Yes|
|authentication||HTTP Basic, OAuth||HTTP Basic, OAuth|
|request limit||5000 per day||100 per 15 seconds|
|custom logo||Yes||Paid accounts|
|remove product branding||Paid accounts||Paid accounts|
|desktop client||Mac OS-X, Windows||Mac OS-X, Windows|
|Quickbooks for Windows||-||Yes|
|First Data Global Gateway||Yes||No|
|First Data Global Gateway e4||Yes||No|
|PayPal Payments Standard||Yes||Yes|
|PayPal Payflow Pro||Yes||No|
|PayPal Website Payments Pro||Yes||Yes|
Our overall conclusion?
Both are great, but neither fill every need. It really depends on what you are looking for. Freshbooks won us over with its more robust accounting features and reports. Harvest appears to be more focused on time tracking functionality, and it does this extremely well. We also prefer Harvest's aesthetic - the generated invoices look extremely professional - but Freshbooks isn't so far behind for this to be a deal-breaker.
One tiny Freshbooks feature that was HUGE for us is that in the Android app we can record a tax amount for each expense. This will save us having to log in and make these adjustments when we're back in the office. Sometimes it's the little things that really count!
A note on transparency
Under "Plans & Pricing" there is a category called transparency. This means that information on services and prices is readily available and crystal clear. Unfortunately some companies put a higher premium on the number of new accounts than whether those account holders really understand what they are signing up for.
Although we ultimately chose Freshbooks for our company because of its feature set, it lost some points to Harvest in this area. On the Freshbooks website, when you click on "Plans & Pricing" you don't actually get pricing but a Create Your Account prompt. There is a text link on the page that will really show you the pricing, but it is intentionally non-obvious. In Freshbooks' documentation for the free, 30-day trial, Freshbooks claims you get "unlimited access" and that you can "fully test out" Freshbooks, when in fact there are some restrictions, such as not being able to change a subject line in an email that goes out to your clients. I have written to Freshbooks about the documentation errors, but as of today they haven't been corrected.
I do hope Freshbooks addresses these shortcomings. It's a taint on what is an otherwise fantastic product. Harvest, on the other hand, should pat itself on the back: open disclosure of plans, prices and restrictions says "we have nothing to hide" and should give prospective customers confidence.
Impressed with both, but for largely different reasons. Although they share some major features, Freshbooks and Harvest are not the same product. Choose the one that best suits what you need then come back and let us know how it worked out.
If you found this review helpful and want to say "thanks", here's a Freshbooks referral link. (Sadly, Harvest doesn't have such a program.)