Freshbooks vs. Harvest: A Comparison

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.  

Description
Freshbooks
Harvest
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
     
INVOICING    
import invoices CSV Freshbooks, Blinksale
customize invoice number* Yes Yes
default values (e.g. terms, summary) Yes Yes
track invoice views Yes Yes
recurring invoices Yes Yes
automated reminders 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
retainers No** Yes
credit receipts Yes No
invoice activity/history Yes Yes
attach PDF invoice to email No Yes
multi-currency support Yes Yes
dispute mechanism Yes No
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.
     
CLIENT MANAGEMENT    
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
set language  Yes No
email multiple clients Yes No
archive clients Yes Yes
     
ESTIMATES    
one-click approval Yes Yes
convert estimate to invoice Yes Yes
brandable Yes Yes
attach file to email No Yes
print-friendly Yes Yes
     
EXPENSES    
import expenses CSV, QBO, bank account, credit card CSV
upload image from mobile app Yes Yes
attach image to invoice Yes No
categories Yes Yes
expense status Yes No
     
TIME TRACKING    
import time CSV CSV
timer Yes Yes
timesheets Yes Yes
track unbilled time Yes Yes
multiple views Yes Yes
round tracked time No* Yes
     
* Freshbooks add-on TimerSync will do rounding.
     
REPORTS    
dashboard Yes Yes
export formats for reports Excel, CSV Excel, CSV
print-friendly Yes Yes
Accounting    
balance sheet Yes No
expenses Yes Yes
payments collected Yes No
profit & loss Yes No
tax Yes No
compile receipts (images) No Yes
Client    
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
Invoicing    
invoice details Yes Yes
uninvoiced hours & expenses No Yes
item sales Yes No
revenue by client/staff Yes No
tasks invoiced Yes No
projected revenue Yes No
Project     
project budget No Yes
track time per project Yes Yes
Time tracking    
per client No Yes
per project Yes Yes
per user Yes Yes
per team Yes No
per task Yes Yes
     
MOBILITY    
Mobile app iOS, Android, Blackberry iOS, Android*, Windows
Responsive/mobile-friendly website No Yes
     
* Harvest's Android mobile app does not permit you to specify a tax type/amount with a submitted expense. Bummer. :(
     
ONLINE PAYMENTS    
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    
firewalls Cisco Yes
vulnerability scanning & intrusion detection AlertLogic -
encryption SSL, AES SSL
certified - TRUSTe
     
RELIABILITY    
hosting service provider Rackspace -
redundant storage & servers Yes Yes
replication across multiple geographic locations Yes Yes
backups nightly, offsite storage 1-2 times daily
uptime - Avg 99.9%
server status page No Yes
     
API    
libraries/wrappers Ruby, PHP, Python, Perl, C#, .NET, AS3, Java, Javascript Ruby, PHP, Python and Java
authentication HTTP Basic, OAuth HTTP Basic, OAuth
JSON support Yes Yes
request limit 5000 per day 100 per 15 seconds
     
BRANDING    
custom logo Yes Paid accounts
remove product branding Paid accounts Paid accounts
     
INTEGRATION    
desktop client Mac OS-X, Windows Mac OS-X, Windows
browser extensions Chrome Chrome
ActiveCampaign Yes -
ActiveCollab - Yes
Apollo - Yes
Asana - Yes
Autotask Yes -
Base - Yes
Basecamp No Yes
Basecamp Classic Yes Yes
Batchbook Yes -
Beanstock - Yes
Bidsketch Yes Yes
Billflo - Yes
BlueFolder Yes -
CakeMail Yes -
Capsule Yes -
ChronoMate Yes -
ClientSpot Yes -
Cling - Yes
ClockWork - Yes
Constant Contact Yes No
Co-op - Yes
Deskaway Yes -
DoneDone - Yes
Drupal abandoned Yes
Easy Insight Yes No
eazyBi - Yes
ExpenseCloud Yes -
Fluid - Yes
Formstack Yes -
Freshdesk - Yes
Funding Gates - Yes
Fuseboard - Yes
Geckoboard Yes Yes
GeoOp Yes -
Gmail Yes -
Google Apps Yes Yes
Highrise Yes Yes
IAC-EZ Yes -
Imera - Yes
inDenero Yes Yes
Inkdit - Yes
InvoiceSherpa - Yes
IssuePop - Yes
itDuzzit Yes Yes
JIRA - Yes
Leftronic - Yes
LiveChat Yes -
Magento Yes -
MailChimp Yes -
MinuteDock Yes -
Mirror 42 Yes -
mydock - Yes
MYOB - Yes
Nicereply - Yes
NiftyQuoter - Yes
OneSaas Yes Yes
Oprius Yes -
osCommerce Yes -
Osmosis - Yes
Outright Yes Yes
Peachtree Yes -
Planscope - Yes
Podio Yes Yes
Punch - Yes
Quickbooks Online - Yes
Quickbooks for Windows - Yes
Quote Roller Yes Yes
Reaper - Yes
Receipt Bank Yes -
Redmine - Yes
Relenta Yes -
RightSignature Yes Yes
Sage 50 Yes -
Salesforce - Yes
ScrumDo - Yes
Scythe - Yes
Setster Yes -
Shopify Yes -
Slife Yes -
Solve360 Yes -
TeamworkPM Yes Yes
Teaspiller - Yes
ThetaBoard - Yes
timerSync Yes -
TimeTracker - Yes
Toggl Yes -
Trello - Yes
Viewabill - Yes
Wufoo Yes -
Xero - Yes
Xpenser Yes -
Zapier Yes Yes
Zen Cart Yes -
ZenCash - Yes
Zendesk Yes Yes
zferral Yes -
     
Payment gateways    
2Checkout Yes No
Authorize.Net Yes Yes
Beanstream Yes No
BluePay Yes No
Braintree Yes No
eWay Yes No
First Data Global Gateway Yes No
First Data Global Gateway e4 Yes No
iTransact Yes No
Landmark Yes No
PayPal Payments Standard Yes Yes
PayPal Payflow Pro Yes No
PayPal Website Payments Pro Yes Yes
PSiGate Yes No
Stripe Yes Yes
TrustCommerce No 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. 

Quick summary!

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.)