Ugh. Expense reports. Is there anything worse? Well, maybe billing time. Or the dentist. And despite fervent prayers, the expense fairy never shows up when you need her, does she? Despite this less than exciting part of the PR process, you’re better off facing this finance headache, well, head-on.
The good news is that whether you are a freelance publicist or agency CEO, technology is on your side. We’ve found three apps that aim to simplify the process. From invoicing clients to producing quick and borderline painless expense reports, colleagues will be left wondering when you earned your CFA.
A Fresh Way to Invoice and Track Time
FreshBooks offers cloud-based accounting services that are specifically geared independent contractors and small shops sending out multiple client invoices. The app lets users track and organize expenses and invoices, alongside client information. You can also track those billable hours in either a list or calendar format, making it easy to keep track of productivity. Freshbooks will also let you send price quotes, create invoices, receive expense reports and set up recurring invoices which are perfect for retainer clients.
To use Freshbooks for an expense report, simply enter the billing amount, attach a photo of a receipt, and add the category, client name, vendor, date and any additional notes for the expense. Once you’ve finished you can convert the expense report into invoice or PDF to be sent back to the office or client.
Pro: Freshbooks offers you all this with the added benefit of the cloud, making your information accessible from anywhere and from any device. You can rest assured that your data is always backed up, safe and secure even if the network is down, your hard drive crashes, or you forget your iPad on the plane. Access to PayPal makes for easy, expedited payment options for invoices.
Con: The app is technically free for up to 3 clients, but agencies and busy freelance publicists will likely need a paid package. Syncing with Quickbooks appears to be a bit iffy.
Price/Compatibility: Available online through the Freshbooks website. App is iPhone and iPad only
- $19.95/month for up to 25 clients
- $29.95/month for unlimited clients
- $39.95/month for advanced team features.
Make Receipts Your.....(You get the idea)
Let the experts at Shoeboxed Receipt Tracker organize all the crumpled receipts at the bottom of your purse. Scan with your phone, email or mail Shoeboxed your receipts, business cards, bills and any other documents you need to keep ahold of. Everything will be carefully sorted and scanned into your secure online account, with an IRS-accepted image of each document.
Pro: This app is also one of the better options when it comes to fluid integration with QuickBooks, since you’ll have access to every receipt whether its from a business trip or a federal tax filing. You can also export your documents to a variety of other programs aside from just QuickBooks, like Wave, Xero, Outright, Evernote, or Excel. The latest version of the app also allows you to track mileage.
Con: While Shoeboxed offers a bare-bones version for free (with DIY scanning of receipts), if you’re looking for additional help scanning in a large number of documents you will need to consider paying for one of the higher levels of service. Also, having to pack everything up and ship it out is a bit of a pain.
Price/Compatability: For iPhone/iPad and Android and online at Shoeboxed.com
$9.95/month – or 2 months free with annual plan. (Your receipts and cards will not be returned to you if you mail them to Shoeboxed)
$29.95/month – or 2 months free with annual plan.
$49.95/month – or 2 months free with annual plan.
Expense on the Fly with Expensify!
Expensify provides similar services options above - easy monitoring and tracking of all of your business expenses. But Expensify received some of the highest user reviews for expense management on the go. Link credit cards, snap photos of receipts, and organize them all in one place. Send unlimited reports to anyone back in the office or export reports to PDF.
Pro: The app integrates with a variety of other tools including ACH Direct Deposit and Paypal, and will still let you import expense reports directly into your company’s QuickBooks accounts. Once you’ve uploaded a receipt, it’s “smart mode” will instantly read and fill in all of the expense fields for you: company or client name, the amount, and category of expense.
Con: Although we could see ourselves relying only on “smart mode,” the number of these that you get in the app’s free version is limited. Additionally, if you add too many custom categories for classifying receipts as opposed to using the default categories, you might run into slowness with uploads.
Price/Compatability: Free for individual users; 2 free sign ups per company, with each additional user costing $6 to $11. iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry & WebOS apps.
What tools do you use to keep track of your expenses?
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Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk