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I am starting a freelance design services business and need to handle project management and billing.

I was planning on creating the proposal in Adobe InDesign and then sending the invoice through FreshBooks. Unfortunately, that is going to require some copy and pasting and could be receptive, time consuming work.

How can I make sure that I can quickly and efficiently create proposals and send invoices without it taking up a lot of time?

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • Hey Jacob, welcome to Freelancing SE! On our site, when a post is put on-hold, it puts it into a process where an edit can be made to improve it. Questions that poll the community don't fit our Q&A format, so if you can describe the problem you're facing and then reword as a more definitive question, we can look at reopening. – jmort253 Nov 23 '13 at 23:28
  • I edited out the polling language and have reopened. To answerers, we're looking for answers that explain why and how. Answers that don't do so may be removed. Good luck! :) – jmort253 Nov 23 '13 at 23:34
  • copy/pasting is most times inevitable. Like I make a usual textual list of features accross multiple emails, and then the client asks for official estimation. Then I have to copy all that info 1 doc, format it and send it to him. Hate it every time doing, but what else we can do. It's like brushing your teeth - hate doing it every night and morning, but you do it anyway :). – Peter MV Nov 26 '13 at 8:17
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(NOTE: Before moving forward, check your level of service with FreshBooks. Some features may not be available in the free tier.)

Staying Within FreshBooks

I've used FreshBooks since 2009 and have found at least a couple of ways to develop a fairly streamlined proposal system that stays within FreshBooks. If your proposal is simple enough, then see if the 'Terms' or 'Notes' section in the Estimate or Invoice is a good spot for that. I've also outlined proposals as bullet points using line items on an Estimate/Invoice.

But for more complex proposals, especially ones involving images, files, or illustrations, the key is to use the 'Documents' feature. I've found that PDF files are the easiest to share, so the first thing you may want to do is to make sure your proposal is in PDF form.

  • Documents

    Look for the 'Documents' tab on your FreshBooks' dashboard. It's close to the end of the main menu across the top of your screen. If you don't see it, then go into 'Settings > Permissions' to make sure that 'Documents' is enabled as needed. This feature allows authorized users to create folders, upload files, and share documents with staff and clients. The account admin can set global permissions or specify restrictions for each user.

  • Folders

    Decide how you want to structure your folder tree (ie. by client and/or by project). Files are not allowed to be uploaded into the root, so a folder needs to be created first in order to upload any files. Once this is done, upload your proposal and any supporting files to the desired folder. You can now share this folder with your client as you see fit.

  • Estimates/Invoices

    One way to tie the invoice (or estimate) to your proposal docs that are in the Documents section is to convert your invoice to PDF and upload it into the same folder as the proposal. If you can, consider combining all docs into one PDF file first, then uploading it into the folder.

  • Reference The Proposal Docs

    Whether combined or separate, be sure to name the proposal document along with any other required docs. Then reference them somewhere on the Estimate/Invoice, either as a line item, noted in the 'Terms' section, or highlighted in the 'Notes' section.

  • FreshBooks support offers essentially the same solutions here: http://community.freshbooks.com/support/can-i-attach-a-file-to-an-invoice-estimate-email/
  • FreshBooks Add-Ons

    FreshBooks also offers a list of add-ons that "connect to your FreshBooks account, giving you new functionality and creating a workflow catered to your business." These add-ons include popular project management apps such as BaseCamp, along with payment gateway, accounting, time-tracking apps and more. For a full list see http://community.freshbooks.com/addons/


Outside Of FreshBooks

  • Email. Attaching your proposal as a PDF file to good 'ol email still works as long as it's not too big. For larger files, consider using Box, GoogleDrive, or DropBox.
  • DropBox. I use the 'share link' or 'shared folder' features available in DropBox. If a client uses DropBox then I prefer to create and share a folder with them. It just syncs automatically. And just like I would in FreshBooks, I can create the folder structure as needed. For non-users, I usually create a folder, upload project files to it and share the link to that folder via email. As long as I don't rename the folder or change its location, I can add, delete, or edit its contents. The folder stays updated with the latest while the link remains valid and can be bookmarked.

So there's a few ideas from my own workflow. Hope this helps get the ball rolling for you!

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