One of the biggest challenges freelancers face is getting the ‘business stuff’ right. Far too many freelance careers have tanked because a supremely talented designer couldn’t manage his or her cashflow.
There are a plethora of solutions designed to help small businesses — from freelancers up to and including anyone that can’t afford their own accounts department — maximise their revenue. One of the more pleasing options on the market is Hiveage.
Hiveage calls itself a billing system, but it’s actually a little more than that; you can store business contacts, keep an archive of invoices, even record your hours.
Its core feature, invoicing clients, is also absolutely free. If you find yourself enjoying it, there are additional add-ons that you can purchase.
What we like about Hiveage, having spent some time with it, is that it’s pretty simple to get to grips with. Some invoicing applications are far too complex, you essentially need to hire an accountant to make the most of them; others are far too simple, they let you create invoices, but you’ll need to fill in the gaps they leave yourself; Hiveage seems to get the balance just right.
Hiveage also allows you to pass estimates to clients, which can be accepted and converted into invoices — this is one area that, whilst it may work for many small businesses, feels a little weak for web designers. It’s a very bad idea to separate your estimate from a more structured proposal, the last thing you want is a client making a decision to hire you based on price alone; there’s always someone cheaper. If you’re going to use this option best to win the job first, then send the estimate as confirmation.
Probably the best thing about this kind of application is the archiving of your invoicing that allows you to manage your cashflow. That kind of detailed record is a godsend come tax season. Hiveage excells at this, with a variety of charts that let you monitor the state of your finances, so you know exactly when to knuckle down, and when you can indulge in some pro bono work.
The one weak spot with Hiveage is that when using the free plan, there’s limited personal branding. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, most companies will appreciate a freelancer organised enough to use a professional invoicing solution — however it doesn’t reinforce your brand. You can add your logo, and personal color scheme, but the customisation ends there. When you’re starting out, or even just winning new work, creating a lasting visual impression is vital, so the limited branding options is mildly disappointing.
Two more features that are conspicuous by their absence are client statements and mobile apps. Let’s hope that these are added in a future update.
On December 1st, Hiveage will be launching its Cyber Monday deal, which offers $100 saving on their medium plan, the regular price of which is $299.95. If you sign up for a free trial now, you can take advantage of the offer when it arrives.
If you’re earning a living as a web designer — and even more so if you’re working hard and not earning a living — professional invoicing is crucial to your bottomline, and Hiveage is a simple way to do it well.
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