If you’re a fan of 37signal’s Basecamp, you’ll probably like Cashboard, a new application designed to help service-oriented businesses manage estimates, invoices, timesheets and payments. It’s like a combination of SlimTimer for time tracking and Blinksale for invoicing mixed with some basic accounting. It also complements project management systems well. You could, for example, start off in Cashboard by sending a project estimate to a potential client. Then, once the project has been given the go, plan the project and communicate as you normally would in your project management application. While you work, track time, send out invoices, and keep an eye on company payments with Cashboard. And to make things even easier, Cashboard integrates Basecamp so you can sync projects, contacts, and tasks between both applications.
Cashboard has four main areas: Estimates, Projects, Timesheets, and Accounting. Let’s start things off in the estimates area. This is where you go when you need to send an estimate to a potential client for a project. Cashboard allows you to list each task for a project estimate, set with a hourly rate or flat fee, and send the estimate to your potential client. What’s also nice is the ability to add a best and worst case estimate for each task so the client has an idea of possible overhead. Cashboard then allows you to either have your client login to Cashboard’s client area and accept the agreement or let you print out the estimate and send it to your client.
The projects area is the main area of Cashboard and is where you will spend most of your time. Like the Estimates page, you can add and remove tasks and reorder as needed. You and your employees can also log time for a specific task in the task overview. Cashboard also made it very easy for you to keep on top of costs as you add time to tasks. A row will appear stating the billable hours and amount compared to the original estimates or planned hours, which is very helpful for service-oriented businesses. It’s also important to note that when you create your company, you fill in a default hourly rate, but the hourly rate for each employee can be changed on a per project basis in the details area of a project. Cashboard will spot the difference and show your clients the totals based on the company hourly rate while you can view totals based on the company rate and employee rate.
You and your employees can also log their time in the Timesheets area. I’ve tested many time tracking products and I must say Cashboard has done a pretty good job with it. What I like is that it doesn’t force you to track your time a certain way. You can submit time on a daily basis adding the hours you worked for the day manually or using their stopwatch counter. Or you can go into the weekly tab and fill in the amount of hours you worked each day of the week at the end of the week. You can also submit as you go in the “All-time” tab. Whichever way works best for your team, you can do. The only problem I have with the Timesheets page is that the stopwatch counter cuts off when you close the window (maybe adding a simple session when the counter starts would solve this).
The project page also allows you to create invoices from your company’s logged time. Just click, “Create Invoice,” and it will automatically grab the amount of hours each employee has worked and fill in the information for the invoice. You can also add your own items to the invoice manually so anything that wasn’t in the original task list can get invoiced. Cashboard also lets you change the invoice id, sales tax, date range, and add a small note to your invoice. When your invoice is good and ready, send it to your client with Cashboard, which will give your client a login to review it, or print it out to mail to your client. Once you receive the payment from your client, head to the invoice, click “Add Payment” and fill in the amount the client paid up. To close an invoice, just mark the invoice as “paid in full” when adding a payment.
Ok. You’ve created estimates, projects, and invoices. Now you’re ready to view the Accounting area. It’s no QuickBooks, but it covers recent invoices, recent payments, and provides helpful information about client balances and net profits. Perhaps my favorite section of the invoicing page is “Company Cash Stats” which shows totals each employee of your team has made and how much you received from invoices with the end net profit. The cash stats can also be found in an individual project page letting you see how much profit your company actually took in after paying your employees for time on a project. Another helpful section is “Account Balances” which lists each client with collected information on invoices and payments giving you a quick glance at who’s on top of payments and who’s not. My only complaint about the accounting section is that there doesn’t appear to be a way to export the data or print it out.
In all, Cashboard seems to be a helpful product for service-oriented businesses. It’s a well thought out product that was obviously created by people in the design and development industry. You can create estimates, manage projects, manage timesheets from company employees and subcontractors, send off invoices to clients, review company payments and more. I was a bit overwhelmed at first and had some confusion when invoicing clients and splitting employee earnings (figured this out after adding employee hourly rates), but the rest came without problem. It’s also worth mentioning that Cashboard has a Mac Dashboard widget for submitting time and that Basecamp users can sync tasks and use projects from Basecamp.
Cashboard is currently in its alpha stage and offers plans ranging from free to $40 per month. However, and take note, the pricing page states prices are at half price during it’s alpha stage and that pre-launch users will get a promotion code for two free months once the alpha stage has completed.