Online Invoicing & Accounting: Freshbooks vs. Harvest vs. Billings vs. FreeAgent vs. Kashoo vs. Xero vs. Wave vs. LessAccounting

Posted by on Mar 19, 2011 in Comparison Reviews | 22 Comments


Ah, the magic of the internet. Finally, we can integrate our front-end (invoicing) with our back-end (accounting) and do it all from any computer anywhere in the world via a web-based interface. If you’re running a small business that is service based (i.e. Freelancer,  Consultant, Web Designer, Developer, etc), the sooner you start using these incredibly cheap tools to streamline your bookkeeping and time/project management, the better. I resisted anything to do with numbers for many years, but finally learned (the hard way) that running a business without having some basic understanding of bookkeeping is like buying a boat without learning to swim: you don’t have to be an Olympian, but you should at least know how to dog paddle.

A well-integrated system––from estimate to production to invoicing to accounting–– is the key to freeing up time and keeping your accountant happy. I spent a week researching, testing and evaluating these top contenders: Freshbooks, Billings, Harvest, Kashoo, FreeAgent and Xero. They  all handle global clients, multiple currencies, compound tax, online invoicing & payments. Some also include accounting software. And they’re all on Twitter. I wanted the simplest, best integrated, most robust system available.

Freshbooks: simple, clean, user-friendly, idiot-proof, extremely popular.
Based in Toronto. $20/month
Pros: Great name and marketing. Simple interface. Integrates with Basecamp, Kashoo and Xero. Allows you to see when a client has viewed, approved and paid an invoice. Also has a send-by-snail-mail feature. Great front-end for your services. Built specifically for service-based small businesses, it has everything a freelancer/consultant needs and no extraneous junk (no restaurants, no manufacturing, no retail).
Cons: Expensive compared to the alternatives, but then, so is an iPhone: you get what you pay for.

Harvest: the lean little project management machine.
Based in NYC. $12 to $40/month.
Pros: Known for its A+ time tracking and project management, it also offers estimates and invoicing. Export in Excel/CSV. Integrates well with Basecamp, HighRise, GoogleDocs, Coop and Outright. Scalable. Popular with start-ups. Far more sophisticated and feature-rich than Freshbooks. I’ve used Harvest for years and love it.
Online payments via PayPal only avail for US$ invoices. No accounting software, but connects to Outright (for US customers).

Billings: popular with graphic designers and Mac users.
Based in Toronto. $7/month
Pros: gorgeous estimate, proposal and invoice templates. Fully customizable. Fantastic looking front-end for your services. Won an Apple Design Award 2009.
Cons: Invoice design is so dazzling it can take a minute to figure out where the $ totals are. Not connected to other add-ons. No accounting. You host the data yourself so you better be diligent about back-ups and securing your machines and gadgets. You must be running the latest MacOS.

Kashoo: The new kid on the block.
Based in Vancouver. $10/month for everything.
Pros:  Phone support (!) plus email/forum support. Import your bank statement to cut down on data entry. Connected to an extensive network of accountants  across Canada. Integrates with Freshbooks for time-tracking & invoicing and eSmart tax for easy tax filing .
Cons: Post-sign up interface is not nearly as pretty as the pre-sign up. No integration with Harvest or Basecamp.

FreeAgent: soup-to-nuts services.
Based in UK.  $20/month for everything and everyone.
Pros: Perfect for entrepreneurs intending to grow. CSS customizable invoices. Interactive visual charts. Jargon-free. Clean, simple, sleek interface. No need for add-ons. Webinars and how-to videos. Import your bank statement to cut down on data entry.
Cons: Minimal integration of payments via PayPal, but they’re working on it. Phone, forum and email support on UK time-zone only.

Xero: the Ferrari
Based in New Zealand (yep, New Zealand). $10 – $40/month for multi-currency.
Pros: Gorgeous interface with groovy interactive graphs and charts. Most popular system with (the few) forward-thinking accountants online. Including mine (in Montreal). Best choice for multi-currencies. For service or product-based businesses (ecommerce with inventory, payroll, time tracking). Import your bank statement to cut down on data entry.  Also has a Personal Checking option for $30 per year. Syncs with Freshbooks, PayPal,, and many more.
: Expensive if you need multi-currency option.

**Late additions**

Wave:  the freebie (with ads)
Based in Toronto. Free, but with ads (same concept as GMail)
They received 5 million in venture cap October 11, 2011 and the President is quoted as saying “there are many online accounting services in the market, but none of them offers full-range services, free of charge. In 11 short months, we have signed in 75,000 small businesses in 198 countries to our services… When you’re logged into Wave you’ll see unobtrusive yet clearly marked Business Savings on pages like your Dashboard.”
Pros: Did I mention it’s free??
Cons: includes ads, tech support is email only, weekdays 9 – 5 EST
I’m not sure they offer They do not offer compound taxes (State and Federal compounded, not just 2 separate taxes) or true multi-currency (i.e. you have bank accounts in 2 currencies and customers in multiple countries).  They sound promising, but they’re awfully new…I’d be inclined to wait another 6 months to see if they’re still around. Maybe Google will buy them :) Update Sep 2012: Wave now supports compound taxes. Incidentally, tech support response time via email averaged a 5 day turnaround. Consensus amongst colleagues seems to be that they ‘need a bit more time on the vine.’

LessAccounting: the bootstrappers
Florida-based, $30/month, operating since 2007.
Run by 2 savvy developers, with a helpful compare page ( where you can see (their version of) the differences between them and Xero, QuickBooks, Outright and Freshbooks. Also a list of apps they integrate with; note that they do not list Freshbooks, probably since they also offer a simlar adjunct service called LessTimeSpent.
: Slick code, lotsa features, and they’ve had time to improve it.
Cons: Not sure if they offer true multi-currency support or compound taxes. Their About page shows that they have built other apps (LessProjects, LessTimeSpent) which makes me wonder if their main focus is accounting or general app development. The interface looks like it was designed by programmers, not designers: it needs a shot of pretty, stat.

Conclusion: If you’re in the US, Harvest Freshbooks + Outright is the way to go. If you’re in Canada, Freshbooks + Xero (or Kashoo) for medium-sized businesses, or the all-in-one FreeAgent for small businesses and freelancers. Billings is a great front-end for Mac users but does not integrate with any online accounting services. I ultimately went with Xero, as I have clients in Canada and the US, so I needed multi-currency support. Plus I just love the sleek, modern interface. Hey, when all else is equal, a gorgeous look and feel is the deciding factor (for me).


  1. Emily Coltman
    March 20, 2011

    Hello Belinda,
    Many thanks for looking at FreeAgent and for writing us up here!
    Just to set the record straight we do provide telephone support but it is on UK hours only unfortunately – 9am-5pm Mon-Fri UK time, on 0800 2888 691.
    If you have any further queries please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
    Kind regards,

    • bdarcey
      June 28, 2011

      Thanks for letting me know. I’ve corrected it in the blog post.

  2. Sergey Y.
    June 28, 2011

    Very helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Debbie
    August 2, 2011

    Thanks for this great article, I think I’ll be switching to Harvest + Outright.

    • Thomas Scibilia
      December 27, 2011

      I tested harvest & outright but didn’t like it because harvest doesn’t export expense data to outright. Wave and kashoo have no mobile solutions which is important to small biz owners.

      So I’m still stuck signing up for each service to test looking for the right one

      • bdarcey
        December 31, 2011

        Hi Thomas,

        Kashoo has had an iPad app since August 2011: Wave still has no compound tax option so is useless for Quebec businesses. I spent 10 hours inputting data before discovering this issue.

  4. Karen at Harvest
    August 9, 2011

    Just wanted to say thanks for checking out (and using) Harvest, and for mentioning us in your post with the top invoicing app contenders. We’re happy to hear how much you like Harvest, and our support includes phones (with a real live person!), email, and forum as well! In terms of receiving international payments via Paypal, Business Payments are only available for USD, but PayPal Standard and Website Payments Pro are available internationally.
    Please feel free to get in touch with us if you do have any questions – we’re constantly improving things here, and we love to hear from our users!
    Karen, Harvest Community Manager

  5. Miro Scarfiotti (@smiro2000)
    September 8, 2011

    Thank you for the review, it helped me settle on FreeAgent.
    I used FreshBooks for a month trial and loved it but I want to try something with some cloud accounting and bookkeeping goodness.
    Two iPhone apps where released recently to manage your account on the go as well…

  6. hlodo
    October 14, 2011

    What about LessAccounting?

    • hlodo
      October 14, 2011

      They also offer real bookkeepers at $70 or $270 per month depending how much time you need, as well as automatic daily synch with your bank. And the other one I have been looking at is Wave Accounting which is free and also has the daily synching. Too many choices!

  7. bdarcey
    October 14, 2011

    Hi hlodo,

    I had not heard of LessAccounting or WaveAccounting. I’ve added my assessment above, after some quick research.

  8. Christine Gleed
    October 26, 2011

    Really helpful post. Thank you. We are trying the freshbooks/Wave accounting combo for our consulting business.

  9. Goran
    January 30, 2012

    Struggling to figure out which is best… Good post. Which offers the best recurring billing

  10. Dartanyon
    February 17, 2012

    Hi there. Thank you for you article. I’m trying to make the same decisions you are … I was wondering when you decided on Freshbooks + Xero … Why are you including Freshbooks in the eqaution? Don’t the features overlap? ie. Can’t you invoice from Xero, and not use Freshbooks at all?

    • bdarcey
      February 17, 2012

      You can, but Freshbooks offers 5 important features that I love: 1) easy interface where clients can instantly view their invoice, 2) it tracks when a client has viewed an invoice (no more “I didn’t get your invoice”), 3) they can pay instantly with a credit card or PayPal (I love getting paid quickly) 4) you can set up email reminders and late fees that automatically get sent to client if an invoice is overdue (I used to be very slack at followup), and 5) ability to send by email *and* a snailmail copy with a click of a button instead of having to print and go to the post office (hey it’s cold in Montreal).

  11. Anthony DiRuggiero (@tony__d)
    June 26, 2012

    Thanks for this posting. I’ve shared my solution below:

    I’ve been using freshbooks and waveaccounting. Why? Because I’m cheap!!!

    Wave can do almost everything I need, with the exception of snailmail and multiple to: contacts. (I have one client that I send 2 invoices, one to the president and one to the treasurer). First three clients are are included, but supposedly if your client is on freshbooks they don’t count against your free allotment. Also, you can’t beat FB time management.

    Have you considered updating this article?

  12. Amber
    December 21, 2012

    Really, you liked the Xero interface better than Freeagent? I’m going to look again. Thanks for the great review!

  13. andrea
    March 9, 2013

    Thank you for your post. I am using FB for the first 30 days of freelancing, but just signed up for Harvest so that I can compare.

    I am confused by your post. You said you loved Harvest and have been using it for years, but at the end of the article you have a strikethru for Harvest and recommend FB and Outright for US users. Did I miss something?

    I hope I get to hear from you as I know this article was written a few years back.


    • bdarcey
      March 14, 2013

      Hi Andrea,

      Harvest lost ground to FreshBooks a couple of years ago but has been catching up lately. They are now integrated with Not sure about Personally, I find the Freshbooks invoicing and history aspects more helpful, as you can see when a client has viewed the invoice as well when they’ve paid. This is key for freelancers and small businesses. But a mid-size business (10 – 50 employees) would probably prefer Harvest for its excellent Time tracking/Project reports. Freshbooks started as an invoicing-focused company, Harvest as a time-tracking company. These days, they both cover both aspects, but they retain their original biases, in my opinion. If you’re still not sure, try both for 6 weeks and then decide.

  14. J Reid
    April 24, 2013

    Brillant article – I have a solo Architecture-practice, and was very interested to find a quick but powerful timekeeper/invoice program. I then realized it would be great to have my accounting be easy and integrated as well.
    I have been trying Freshbooks, and it is very intuitive and simple – the invoicing and timekeeping functions are so easy to use on my laptop and iPhone. I also looked at Harvest but didn’t like the invoicing feature as much.
    As of this morning, I am trying FreeAgent based on your review, and finding that it is probably going to wind up being my go to. I like the integrated accounting and banking features that just don’t exist in Freshbooks. Now… to find a simple timekeeper. Toggl?

    • Akmal Fikri
      October 1, 2013

      Harvest got it’s own timekeeper.