FreeAgent user review plus discount code

As a freelance designer I’ve tried various accounting software, but nothing had really clicked with me, that was until a few months ago when I discovered FreeAgent.

If you’re also a freelancer or run a small business then it’s definitely worth reading on to see if FreeAgent might be a good fit for you too.

It’s important for me as a freelancer to be able to clearly see all of my finances, such as exactly what money I have coming in and out, and from and to whom. I was looking for software that could show me all that, but at the same time I wanted something that was really simple to use and wouldn’t use up much of my time.

I had tried several other types of accounting software, web based and mac based, but none had really suited me that well. They were either not quite what I was looking for, or far too complicated, taking ages to learn how to use, or else took ages to enter the necessary information, and then I heard about FreeAgent, so thought I’d give it a try.

'FreeAgent logo

What exactly is FreeAgent?

Basically, FreeAgent is an online accounting software for small businesses and freelancers, which allows you to manage your book-keeping and invoicing. The company launched in 2007 and is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Although it can be used globally, some of it’s features are tailored towards UK businesses, such as tax returns and self assessment forms, so its worth bearing that in mind (see update at end of post in regard to launch of FreeAgent America). They offer three levels of paid accounts: ‘Sole Trader’, ‘Partnership/LLP’ and ‘Limited Company’ – payable monthly or yearly and can be cancelled at any time online. Also, as an online service, it will work on a Mac or PC, using your usual web browser.

'FreeAgent's 'Overview' window

FreeAgent’s ‘Overview’ window.

There are many aspects of your business that FreeAgent can tackle, such as Estimates, Time Tracking, Invoicing, Expenses, Banking, Accounting and Taxes. However, to really appreciate just how much it can do, check out the features listed below.

Estimates

  • Create estimates, proposals and quotes with your own workflow
  • Quickly convert estimates to invoices in one click
  • Estimate in any currency with multi-currency support
  • Track estimate status through approval or rejection history
  • Combine estimates into a single invoice
  • Multi-language with over 10 different languages

Time Tracking

  • Quickly add daily timeslips for your current projects
  • Automatically generate invoices from unbilled time
  • Integration with Desktop Time Tracking widgets for more control
  • Add weekly timesheets for speedy input of your time
  • Generate flexible PDF reports from your timeslips
  • Add unbillable time to projects to track profitability

Invoicing

  • Quickly build professional, great-looking invoices
  • Create recurring invoices that send automatically
  • Add payments against invoices to track when they’re paid
  • Save or email your invoices to clients as a PDF
  • Send late-payment reminders and thank-yous
  • Add time-based, expense or product invoice items

Expenses

  • Keep track of Out-of-Pocket Expenses with flexible reporting by date and user
  • All expenses accounted for in your real-time accounts and tax liabilities
  • Business expenses are tracked through reconciliation with company bank accounts
  • Attach expense receipts scans for reference and download

Banking

  • Import electronic statements from your online bank account
  • Reconcile invoices and bills generated through FreeAgent
  • Explain transactions as categorised credits and debits
  • Build up detailed business accounts and view interactive balance charts

Accounting

  • Simple Online Bookkeeping Software
  • Profit & loss charts show money going in and out
  • Give your accountant access so they can check your figures and advise
  • Always up-to-date with laws & regulations
  • Accounts are broken down into plain English
  • No incomprehensible accounting jargon or terminology

Taxes

  • Your Tax Timeline shows you what taxes are owed, how much and when
  • Export important tax dates to your Outlook or Google calendar
  • Support for Self Assessed Income Tax, VAT and Corporation Tax
  • Create Simple Payroll and track PAYE/NI liabilities/payments
'FreeAgent's 'Tax Timeline' window

FreeAgent’s ‘Tax Timeline’ window.

My favourite FreeAgent feature

Personally, I don’t use all of the features FreeAgent offers, but that’s the beauty of the software, you don’t have to. You can choose to use as little or as much of it as suits you and your work flow. I already have a system I use to send out proposals and quotes which I’m happy with, so at least for now I’m using that rather than the one built into FreeAgent. However, there is a benefit to using more of its features, as they all tie in together, so the more you use, the simpler the whole process becomes.

The main feature FreeAgent has that really persuaded me to pay for the service, was banking. I absolutely love the fact that each month I can upload a bank statement (or PayPal statement) and can manually assign information to each transaction (such as the payment or debit type, vat rate, category, description and more), or allow FreeAgent to automatically assign the information for me – as the more you use it the more precise it becomes by copying the details you gave a similar transaction.

It wasn’t long before I could blast through a month’s transactions within 20 minutes. It’s great to then view the interactive balance charts FreeAgent offers to see the exact state of my accounts for that month and how they compare to previous months at a single glance. Also, with all the banking information defined, this is then used to automatically complete FreeAgent’s yearly self assessment form, which is a real time saver as I can then just copy this data to the HMRC’s online form.

'FreeAgent's 'Bank Accounts' window

FreeAgent’s ‘Bank Accounts’ window.

'FreeAgent's 'Profit and Loss' window

FreeAgent’s ‘Profit and Loss’ window.

Site Design and Usability

The site design is clean and simple with a nice friendly feel. The overall colour scheme is mainly grey and white, though there are splashes of colour here and there to draw attention to important information, with enough white space to allow it to stand out. The navigation is well laid out and easy to follow, where nothing is more than a couple of clicks away.

In terms of access, although the service is web based, so will work on most computers, it does use Adobe Flash for charts and graphs, so these won’t show up on devices that don’t support it, such as the iPhone or iPad (see update at end of post in regard to mobile friendly redesign).

'FreeAgent's 'Recent Open and Approved Estimates' window

FreeAgent’s ‘Recent Open and Approved Estimates’ window.

'FreeAgent's 'Invoice Payment Timeline' window

FreeAgent’s ‘Invoice Payment Timeline’ window.

Security and Support

I was reluctant at the start about using a web-based service, I had spent more time looking at Mac based accounting software, as I was worried about security issues, but from reading the details on their site it all seems very secure, using 256-bit SSL connections, and the data is backed-up and transferred offsite every five minutes. Which means no matter what happens to my computer or back-ups, I know my data is safe and secure, as much as it possibly can be anyway. Also, your data can be downloaded at any time, even after you have cancelled your paid account.

I found the short video tutorials on their site to be very useful when starting out with FreeAgent, and there is various other information, such as ‘Questions and Answers’ and a ‘User Forum’ to help with the learning process (which really doesn’t take long at all). There’s also a FreeAgent Depot which shows a roadmap of improvements to the site, which is good to see.

Another important point to mention is the great customer support, which I found to be very quick. I’ve only had to email them a couple of times with queries over the last few months – an automated response is sent first confirming receipt, and then a further email within an hour or two answering my queries.

'FreeAgent's 'Homepage' and 'Depot' windows

FreeAgent’s ‘Homepage’ and ‘Depot’ windows.

And Finally… A Free 30-day Trial

If you’ve read this far then you’ll know just how great I think FreeAgent is, therefore, I would recommend anyone that thinks it could be right for them to give it a try – they offer a 30-Day Free Trial so you really have nothing to lose!

If after 30 days of signing up using the link below you decide to become a paid subscriber, you’ll receive a 10% discount (as will I, so thanks in advance) – but that discount is not just for a month, it’s for however long you continue to use the service. Not only that, if you then go on to refer others to FreeAgent, you’ll get an extra 10% discount for each paid subscriber, reducing how much you pay each month, until it’s TOTALLY FREE!

'FreeAgent 30-day free trial offer

Get 10% Discount with this FreeAgent Referral Code: 417m2422

Update

Since writing this post last year FreeAgent have made several improvements to their site and what they can offer, so I wanted to do a quick update of what these changes are and how they may impact their users.

Firstly, there’s been a complete redesign of the FreeAgent site, which now looks much fresher and is easier to navigate and use. Also, the redesign addresses one of the minor issues I had with the previous site, in that the charts and graphs used Adobe Flash. This is no longer the case, making the site more mobile friendly and is even optimised for the iPad.

The next big change was the launch of FreeAgent America, which includes the formation of a new US Team, whose main focus will be improving FreeAgent for businesses in the States. This will open FreeAgent up to those wanting accounting software compatible with the US system, including those that were put off by some of the issues caused by differences between the UK and US, such as date formats, zip codes etc.

Finally, FreeAgent now allows clients to pay invoices online using PayPal and GoCardless. This was a much requested feature, so it’s good to see it implemented.

About the author

Paul Galbraith is a logo and brand identity designer, working with startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs in the UK, USA and beyond.