Comparing Blinksale and Freshbooks with Basecamp integration

by admin on March 6, 2007

in Innovation

More as an experiment than anything else, I ran a comparison between Blinksale and Freshbooks. What spurred me was the recent announcement of the integration between Freshbooks and Basecamp‘s lightweight project management.

For this test, I first set up an account in Basecamp and entered a few project details, including an account, tasks and messages. I then set up a Freshbooks account and completed the Basecamp account details for integration. At first the integration failed because I had not set up the Basecamp API to accept calls from Freshbooks. On checking back at Basecamp, it was not clear that this is something I should do. Similarly, while the instructions on Freshbooks were simple and clear, they are contained in a lightly coloured box to the right hand side and did not immediately catch my eye. Also, be warned – once the API is set up, there is no obvious way to disable it. This could be important in the future should you decide to drop Basecamp add-on services.

Once that was completed, importing Basecamp information was easy. There are two ways to proceed. Per the Freshbooks blog:

Use Case 1 – Basecamp customers need to generate an invoice for Basecamp projects based on their time entries and/or their To-Do lists.

[Watch a Screencast of Use Case 1]

Use Case 2 – Basecamp customers want to import projects into FreshBooks where they can use them to track time. In this scenario your Basecamp project becomes a FreshBooks project and when you create To-Dos in Basecamp, your To-Dos will appear in FreshBooks as tasks. Then, whenever you want, you can invoice for your project like a normal FreshBooks project.

[Watch a Screencast of Option 2]

All straightforward. But this is the point where life can get confusing. If you are on the $49 a month Basecamp plan then you can use time tracking which can be pulled through into Freshbooks. Time recording is also available in Freshbooks but there is no automatic pull through from timesheets. Therefore, if you have projects with numbers of staff engaged, then Basecamp is the way to go with automated pull through into Freshbooks.

The Blinksale process is similar except there is no time and project integration. since I had already set up the Basecamp API, all I needed to do was decide which clients to pull through and from there billing becomes routine.

Which do I prefer? Hard to tell. I love Blinksale’s billing simplicity. But I also like the prospect of project tracking and time recording. I know this runs counter to what I’ve said in the past about timesheets but if you’re engaged on a project requiring time recording then automating it back to the billing process removes more pain.

Apperorblinksale

Stafferrorfb

However, neither system is hassle free and there is the potential for confusion. I was working with the free versions of Freshbooks/Basecamp. While I can have as many staff as I like working in Basecamp, (it is priced per project) I have to upgrade my Freshbooks account for more than a single staff person. The Blinksale import from Basecamp produced an error, although the account details were correctly pulled through. In Freshbooks, I can share documents – ideal when for those small consulting jobs. There is no such facility in Blinksale. I can share documents in Basecamp but only when I create messages.

More important, the Freshbooks/Basecamp combination brings with it a cost issue. I’d really like to automate time updates for billing but then I’m going to be committing to $76 per month. That’s a problem because while I could game both systems by upgrading for a single month where I know I need additional features, it’s still a hefty sum. At the very least, I’m either going to be paying $51 per month. If I go for the Blinksale option then the cost drops to $36 per month. More on this in my next piece.

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Al March 6, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Nice one Dennis,You have obviously spent quite a lot of time on this, I know how much is involved in these types of posts!!

I agree on the costs, it seems out of proportion to the requirement compared to the individual services. The whole service pricing is yet to be tested in a full competitive market place.

I will be riffing on this(and your other SAAS costing post ) post shortly.

regards
Al

Jason March 7, 2007 at 4:16 am

If you're looking to add time tracking to complement a Basecamp plan that doesn't have time tracking, I'd give Harvest a try. It's simple to set up and integrates nicely with Basecamp.

Mike McDerment March 7, 2007 at 5:02 am

Nice write up Dennis – thanks for taking the time to do such a thorough job.

Re price and FreshBooks/Basecamp – I guess I'm a little confused. Can you tell me how many BaseCamp projects you need to manage in Basecamp and how many clients and staff you need to manage in FreshBooks? With that information I will reply in full.

-Mike

Dennis Howlett March 7, 2007 at 5:15 am

Mike – you're right to be confused – I was for several hours before picking my way through what I believe is likely to happen.

This is a pricing issue where one vendor prices one way, another prices differently and it leads to a conflict.

Basecamp prices per project. I take that to be a discrete piece of work with multiples user/inputs. You price per user. See where that goes?

My assumption was that in a reasonable sized VSB/SMB then I'd probably need 2 accounts type (me + backup) people and I'd need a certain number of projects. Because of the current price breaks, that makes a *reasonable* combined figure of the kind I describe.

There is no easy answer without breaking revenue models but it illustrates the different way of thinking as exists between 'departments.'

I'm not sure of the answer. I tried to pose the value question which I think is much more importantthan pure cost but I'm not sure I presented a totally convincing argument. I'm also mindful that VSB/SMB doesn't necessarily think in those terms.

If this makes sense then over to you.

Al March 7, 2007 at 1:21 pm

Actually a in many cases a full blow Basecamp + Freshbooks approach could be overkill.

For time tracking one could even use GCal as part of Google Apps, this combined with Google spreadsheets could provide a poor mans project management.

In fact for a really poor man's version you might not even need Freshbooks, just use GSpreadsheet and share those via email with your clients!

Worth thinking about.

Mike McDerment March 7, 2007 at 5:18 pm

Fair enough Dennis.

Just so we are clear, if you use FreshBooks' time tracking capabilities instead of Basecamp's, you and one staff could use FreshBooks to track time on unlimited projects in FreshBooks for FREE – no expiry…period. Let's say you have ten projects on the go, that will cost you $24's for Basecamp – whether you use FreshBooks or not. If you need to bill 25 clients that would cost you $14 for FreshBooks, bringing your total to about $39. To track time and bill for the same number of clients with Basecamp and Blinksale would costs you $12 for blinksale + $50 for Basecamp because you'd need to pay for their time tracking version, so your total is $62.

Does that add up to you?

Cheers,

- Mike

Al March 7, 2007 at 9:30 pm

After surveying various service pricing on different web sites I decided to create a collaborative matrix to track pricing. please take a look and add in any missing information or services (SaaS) that would interest businesses.

Please feel free to use this.

regards
Al

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