Billings Touch allows you to easily track time and manage invoices on your iPhone. It’s perfect for freelancers and small businesses, and comes in two different versions: free and a paid in-app purchase ($14.99). The latter unlocks the ability to sync your data back to your Billings desktop application and to send invoices directly from your iPhone.
Today we’ll be taking an in-depth look at Billings Touch, analysing the features on offer (both in the free and paid versions), and generally showcasing the app!
After downloading the app, the welcome screen presents you with three different options. Pairing with a Mac will only work with the paid version, which you can purchase by tapping ‘Learn More’. Alternatively, you can go ahead and enter your personal details by selecting ‘Start from Scratch’.
You can enter your own details either by hand or – conveniently – select information directly from your contacts list. An image for the logo can be chosen from the image library. If you don’t have an image handy, don’t worry. You can edit all these settings later as well.
The next steps take you through setting your regional taxes and your rates. The currency shown in your rates depends on your device’s Region Format (Settings –> General –> International –> Region Format). Currently it’s not possible to select a currency different from your set region. After that you are all done and you’ll be presented with the Billings Touch main screen.
The Main Screen
From here, you can access all your data and you are presented with an overview of your current work. The top six icons grant you fast access to adding expenses of various kinds. The middle part of the screen can be switched between a time view and an earnings view, with the current day always being the last to be displayed to the far right. As of the time of writing this review, only timed slips will show up on the diagram, fixed slips do not.
All slips – time recordings, expenses etc. – are stored in the ‘Unfiled Slips’ section until you assign them to a customer’s project. Through the three bottom icons you can either add clients and projects (Work) or start timing away (Timer).
Clients, Projects & Slips
To understand how to manage time and expenses with Billings Touch, you need to understand the difference between clients, projects and slips. Clients are either people or businesses you work for. They can have one or multiple projects assigned to them. Your work time (slip) and your expenses can be assigned to a project.
Setting up a client is as easy as tapping the ‘Work’ icon on the main screen and then adding a client from your contacts list or entering the information by hand. Clients can also be arranged into groups – very helpful if you have many clients and want to organize them into categories for easier management (e.g. Web clients, Print clients etc). Projects are being shown in the client’s info window, while the ‘Accounts’ tab becomes relevant once you start invoicing or receive a payment.
Tracking Time and Expenses
No matter if you charge your clients a fixed rate, track your time, or need to bill expenses you had for their project – Billings Touch is perfectly capable of handling all these methods.
Timing your work is as easy as tapping the ‘Timer’ icon on the bottom right of the screen and starting the timer. A small red badge on the clock icon and – should you leave the application – on the Billings Touch icon will indicate that time tracking is commencing. You can pause and resume any time; you can also start a ‘New Timed Slip’ and enter time you’ve already spent but haven’t tracked yet.
Once you are done timing, you can ‘File’ the slip – that means you assign it to a project. The same goes for all other expenses or efforts. If you haven’t set up a project yet, the slips will be unfiled (they are never lost).
A very convenient feature is the ability to add expenses and time directly from within the ‘Projects’ window. This way you don’t need to file slips afterwards. In addition, Billings (both the mobile version and the desktop app) offer the option to assign a slip to ‘Personal Projects’, for example if you want to monitor time you can’t bill to clients.
All recordings can be edited, deleted or amended at any given point, making it easy to compensate for additional unexpected work efforts or even errors while managing expenses or tracking time.
Creating Invoices & Managing Payments
Until this point, you’ve tracked time and collected expenses. Now it’s time to charge your client and send them an invoice. Billings Touch makes that incredibly simple. If projects have unbilled slips assigned to them, making an invoice is as simple as touching the corresponding button (“Make Invoice”). All slips assigned to a project will be added to the invoice, but you can deselect any if needed (checkmark icon in front of each item).
Want to change the order of the Slips? No problem. They can be rearranged by holding down on an item and dragging it up or down.
Prior to creating an invoice, you can change the prefix of the invoice’s name and the numbering in the Settings panel. Additionally, you can chose if you want to have a client’s previous balance shown on the invoice or not. Billings Touch comes with three pre-installed invoice templates. Their details can be adjusted trough the bottom menu. You can customize the invoice date, payment term and due date. You can also add a note, thanking your client for the business or reminding them if there are any other overdue statements.
Created invoices are shown in your client’s ‘Accounts’ tab. From there, you can also manage payments and retainers (a type of down payment), which can be applied to invoices prior to creation.
Features of the Paid Version
Billings Touch has a number of “pro” features, that can be unlocked with a $14.99 in-app purchase. These features include the ability to sync with your desktop Mac application, and sending invoices directly via email.
You can only sync from the desktop application (see explanation here) and on your first sync attempt you will be asked to pick either your desktop version of Billings or the mobile app as the primary information source. The other database will be replaced, so it’s better to have a backup, just in case (it would be nice if this option would be offered on first sync).
After entering a numerical code on your iPhone, the sync commences. For all following syncs it will start automatically when Billings on the Mac is running and the iPhone app is launched. It’s very fast and you have your data shown almost instantly in either application. I expected there to be more to the sync – having to adjust settings etc – but it really is that simple and painless.
The mobile application rivals it’s big desktop brother in power. Except for maybe the ‘Reports’ feature of the desktop app it brings everything you need to keep track of your work while away from your Mac. The well designed user interface is a pleasure to use, even if you have never before used a time tracking or billing application.
Considering that the mobile app is only a couple of weeks old, it’s amazingly stable and helpful. That said, there are a few areas for improvement over the coming months.
The app falls short when it comes to the visual customization of invoices. For now you are stuck with the three variations included and cannot sync your personally designed invoices back to the mobile app. Additonally, Billings Touch only sends invoices as HTML attachements. If – for whatever reason – you depend or prefer to send invoices in PDF format, you can do so only through the desktop application
Also, despite its power, the price tag of the mobile app seems a little high at almost $15, considering that you need the desktop application as well. For power users though, who travel a lot and need an easy way of tracking time & expenses and syncing them back to their Macs, Billings Touch can be a life saver.