Did you know Freckle does invoicing? Cuz Freckle absoluuuuutely does invoicing!
All paid account levels have unlimited invoices. (Free users, all you need to do is upgrade to any paid plan to invoice your heart out!)
And we’re adding a lot more power to it, too. Wanna get the inside skinny on our customer-driven roadmap? Just keep reading…
Why tell, when you can show? Follow the bouncing pink arrow!
OMG! Invoicing! We're not done yet, but what a start!
Now on your project pages - soon, everywhere! Mwahah!
Just click the button to start! By default, all your open (not-yet-invoiced) hours will be included, but of course you can tweak the dates! When you're done, your invoice will be listed riiiiight here.
Configure on-the-fly! That's right, those pink arrows are not some weird invasive species, they are options you can set -- or not! -- when you create your first invoice for a project.
If it's blue, it's for you! Everything in blue is something you can change, tweak, change, or delete. Plus, of course, the date ranges.
No accidental surprise auto-emailing here. You choose how to send your invoice to your client: print and mail? Email a link? IM a link? Skype a link? Tweet? Your choice!
Already been invoicing? No problem! Create a catch-up invoice so you can set your baseline to zero, and enjoy one-click invoices that include all your not-yet-billed time.
Thanks for reading! We hope you’ll create your first invoices soon… and let us know what you think!
Invoicing is Going & Growing!
Thanks to your feedback, we’re focusing heavily on growing the invoicing feature. Here’s just a quick hit list of some of the things we’re working on related to invoicing…
expense tracking / line items
marking invoices as paid, income projection
split hourly rates (e.g. Tim charges $x, Janice charges $y)
grouping projects by client
recurring budgets / invoices
There’s more, but we wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise!
What do you need from an invoicing tool?
Dream big! In a perfect world, what would an invoicing/cashflow tool do for you?
Since we launched Freckle, the number one request from our customers has been:
I want a timer!
Now, there’s a reason Freckle didn’t come with a timer to start with. We didn’t want to build a timer into Freckle for all sorts of reasons: we never manage to use them properly, and even when we remember to start them, we always forget them afterwards. This results in not just a lack of data, but the presence of bad data.
We believed that timers “solve” a problem that is created by bad software to begin with.
But because of your many emails, we’ve come to the conclusion that we were wrong.
Many of you use timers quite effectively, and you’re less forgetful than us. We hear you.
So we’re going to give you, our dearest customer, the best damn timer ever.
We designed a timer that’s just as awesome as our friction-free Quick Entry Box (you know, the thing where you enter your time currently). A timer where you never have to touch your mouse, if you don’t want to; a timer that trusts you to know what you’re doing, and supports you in good habits.
Here are some of the design features of our new timer:
totally keyboard navigable: to start, stop, pause, and log
select or switch projects by typing the start of the project name—just like in the QE box (but without a field)
as few as 2 keystrokes to switch projects
in-app use or bookmarklet on the go
resume your timer, in case your browser crashes, you quit your browser accidentally, or you want to switch computers
auto increment rounding on finish, according to your billing practices
easy editable time on finish, for those times when you remember that mid-morning coffee break
And there are a few others we’re keeping under wraps.
The Sneak Preview
Keep in mind: it’s not done yet. We know many of you want it yesterday, and so do we, and we’re working our tails off. Unfortunately we can’t give you an exact date yet.
We’ve been working behind the scene on improvements, although we haven’t been crowing about ‘em too much. I aim to fix that.
Chief among the obvious improvements, we added a Solo plan: 1 person with up to 10 projects, for $12 a month.
It seems like the number one feedback item we got from our launch: a 5-person plan is just too much for many of you.
I’ll be totally honest: we were surprised. We were expecting that the majority of interest would be from small teams.
But we can admit when we’re wrong!
We didn’t use to display the unbillable time on the reports—which made no sense whatsoever. Now: it’s displayed, it’s broken out, we gave each section a nice color coded heading, and you can toggle the display of billable and unbillable hours as you like.
We drastically cleaned up the way that reports look when printed. We’re not done with reports & data portability yet, of course,
We put the projects listing page through a couple design revisions.
Deactivating People & Projects
Features we originally shipped without (not expecting anything like the kind of initial traffic we received), but of course, necessary ones.
More increment options
We switched from a plain old text field to a list of radio buttons (still not ideal, but getting there).
We got feedback from people who had different tracking increment needs than us—for example, folks in the law profession who bill in 6 minute increments. No problem!
h2. And more…
This is just the short list. And we’ve got a ton more tweaks, improvements, sexifications and other things that we haven’t been able to ship yet.
It’s two weeks since we launched freckle to the public.
I know, now, what it feels like to have a small child.
Perhaps I am a wee bit melodramatic (some might say “whiny”). Actual parents of small children: please do not assault me or storm my castle with pitchforks.
But drama queenliness or not, the parallels are there:
post-partum depression: check!
staying up late / getting up early to check on baby: check!
constant interruptions (on top of sleep deficit) driving me slowly insane: check!
obsessively watching and documenting baby’s progress: check!
feeling the immense responsibility that comes with caring for (an)other being(s): check!
daily calls with pediatricians (merchant account services), financial planners (my bank web site), and other trusted advisors (thanks, Erik & Alex) to keep things running smoothly and handle the occasional crisis of confidence: check!
wondering, periodically, if it was all worth it, and then feeling totally guilty because OF COURSE IT IS: check!
And, surprisingly, this is all so much more the case after our launch. Things were downright peaceful while we were developing and running the beta.
Or, maybe this is not surprising to anyone but me. But I was surprised.
Once you ship your product, you too will find yourself screaming bloody murder when faced with a clock!
Launch – 1 Week
The first few days after launch left me quite down. Down in the “teen angst poetry” sense of the word, that is, not the “drunk on tequila and can’t get off the floor” sense. Unfortunately.
Simply put: the bubble of excitement had popped. It wasn’t that we had worked insane hours and burnt ourselves out, although launch day was a long day indeed.
In retrospect, I think the Post-launch Let-down is comprised chiefly of two parts:
the passing of a major goal, the big target we’d been aiming at for 3 months
the transition from All About Us to All About Them
We’d spent a wonderful (and sometimes exhausting/trying/frustrating) 3 months working up to the launch itself. Every time we came up with a fantastic idea, we felt great. Every time we cut out something unnecessary, and thus moved the project forward, we felt great. Every time we wrapped up a portion of the launch feature set, we felt great. Hooray for feeling great!
Once we shipped, we hit a brick wall. Sure, we had future plans, features mapped out, promotional ideas out the wazoo. But the biggest, hairiest, horizon-threatening goal was… done.
And, on top of that, it suddenly became Not All About Us. Suddenly there were all these other people we had to think about. And think about them we have, night and day, day and night!
Aaaaand there all those incoming links to read, and statistics to interpret, blog posts to write, comments to approve (and/or rebut), and, oh yeah, the little dashboard app we built that let us check on how many people were signing up.
You might say we were suffering from attention deficit dis—HEY, LET’S GO RELOAD GOOGLE ANALYTICS!
1 – 2 Weeks
Launching to the public is like getting punched in the face. Repeatedly. By one of those inflatable clown doll punching bags that wobbles but doesn’t fall down. It’s not only never-ending, it’s injurious to the pride.
After the first few days, we recovered from the initial set of knock-down clown punches, but continued to flounder in other ways.
There were tons of little bugs, of course, and we fixed them.
We responded lickety split to every exception / ticket / email / tweet / blog post / fart on the internet that mentioned us.
We even got ourselves a Campfire bot that told us when new exceptions / tickets / emails / tweets / blog posts / farts came in. (This is a mistake.)
We watched the web stats obsessively. (This is also a mistake.)
Tip: Answering support tickets at 2am may feel productive and wise and responsible, but trust me, it’s the hormones talking.
In our exhaustion, we let our actions be driven by what was in front of us. The crying baby was calling the shots. If something wasn’t screaming for attention, we didn’t give it any. Total End-of-Noseitis.
In theory, we meant to spend a significant amount of time moving forward on some super awesome features.
In reality, we pretty much spun our wheels.
I want a free account with 50 million user logins! And a Google Android app! And Rolex integration! And a pony! Also, how do I mine for fish?
I’m not implying that supporting our customers is a waste of time. Au contraire, I think it’s very educational in addition to providing warm-fuzzies and being, you know, the right thing to do. But if you’re not used to it, an influx of feedback—no matter how kindly written and positive—is psychically exhausting.
And, as indie software developers, we can’t afford to spend all our time reacting. If we don’t set aside time to pro-act (gah!), to work on what makes freckle great, it will slowly become not-great.
And nobody wants that, right?
Now, two weeks later, we’re settling into a rhythm. Folks who submit tickets at 2am are no longer experiencing 5-minute response times (thank god), we’re sleeping through the night (mostly), and we’re no longer spending all day feeling sad that someone on the internet misunderstands us.
It’s all about setting boundaries.
Boundaries, I say! Boundaries! Not drunken 2am joy-rides with the lane painting truck!
Setting boundaries, in this case, has nothing to do with ignoring my mother-in-law’s emails. (Which are actually quite charming.)
It does mean that I no longer check for support tickets or feedback emails every 30 minutes. I no longer begin to salivate whenever the Campfire bot goes “Ding!” I do not obsessively monitor the number of accounts. I try not to even look at the traffic analytics.
Q: Statements of fact, or daily affirmations? A: A lady never tells.
This helps a lot, in terms of time management and resource management (where “resource” == “my sanity”). But these are only patches, little Hello Kitty Band-aids slapped on some pretty deep cuts. These changes are themselves reactions to a problem, rather than the forging of new… thingies.
So, to kick our own asses back into gear, we’ve scheduled our first “freckle day” since the launch. We’ll meet at 9am—like it’s a job or something—and work through til evening.
On new things, not catch-up. We’ve set goals! We’ve outlined steps!
Time will tell what the future will bring. New experiences, no doubt.
We’ll continue monitoring our energy and enthusiasm levels and trying new techniques to keep ourselves—and freckle—moving ahead.
Oh, yeah. And writing about it.
And if you’re interested in more touchy-feely posts about product-launching experience, well, you know where the Subscribe link is. (Hint: right here
The crowd is hushed. Four actors in black clothing with black hats stand straight on the darkened stage, head bowed. The spotlight turns to the fellow one from the left. He jerks, suddenly, from quiet stillness to violent motion, ripping off his hat and stomping on it.
OMGZ THE PASSWORD FIELD IS CLEAR TEXT? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT IN ADVANCE. GET REAL! YOU MUST BE KIDDIN ME!
The remaining three stir slowly from their own monolithic stillness. They turn their heads this way and that and whisper, almost to themselves. Your ears strain to hear. You’re not entirely sure to believe what your brain is telling you that you’re hearing—they are that quiet.
I liked it.
You reel a little, dizzy from the outburst and from the strain to hear the whispering.
You’ve just experienced the phenomenon of the (near) silent majority and the calamity howlers.
Meet the calamity howlers
A “calamity howler” is a persistently negative individual who predicts rack & ruin, frequently and at the top of his voice. It’s a great term that was especially popular in political writings back in the mid-to-late 1800′s but has since fell out of disuse.
I think this is a real shame and, if this isn’t your first day on the internet, I’m sure you understand why.
Calamity howlers in modern times
Among other, shall we say, strongly negative feedback we’ve received, we had at least one individual telling us we must be “fucking kidding him” because of our clear text password fields on the signup form.
On the subject of clear text credit card fields on the same form (and every other web app), he remained mum.
This man is a great example of a calamity howler. Just like people who tell us that if we only perform an auto-craniorectalectomy on our pricing scheme, he might consider signing up.
There’s just one problem with his theory.
Calamity howlers don’t become customers
And in the rare event that one does pony up money, you’ll soon regret taking it.
Anyone who feels so deeply wronged by a free service is going to feel even more wronged once he has paid for it.
Fake security vs Real security
We’re not going to change the fact that our password fields are clear text by default on signup.
Despite having expletives hurled at us (are expletives ever handed over gently?), and being told more politely that breaking convention is totally pointless.
Why did we even do it in the first place?
A simple reason: We hate the fake security theater surrounding web applications.
Real security is important to us: we keep your credit card data secure by not storing it ourselves—we leave that to the professionals of Authorize.net. They know what they’re doing with that stuff.
But fake security is our enemy. Fake security adds hurdles with no gain. With real security, the extra work is on us, to integrate with the credit card processing service. With fake security, the hurdles are for you, our customer: continuously logging in to applications that hardly contain sensitive nature (delicious, I’m looking at you), starred out password fields on registration that simply increase the chance of errors.
But, still, clear text password fields are not what everybody on the intertubes is trained to expect. Wouldn’t it be easier to just do what everyone else does?
The beauty of positive selection
Well, yes, it’d be easier. I wouldn’t be writing this article, for one. (At least not about this particular topic.)
But down that road madness lies!
People who like freckle like it because it’s different. That’s the reason we like it, too.
So when you first sign up, within the first few fields, you experience something different. Those password fields. The checkbox that lets you hide your password in case someone really is peeking over your shoulder (or you’re ultra paranoid).
If you’re like us, you hate those damn fake security password fields. And so when you come across our solution, you’ll smile. You might write us a nicelittlesomething about it.
You’re probably also going to like the rest of the app, too, because that little password field switcheroo is simply a small manifestation of our entire design philosophy.
If, on the other hand, you react like we just kicked your gramma in the teeth, you’re not going to like the app. It’s going to be one long elderly-face-kicking session for you.
So, sure, we could make the password fields back into what everyone else does to eliminate a part of the signup process that feels like a speed bump to some people. But that’d be almost like lying, wouldn’t it?
It’d be changing one projection of our design philosophy in order to entice people who aren’t going to like the rest of the app.
Folks like that will be happier with some other software in the time tracking space, the kind where you have to use 3 drop-down menus to select your client, then your project, and then your predefined task before you log your time. That will be comforting to them.
Why waste their time? Why waste ours?
We’d rather do what we think is right and let that be a line drawn in the sand for people who aren’t going to agree with us, anyway.
Otherwise we’re just going to have to take up gramma-kicking as a habit.
Do you enjoy a good gramma-kicking and other interface design intrigues? You should [subscribe][http://feeds.feedburner.com/freckletimetracking].
Today we’re on track to whiz by the 600 accounts mark. This is by far faster than we were expecting, with the low-key launch that we’d planned. Imagine: at least 600 people have come to our site, skimmed our copy, clicked the big old pink trial button, chosen a plan, and filled out the forms. That’s a lot of accumulated time and attention.
But you know what? I don’t care.
To tell the truth, I couldn’t give a flying fig about signup numbers. Or maybe I could, I don’t really like figs.
Signup numbers mean nothing. They’re not just a poor target, they’re a false target. Signups aren’t the same as customers. Not even the same as potential customers. Signups aren’t even necessarily human.
We’re in this to build a sustainable business: to make truly great software, to help people add a little joy back to their daily business, and to make a living doing it.
We’re not building a tasty startup snack for Google to devour, digest, and defecate.
Our goal is to have a handful of very happy customers, not a legion of barely interested user accounts.
For us, the freckle experience has to be quality end-to-end or we might as well not bother. We won’t sacrifice that for popularity.
And if popularity comes to us anyway, we’re going to look away and resist it unless it can be used to further our goals for our product, our business, and for our customers.
Well, we’ve solved our latest credit card validation problem and it seems like a good time to give a quick recap of the lessons we’ve learned during this whole sordid process. Things that nobody bothers to tell you, not even the people you’re paying to do just that. This is 2008, but credit card processing is a technological throwback to the Dark Ages.
Things nobody bothers to tell you, version 1:
The web sites for credit card processors & merchant account services are completely useless. Do not try to use them, not even the big fish that everybody respects (e.g. Authorize.net). You will only waste your time. Instead, call their tech support. We’ve found their human support to be unfailingly friendly and helpful, at least when it comes to answering direct questions rather than making suggestions (hence the Stuff Nobody Tells You). The hold music’s so beyond awful it enters into laughable, though.
If you want to process AmEx, you have to call them directly, set up an account with them, and then talk to your merchant account service. Just because your CC processor’s interface shows you that AmEx is active, and your merchant account people tell you that everything is systems go, doesn’t mean there aren’t hidden things you have to do to, you know, actually process cards. Or that the errors will be helpful.
Address verification (AVS) is voodoo. Not real science. AVS is inclined to reject real, valid cards all the time, even when you don’t count “user errors” (e.g. your bill says Apt 4 and you put #4). D’oh.
Test charges are pretty much unavoidable. So, since AVS essentially doesn’t work, the way to verify a card is to make a tiny charge on it and then void the transaction. It’s not a charge you’ll ever collect on, but it’s not exactly a hold either. To us, it’s a bit squicky to think that this is the only way to verify a credit card number in this, the 21st century.
Some banks will reject small test charges. About 10% of cards used to sign up were declined. Thanks to Stuff item #6, we couldn’t tell why from the error reports. Nobody could tell us why, either. We called Auth.net and they had no suggestions. We only found out as fast as we did because one would-be customer, our friend (& tasty designer) Johnny Bilotta, called his own bank to ask if there was a problem. Trying to be considerate internet citizens, we had set our test charge to $.01. His bank told him they reject small test charges under $1.00, but our credit card processor never thought about it. Even though it’s their business. Useless buggers.
Errors are incomprehensible and your credit card processor is useless at helping you solve validation issues. The error you’ll get in most cases is General error. In other cases, you may get Declined, but there’s no way to tell why. Calling your CC processor won’t help you, either, because in many cases, they can’t get more information than you’ve already got. In other cases the phone reps just aren’t trained in spotting what must be common problems (e.g. the low test charge).
When you ask why stuff doesn’t work, even due to Stuff Nobody Told You, they think you’re kinda dumb. Despite the support being, as we said, unfailingly friendly, there are always these awkward pauses when we’ve asked about Stuff Nobody Told Us. For example, when we called and said “So our account says we can accept AmEx but they’re all being rejected. Can you help us?” The nice lady asked, “Well, are you set up for AmEx with your merchant services provide?” and I said “No, what do you mean?” Awkward pause ensues. The lady assumes she is speaking with a polite nitwit and then the rest of the conversation takes twice as long as it would have if she hadn’t thought I had a room temperature IQ. Which is too bad, because there’s no documentation or on-ramping process that tells you this, and nobody thought to mention it, either, when I asked if I made the calls to both Auth.net & the merch acct people to ask “Hey, we’re going to live. Do we have everything in place?” last week.
That’s all for now, but I’m sure there will be more.
For more real-life depictions of Ecommerce Surprise, & more harrowing stories of our adventures in setting up a paid web service: Subscribe. You know you want to.
We have no FAQ page yet because we didn’t know what the genuine frequently asked questions would be, and by gosh do we hate fake FAQs.
You look very nice, but I wish we could date without having to give you a credit card on the very first day — Vlourenco
Three points here:
There’s a 30-day free trial with no features crippled. Yes, it requires a CC, but we don’t charge you for 30 days and we remind you twice to cancel if you don’t love it. We are not in any way trying to be sneaky.
There is a limited free account option that requires no credit card, available under the 3 paid acct options. This is an approach we borrowed from Basecamp, so I’m pretty sure it’s not an awful thing to do.
We’re also going to post screenshots and videos and stuff later this week, but we wanted to focus first on shipping. We didn’t want to fall into the trap that so many others do, not shipping for a year or more while trying to make things perfect for every potential eventuality. We honestly did not expect this much attention (like David’s nod) so fast.
We’ll work on building the actual FAQ page tomorrow.
Please keep the feedback coming. We prefer to genuinely learn than to pretend we know everything & can anticipate all.
Well, folks, it’s T minus 2 days til L-day. Launch, that is. Which is on Monday. Today is Saturday. Yes.
Your freckle team is hard at work, burning the proverbial midnight oil! We use Campfire to stay in touch, talking about all the sorts of really important things you’d think we’d be talking about just a scant two days before freckle‘s world premiere.
argh, i just managed to hit a cut into my toe while walking upstairs. bleeding like a pig now :/
1. raise your left foot. 2. move left foot forward. 3. put left foot down. 4. raise your right foot. 5. move right foot forward. 6. put right foot down. 7. repeat from 1.
sounds easier than it is
hope it doesn’t get eitrig.
joe, i’m sorry you hurt yourself.
but i also feel less alone now!
you should do a social network for clumsy people
The secret’s out! Our next groundbreaking product: definitely a social network for clumsy people.
The corners? Rounded.
Time tracking is tedious? It's not you, it's your tools.
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