Billings 3

March 1st, 2009 Desktop, Software, Tech

Price: USD$59

Your traffic management and accounts software might be a tangle of Excel spreadsheets, MYOB or Quicken, scrawled notes on paper or even more. Billings is a traffic and accounts system that does everything a small studio could conceivably need to keep track of job timing, estimates, invoicing, accounts and reporting, quite easily replacing all the methods and applications listed above.

Like many of the best Mac tools, Billings looks easy but has a considerable amount of power and detail behind it. Every step of adding clients, adding jobs to clients, adding tasks to jobs and then tracking them can be done with a single click and a bit of text.

Looking every bit a Mac application complete with friendly-looking icons, Billings is set out clearly with separate panes for different tasks. Clients are imported via your Address Book data, and you then start and assign projects to them in the Projects tab. Below the Projects area is the Slips area, which are the line items that will appear on the invoice covering the entire project when you submit it.

It tracks your time by letting you apply slips to a project and then clicking the timer the application has installed in your computer’s menu bar. The system then multiplies the time taken on tasks with the rate per hour you’ve already specified and your invoice is ready to produce.

Of course, plenty of applications do similar accounts tasks, including MYOB or even Excel if you’ve set it up to such an extent. But Billings is built to give you a one-glance picture of your accounts. Clients that have fallen outside your payment terms turn red in the clients pane and a single click sends them a professional statement of their account. Anecdotal evidence by several Billings users we spoke to suggests its the friendly reminder that gives many clients the kick in the pants they need to pay up.

The Account tab is where you generate invoices, apply payments, view receipts and export your data to a text file to send to your accountant. There’s also a decent amount of freedom in designing your own forms or selecting from a suite of templates.

But there are challenges (rather than flaws) for the early Billings adopter. If you don’t use the Mac Address Book for your client contacts you’re more or less ignored. Adding clients directly into Billings and bypassing Address Book isn’t even allowed as you have to add a client to the Address Book and then connect to it through the Billings client interface.

Secondly, the workflow of a client to a project to a slip to an invoice to payments looks easy, but too many processes within the system seem independent of each other, and the means by which you connect them together isn’t obvious enough. Turning the menu bar timer on and off had no apparent effect on the selected job or project, so during testing we evidently recorded time nowhere, resulting in an invoice for $0.

Of course, that’s a training and not just a usability issue — you didn’t know how to use Photoshop before you learned it either. However, Billings has little to no documentation and support is offered only through a forum on the website, so there’s a steep and quite time-consuming learning curve.

But if you have the time to invest it might be worth the trouble. There are some cool touches like built-in Google maps for clients (to send the heavies around when they fall behind?) and it’s a promising all-in-one job tracking and accounts system.

Full client and publication list:

  • 3D Artist
  • APC
  • Auscam
  • Australian Creative
  • Australian Macworld
  • Australian Way (Qantas)
  • Big Issue
  • Black Velvet Seductions
  • Black+White
  • Bookseller & Publisher
  • Box Magazine
  • Brain World
  • Business News
  • Business NSW
  • Campaign Brief
  • Capture
  • Cleo
  • Cosmos
  • Cream
  • Curve
  • Daily Telegraph
  • Dark Horizons
  • Dazed and Confused
  • Desktop
  • DG
  • Digital Media
  • Disney Magazine
  • DNA Magazine
  • Empire
  • Empty Magazine
  • Famous Monsters of Filmland
  • Fast Thinking
  • FHM UK
  • Film Stories
  • Filmink
  • Follow Gentlemen
  • Geek Magazine
  • Good Reading
  • Good Weekend
  • GQ
  • How It Works
  • Hydrapinion
  • Inside Film
  • Loaded
  • M2 Magazine
  • Marie Claire Australia
  • Marketing
  • Maxim Australia
  • Men's Style
  • Metro
  • Moviehole
  • MSN
  • Nine To Five
  • Paranormal
  • PC Authority
  • PC Powerplay
  • PC Update
  • PC User
  • PC World
  • Penthouse
  • People
  • Pixelmag
  • Popular Science
  • Post Magazine
  • Ralph
  • Reader's Digest
  • ScienceNetwork WA
  • SciFiNow
  • Scoop
  • Scoop Traveller
  • Seaside Observer
  • SFX
  • Sydney Morning Herald
  • The Australian
  • The Retiree
  • The Sun Herald
  • The West Australian
  • TimeOut
  • Total Film
  • Video Camera
  • Video&Filmmaker
  • Writing Magazine
  • Xpress
  • Zoo