As a small business, any business-related activity that keeps me from doing billable work costs me money.  Obviously there is a certain amount of those hours that you have to deal with.  The trick, in my mind, is to find ways to limit those hours so that you can get back to the business of making money–which brings me to the reason behind this post.

I’ve yet to find a good solution for doing distributed time tracking, invoicing, and accounting. Before we made the switch to the Mac platform nearly 2 years ago, we used Intuit’s Quickbooks Online product and that worked fairly well, though it did far more than we needed to do.  However, it’s an Internet Explorer only application because of the ActiveX controls that it uses. I know I could fire up a VM to use it, but that’s a real pain for me and my wife who does most of the bookkeeping for our business.

Last fall I bought the Mac version of Quickbooks and we’ve been using it this year.  While it works, it’s far too manual a process to get done what we want.  The invoice designer doesn’t suit me and, since I have the potential to be in any city in the country on any given week, having the data landlocked on my home network while I’m on the road is a real pain.

So, over the last few weeks I’ve been researching online offerings for managing time for me, my wife and my brother who sometimes sub-contracts with us when I get overloaded. I’ve found several really good point solutions for my needs but have yet to find one (or even more than one that integrate with one another) that just knocks my socks off.

Even though I build web applications for a living, I still like to have a desktop presence for some things so that influences what I think will work for our business.  My criteria for the “perfect” solution includes the ability to get data into the system from a variety of devices (OS X applications, web interfaces, iPhone, etc) because I regularly work in a completely disconnected mode while traveling. The holy grail of solutions would also include facilities to make sure that I never have to re-enter data that’s already captured somewhere else.

Some of the services that I’m experimenting with now and am seriously considering for use are:

  • FreshBooks – Time tracking and invoicing
  • Cashboard – Time tracking, invoicing, estimates and online payments
  • IAC-EZ – Online accounting for small businesses
  • Less Accounting – Online accounting for small businesses
  • Clarity Accounting - Online accounting for small businesses and professionals

So, my question to you is, what solutions do you use to run your business so that you can focus on working in your business instead of having to become an accountant and/or administrative assistant?  Please leave a comment here so that others can benefit from your experiences.