Our Favorite Time-saving Tool Right Now: Dubsado Small Business Management System

When I decided to automate some of my time-consuming small business tasks, like contract signing, invoicing, payment, proofing and accounting – I researched for weeks, read up on six platforms and even signed up for trials on four.

Let me save you the trouble of doing the same.

Updated February 2018.

Get 20% off Dubsado business management system using my code >>

(This isn’t an ad, just a story of my affinity for a great small business tool.)

Photo by  @westelm

Photo by @westelm

My small business management system requirements

(Including need-to-have and nice-to-have)

Overall, my ideal system needs to save me time and money, and make essential business tasks easier and more reliable. Here is my list:

  1. Client-friendly convenient services, all online: proposals, contract signing, invoicing, payment options, payment reminders, and easy-to-use client portal for all of the above

  2. Integration with Gmail, Google-calendar

  3. Ability to offer and bill for event-based, hourly and package-based services

  4. Customer lead tracking and relationship management (CRM)

  5. Great customer service

  6. Accounting: integration with business bank account(s), expense tracking

  7. Hourly time-tracking that automates to invoices

  8. (Nice to have) Custom templates and workflows (ie. recurring packages, auto invoices)

  9. (Nice to have) Project management features like task lists, appointments, etc

Why I chose Dubsado over the other options:

I manage my business alone, so I need the system to balance as many useful features as possible. I also need it to be easy to set up, easy to use and affordable. Also, I wanted to be sure of a great return on investment.

In February and March of 2017, I read up on Honeybook, 17hats, Thrive, Accelo, Tave and Dubsado — and signed up for trials of the last four.

Here’s my competitive analysis in a nutshell:

  • Honeybook and 17hats had high enough minimum price points, that I moved away from them right away. 17hats had most features that I was looking for, but pricing was beyond what I wanted to pay for my first system.

  • Thrive attracted me for its beautiful designer-oriented interface, but it was focused on project management and time tracking for small design teams.

  • Accelo wasabsolutely packed with features, to the point that it was actually confusing to set up during my trial. (Remember, I was looking for an intuitive system that I could use without much fuss.) It might be an awesome system for a growing team, but for a solopreneur like me, I could tell it would take more work to onboard and run than I wanted to put in at the time.

  • Tave was my runner-up. It has a beautiful interface, and met many of my requirements, but it’s mainly geared toward event-based services (photography, DJs, florists) rather than ongoing client relationships or hourly gigs. As a result, there isn’t hourly time tracking, nor does it seem to be on the horizon. There are certainly ways to make design work fit, but I wanted a simple tool that was a little more customizable to better match my needs. That said, Tave’s pricing is reasonable as well, so this was a close decision.

During my search in March of 2017, I couldn’t find any system that met ALL of my requirements at a great value. But I did find one system that got as close as possible, and would be adding all the missing features within months.

Ultimately, I ended up choosing Dubsado. Here’s why:

What finally made my decision to go with Dubsado was the mix of features and customizability, ease of use, customer service. Plus, Dubsado offers standout pricing for all of the above.

Update, February 2018:

Dubsado meets all of my requirements, plus offers several more (included) features that I wasn’t originally looking for, but have found useful.

Even better, the company is growing and continues to add helpful features.

Here’s a recap of the features I love.

  1. Client-friendly services that my clients LOVE — all online: especially e-contract signing (eliminates need for printing, scanning, etc.), and e-invoicing.

  2. Online payment options. Clients can initiate a bank transfer, use a credit card or pay with PayPal, depending on what you allow. This is a game-changer.

  3. Easy-to-use, password-protected and customizable client portals to share all of above.

  4. Customizable templates with smart fields. I use several “canned email” templates that I tweak to send to new leads. I also have a stock of several different contract templates to use depending on the type of work that I am doing for a client. Other users customize their proposal templates, deliverable templates and more.

  5. Integration with Gmail, G-calendar.

  6. Ability to offer and bill for event-based, hourly and package-based services.

  7. Ability to track time spent on a project and apply it directly to a client’s invoice.

  8. Automatic invoicing, ie. bi-weekly, monthly.

  9. Ability to set auto invoice payment reminders.

  10. File storage. You can actually upload project drafts into Dubsado (reduces the need for Dropbox, Google Drive, etc) and share with clients.

  11. Customer lead tracking and relationship management (CRM).

  12. AWESOME customer service. I get responses within minutes or hours. There is also a Facebook group for users to crowdsource answers and best practices.

  13. Custom workflows (ie. auto recurring packages, auto invoices, and lots more). I don’t use this much yet, but other users have hacked awesome workflows to take care of recurring tasks for them.

  14. Project management features like task lists.

  15. Ability to share certain information (task lists, client information) with team members.

  16. Ability to track expenses to certain projects, and use custom categories to class them.

These are just the features I have kept tabs on. There are certainly more, and what Dubsado doesn’t have yet, they are always building. (View their upcoming release schedule.)

The one I am most anticipating right now: integration with Quickbooks for seamless expense reporting/tracking.

When I started using Dubsado in April 2017, I found it was easy to hit the ground running. I watched a beginner onboarding video, and after that, I was able to get myself started with a very small learning curve. That was – and still is – super helpful for a solopreneur with lots of daily obligations.

I also want to emphasize my positive experience with Dubsado’s customer service and support resources so far. Dubsado is owned by a husband and wife duo that seem very dedicated to the advancement of the system, and whose small team of 12 are super responsive. They even offer to input your first batch of custom forms to get you started. And they have a great bank of videos to show you more complex features.

Plus, at $250 for a year’s subscription, the value is great. And, you can use my discount code for 20% off of that for the first year. It comes out to about $17/month for year one, a rate that can’t be beat.

Get 20% off Dubsado Business Management System using my code >>

My favorite parts of using Dubsado so far are my clients’ reactions to their client portals, and being able to create invoices with one click (after I set up my templates). Plus – and I know you’ll like this one – everything is integrated. Contracts, invoices, all in one spot. I can’t wait for the accounting features.

What systems do you use to improve your workflow, and your client experience? I’d love to hear!