Why is it so hard to find a project management platform with billing functionality?

I didn’t think my demands were so, well, demanding. I’d like to keep track of my projects, manage my time and send out my invoices from a single platform. Ideally, I’d like to have it sync with Evernote, too. Oh, and I guess I don’t want it to cost $70/month, either, unless it really works. I just refuse to pay that much for a platform that only meets 75% of my needs. After all, as a small agency in a touch economy, I’m watching my expenses.

So far, though, I’m flummoxed.

For a long time I used Wrike to manage my projects and FunctionFox to track my time. Neither was perfect and I ended up having to use two different systems and pay for both of them. Wrike is $49/month; FunctionFox was $20/month. So here I was spending $69/month on a solution that wasn’t perfect.

Don’t get me wrong. Wrike is a very capable project management system. But it didn’t allow me to track my time easily and it didn’t allow me to create an invoice based on time that I could print and present to my clients. FunctionFox was a platform I used for probably close to 10 years but over time I found that their interface  was not as flexible as others and putting in time was cumbersome. I tried their premium platform for a month to see if I could get it to meet all my needs and it just didn’t cut it.

In fact, while I found several very good project management platforms — I looked at Work Etc., Intervals, Basecamp, Zoho —  in at least one area each one fell flat (mostly it was in time tracking/invoices) or offered something that I didn’t really value, like CRM, and didn’t want to pay for. And they each required you to adopt convoluted (to my mind) ways of thinking, plow through unintuitive interface designs or had strict limits on how many projects you could manage. For example, I loved the interface at Intervals, but their basic plan ($20/month) allows you to manage only 15 projects. I’d blow through that in five minutes! Their not-so-basic plan ($50/month) allows you to run only 40 projects, which sounds like a lot until you start writing them down. Same with Basecamp. To manage projects effectively, I need to be able to track them and not try to clump them into larger projects to stay under my limit.

After running Work Etc. and Intervals in parallel for a month and discovering that both of them had holes that didn’t appear until I was fairly committed to the process (mostly in the area of invoicing), I gave up. Right now I’m using Harvest for time tracking and invoicing (it’s a very nice product for $12/month) and Evernote for keeping track of things (Free).

I’m still looking for a good project management system — one that syncs with Evernote — and am currently looking at Nozbe and ShoutDone.

Has anyone come across a solution that works well for them?

One thought on “Why is it so hard to find a project management platform with billing functionality?

  1. I second this motion! I’ve been using basecamp for years, and I should point out that SimplyInvoices.com uses the 37Signals API to invoice your hours on basecamp, and it works pretty good. Yet here I am searching on the internet for a better solution… For all the money I pay, I just don’t see much in the way of new functionality. It’s a perfect ToDo list, but project management gets complicated, and it sure would be nice to have built in Invoicing.

    As a web developer, I’m half tempted to write my own, but that takes time and with all the options out there there’s gotta be somebody that’s done it already.

    I also need CRM, so perhaps I’m even more picky, but I’ll settle for a CRM on it’s own if I can get Projects, Time Tracking, and Billing all in the same place, with an intuitive UI, and some extra cool bells and whistles (maybe quickbooks integration/export).

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