Invoicing software with a heavy CRM focus, Ballpark evolved for a very specific purpose: to facilitate communication. It was designed by MetaLab in 2009, but after the initial development the company turned most of its attention to its new product, Flow. MetaLab revisited its invoicing software in 2012, launching a series of improvements and updates. However, the company has just announced that it’s looking to sell the software. At this point, Ballpark’s future looks very uncertain.
MetaLab is headed up by Andrew Wilkinson, who launched the design agency in 2006. In addition to Flow and Ballpark, the company’s products include Peak and Pixel Union. MetaLab also continues to provide design and development services.
Ballpark has some promising ideas, and its communication features are very handy. However, on the whole the program falls well behind its peers. There’s been nothing in the way of new features or developments lately. In his post on Medium.com, Wilkinson admits, “Apart from a redesign and small features here and there, we really haven’t given it the love it deserves.” While he promises that if the app doesn’t sell, the company will “continue to maintain it, fix bugs, and ensure folks are happy,” I see no indication MetaLab intends to add features or develop the program further.
When I speak of missing features, I’m talking about the basics. What kind of invoicing software doesn’t let you put your logo on your invoices? This kind, apparently. Forget credit notes, late fees, or even a basic product list. If the communication features are of paramount importance for you, then I’d recommend you check out Zoho; its communication features are similar, and it has much broader functionality overall. For the details of what you can – and can’t – expect from Ballpark, read on.
You can try Ballpark free with no limits for 30 days, no credit card required. After the trial, Ballpark offers 4 pricing tiers. There are no contracts; you pay monthly and you can cancel the service at any time.
- Personal: $0/month. – Includes 3 estimates and 1 invoice per month. 1 user.
- Solo: $12.99/month. – Includes unlimited invoices and estimates, time tracking, and online payments. 1 user.
- Team: $29.99/month. – The features of the Solo plan, but for up to 10 users.
- Agency: $99.99/month. – The features of the Solo plan, but for unlimited users.
If you refer another user, both you and they will get 10% off subscription fees for a year.
Web-Hosted or Locally Installed:
Web-hosted. No downloads or installation required.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
Since Ballpark is cloud-based software, it is compatible with any OS (Mac, Windows, or Linux), so long as you have internet access. All major browsers are supported, and the software will function on a tablet. There is also an iPhone app (iOS 6.0+).
Specific Size of Business:
Ballpark is geared for companies with 1-100 employees. Within the limits of your plan, you can grant access to the software to as many employees as you like. There are 3 access level settings: Admin, Basic (access to most functions), and Timer (time logging and team profiles only).
Ease of Use:
Ballpark is easy enough to figure out, but the software requires excessive data entry.
- Setup – Enter your name, e-mail address, and some basic company information, select your time zone, and you’re ready to go. You can also upload a logo, photo, or avatar for your profile. You’ll be immediately directed to your dashboard. From there, you can proceed however you like. I recommend starting with Preferences.
- Organization – A navigation bar across the top of the screen directs you to Dashboard, Estimates, Invoices, Time, Contacts, and Reports. Click on your profile image to access Preferences, Help, and Logout, or to get information on referrals or the iPhone app. There’s also a search box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, which in my tests yielded mixed results (it can pick out an invoice number, but not a partial client name). Under Preferences you can set the defaults for your account, including invoice and estimate templates, currencies, taxes, etc.
- Instructions and Guidance – There’s not a whole lot to Ballpark, and the software is pretty easy to figure out. Next to some functions, you’ll see small gray circles with question marks; mouse over these for an explanation of the function. You won’t find much else in the way of help; there’s no help center available from within the program. You can access a very rudimentary online support center from Ballpark’s home page, but this is not terribly helpful.
- Problems – Ballpark is not really geared towards saving you time.
- Too Much Data Entry – There’s no way to save products, so you’ll need to enter the product name, description, and cost every time you create an invoice. You also need to fill in the field “Invoice Summary” for every invoice and “Estimate Summary” for every estimate. Why? Beats me. But it’s a required field.
- Little Things That Count … or Don’t – Throughout the program, you’ll notice a lack of attention to details – the little things that can make the difference between a great user experience and a mediocre or bad one. Note the oddities of the time tracking feature, for instance, or the fact that you can’t collapse any of the entries on the timeline on your dash, or the lack of currencies linking to clients. It’s pretty clear this program has not received a lot of attention.
- No Help Center – Granted, the program is pretty simple. But the lack of a basic FAQ and help center – accessible from within the program – seems a huge oversight.
Ballpark is very basic invoicing and time tracking software. Features include:
- Dashboard – The dashboard is a clunky affair, well-intentioned but failing to be as useful as it might be. Most of the page is devoted to a timeline of all activities on the account. Since this includes all comments left on each estimate or invoice, and since none of the entries are collapsible, if you average more than one transaction a day, you’ll find yourself doing a lot of scrolling. On the right side of the screen, you’ll see totals for open and approved estimates, open and paid invoices, and time logged.
- Estimates – You can create quotes for clients, who can accept them online. You can also manually mark quotes as accepted, and you can convert them to invoices with the click of a button. You’ll have a choice of 2 templates, with no options for customization, and (the nadir of the feature), there’s no numbering provided. But now to where Ballpark really shines: communication. You, your team members, and the client can all comment on the estimate; you and your team members can add private comments (invisible to the client) as well. All users (including the client) can upload additional files as needed, and you can set e-mail alerts to let you know when a client has commented. A client can also share the invoice and invite a colleague to join in on the conversation. This feature is well executed and incredibly handy.
- Time Tracking – You can track time via a built-in timer or by entering the number of hours worked in a day; you cannot enter start and end times. When entering time, you’ll need to select the client and the type of work, and add some type of descriptor. You can add time worked to any invoice, but for some odd reason, Ballpark doesn’t associate clients with the time you’re working for them. So you can write an invoice for Luke, click “Import Time,” and you’ll get a pop-up box where you can choose which hours to add to the invoice. This includes all time you haven’t yet billed … including those hours you worked for Han, Leia, and Chewie. Worse, the box doesn’t correlate hours to client in any way; you may have to slog back to the Time page to figure out which hours go to whom. Ugh.
- Invoicing – Invoicing provides the same comments system as estimates. There are limited options for recurring invoices (once per week, month, or year), and you can accept partial payments. Ballpark supports online payment via Stripe or PayPal, and offers the unusual option of being able to add a surcharge for PayPal payments (if you intend to use this option, you should check whether it’s legal in your jurisdiction). However, there’s not much else of interest here; there’s no support for client statements, late fees, payment reminders, and worse, there’s no product or item list. You can create an invoice based on 2 templates; there are no options for customization and you can’t add your logo. (Also, while the electronic invoices look okay, the printed version is very bland; I can make a more attractive invoice in MS Word.)
- Reports – “Reports” is a bit of a misnomer. The page has 2 tabs: Payments and Time Tracking. Under Payments, you’ll see the number of invoices paid, total amount billed, and total amount received over a period you specify. You’ll also get a list of your top clients and best months. Under Time Tracking, you can see total time tracked, total time billed, which employees logged hours, and the number of clients for whom time was tracked. You can view timesheet entries by employee, client, or category of work performed. You cannot download any reports.
- Contacts – You can create a pretty basic contact list, and you can add multiple contacts per company. Unfortunately, you can’t view client receivables here. You can, however, add notes/comments to clients’ records.
- Sales Tax – You can add up to two sales tax rates. These will apply by default to every invoice; there’s a tick box for each tax on each item line, so you can remove a tax if it doesn’t apply. There’s no way to associate taxes with items or with clients, nor can you view the total amount of tax you’ve collected.
- Multi-Currency – You can invoice in multiple currencies, but you can’t select a default currency for a client; if you bill a client in anything but your base currency, you’ll need to select the currency every time you prepare an invoice. Ballpark doesn’t handle exchange rates, so revenue totals will display separately for each currency. There is no way to view a single figure for revenue if you invoice clients in multiple currencies.
- Attachments – One of Ballpark’s strong points. You can upload files (or bring them in from Dropbox) and attach them to quotes, invoices, and comments.
- Import/Export Capabilities – You can import your invoices, clients, and estimates from FreshBooks. You can export estimates, invoices, and contacts in xml, json, or csv formats.
Customer Service and Support:
Customer support is available Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm PST. In my experience, response time ranged anywhere from 1-5 hours on a business day, and a query sent in on the weekend received a reply Monday evening. The representative who handled my questions was very helpful, and affable to boot. Here are the support resources Ballpark offers:
- E-mail – Contact Ballpark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Online Contact Form – You can get in touch by filling out this form.
- Social Media – Ballpark responds promptly to inquiries on their Facebook page and Twitter feed, often within a few hours and sometimes within minutes. They also post announcements to their Google+ page.
- Online Help Center – Ballpark has a very basic Support Center. Articles are clear and to the point (complete with handy screenshots), but for detailed information, you’ll likely need to contact support.
- Blog – Check out the Ballpark Blog for product news and updates.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
There’s not a whole lot to be found on Ballpark; my guess is the number of users is fairly small. Here are some of the complaints I noticed:
- Routine Problems – Looking over the company’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, there seem to be a lot of complaints: service down, functions not working properly, etc. Each incident is resolved relatively quickly and (so far as I could see) to the customer’s satisfaction … but I’m a little concerned there are that many problems in the first place.
- Hidden Charge – Ballpark charges a 1.6% service fee for using Stripe. This is not disclosed to users when they first sign up for Ballpark.
- Need More Invoice Options – The lack of a product list is a recurring criticism. Customers also want some options for customizing the invoice template, including the ability to add a payment slip to the bottom of an invoice.
- iPhone App Needs Work – Users would like to see more features in the iPhone app, including the ability to create an invoice or estimate. Also, one user reports frequent crashing.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
There’s not a lot out there on Ballpark, and most of the positive comments I saw didn’t get into specifics. (While “Great software!” is encouraging, it is not terribly informative.) The iPhone app gets 4.5/5 stars on the iTunes App Store.
- Communication – Users love the comments system for facilitating both internal and external communication. This is the most common positive comment I saw on the software.
- Looks Good – Several users like the look of the interface.
- Organization and Workflow – The layout and the efficiency of navigation garner some praise.
Integrations and Add-ons:
Ballpark offers the following integrations:
- PayPal – Accept online payments and enable electronic payment of invoices.
- Stripe – Process credit card payments.
- Highrise – Customer relationship management software. See our review here.
Ballpark uses 256-bit SSL encryption for all connections, and data is stored using 256-bit AES encryption. The company’s servers are hosted by Heroku and Amazon AWS, both of which meet very high security standards. User data is backed up to offsite facilities once per hour.
Ballpark feels like a great idea that never really took off. Is there potential? Plenty. The focus on communication is a neat idea, and it’s interesting to imagine what this software could be if someone really took the time to focus on it and develop it.
Unfortunately, the key word there is “if.” With no customization of invoices (and no attractive print templates), no payment reminders or receipts, and no customer statements or late fees … well, the list of features Ballpark doesn’t offer is staggering. Add in the price – on par with full-featured invoice programs – and the fact that the company’s trying to sell it, and I don’t see any wisdom in jumping on board right now.