While many small business owners, contractors, and freelancers enjoy the work they perform, most of us would rather be skiing. Or on a lake. Or in front of a 60-inch plasma TV. We work so we can get paid. And if we get paid enough, perhaps we won’t have to work as much. Getting paid for your services should be easy, painless, and quick. This is why we created Blinksale. – The BlinkSale Manifesto
Blinksale founder Josh Williams started his entrepreneurial journey at age 18, when he inherited his mother’s landscaping business. He spent the next 3 years running the company and learning the ropes. In 2001, he founded Firewheel Designs, an interactive design studio. In 2005, Firewheel launched Blinksale, software designed to simplify invoicing for independent contractors and small businesses.
Doublewide Labs acquired the software in May 2009. Within 6 months, CEO Brandon Cotter had developed a new roadmap for the company, focusing on expanding and improving features and reliability. Blinksale took home a CNET Webware 100 Award in 2007, and currently has users in countries around the world. Plans for the future include development of a mobile app.
Unfortunately, Blinksale’s glory days may be over. From all I’ve read, it may have been an excellent program back in 2007 … but it has since been overshadowed by a number of competitors, and the slow pace of development doesn’t give me reason to suspect that’s going to turn around. The company has a few good ideas; the variety of graphics for thank you note templates are a nice touch I haven’t seen elsewhere, for instance. But in the end, inefficiencies and a lack of some basic features drag this software down. If you want to learn the details, read on for the full review.
Blinksale offers a 15-day free trial, no credit card required. After that, there’s a single pricing plan: $15/month for full access to the service. Payment is month-to-month; there are no contracts and the plan can be cancelled at any time.
Web-Hosted or Locally Installed:
Web-hosted. No downloads or installation required.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
Since Blinksale 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. In January, the company released a mobile app for iPhone/iPad (iOS 7.1+).
Specific Size of Business:
Blinksale is tailored to independent contractors and small businesses. You can grant access to an unlimited number of users, but unfortunately there’s no way to set different access levels. All users will have access to everything but your account settings.
Ease of Use:
While the interface is quite simple and intuitive, it’s not terribly efficient. You’ll have to do more typing and clicking than is really necessary. It began to grate on my nerves pretty quickly.
- Setup – Extremely simple. When you sign up for an account, you’ll be immediately directed to your dashboard, where you’ll see a welcome message and links to support resources, should you need them. You can start creating invoices right away or go to Settings to set up your company, choose templates, and select default invoice options.
- Organization – A navigation bar across the top gives you quick access to Dashboard, Estimates, Invoices, Payments, Purchases, and People. There are also small icon links to Settings and Help. The layout is simple, but not bland.
- Instructions and Guidance – I didn’t find that I needed instructions to navigate Blinksale. If you do need to look something up, there’s a Help and Support Center with an assortment of articles. Unfortunately, many of these are years backdated and will provide incorrect or irrelevant information.
- Problems – Here goes…
- Data Entry – For software which is supposed to save time, Blinksale requires a whole lot of data entry. You have to manually enter invoice numbers and estimate titles every time. (No automated numbering schemes here, unless you’re using recurring invoices.) You’ll have to manually enter descriptions and prices for every item on every invoice. I’ve seen less data entry required by free invoicing software.
- Poor Design/Inefficiency – Blinksale is riddled with inefficiencies. For example, there’s no “Save and Send” button, so sending an invoice or estimate is always a two-stage process. Also, if you have only one contact listed for a company, every single time you send an invoice, you have to tick a box to select that person as the email recipient. (Why is this not ticked by default? Who else would you be sending it to? There’s no other option.) These are minor things, but they add up.
- Dated – It feels like the software’s barely been touched for years. Updates seem to be few and far between and help articles are often so dated as to be confusing/useless.
Here are some of Blinksale’s key features (for more information, click here):
- Dashboard – Your dashboard provides a quick overview of recent invoices and estimates, listed by status: Draft, Past Due, Open, and Recent Closed/Approved. Past due invoices are listed in red. However, this is merely a list of estimates and invoices; there is no display for total revenue or breakdown of revenue by client. Also, estimates and invoices are mixed together; there’s no way to quickly see which is which.
- Estimates – Clients can view and approve estimates online; they can also leave comments on an estimate. You can easily convert approved estimates to invoices.
- Invoices – Blinksale’s invoicing features are decent, but not outstanding for the price point. You can create recurring invoices, accept partial payments, and allow clients to pay online using PayPal or Stripe. You can also enter a default hourly rate and default payment terms, and Blinksale supports the addition of late fees, whether a flat rate or percentage. You can send thank you notes and reminders, but these must be sent manually; there’s no way of automating them. The thank you note templates (all 10 of them) are particularly nice, and there are 12 basic invoice templates; you can also create your own templates if you know CSS and HTML. There is no support for creating client statements.
- Payments – You can view all payments received and sort them by payment type and client.
- Purchases – If you receive an invoice from another Blinksale user, it will show up here.
- People – A basic contacts list. You can save multiple contacts per company and choose which ones to include on e-mails. It is possible to view total receivables and revenue for each client; however, this information does not appear in the list view; you will need to look at each client individually to see it.
- Sales Tax – Very basic support for a single sales tax rate. You can adjust the default rate manually on each invoice, but there is no tax tracking, nor is there any way of associating a tax rate with a specific client or product.
- Tags – You can tag invoices and estimates with any phrase or word you desire. This can help you keep track of multiple invoices related to a single project.
- Multi-Currency – You can issue invoices in multiple currencies.
- API – Developers can use the API to create their own integrated apps.
- Import/Export Capabilities – You cannot import data into Blinksale. You can export your clients, invoices, and users as a single xml file; you can also export clients, estimates, and invoices as individual Excel files (xls).
Customer Service and Support:
Customer support is available Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm CST. In my experience, they were very friendly and helpful, but e-mail responses are not nearly as prompt as their website suggests (usually I waited at least a day for a response). Here are the support resources Blinksale offers:
- Phone – Blinksale can be reached at 214-580-2003 Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm PST.
- E-mail – Contact Blinksale at firstname.lastname@example.org. The site says they usually respond to e-mails within 1 hour.
- Social Media – Blinksale routinely posts links and articles on its Facebook page, but doesn’t use it for customer support. Questions on Blinksale’s Twitter feed usually get a response within one day.
- Online Help Center – Blinksale’s Knowledge Base has a collection of articles, some of which are helpful, others of which are outdated.
- Blog – Blinksale occasionally posts updates and tips on their blog, usually at a rate of once every month or two.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
- Price – While $15 isn’t out of line for invoicing software, the competition in this price range is better designed and has more features.
- Too Much Work – As described under Ease of Use, this software requires a lot of data entry for every invoice.
- Lack of Basic Features – There’s no way to apply a percentage discount to items or invoices. No way to save item descriptions/costs in a list. No default e-mail template for estimates. Very limited merge fields options for e-mail templates, and they only work for reminders, not for any other kind of message. Since a lot of these features can be found in free invoicing software, the fact that they’re missing here is puzzling.
- Slow Development – Software updates are few and far between. Blinksale has announced on its blog that the new iPhone app is just the beginning of a series of new developments–so it’s possible we’ll see this change in the coming months. Over the last few years, though, the software has hardly changed at all–not much there in the way of new features.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
While much of the feedback on Blinksale is somewhat dated, you’ll find some of the most recent positive reviews on Serchen.com, where it has a 4.8/5 star rating. Users give it 3.5/5 stars on bestvender.com, and the new iPhone app gets 4 stars. Positive feedback includes:
- Nice UI – A lot of people like the visuals and the clean, intuitive interface.
- Ease of Use – Users find the program very easy to use, and say it has simplified their invoicing processes tremendously.
- Nice-Looking Invoices – Several people like the variety of templates available. They think the invoices produced through Blinksale look eye-catching and professional.
Integrations and Add-ons:
Blinksale doesn’t offer much in the way of integrations:
- PayPal – Accept online payments and enable electronic payment of invoices.
- Stripe – Process credit card payments.
- Basecamp – A project management tool. Read our review here.
- ZenCash – Accounts receivable management tool.
- Klok – Time-tracking software.
Blinksale’s integration with Stripe is PCI-compliant, and all related data transfer involving credit card numbers is SSL-encrypted. Blinksale uses database mirrors which run in synchronous operation (meaning all data is immediately backed up). Periodically, they also back up data on Amazon S3.
Blinksale is adequate software, with a few perks. It’s not terrible by any means, but I don’t see enough here to justify a $15/month investment. It lacks some basic features which you can get in a free invoicing program. Also, it integrates with very few other programs. Want inventory management, shopping cart or POS integration? Sorry, you’re out of luck.
Perhaps my greatest concern about Blinksale is that the company doesn’t appear to have much interest in updating and improving its software. At least half the help articles I looked at were backdated to the point that they could cause confusion (referring to features and subscriptions which haven’t existed for years). Two years ago, Blinkpay noted that integration with QuickBooks was one of their most popular feature requests … but there’s no indication they’ve done anything about it. Time tracking was on their 180-day roadmap in 2009. All of that leaves me with an “It’s dead, Jim” sort of feeling. The new iPhone app indicates that there is ongoing development, which is certainly a good sign … but for now, there’s still better invoicing software out there for the price.