Harvest was created in 2006, the product of Danny Wen and Shawn Liu’s inability to find a convenient tool for time tracking and invoicing which could scale with their business. For some years, the two had run Iridesco, a small web design studio. They found that a lot of other businesses were looking for the same features they needed in an invoicing program . . . and thus Harvest was born.
With 44 employees, Harvest continues to function as an independent, privately held company. The software is now used by thousands of businesses, including some well-known companies such as Kiva and CNET. It won the Xero Awards for Add-on Partner of the Year in both 2013 and 2014.
The company continues to actively develop its software; in August, the company recoded its invoices overview page, adding new features and weeding out legacy code that was causing problems. In October, Harvest released a new version of its iPhone app, and just last week the company announced some changes to their interface to streamline the assignment process.
Harvest is a time tracking solution first; invoicing functions are secondary. That said, it can definitely run head-to-head with some of the other software in the invoicing field. It’s got a reasonably good feature selection, and as one might expect, the time tracking capabilities are above par. It can also handle retainer work and basic job costing, which most invoicing programs (as well as many accounting programs) cannot. Also, its Solo plan is very attractively priced; if you don’t need perks like file attachments, a postal mailing service, and automatically applied late fees, it’s an excellent choice. There are, of course, a few drawbacks, including occasionally inefficient navigation. For more details, read on.
You can try the full version of Harvest free for 30 days, no credit card required. After the trial, Harvest offers 4 pricing tiers. There are no contracts; you pay monthly and you can cancel the service at any time. If you wish to pay annually, you’ll get a 10% discount.
Harvest also offers a 15% discount for educational and non-profit organizations, as well as volume discounts for large companies (contact their sales department for details).
- Free: $0/month – You can maintain up to 4 clients and 2 projects. 1 user.
- Solo: $12/month – Unlimited clients, projects, and invoicing. 1 user included; up to 2 more can be added at $10/mo each.
- Basic: $49/month – Unlimited clients, projects, and invoicing. Supports timesheet approval. 5 users included; up to 4 more can be added at $10/mo each.
- Business: $99/month – Unlimited clients, projects, and invoicing. Supports timesheet approval. 10 users included; an unlimited number can be added at $10/mo each.
Harvest also offers a referral incentive: if someone you refer signs up for a paid plan, you and that person will both receive an account credit of $10.
Web-Hosted or Locally Installed:
Web-hosted. No downloads or installation required.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
Since Harvest is cloud-based software, it is compatible with any OS (Mac, Windows, or Linux), so long as you have internet access. Supported browsers are: Internet Explorer 10+, Safari 6+, and the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Harvest Mobile View works on Apple, Android, and Blackberry Torch devices, and there are some reports that it works on Opera Mini for Blackberry devices, though it is not officially supported. Harvest also has apps for iPhone/iPad and Android.
Specific Size of Business:
Harvest is designed for small to mid-size service-based businesses, as well as for individual departments of large corporations. You can grant access to a number of users, depending on your subscription level. You can also customize each user’s level of access.
Ease of Use:
Harvest is extremely intuitive. The interface is clean, simple, and easy to figure out.
- Setup – It’s easy to get started. Enter a little information about yourself and the size of your company, and you’re ready to go. You’ll be directed to a Welcome page with some tips for getting started and links to various resources if you need additional help. The Welcome screen will appear each time you open the program until you elect to hide it.
- Organization – A navigation bar across the top of the screen directs you to Home, Timesheets, Projects, Reports, Invoices, and Manage; there are also links to Help and Settings. You can add Estimates to your navigation bar by enabling the module (in Settings). You can customize a number of options such as the UI color scheme, date and time format, and base currency (also in Settings).
- Instructions and Guidance – In testing the software, I rarely needed to refer to instructions. Most functions are pretty self-explanatory. However, for those times I did want more information, the online help center was a handy resource. The search feature works reasonably well (even if it is a bit quirky at times) and you can also navigate Help by topic (e.g. Getting Started, Account Settings, etc.). In addition, there are a number of videos which provide clear, step-by-step instructions for basic tasks.
- Problems – On the whole, the software is quite easy to use. I have a few minor quibbles with it, though:
- Lack of File Attachments – You can attach receipts to individual expense entries . . . but you can’t send them to the client. Nor can you attach relevant documentation to any invoices or estimates.
- Minor Inefficiencies – There are some places where the navigation requires a little more work than is really necessary. For example, you need to click at least 3 times to send an invoice once you’ve entered all your information: once to save it, once to bring up the option to send it, and once to actually send it on its way. I’d have liked to see a single “Save and Send” button to speed the process.
Harvest was developed for the purpose of tracking time, but it includes several other capabilities as well. Such features (Invoicing, Estimates, Expense Tracking, Client Dashboard, and – for Basic and Business plans – Timesheet Approval) are structured as optional modules, so you can choose the ones appropriate for your company and not have to worry about the others cluttering your screen. Here are some of Harvest’s key features (for more details, click here):
- Estimates – You can create estimates which clients can approve instantly online. They are easily converted to invoices. You can customize a default e-mail template to accompany estimates, with several merge fields options to save you time. Unfortunately, you can’t add items from your task list to estimates; you’ll have to enter them manually.
- Time Tracking – Time tracking is Harvest’s primary focus. You and your employees (or contractors) can run timers to automatically log time, or enter time manually. Once you have started a timer, it will continue to run until you stop it, even if you log out of the software. If you wish, you can set the timer to record start and end times in addition to total hours logged. You can prepare an invoice for unbilled hours and expenses with a couple of mouse clicks. On Basic and Business plans, timesheets can be submitted for approval by authorized users, and you can set up an automated reminder to help your employees remember to submit their timesheets on schedule.
- Invoicing – You can create recurring invoices and automatic payment reminders. You can also create default templates for e-mails to accompany invoices and thank you notes (though these notes must be sent manually; they are not automated). Partial payments and percentage discounts are supported, though Harvest does not have any kind of automated late fee feature. You can include an online payment option through Stripe, PayPal, or PayPal Business Payments. Harvest offers only a single invoice template; you can add a logo and change the names of fields, but there are few other opportunities for customization.
- Projects and Tasks – You can link hours and expenses to specific clients, projects, and (in the case of hours) tasks. You can even link unbillable hours and expenses to projects, meaning that if you need an invoicing program that handles job costing, this is the one for you.
- Reports – Harvest offers a number of reports to help you keep your business organized. Unfortunately, you won’t find these all under the “Reports” tab; you’ll find invoice and estimate reports under Invoices and Estimates, and if you want to see costs broken down by project, you’ll need to look under Projects. Under the Reports tab are options for Time, Detailed Time, Uninvoiced, and Expense. You can filter reports by client, project, staff, and task. Unfortunately, there’s no P/L report; you can view profit/loss for individual projects, but not for your business as a whole.
- Expenses – You and your employees can enter expenses to be passed along to a client; you can also use this feature to allow employees to create expense reports even where the cost will not be passed on to the client (where the reimbursement will come directly from you). In addition, you can set a default rate for mileage and attach a receipt (or other document) to each expense. However, these attached files will not be included when you invoice a client.
- Contacts – A basic client list, with contact information. You can include multiple contacts per company and select which ones to e-mail when preparing an invoice.
- Sales Tax – You can set up either a single or combined sales tax rate; compound rates are supported. While you can manually enter any rate you like, the software will only save one rate (either single or combined). If you are using compatible accounting software (such as Xero or QBO), you can use any of the sales tax rates you have set up there for invoices (not estimates) – but they will need to be applied manually to each invoice.
- Multi-Currency – You can use multiple currencies with Harvest. The currency must be associated with a client; all expenses and time for that client will be recorded in their preferred currency. However, it will be up to you to handle exchange rates; if your default hourly rate is $10 and you have a British client, your default hourly rate for them will be £10. For reporting purposes, no currency conversion will be used; for total revenue you will see your revenue for each currency listed separately.
- Client Portal – Clients can view all their invoices and recent payments on their personal dashboard. They can review the status of their invoices and past payments, and they can pay online, if you’ve enabled the option. Unfortunately, estimates are not accessible here.
- API – Developers can use the API to create their own integrated apps.
- Import/Export Capabilities – You can import timesheets, expenses, projects, contacts, and clients from csv documents, or import all information from FreshBooks or Blinksale. You can export timesheets, contacts, tasks, and projects (csv or xls format), download a zip file with all invoices, and export any data from reports (csv or xls format).
Customer Service and Support:
Customer support is available Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm EST. My experience with them was great. Representatives were friendly, fun, and knowledgeable . . . and support was fast! (Under an hour during business hours.) Here are the support resources Harvest offers:
- Phone – Harvest can be reached at 1-888-350-6637 (US/Canada) or 1-646-755-7737 (worldwide).
- E-mail – Contact Harvest at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Online Contact Form – You can get in touch with Harvest by using their form here.
- Social Media – Harvest responds promptly to questions on their Facebook page, often within an hour or two and seldom taking more than a day. They also maintain an active Twitter feed where they respond to customer questions and feedback (often within a few hours). They post updates on their Google+ page and can be contacted via their LinkedIn profile.
- Online Help Center – Harvest’s help center contains a variety of articles and instructional videos to help you navigate the software.
- Blog – The Harvest Blog includes news about the software as well as tips for running a business.
- Webinars – Harvest offers a 45-minute Getting Started webinar each Wednesday. Alternately, you can watch pre-recorded videos covering the basics.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Most of the feedback about Harvest is positive; however, there are a few complaints:
- Limited Mobile Functionality – Several users would like to see more features from the full software added to the mobile versions. Also, a few users have noted minor bugs, as well as significant problems with syncing time logged on mobile devices. It’s too early yet to know whether the latest mobile apps have completely fixed this problem.
- Inefficient Data Entry – Some users feel that data entry is inefficient, saying the program requires too many keystrokes for simple tasks.
- Limited Invoice Templates – There’s only one invoice template, with next to no options for customization.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
The majority of user reviews on Harvest are positive; even those customers who have complaints tend to say they are pleased with the software overall. Harvest has a variety of testimonials on its site, and gets a user ranking of 4.4/5 stars on Google Apps Marketplace. The current version of the iPhone/iPad app has 4/5 stars on the iTunes App Store and the Android app has 3.7/5 stars on Google Play. Common themes include:
- Ease of Use – People find Harvest simple, intuitive, and efficient. Many like the look of the user interface.
- Great for Retainer Work – Many time tracking and invoicing programs can’t properly handle retainer work. Harvest can.
- Mobile Apps – A lot of users enjoy the ability to track hours and expenses on the road with the mobile apps.
- Money-Saving – Users comment that the software solves the problem of misplaced timesheets and makes it so easy to track time that they do a better job of recording all billable hours.
- Good Reporting and Budgeting – People find that Harvest helps them in keeping in touch with their business, following budgets, and projecting profits.
Integrations and Add-ons:
Harvest offers roughly 90 integrations and add-ons. Some of the most notable are:
- PayPal – Accept online payments and enable electronic payment of invoices. Read our review here.
- Stripe – Process credit card payments. Read our review here.
- Xero – Xero is award-winning cloud-based accounting software for small businesses. Read our review here.
- QuickBooks – Intuit QuickBooks is the most popular small-business accounting software in the US. A Harvest integration is available for QuickBooks Online, but not for QB Desktop. Read our review of QBO here.
- Basecamp – A project management tool. Read our review here.
- Salesforce (via Harvest2Salesforce) – Customer relationship management software, integrated with Harvest via Harvest2Salesforce. Currently a free integration, supporting the following versions of Salesforce: Enterprise, Unlimited, Platform, and Developer. Read our review of Salesforce here
- RightSignature – Get online signatures for estimates and invoice approvals.
Harvest uses SSL encryption. Their servers are protected by firewalls, and physical access is tightly controlled. They maintain 99.9% uptime, and user data is backed up daily to multiple physical locations.
For more details on Harvest’s security, click here.
Harvest is a reasonably good solution for businesses which rely heavily on time tracking and want to bundle their time tracking and invoicing solutions. It will be particularly handy for freelancers and small companies which need to track time and expenses based on projects and tasks. While Harvest bills itself as time tracking software, it has reasonably good invoice and estimate support – better than some invoicing software.
The drawbacks: there are a few places where the navigation isn’t as efficient as it could be, and while you can integrate Harvest with an accounting solution, there’s not a lot it does which a good cloud-based accounting program doesn’t already have covered. (The exceptions: job costing and retainer work. If your business relies heavily on either of these and your accounting solution isn’t handling it well enough, take a good look at Harvest.)
The cost could range from extremely reasonable to prohibitively expensive depending on the number of employees and contractors you plan to have using your account. Unfortunately, there’s no inventory support, nor even a basic stock list. You can’t attach files to invoices and estimates, nor do you have many options when it comes to invoice design.
In the end, though, this is solid software and could make time and expense tracking a lot easier for a number of service-based businesses. If you’re curious, I’d recommend taking it for a test drive with the free trial.