Can Expensify ease the pain of running a freelance business?

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Can Expensify ease the pain of running a freelance business?

As a small business owner, it’s essential to track my business spending accurately, without it taking up a lot of my valuable time. My solution has been to use a basic Excel spreadsheet. It works — when I remember to fill it out. Unfortunately, at tax time, I’m often wondering why I wasn’t more vigilant about tracking my expenses, time and mileage.

Enter Expensify, the website and app that tracks and reports business spending, travel and time. Could this be the all-in-one tool that lets me ditch my spreadsheet?

What is Expensify & how does it work?

Expensify has been helping business owners manage their expenses since 2008. Receipt-scanning technology is central to the Expensify experience. Known as SmartScan, it allows you to take pictures of your receipts and automatically transcribes them, saving you from entering all your expense details by hand.

Once you scan your receipts, you can edit the details and bundle them in reports. Then you can share them with others, submit them and mark them as approved.

The app offers different ways to track mileage: Either note your vehicle’s odometer readings, or link the app to your GPS to generate a receipt that shows the mileage and your route. You can also enter your mileage manually.

For time tracking, you specify the number of hours worked and how much you’re charging per hour. Expensify will calculate the total.

Expensify offers a free basic version for individuals, but groups and companies with multiple employees pay per user each month.

What’s Good About Expensify?

SmartScanning receipts saves a ton of time
I procrastinate on tracking receipts because it’s tedious. SmartScan makes the process a breeze. I was amazed at how quickly I was done with this task. It works with both photos and emailed receipts and produces accurate transcriptions.

Linking a credit card

I was able to link my business credit card, and Expensify not only automatically pulled out the expenses, it also generated a receipt for each expense. All I had to do was categorize them, add a description and assign them to a report. It was incredibly simple.

Mileage tracking is easy

Having options for tracking mileage was a big plus, especially if I didn’t bring GPS on a business trip. (Learn how to stay healthy if you travel for business all the time.)

What’s Bad About Expensify?

Only five free SmartScans a month

When putting this app through its paces, I blew through my allotment of SmartScans and was encouraged to spend $4.99 a month to get unlimited scans. After manually entering the details of each receipt, I think $60 a year might be worth it.

Creating reports could be simpler

Creating reports isn't very intuitive. I tried to create new projects when snapping photos of expenses, only to have Expensify generate random report numbers. If I wanted a new project report, I had to first create it in the reports section, then add my expenses. Not ideal when you’re on the road and trying to quickly capture information.

Time tracking is a glorified calculator

I need help with tracking time, but more along the lines of helping remember when I started and stopped working on a project. That made Expensify’s time tracking a disappointment, as it just calculated the total amount you should invoice based on time and hourly rate. However, it is helpful if you charge different rates for your work.

Getting support can be slow
It can take up to 24 hours to get a response from Expensify support. I was lucky and worked through a small issue within 30 minutes, but if I had a pressing deadline and needed help, a 24-hour turnaround time wouldn’t be pleasant.

Is Expensify worth it?

Expensify is clunky. It’s not laid out intuitively, and you have to really spend some time with it to figure out how to use it. If you don’t use it that often, you’ll end up wasting time trying to remember all the details. However, some of the features make expense tracking very efficient, and for the price, putting up with some clunkiness could be worth it.

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Image: Audrey Shtecinjo