One of the major pains when dealing with SaaS providers, is importing their invoices.
We all know the drill:
- You log into your SaaS application
- You find their invoice section.
- You create a new bill in FreeAgent and copy/paste your way through the details and being sure to account for the various currencies!
- You download the PDF form of the invoice and attach to the bill.
- You then explain a banking transaction with this new bill.
- Repeat over and over again for the various SaaS providers that take your money
There is no standard way of getting these invoices and each provider has their own way of presenting the bills.
Painful is an understatement!.
Thankfully, Free Agent offers a very powerful (and easy to understand API) that enables developers to create applications that can interact with your account. As both a developer and a FreeAgent user, i decided to try and solve this woe.
My first idea was create an online service that could simply connect to each of my SaaS proviers. scrape the HTML and download new invoices each month. Whilst this is possible, it would mean having my service credentials sitting up on a server. Not good.
My second idea was to have a local windows service that did something similar. This approach started well until I hit Github. I use Two Factor Authentication, which I recommend, which makes automation impossible. The price of safety I suppose.
Having resigned myself to the “manual” approach, I explored the idea of using a Chome extension. This meant not having to worry about the credentials as I simply log into the providers the normal way. I also don’t have to worry about cloud security since none of my data leaves Chrome except when sent to FreeAgent (over HTTPS of course).
The idea is simple. When you visit a supported website, the extension injects an import button into the appropriate parts of the page. CLicking the button opens a dialog, prepopulated as best as possible. You can then set the contact and category and optionally select the bank transaction you want to explain. Here is a GIF showing the flow on a dummy provider I created.
This works *really* well, but it’s not 100%. Not all SaaS providers give all the information on the screen (I’ve tried parsing the PDF, but it’s too brittle and I don’t like my data going out of Chrome). Companies like Microsoft also redirect you all over the place when trying to open the invoice PDF, so sometimes you have to take actions like opening a PDF so the security cookies are set.
That said, overall, it’s made a massive difference to my accounting workflow. I can visit four or five providers in the space of 15 minutes and import 15 invoices. The rate of error is much lower since the extension is handling it for me.
At this moment in time, the extension supports:
- Office 365
- Microsoft Azure
- Hover (without PDF invoices it’s a bit disgusting so I’m looking at taking a screenshot)
- Google Adwords
I think this could benefit other FreeAgent users and I’d ultimately like to release it and charge a monthly subscription. This would help me support providers beyond those I use myself.
If this workflow of invoice importing sounds familiar and is something you dread, I’d love if you could get in touch. I really like a few beta testers that could try this extension out and see if it’s a help or a hinderance. Please leave a comment or drop me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org