As any small business owner will tell you, contracts are great, but cash is king. Working with larger clients usually means working to their terms, and when you’re waiting 30/60/90 days for payment to come through it can feel like you’re back on the ramen diet in your college dorm room.


Tim Chaves knew this feeling all too well.

In 2011, his one-man design and development agency had started to grow up. And with mo’ money came mo’ problems:

“Because we were growing I had to pay my staff every two weeks. Payroll was a set deadline and I always had to make it. But at the same time we were taking on bigger and bigger projects and not getting paid for 30/60/90 days—whatever terms our customer needed. So even though we were profitable on paper, we were constantly running into these cashflow issues.”

But Tim kept on hustling, bringing in more clients and growing his agency until he shut it down in 2013 when he was accepted into a little business school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

But still this issue kept bouncing around in his head:

Why should a business that’s bringing in good clients, good projects, and good money on paper, be struggling to keep its lights on and its staff happy?

“In my final year at Harvard I started thinking, ‘What if we could take this concept of 30/60/90-day terms and turn it on its head a bit and say when a freelancer or agency wants to get paid, that’s when they can get paid?’”

And that’s exactly what he’s doing with ZipBooks—a free accounting and invoicing solution for small businesses that lets them get paid as soon as their invoice is submitted instead of waiting months on end.

The new ZipBooks
The new ZipBooks

The process is actually pretty simple when you hear Tim explain it.

Any small business—from freelance designers and developers to agencies or even plumbers, landscapers or anyone else, really—can use ZipBooks to track and send their invoices.

“It’s very much in the Freshbooks and Harvest space, but instead of charging $20—$100 a month we’re saying it’s absolutely free with no restrictions.”

When they’re ready to submit an invoice to a client there are two options:

Option one: Hit ‘send’. (Pretty self-explanatory, right?) The client gets the invoice and pays it based on the discussed terms.

Option two: Hit ‘send and get paid now’. Now, this is where the magic of ZipBooks comes into play. The invoice is still sent to the client, but instead of waiting around for the payment to come through, ZipBooks covers 100% of the invoice—anywhere from $500 to thousands of dollars—in a matter of hours with the user only being charged a small fee of 0.5% for every week ZipBooks’ user holds on to the cash.

“Because we charge that fee, we’re offering the use of our software absolutely free. So it’s very much in the Freshbooks and Harvest type space, but instead of charging between $20—$100 a month we’re saying it’s absolutely free with no restrictions.”

Cashflow problems solved.

We’ve got a great idea, now how do we show it off?

With a novel idea and a huge potential customer base looking for a solution just like ZipBooks, Tim started looking for help to get them noticed.

He’d already worked with Crew in the past on an iOS app project, so when he wanted a new website for ZipBooks, we were the first people he turned to.

“I have, what I consider to be extremely high standards, especially in terms of UX/UI. And combined with the fact that now I’m so focused on so many other aspects of the business—you know, raising money, hiring team members, thinking about the business model—all of that is taking away from my ability to focus on the experience in the way I’d like to.

“For me, it was really important to access a pool of talent that I could really trust and know that I was going to get the same standard of quality that I expect from myself.”


With Tim’s needs in mind, we connected him with Luke, a designer, iOS developer, and fellow small agency founder. Luke’s been with Crew for a year and a half now and has worked with clients like Tinder, Basecamp, and Skullcandy. He’s so good, we even hired him for one of our own projects.

They exchanged ideas, with Tim leaving a lot of room for Luke to get creative with how he approached the website redesign:

“Because we don’t necessarily have the budget to hire a full-time design team, it’s amazing to have someone who’s actually committed for the duration of the project and cares about its success.”

“We didn’t want to be prescriptive in terms of design at all. All we really gave them was basically a font and a color scheme.”

Luke and his co-worker Philip got to work, building out a minimalist, clean, and friendly take on the inspiration and assets that Tim had provided. The result is a gorgeous site that alternates from white to grey vertically down the page, switching from image to text explaining exactly how ZipBooks works.

“It was interesting too because Luke and Philip really took ownership for the project. If we had ideas they didn’t like they’d tell us that. Most contractors would be like, ‘That’s fine. The client wants it but I don’t like it so whatever.’ But these guys would push back, which was actually really helpful and made the end result so much better.

“Because we don’t necessarily have the budget to hire a full-time design team, it’s amazing to have someone who’s actually committed for the duration of the project and cares about its success.”

If your cashflow is clogged or you’re just looking for a beautiful and intuitive (and free!) way to keep track of your business’ contracts and invoices, check out their new site.

The new site isn’t just a pretty face

Since the new ZipBooks page went live at the beginning of the year, Tim has seen their conversion rate increase 16% and their pageviews double month-on-month. It’s amazing how far a facelift can go.

And after a few months in the works, they released the 5-star rated ZipBooks for iOS app (also made on Crew!) which quickly became the #1 accounting and invoicing app on Product Hunt!

Want to boost your own traffic with a site like ZipBooks? Get in touch and we’ll connect you with designers like Luke and Philip.

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