Online invoicing service FreshBooks released a new version of its software yesterday and included an interesting new component that I think is a sign of things to come. Users are now asked if they would like to identify what industry they work in and contribute to aggregate data collection by sector. Participants will be able to see how much other web designers, for example, are charging per job, how much they make per month and are how quickly invoices are being paid. Those who participate will be able to access their individual averages over time and be notified whether or not their performance is improving relative to others. FreshBooks will find the top users in various fields and interview them for tips on their success.
Toronto based FreshBooks is approaching 100,000 registered users and will allow users to identify themselves as belonging to 86 specific sectors across 12 different industries ranging from web professionals to financial services, non profit and health care.
There are a lot of data mining possibilities here and the company is exploring options beyond invoice size, monthly income and turnaround time. I really like this idea and by making it opt-in I think the company is really doing it right. You can imagine a larger service provider making industry identification mandatory, selling that information to outside parties and generally making a mess of privacy and other concerns.
This new feature joins other interesting value adds to Freshbooks, including an API and integration with pay-as-you go CRM service PipelineDeals. We first wrote about Freshbooks here. See also competitors BillMyClients and Blinksale.