Small Business Xero

A First Look at Xero Projects

Written by Blake Oliver

Xerocon Melbourne may have been “Coachella for accountants,” but it was more than just a fun party. It was also a conference heavy on new product releases and announcements.

From my office here in Los Angeles, I watched with major FOMO as Rod Drury announced a wave of new features, including

  • Xero Expenses,
  • An upgraded Xero HQ with third-party integrations,
  • A Lifelong Learning Platform, and
  • Xero Projects — the one I’m most excited about.

Here’s a first look at Xero Projects.

What Is Xero Projects?

Xero Projects is a simple way for users to track time and expenses on projects or jobs within Xero. It’s designed for small businesses in service industries.

In essence, you can accumulate time entries and expenses on a project, then create an invoice to bill those items to your customer (or not).

You can also budget your time and see if you’re over or under compared to your total project budget.

How to Turn it On

As of October 2017, Xero Projects is only available through Xero advisors, which includes accountants and bookkeepers who have set up a Xero partner account.

If you’re currently working with a Xero advisor, you can request that they enable Projects. If you’re not yet working with a Xero advisor, you may want to check out my firm, Armanino LLP (or you can search for a Xero Advisor).

Xero Projects

Getting Started

Once you’ve turned on the module, it’s a piece of cake to create a project.

Settings are limited to:

  • Contact
  • Project name
  • Deadline, and
  • Estimate

Xero Projects

Could it be any simpler?

Receiving a Deposit

One of the first things you’ll probably need to do is receive a Deposit.

Xero Projects

Deposits can be calculated on a percentage of the project estimate, or a custom amount of your choosing.

Xero Projects

Select “Go to draft invoice” to create an invoice.

Once you approve the invoice, you’ll see it appear in the Project Overview screen.

Now that we’ve got our deposit, we can get started on the work.

About the author

Blake Oliver

Blake Oliver is a cloud accounting expert, blogger, and manager at Armanino LLP, the largest California-based consulting and accounting firm and a top 25 firm nationwide. In 2012, Blake founded Cloudsourced Accounting, an online bookkeeping company that was one of the first Xero Platinum Partners in the United States and grew to serve hundreds of clients in under three years. Cloudsourced Accounting was acquired by HPC in 2015. Blake joined HPC after the merger, serving as Director of Technology & Marketing. He then worked with Xero as a Xero Ambassador for the West Coast of the United States prior to joining Armanino. Blake holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University, where he majored in cello performance. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, and Jack Russell terrier. You can find Blake on
Twitter, LinkedIn, and personal website.


  • Thanks for the excellent review.

    “Note that you can’t credit the Project invoice using the Deposit unless the invoice amount is greater than the Deposit. In other words, you can’t partially apply a Deposit. My clients need to do this fairly often, so I hope this is something the Xero Projects team figures out how to enable soon.”

    I think this limits the usefulness of Xero Projects for many companies. If it it goes like most Xero feature requests, maybe they’ll add it in 4-5 years, if ever. No way I’d start using this based on the hope they make it functional on even a basic level, based on their track record of taking years to add the most core functionality.

    • David, thanks for reading, and glad you liked it! I hear you on the feature requests. Personally I’m still waiting for the cash basis trial balance report. But I’m optimistic about the development of Projects since it will be offered in 2018 to the public for an additional per user fee, and growing revenue from existing customers is key to Xero’s long term profitability.

  • “I’m optimistic about the development of Projects since it will be offered in 2018 to the public for an additional per user fee, and growing revenue from existing customers is key to Xero’s long term profitability.”

    That’s a great point. As a user I’m actually happy to see them charge for add-ons like this IF that means we’ll see more serious and faster development on them. It does seem as though they are suddenly coming out with some big changes, so hopefully the feature set will improve at a faster pace than it has in the past.

  • I’m really glad I read your review before going live on Xero Projects, because what a mind blowing omission this is: “Details of time entries don’t flow to invoices”. I couldn’t believe that when I read it and had to go test it, and low and behold, the invoice just shows the task name and cost, no description. Sending clients invoices for billable work that has no description is lunacy. Xero must be the only time tracking application on the market, or potentially ever created that does not flow the time entry description into the invoice. I find they build features that are never complete enough to actually use, and therefore are a waste to build at all. It’s been a torturous journey using the product and waiting and hoping many areas would mature. I think it’s stronger on accounting than it is on invoicing, and invoicing has been most important to me. For example, still no automatic billing of recurring invoices.

        • If you look at the Xero forum and feature requests it is one of the saddest things you will learn about Xero. It falls on deaf ears for so many years in a row, for very popular requests for very basic and sorely needed features, that they will go so far as to take the time stamps off the posts. Like when the request has been ongoing since 2012 for example. Xero probably has more potential than any cloud based accounting company in the world but I think they need to fire some very upper level people for as long as this has gone on.

  • Ed, they are a joke of a company. Accountants love them because they created a great partner program to help them make money (which there is nothing wrong with). Unfortunately that is more important in a lot of ways than delivering a good product.

    Reading through their forums is a head shaking inducing event. Outraged customers and consistently horrible responses from Xero. They are however incredible at one thing – congratulating themselves.

    Taking dates off forums posts was just one more example of their contempt for their users, all the while insulting their intelligence telling them how they were doing it for them!

    The product is such a joke you still can’t do a simple report showing both sides of a transaction, with people begging them for it for years.

    Thankfully we freed ourselves from this train wreck of a company and I couldn’t be happier.

  • Sorry for the delay in responding. We moved to Zoho One which includes about 40 apps, including Zoho Books, Zoho Inventory, Zoho Expense and Zoho Subscriptions, which are seamlessly integrated. $35 a month per user. For those who want something more comparable in price to Xero, they have Zoho Books only subscriptions, I think they also have a Zoho Finance subscription which bundles the ones I mentioned above.

    I find it more powerful in nearly every respect, and they listen to users and develop at a rapid rate. Their July update had more improvements than you get from Zero in a year. That said, the cons are:

    – No payroll. You need to use something like Gusto for that. But that’s what you have to do with Xero soon too.
    – Bank reconciliation is better/faster in Xero (but still good in zoho).
    – Recoding is nearly non-existent in Zoho except for a few modules, but they’ve said they are working on that.

    Of the issues above, the only one I personally find relevant is the recoding feature, but for me it’s a very small price to pay, as otherwise I find Zoho much more powerful while still being very user friendly. And as I said, their pace of development is great. They even have an amazing portal where clients can log in and see all past and current invoices etc.

    As always YMMV depending on your priorities.

  • I have looked at Zoho, good to have a professional opinion though. The think I like least is the Google look and feel. Seems like when gmail came the entire digital world went with the horrible zero definition graphics. Like when cartoons went to the crappy Flintstone, Jetsons and worse yet the Simpsons look. Xero is beautiful but what good is it when nothing ever changes for the good and with people begging for years on end. With that attitude they deserve to die away.

    • I spent quite a bit of time looking into Zoho a few years ago, and talking extensively with their development team. And for awhile I was using Zoho CRM for my own company’s CRM, which worked very well and was well supported (we no longer use it, but that was due to a very specific technical issue that another product accommodated for us better). I will admit that I have not looked into it in depth since then, nor do I have any clients using it. However, other than a lackluster UI (for the most part) and a logo that I hate, I was always impressed by the technical team, and the company’s vision for the product. If this product has the specific features that you need, it is well worth looking into. Inventory, for example, will fit some businesses well but not others – so you have to look closely at the feature list. Note that we have quite a few articles in this blog about Zoho if you search on that term in our search box – unfortunately, the person who was doing most of the reviews is no longer writing for Accountex Report (nor am I, for that matter).

  • Hi Charlie, sorry to hear you are no longer writing, I enjoyed your articles (and also was under the impression you were a principal here). I’ve followed Zoho for a long time as well. You might be amazed by how far they’ve come in the last few years (at least I was).

    They also have very deep integration now between the CRM and Financial packages, though you’d never know it unless you researched it, you have to turn off the native CRM estimating/sales orders/invoicing and turn on integration.

    I think it’s a unique opportunity for small businesses to get something more powerful at a very reasonable price, something that has been missing from the market IMO.

    It would be nice if Accountex did some new features on them, the ones here are somewhat out of date.

  • Well with all of this positive talk about Zoho I better look a little harder at it. It does have a contact manager and email all integrated as well.
    Do any of you know if it has the simple feature so many are looking for in Xero? I am a pool builder and I just would like to pull up a report showing all the money that went into the project, all the money that went out towards the project and what is remaining as profit. How could any accounting software not have that as a feature???

    I would ask if it’s just me but there are too many in the Xero forum just begging for this since like 2012.

    The fact that Zoho is just eager to keep improving puts them worlds ahead of the culture of stubbornness at Xero.

  • Ed, just do a free trial. *Make sure* to go into settings and turn all options on, because the default is some features such as project tracking are turned off. They have a pretty powerful project module built in. They are also adding to it as you’ll see if you read the comments in their July updates thread. It seems as though links may get stripped out of the comments here, but if not here is an example of the releases they are making every month, like I said that are developing at a rapid rate.

  • Ed, it seems if I post links the comments go to moderation. Anyhow, do a free trial and make sure to go into settings to turn all features on. They do have a project management module included and are also frequently improving it.

    • I will do that David. I don’t need the link, I’ve had an account there quite a while just never really go there an surely did not set up my accounting there but any thing that is going to continually get better has to be better in the long run than something that refuses to make minor changes being begged for for 6 yrs. They have reached out to me when I signed up in the past. If it was them I am thinking about they are definitely in another time zone when you are waiting for a reply. That may have been a web builder platform I am thinking about though. You think I can get them to do the “pretty blue theme” Xero has? Kind of matches my company theme =) That Google like theme is hard to look at and sadly I am that picky.

  • Ed, the link I was trying to post was actually to a thread that lists their new feature releases every month, I thought you might find it interesting just to see how many new features get added every month based on customer requests. As far as a blue theme, I’m more concerned with whether my accounting software helps me make more green 😉 :-p.

    • Okay if you have trouble posting that I should be able to find it. Yes I need to know how much green I am making and is why myself and so many others are begging Xero to give us a Job Report feature. Just can’t be that hard. Had to be harder to write the software to make Xero decide when to make a customer a customer instead of letting us decide.

  • Well it’s like Twitter now over at Xero:

    Xero Business Community
    Your Xero Community account has been suspended. Contact [email protected]..

    Here was my last post at Xero:
    The dates have been removed so you can’t see this plea of the people for such a simple thing began in 2012 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If these guys responded to just a few requests they could own the industry. They have duct tape wrapped tightly around their heads and ears. There must be an ass load of people here that should not only be fired but driven from the industry.

  • LOL Ed. There are no words to describe how happy I am to be free of that company – total control freaks endlessly singing their own praises. The taking the dates off requests really typifies their attitude towards everything. I love how they tried to eliminate the old expenses and then charge everyone for the new expenses and then backed off when everyone went nuts. It takes a staggering level of managerial incompetence not to have foreseen that.

    Did you ever take a look at zoho?

  • I see they are also eliminating payroll support. So it appears to me they are effectively *more than doubling* (or even tripling) prices on all their customers. Sounds like someone dramatically mispriced their products. Pretty funny for a company that makes accounting software and endlessly hypes how they are helping millions of small businesses to be profitable.

    • Xero definitely underestimated the complexity of building US payroll. I’ve made the switch to Gusto for my one Xero Payroll client and I’m very happy. More expensive in total, but less work.

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