It's important for freelancers to be able to track their time accurately. This is true for hourly billing purposes, as well as to keep track of how much time certain types of projects take. There are many ways you can track your time, some involving technology and others using what might be called 'old-fashioned' methods. There's sure to be a choice that fits your work style and personality.
Online Time Tracking Apps
There are many time tracking apps available. Some combine productivity and management features, while others focus simply on time tracking without the additional bells and whistles.
Toggl is a good option if you are solely looking for a time tracking tool. The simple interface lets you start and stop time tracking easily. You can create reports to show you how your time has been spent as well as your success with meeting estimated deadlines. Toggl can also be set up for teams. The basic plan is free. Fee-based plans start at $9 per month for a starter package, $18 for premium access, and $49 for the enterprise option. The higher-level plans have more reporting and team management features.
A combination of time tracker and scheduling program, Timely has a simple and colorful calendar interface that you can use to schedule your work projects and then compare your plan to actual time worked at the end of the day. Timely can be integrated with the Google and Apple calendar programs. The solo plan is $7 per month and allows for 3 active projects and one person. The essential plan is $14 per month per team member. It includes unlimited projects and can be used by one person or a team.
Tracking Time has a free plan for teams up to three people with no more than three active projects. The Pro version is $5 per month per team member and the Business plan is $9 per month per team member. The higher tiered plans include more features such as custom reporting, user permissions, time sheet exports and more. The app integrates with many popular product management apps such as Asana, Basecamp, and Slack. The app includes useful features such as exporting to PDF and an easy drag-and-drop calendar interface.
If you want more than just time tracking, Harvest allows you to track hours and generate invoices directly to your clients. You can receive payments from customers via Stripe and Paypal, as well as set up automatic reminder emails to clients. Harvest integrates with many other programs such as Asana, Slack, QuickBooks, GitHub, Zapier and Trello. For one person with two projects, Harvest is free. You can upgrade to the solo plan with unlimited projects for $12 per month.
If you prefer to use a software program rather than an online or smartphone app, you can set up a table in Microsoft Word or a spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel. Another option is to create your table or spreadsheet in Google Drive using Sheets or Docs which allows you to access them online any time.
You can create columns for things you need to track, such as date, time work started, time work ended, project, and client. Depending on how you invoice your clients, you could even set up these documents as the actual invoice templates that you send to customers.
No Technology Needed
If you prefer a simpler approach, you can track your time without a computer or smartphone in sight.
- Notebook: Keep a log of your time with a pen and a notebook. You can keep a page for each day, or a page for each project.
- Day planner: Similar to the notebook method, use a day planner or calendar and write your hours and projects in each day's block.
- White board: Use a dry erase board posted in your workspace with a spot to track each project you are working on. List your time either by day and the number of hours worked or dates with start and end times.
The methods have several benefits. For example, you can track your information without a computer, and individuals who prefer a more tactile approach may find it easier than using a technology-based solution. On the other hand, if you lose your notebook or planner or your white board is accidentally erased, you've lost all of your data. Additionally, with each of these methods, you will eventually have to type your data into a software program if you want a permanent, computerized record.
Save Time Tracking Time
Every freelancer needs an organized process to track her time. Whether you want to use a notebook and pencil or the latest high-tech app, knowing how you spend your time and billing your hours accurately is an important step toward success in your freelance career.