Want no-BS insights on building a highly profitable freelancing business?
✓ FREE 5 Day Course on Winning Top Paying Clients
✓ Q&A - Send In Your Questions, I Answer Them Here
✓ LIVE Webinars
✓ The Chance to Win a FREE Coaching Call
I guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared
When I worked in a government office, we had Bundy clocks and time cards to record the time we spent in the office. I never imagined that, as a freelancer, I would go back to tracking my time.
Yes, since I began offering my services on retainer basis, I’ve been tracking how long it takes for me to complete tasks for my retainer clients.
It’s not an exact science. In fact, I often forget to turn the timer on. And when I forget to turn it off, the timer itself stops three minutes after my computer has been inactive.
Tracking how we use our time is valuable for freelancers, whether or not we charge clients by the hour.
3 Reasons to Track Your Time
Here are three reasons you would want to track your time:
- To have an accurate basis for invoicing clients
Time tracking is most often used by freelancers who charge clients by the hour. You time how long it takes you to complete your tasks, multiply it by your hourly rate and invoice your client accordingly.
- To determine the value of a project
This is actually different from the first reason. In this case, you charge clients on a per project basis. However, you would still want to know how long it normally takes you to complete certain tasks, so that you can determine your flat rate for those tasks.
For example, say you want to figure out how much you should charge to create a logo design. You time yourself and find that it takes you two hours. If your hourly rate is $100, then you could charge a flat fee of $200 for a logo design. Or you could factor in your experience, use of your computer and software, and other costs and decide to charge $400 for each design. This becomes your logo design fee, no matter how much time you spend actually designing your clients’ logos.
- To assess your productivity
Even if you don’t use time tracking for the first two reasons above, you should still use it to learn more about how you really use your time. Record what you do throughout the day for at least one week. And then look back and see if you’ve really been as productive as you could be. Or if you’ve in fact frittered away plenty of time doing unprofitable activities.
Next time you start saying, “I don’t have time to…” stop yourself and think. “What can I stop doing so I can make time for this?” Look at your time record and you’re bound to find pockets of unproductive time to use for activities that will enrich you.
Tools to Use
The most basic tools for time tracking include a notepad, pen and watch or clock. Fortunately, we have more accurate, automated tools at our disposal, including ones that are free to use. Here are some that I have tried and/or still use today:
This is a free time tracking software that works with both Windows and Mac. The interface is really simple, and you can use it to track tasks for various clients. I wasn’t too happy at first that, for each client, I had to create projects and tasks before I could start the timer. However, I’ve gotten used to this by now and appreciate the detailed reports I get. I can also manually record time in case I forgot to start the timer.
Click here to download Time Edition.
This software is not only for time tracking but for enhancing productivity as well. RescueTime tracks everything you do on your computer, including sites you’ve visited and whatever software you used. I don’t like having to customize so many settings, but if you take the time and effort to do this, your reports will be much more accurate. You may be in for a surprise when you see those productivity reports!
Rescue Time also helps you to get productive by disabling your access to the Internet (don’t worry, you have total control of this feature).
Rescue Time has both free and premium packages.
My Time (via Quickbooks)
My Time is the time tracker that’s bundled in with Quickbooks. It’s really handy, because it integrates with Quickbooks, so you can automatically generate invoices from your time sheets. I haven’t actually started using My Time yet, because I only recently moved to Quickbooks (which will be the topic of a future blog post – watch out for it).
What Do You Do With Your Time?
How do you track your time? I’m sure you know of other time tracking tools that I haven’t mentioned here. Please let us know about them in the comments section below.
photo credit: striatic
PS: If you liked this post, I hope you’ll sign up for either our RSS feed or email updates below or on the right sidebar. Thanks!