Ten Terrific Apps to Help You Keep Track of Your Time

downloadHave you ever run out of time working on a project? Are you unsure of exactly how much time each project takes you?

If you answered “yes” to the questions above, then you understand my problem with time. In fact, understanding where the time went is the problem of most freelancers.

Earlier this year I began a quest to find a way to track my own time better. I’ve been using a spreadsheet for years, but I was ready for something better. I’m finally ready to share what I’ve learned.

 

Two Types of Time Tracking Programs

In my research, I discovered two types of time tracking programs:

  • Those that help you learn how your time is spent
  • Those that help you create invoices for your time

Since I always bill by the project and never by the hour, I was primarily interested in the first type of time management application. However, simply because there are so many of them, I’ve included some of the second type on the list as well.

(Note: Most of these are not free applications. In most cases, you will have to pay for the software. However, many of them offer trial periods or demo versions.)

Why It’s Important to Track Your Time

Did you think you were done with time tracking and timesheets when you became a freelancer? Think again… But! Time tracking is not a bad thing. This is purely for your benefit – you can cut down on the actual hours spent while still being more productive in a shorter period of time. It is the best way to positively impact your income. To learn more about how crucial it is to consistently track your time, give this a read.

Actually, there are several reasons why a successful freelancer should track his or her time:

  • It’s a well-known fact that most freelancers typically underestimate the amount of time required for a project. However, if you keep regular records of how long it takes you to do certain tasks your estimates will be more accurate, which generally means that you will earn more money.
  • Many freelancers have time consuming bad work habits that they are barely aware of. You may believe that you just spend a few moments a day on email or playing a computer game. In actuality, you may be wasting more time that you realize.
  • Tracking time helps you break projects down into smaller pieces. In doing so, you may be able to spot redundancies or tasks that it would be more efficient for you to outsource. Once again, time tracking can make your business more profitable.

10 Timesheet Apps

Here are ten time tracking tools to help you learn how you are spending your time:

  1. Harvest–This is the program that we at Freelance Folder use and recommend for time tracking. You have the ability to “stopwatch” your time – or manually enter it. The information is automatically saved for you and from there, you can create professional invoices and detailed reports – both in a matter of minutes. There are some advanced organizational features as well and Harvest provides live webinars and instructional videos so that you can easily learn how to optimize and tailor this fantastic tool for your own time-tracking needs. We suggest giving it a try by visiting the Harvest site. You’ll receive a free trial and a $10 credit should you choose to upgrade at a later time.
  2. fanurio–The package uses a timer to help your track your time, but also offers a manual method for entering tasks. It seems to be another good alternative to help you manage your time. There are also invoicing features and you can even track the amount of income you have received.
  3. Chrometa–This application tracks exactly what you do on your computer. If you stop working to check your email or get on Facebook ten times a day, this application will let you know. I have to admit I was impressed with this package. The impressive site includes a training video.
  4. iTimeSheet–This is an innovative and relatively new iPhone time tracking application. Your information can be exported to other applications such as Microsoft Excel. If you mostly work by phone and travel all of the time, this application might be particularly useful.
  5. OnTheJob–This package describes itself as a “professional time tracking and invoicing application.” Extra information that you can track with this package includes expenses such as mileage. You can also track client information (including addresses) using this tool.
  6. Qlockwork–This tool is an add-on to Microsoft Outlook. It automatically records your activities on your Outlook calendar. You can then use the information that Qlockwork provides for invoicing, filling out timesheets, or analyzing how you are spending your time.
  7. Rachota Timetracker–This is simple time tracking tool that can be used on many different platforms. It will run on Linux or on a Mac. It also supports many different languages, so if English is not your first language you may be able to find a version for you. Version 2.0 is also open source software.
  8. Responsive Time Logger Time Tracking Software–This family of time tracking software products has been around a long time. It is mainly for tracking billable time and expenses. Some versions of this software can also be used on mobile devices.
  9. TimeWriter Time Tracking Software–This grid-based time tracking software is available in two versions: standard and PDA. Both versions allow you to work offline on a PDA. This software is also suitable for small businesses.
  10. TraxTime–This time tracking software uses a punch clock metaphor. You can “punch in” and “out” of projects, as needed. You can also elaborate on entries with a text memo field. There is no limit to the number of projects that you can have.

What About You?

How do you keep track of how you are spending your time? Do you use a particular application or tool?

Share your answers in the comments.

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Comments

  1. says

    I think a piece of paper and sitting down to think for 10 minutes about how you spend your time may be a valuable start.

    Categorizing your time and then allocating time slots will help to think about how you spend your time. You may find you waste a lot of time on activities/people/social media/etc. that do not move you and your business forward.

    Then using one of your programs may be the right thing to do.

  2. Daboo says

    I use timewerks for the iPhone. It does a fantastic job anywhere. I love how it let’s me send the invoice before leaving a job site rather than days later.

  3. says

    This is fantastic, Laura, and your timing is impeccable. I’ve recently acquired a new client who requires short bursts of work all day long, and I’ve been looking for a better way of tracking. Methinks the answer is in your post!

  4. says

    Dr. Freelance, if you answer isn’t in the post maybe it will be in the comments.

    Thanks everyone for sharing your favorite time-tracking application.

  5. says

    I consider too, that time tracking is a must do for a freelancer. I use Excel to add my time and a short description of the project I worked on. I round up my time to 15-30-60 mins intervals and I became really precise at providing estimates.

  6. says

    The main company i work for uses a program called intervals.. its has a time tracking thing built into it.. Normally I dont use it, I just use billings time tracking when im doing billable work. Seems to work out really well.

    This was a great post.. Thanks

  7. says

    I never paid too much attention to time tracking when I started freelancing and realized I “work” for 14 hours a day. When I tried to actually see what I am spending time on, I was shocked. I could be more productive and some projects took less time than I anticipated. Now I am bit more careful and can almost do the same amount of work in 2-3 hours/day. I am traveling a lot too, so being more productive now means I can still keep an income stream and not spend all day working.

  8. says

    I’ve always liked the desktop timer TimeSync that integrates directly into Freshbooks.

    Another way to keep track of time is if you use the Pomodoro technique mentioned here by Lexi before, you can keep track of the Pomodoro’s per task and enter it onto a spreadsheet.

  9. says

    It’s always good to mention what platform software runs on. In case of Chrometa for instance both the author of this article and the website don’t mention it. I have to figure by downloading and seeing an .exe file loading to disc….

    Albert

    ALBERT KIEFER
    visual designer
    http://www.kiefer.nl

  10. says

    @Michael @Julian:

    That is correct – Chrometa currently runs on Windows only – we will roll out a Mac version this year sometime – it’s at the top of our priority list :)

    We’d be happy to loop you into the Chrometa for Mac beta if you’re interested. Please ping me direct brett@chrometa.com and we’ll get you taken care of.

    Thank you for your comments and for taking a look at Chrometa, and please contact me if we can assist with anything.

    Brett Owens
    Chrometa CEO and Co-Founder
    brett@chrometa.com
    916-254-0260

  11. bonfield says

    Billings for its simplicity and it adds line items from my timed slips directly to my invoices. Works for me after trying iBiz and some other standalone methods.

  12. says

    Nice post, my timetracker of choice is Paymo: http://www.paymo.biz/ They offer a free account with invoicing, and reporting. Super easy to use and fast, you don’t spend much time updating content in it once you have it set up.

  13. says

    Loving Chrometa. The interface could be a bit better, [but who are we kiddin', every interface could be ;)]

    If you have an .edu email address, you get a full license for free! Nice to have people that feel pain in the web app industry.

  14. Barbara Schneider says

    I have tried a number of the demos for time and expense tracking and found Chrometa to provide a simple and accurate method of keeping track of my hours spent on the computer whether for work, school, or pleasure. It is always eye opening to see what is going on with your time.

    It think it is important to note that Chrometa provides a free license for students and although that is not the reason I chose Chrometa, it certainly helped preserve my budget.

  15. Markus Rehm says

    Chrometa is a very useful and clearly arranged tool. Its usage is self-explanatory and students get a free license!

  16. Andi says

    thanks for that great article… as I’m starting my freelance business I’ve downloaded “billings” and “on the job” which is part of the app-bundle at http://www.macbuzzer.com/

    As far as I can see “billings” hast a superior set of features such as statements and the analytics part

  17. says

    Hi!

    We are developing the time tracking product “time cockpit”. Unfortunately the beta 2 version is only available in German and we are in the process of preparing the English version.

    If you are able to speak German feel free to get your personal time cockpit at http://www.timecockpit.com. If you speak English and you want to check out what’s special in time cockpit check out these short videos at http://www.timecockpit.com/en/Register_For_Beta.aspx. Like it? Just drop me an email and I will notify you as soon as time cockpit will be available in English (approx. July 2010).

    Rainer.

  18. says

    I really recommend Chrometa as a Windows user (dont have mac :’( maybe next year), It has a great GUI and it tells you how much time you are investing on different tasks.

  19. Thom R says

    Chrometa rocks! Not only is this a great program but their response to email is first rate. Brett made me feel like family on my first interaction.
    Thank you for introducing me to this great company!

  20. says

    My favorite time tracking software is TSheets. I was introduced to it by a friend and now I don’t know I ran my business without it! It’s a web based system that has invoicing, QB importing, and scheduling :) It’s my one stop shop! Here’s there link: http://www.tsheets.com

  21. says

    Thanks so much for this! Chrometa is super awesome. You can bet that I will be investing in this when my 60 day trial runs out! I just finished trying it out for the past hour and I think it is going to be very helpful in getting me to manage my time better!

  22. says

    Our company may have the only portable device for conducting diagnostic time studies. The first version of the hand-heldTimeCorder tracking system was launched in 1989, the second in 2004.

    We don’t sell the TimeCorder device as a billing tool. We lend it to employees for two weeks to track their time – particularly as they move around – sales reps, field supervisors, and even maintenance people have used it. You’ll find some of our research at http://www.getmoredone.com. Primarily we have found that less time is spent than ideal on high priority tasks and much more on administration than employees would like.

  23. says

    I’ve been using On the Job for several months now and it’s awesome. Once the time is all tracked out it’s one click invoicing. You can even create your own templates for the invoices so they can match your style or your site or your resume or your mood ;) It also is integrated nicely with apple mail so you can just send off an invoice with a second click.

    Other cool stuff, you can have multiple clients that have multiple projects as well as multiple jobs within each project. It can go pretty deep which is great. Lastly, it shows you your outstanding invoices so you can keep on top of getting paid! It’s definitely a great program for the price (and really easy to get started). Definitely should be a top pick for mac users, if you can use address book you can use On the Job.

  24. says

    Thanks to everyone mentioning Paymo as their time tracking & invoicing app of choice. If you’re curious and like to give it a try please email us mentioning this article and we’ll let you use our unlimited invoices add-on for six months for free!

  25. says

    I use the Eternity app for my iPhone and really enjoy it. It allows you to organize your projects in a hierarchy, so you can group items together under one heading. It also allows you to create daily, weekly, or monthly reports, which you can export via email and load into a spreadsheet software. It also illustrates how you’re spending your time with pie charts. The only downside is that it doesn’t allow you to record simultaneous tasks.

    http://twitter.com/ParcHDVideo

  26. says

    I’ve been using Easy Time Tracking for about three years now and I love it. I upgraded from the free version to the paid because of the added features. It offers both manual time entry and time tracker you can turn on. It also has full invoicing, including a place to include payments, and custom reports. Best of all, it was only about $50 (for a single license — there are multi-user and web-based options available)!

    http://www.easytimetracking.net/

  27. says

    Just wanted to humbly suggest my app. It’s called My Hours and is an inexpensive alternative to more feature rich time-tracking tools for billing purposes. Folks who work variable shifts and record their hours from a posted calendar or bulletin board will find it a life saver.

    http://www.myhoursapp.com.

  28. says

    This is a great web site with great information.

    I use a project rate which is a combination of prices in The Writer’s Market, listings on my writer’s group’s private forum, and I just ask around. I’ve been able to put together a relatively good price list.

    I do use TraxTime for miscellaneous web updates for clients or consulting which is done by the hour. Everything else works much better at a project rate. It took me a long time to learn this, but I now prefer the project rate. Plus as I have gotten much faster with some types of writing (like press releases), an hourly rate would cause me to lose money.

    It only takes that one horribly underestimated project, which really causes you to perk up and revamp. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to run the your time system just to have an idea of the amount of work involved in a particular project.

    This web site is loaded with great info. Thanks I am learning how to do things better here.

  29. A. Jackson says

    I’m late to this party, but have to add my two cents about Chrometa.

    I WILL NOT LIVE WITHOUT IT!

    Anything that requires me to press start or stop is not going to work. Writing down the time as I finish the task presumes that I looked at the clock before I started the task. Umm, no. Knowing how long a phone call lasts presumes that I check that before I hang up the phone. Maybe….

    I didn’t do my billing for 4 days. I went through Chrometa and was able to log my time for all four days in 20 minutes during my lunch break. Before, I’d spend hours trying to remember what I did. Now, no more.

    And, an awesome feature not mentioned is the categories feature. I add my client’s name into the categories, and drag and drop a document into it. Once it’s in the category, it remains attached to that client. This way I can click on a client and know exactly how much time I spent, which prevents both over and under billing. Customer support is amazing, and this is genuinely the best $99 I’ve ever spent.

    (And no, I’m in no way affiliated with the program, but it has made my life as an hourly billing attorney SO much easier!)

  30. says

    Just wanted to say thanks for looking into Harvest, and for mentioning us in your post. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you do have any questions – we’re constantly improving things here, and we love to hear from our users!

    Karen, Harvest Community Manager

  31. says

    Hi Laura, you have a good range of software here. Another web-based software to look out for is 1DayLater – time, expense and mileage tracking It’s designed to help freelancers and solo professionals with their time tracking and management but also lets you log other important things like your business miles and daily expenses for projects. It’s a simple to use app – and much more enjoyable to use than ordinary timesheets

  32. says

    We can probably change the subject to 100 terrific apps soon :)

    We have been using http://www.trackintime.com for a number of projects now and it has worked out great. The main reason we chose http://www.trackintime.com was that it has a nice estimation feature. When we begin a new project the project manager creates the activities and requests estimates from the team members. Then as the project progresses we have a nice overview of how we are doing compared to the estimates.

  33. Xavier Sabatier says

    Personally, I use http://www.timetrackonline.com/?lang=en . It’s really customizable and so easy to use for the timesheets (drag&drop!), of course, but also for the invoicing as well as the analysis of the activity.
    On top of that, I’m still breathless of the last version where I can fill in my timesheet on iCal and it’s automatically synchronized on the app! I like the fact that the app is conceived itself on a time optimization philosophy.

  34. Xavier Sabatier says

    Personally, I use http://www.timetrackonline.com/?lang=en . This app is really customizable and its philosophy is effectively time efficiency oriented: timesheets (drag&drop!), invoicing, activity analysis.
    I’m still breathless of the last version where you can fill in the timesheet with iCal and synchronize automatically with the online app. It’s worth to try it…

  35. says

    I use to use a really simple app called Baralga which was simple, clean and free :D

    I do like the looks of this Chrometa software though, its harder to lie to yourself if you’ve been lazy when the facts are there :D

  36. Vincent says

    I would like to recommend OroTimesheet for time tracking and invoicing.
    It is really easy to use and very affordable.
    It helps me keep track of the time I spend on each project. I can easily create an invoice from my timesheets.

    It is free to try so make sure to visit the company’s website at http://www.orologic.com/

  37. says

    Of course we need to mention Timesheets.com, because no time tracking list is complete without it! We track BOTH hourly time for payroll and project time for billing. I think most competitors are tracking either one or the other, if I’m not mistaken, with a few exceptions.

  38. D. Scott says

    I use a web based app called Get Gwalla. Its absolutely free (at the moment any way). It’s perfect for freelancers that simply want to track projects, payments, and store client info. What I like most is they have a “Goals” meter that lets me set my monthly goal so I can track my incoming revenue against my set goal.

    You can check it out at http://getgwalla.com. I think it may be in beta – but it works for me! Hopefully you guys might get some use out of it too. Also I love it cuz its mobile friendly – perfect for me since I’m on the go.

  39. says

    It¡¦s really a great and helpful piece of info. I am satisfied that you just shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  40. says

    Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this site before but after going through a few of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m certainly delighted I came across it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!

  41. Marie-Eve says

    Do you know Kiwili ?
    It works with all the platforms (Mac, PC, Linux, iOS, Android) and there’s even an iPhone version. The app allows you to manage your time, create and send bills, get paid online, organize your projects, create your reports and so on.
    Here’s the link https://www.kiwili.com

  42. says

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  43. says

    Apple now has Rhapsody as an app, which is a great start, but it is currently hampered by the inability to store locally on your iPod, and has a dismal 64kbps bit rate. If this changes, then it will somewhat negate this advantage for the Zune, but the 10 songs per month will still be a big plus in Zune Pass’ favor.

  44. says

    Great collection! In time cockpit (http://www.timecockpit.com) we tried to combine the two types of time tracking applications you mentioned:

    Time cockpit contains activity trackers that help you learn how you spent your time. The tracked activities are displayed in a graphical time sheet calendar. There you can transform them into time sheet entries and assign them to projects.

    For back-office tasks time cockpit contains features like invoice management, vacation management for work hours calculations or excel export.

  45. Jan says

    I like to use PlanetSoho for tracking my time and creating/sending invoices. It’s similar to Freshbooks, not sure if any of you have used that. I’d give PlanetSoho a try if you’re struggling with tracking billable hours, as it’s a free app.

  46. Dan says

    I like to use PlanetSoho for tracking my time and creating/sending invoices. It’s similar to Freshbooks, not sure if any of you have used that. I’d give PlanetSoho a try if you’re struggling with tracking billable hours, as it’s a free app.

  47. says

    Hey, you should also check out UpYourTime. It’s a really awesome time management tool because it has all the features you need if you’re a freelancer or an agency. And it’s really easy to use and customize and it’s also sort of fun to play around with.

    Give it a look on http://www.upyourtime.com.

  48. Fred says

    I tried several time tracking apps (harvest, freshbooks) but found them to be too expensive. There is 28 of us in the company. We then chose http://flapps.com, it does everything the other ones did and costs only $3.95. They provide great, almost instant support.

  49. says

    We are pleased to offer an easy-to-use yet powerfull time tracking software actiTIME for better tasks and projects management.
    Basic time-tracking functionality is absolutely free for small teams upto 10 users!

  50. George says

    I use this app: timetrackingiphone.com and I’m quite happy whit it. Clean and simple, what I was looking for.

  51. says

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  52. Prem says

    Is there a time tracking tool that stays on top of desktop like a small bar which indicates what task I am currently working on

  53. says

    I would also add primaERP TIME TRACKING to the list. Cloud-based web app that is really easy to use and has a great design. It’s also completely free for 3 users! You can add projects, tasks, activities and assign them to your clients. You can also measure your efficiency, declare if activities are billable and private and can sort by these categories in the automatically created reports. It’s a really nice tool! :)

  54. says

    Yes, some of the apps are technically awesome, but on the other hand…we should consider how much sense it makes to create more and more presure on us or/and our employees for example. I think the future should be “finalize tasks” and less “work x hours”

  55. Kurt says

    Have you seen Timesheets.com?

    Their software is free for freelancers. It’s a time tracking app designed for project workers and also tracks expenses and time for payroll. The reporting is great!

    • Ryan Domm-Thomas says

      Hey Kurt,

      A few of our other readers have mentioned this tool as well. Thanks for reading and sharing!

      Have a great day!

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