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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Image by frield