As I mentioned in my getting started guide, freelancing can be hard. You need to make sure that you’re earning enough money, plus you need to find out if your rates are as good as you think they are.
This is where time tracking comes into play. Don’t disregard the importance of knowing how you spend your time. You’ll be surprised—I guarantee it.
Why Track Your Time?
Time is money—especially as a freelancer. Every minute you spend on something that isn’t billable is an opportunity for you to be earning more. Tracking your time will help you identify inefficiencies in your workflow so that you can increase your income.
I don’t just track the time that I spend working on projects for clients. One of the things that I learned early on is the importance of knowing where you spend time on yourself. I track the time that I spend on the administrative side of freelancing the same way that I track the time I spend on client projects. This helps me see where I’m being inefficient so that I can improve my workflow or introduce time-saving tools (which I’ll get to in a bit).
How Should You Track Your Time?
The best way to track your time is to come up with a repeatable structure that works for you.
I structure my tracking as follows:
Being diligent about this from day one is helpful in case you end up working on multiple projects for the same client. Trust me.
While writing this post, I’m tracking my time as:
- Client- Jason Manuge
- Project – JasonManuge.com
- Task – Content
This helps me know how much time I spend on each post. I use the same nomenclature with all of my clients so that it’s easy to consolidate for reporting. If you do a lot of writing or logo design, for example, you might be able to determine over time how long those things typically take so that you can adjust your rates appropriately.
Here are some of the ways I bucket my tasks:
|Communication||Calls, emails, etc.|
|Consulting||Training and meetings|
|Content||Writing, editing, etc.|
|SEO/SEM/DM||Search and digital marketing|
It needs to be granular enough that you can product detailed reports for clients, but not so granular that it’s a pain in the ass. You’ll strike your own balance over time, but this is what works for me.
What Tools Should You Use?
There are hundreds of apps to help you track your time, but there are two that I recommend.
I started tracking my time using a web-based application called My Hours, which is free to use if you’re a one person shop. It has apps for Android and iPhone, which are great if you need to have meetings or record things when you’re away from your keyboard.
As a simple time tracking app, this is everything you could want. Check out their Getting Started guide to see how easy it is.
It was through this initial time tracking that I realized I was spending a lot of time trying to get paid, so I switched to Harvest which does the same thing, but also lets you track expenses and handle invoicing. If you want to give it a shot, here is my referral link (non-referral here).
I like it due to its ease of use and built-in invoicing capabilities. You can also set it up with PayPal so that your clients can pay you directly, if that’s your thing. I’m sure that I’ll dedicate an entire article to Harvest at some point, but this is a great video from Time Tracker x on YouTube that covers the basics:
I cannot recommend it enough.
Track your damn time. Find out how you can be more efficient. Discover your true capacity. Start billing more hours—and getting paid quickly.