As a consultant, time tracking should be an essential part of how you do business. It’s the easiest way to ensure you get paid for the hours you put in. For an employer, this means you won’t underpay or overpay your consultants.
And from a productivity standpoint, time tracking gives you insights into how long you spend on tasks and how to improve your time management skills.
This Article Contains:
(click on the links below to go to a specific section)
- What is Time Tracking for Consultants?
- 3 Popular Time Tracking Methods
- 5 Key Features of Consultant Time Tracking Software
- Top 3 Time Tracking Software for Consultants
What is Time Tracking for Consultants?
Time tracking is how organizations record the working hours of their employees, consultants, or anyone on their team. It’s also how consultants record their billable hours.
You can break down the process into three main components:
- Time entry: Clocking in when you start a shift and clocking out at the end of a shift.
- Approvals: Submitting tracked time records to a manager or supervisor for approval.
- Reporting: Using records for payroll, invoicing, productivity management, etc.
3 Major Reasons for Consultants to Track Time
If you’re a consultant or business owner that uses consultants’ services, here’s why you should track time:
1. Accurate Payroll and Billing
If you run a consulting business, you’re probably working with multiple clients at a time. You must record your working hours precisely, especially if you charge an hourly rate.
By tracking time, you can record the hours you or a consultant took to complete tasks related to each project. You can also generate project reports for even more clarity.
When you record employee time, you’ll have a timesheet to use for billing and payroll purposes, ensuring that these payments are always accurate.
2. Gain Productivity Insights
By tracking time, you can gain insights into your productivity and identify any problem areas.
If you examine your tracked time, you’ll notice your strengths and weaknesses. This way, you can focus on your pitfalls and improve your productivity.
For example, if you take longer on research, you can get additional training on researching techniques to improve your researching skills.
You can also plan your day better by allocating less time to the tasks that you’re more skilled at. These insights help business owners to evaluate the productivity of the consultants they’ve hired.
3. Increase Focus
Everyone gets distracted at some time or the other. But when you have deliverables to meet, you may need help keeping your focus on one task at a time.
Our minds tend to become scattered on all the things we need to accomplish in a day. By recording each task and tracking the time each one takes, we can focus on one deliverable at a time.
You can also schedule your workday more efficiently in the future and limit the time you’ll spend on each task. This way, you can motivate yourself to complete tasks on schedule.
3 Popular Time Tracking Methods
Once you’ve decided to start tracking time, you’ll need to determine the best time tracking method for your needs.
Here are the three most popular ways to track time for consultants:
1. Paper Timesheets
The most basic type of timesheets is paper timesheets. These can be registers, paper templates, forms, and other physical timesheets.
Most paper timesheets record the date, day, start time, and end time of each workday or shift.
However, paper timesheets have several limitations like:
- One can damage or misplace it.
- Individuals can fill in the incorrect times, either by mistake or on purpose.
- Approving and reviewing them can be time-consuming and tedious. And managers have no way of verifying the accuracy of paper timesheets, especially if consultants work remotely.
- Doesn’t help with productivity measuring or assessment.
2. Spreadsheet Programs
These timesheets usually have space for consultants to record their sign-in and sign-out times and a section to record vacation days, sick days, breaks, and free time during the workday.
And to make time tracking easier, you could download a timesheet template.
Although this method is slightly more advanced than paper timesheets, it also has its limitations.
Excel spreadsheets can become corrupted due to viruses, excessive editing, or if your system shuts down abruptly. When this happens, the file becomes unusable.
That’s why most companies prefer tracking time with software.
3. Time Tracking Software
Time tracking software is the most efficient and effortless way to track time.
Most time tracking software lets you automate your time tracking with timers. You can start tracking time when you start work and stop recording when you’re on a break or clocking out.
This way, there’ll be less scope for time fraud, and your data can’t be lost or corrupted.
Additionally, time tracking software usually offers insights in the form of detailed reports and graphs that let you dive deep into user working habits and productivity.
5 Key Features of Time Tracking Software
Time tracker software offers numerous features that help freelancers and consultants manage their work hours. Let’s look at some of them:
1. Time Tracking
All time tracking software will track your work hours; however, they may differ in how they do this.
Most tracking software provides automatic and manual time tracking, but the best tools also offer GPS systems and mobile apps to track time on the go. This would be useful if you run a consulting firm that requires you to move from one location to another daily.
These tools will use the data tracked to create timesheets, reports, invoices, etc.
The main goal of timesheets is to record attendance and record billable time, but you can also send them to clients as proof of time worked and tasks accomplished.
The leading time tracking software usually generates automatic timesheets based on tracked hours.
Some clients require timesheets to accompany each consultant invoice. Additionally, if you’re working on US military contracts, the DCAA (Defense Contract Audit Agency) requires you to keep daily timesheets to account for billable hours.
3. Invoicing Clients
If you’re a consultant, calculating consulting hours and creating invoices are probably some of your most tedious tasks.
If different projects and clients have different billable rates, it can make invoicing more complicated and error-prone.
Thankfully, you can easily calculate invoices with some time tracking apps, so you won’t have to download accounting software like Quickbooks. The best apps also let you set different payment rates for various projects or clients, simplifying the billing process.
4. Detailed Analytics
When choosing time tracking software, it’s crucial to look for one that offers detailed analytics so that you can analyze your work processes to identify and address inefficiencies.
Most tracking software provides this data in the form of reports.
Reports you can generate with time tracking software include:
- Productivity Reports: These usually contain detailed data about productivity based on a user’s hours, web and app activities, etc.
- Client Budget Reports: Provides in-depth reviews of how you’ve spent the client budget.
- Expense Reports: For easy expense tracking, you can generate reports to estimate project costs and manage your expenses based on the information received.
The time tracking software you choose must offer integrations that can save you time and streamline your workflow.
Why do integrations matter?
Without them, consultants would spend extra time working between programs, opening and closing a series of apps and browser windows to manage time.
Integrations help teams save time, juggle various tasks and collaborate more fluidly.
Top 3 Time Tracking Software for Consultants
Now that we’ve explored what to look for in a time tracking system, here are three tools that offer those features and more:
1. Time Doctor
Time Doctor is a robust time tracking and performance management software that can help you boost employee productivity and bill clients with ease. It’s used by consultants, small businesses like Firehouse Subs, and major companies like Ericsson.
A. Key Features
Here are some of Time Doctor’s main features:
i. Flexible Time Tracking
Time Doctor has an interactive time tracking feature that lets you track time manually.
Here’s how you can track time manually:
- Open the app and enter your task and project name.
- Click on the ‘Start’ button to begin recording.
- Click on the ‘Stop’ button when you want to end a task.
Time Doctor will accurately record your time in the background as you work, down to the second.
If you need to track time on the move, you can do so with the mobile app for Android.
Note: Time Doctor also offers you automatic time tracking for more flexibility. With this tracking app, you can record time automatically when you turn on your PC if you choose.
ii. Assign Tasks and Projects
Time Doctor lets you create tasks (under projects) and track time separately for each of them.
This helps you create projects for each client to organize your work efficiently.
The app also lets you assign projects and tasks to specific people and groups if you’re working with a team of consultants.
Here’s how simple it is to assign tasks:
- Click on ‘Add Task’ and create a new task.
- Click on ‘People’ and choose the consultant you want to assign the task to.
iii. Comprehensive Productivity Reports
Time Doctor offers you real-time productivity reports that can help you measure productivity and improve performance.
Here are some of Time Doctor’s insightful reports:
- Timeline Reports: There are two reports in this category.
- The daily report shows you how much time consultants spent working daily.
- The weekly report shows you the time they tracked in a week.
- Activity Summary Report: Shows you the active minutes, active seconds, unproductive, manual, and mobile time for each team member over a selected period.
- Attendance Report: See when a consultant is present, absent, partially absent, late, and attendance information in real-time.
- Hours Tracked Report: View how much time consultants or employees tracked daily, weekly, or for any date range you choose.
- Projects & Tasks Report: Know the time consultants spent on each specific project and task.
- Custom Export Report: You can customize a report to see the data you want without downloading multiple individual reports from various pages.
- Web & App Usage Report: Know the time a user spent on various websites and applications.
iv. Payroll and Invoicing
Once you enable the payroll feature, Time Doctor lets you easily pay consultants and employees. You can also generate invoices and send them to your clients in CSV, PDF, and XLS formats.
v. Powerful Chrome Integration
Time Doctor’s powerful chrome integration lets you track time across various other project management tools like ClickUp.
- You download the browser extension from the Chrome Web Store.
- The extension adds a start/stop button within your chosen project management tool.
You can use the Time Doctor button, so you don’t have to keep switching between apps.
- Track time anywhere, even when offline.
- See what consultants are doing during their work hours with screenshots.
- An idle time tracking feature helps you stay focused.
- Use the Chrome integration to sync with tools like Trello, Salesforce, Basecamp, Asana, Slack, etc.
- Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and Chrome compatibility to track time across devices.
- Offers strict privacy and data security policies.
Time Doctor offers a free 14-day trial. The paid plan starts at $7/user per month.
D. Customer Ratings
- G2: 4.3/5 (190+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.5/5 (330+ reviews)
2. Toggl Track
Toggl Track is a time tracking app that lets you track your activity across various platforms.
Independent consultants and business owners can use Toggl Track’s task management and revenue tracking features to improve efficiency.
A. Key Features
- Generate daily, monthly, or weekly timesheets based on time logs.
- Track time across the web, desktop app, mobile app, or browser extension, and all entries sync automatically.
- Turn your meetings into time entries on your mobile device with the Google calendar integration feature.
- Team dashboard lets project managers view the teams’ workload to ensure even distribution.
Toggl Track’s paid plans start at $10/user per month, and there’s also a limited free plan.
C. Customer Ratings
- G2: 4.6/5 (1400+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.7/5 (1600 + reviews)
ClickTime is a useful app with simple time tracking functionality.
It’s a good app for tracking time, planning projects, and budgeting, but measuring productivity can be difficult. It doesn’t show which apps and websites your team visits during working hours.
A. Key Features
- Automatically records employee costs, billing rates, and accrued time off.
- View each project and progress against goals and budgets easily on the dashboard.
- Track time across devices with the web app, Chrome extension, and a mobile iOS and Android app.
ClickTime’s paid plans start at $12/user per month, and there’s a 14-day free trial.
C. Customer Ratings
- G2: 4.4/5 (150+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.6/5 (190+ reviews)
If you’re a consultant juggling multiple projects for various clients or a business owner with a team of consultants, tracking hours can be challenging.
You’d probably agree that time tracking is essential, but it shouldn’t be complicated. The best time tracking tools are convenient, employee-friendly, and help you save time.
Using time tracking software will also help you improve your time management and productivity, which can help boost business profitability. Fortunately, Time Doctor has all the features to help you do this, from flexible time tracking to productivity management.
So why not sign up for Time Doctor’s 14-day free trial today and experience its impressive features for yourself?
Vaishali is a content marketer at Time Doctor – a platform widely used by major brands to track time and productivity.