Curious about time tracking for freelancers?
Being a freelancer isn’t easy.
You need to focus on managing projects with tight deadlines, finding new clients, and generating invoices.
Fortunately, by tracking time, not only will you be able to manage these tasks efficiently, but you’ll also have more control over your hours.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about time tracking for freelancers. We’ll also introduce five excellent time tracking apps that you can use to track time.
This Article Includes:
(Click on the link to jump to a particular section)
- Why Should Freelancers Track Time?
- What Are The Different Time Tracking Methods?
- Key Features Of Freelancer Time Tracking Software
- Top 5 Time Tracking Software For Freelancers
Let’s dive in.
Why Should Freelancers Track Time?
Time tracking involves keeping tabs on how you spend your time at work. It gives you great insights into how you can boost your productivity and efficiency.
By tracking every minute you work, freelancers can also generate accurate invoices based on your time entries.
Here’s a closer look at the key benefits of tracking your time:
1. Accurate Billing
Freelancers with a packed schedule can get overwhelmed and confused far too often.
This usually happens when the projects are from different clients but involve similar tasks — like accounting, legal research, etc.
You might mistake one task for another and accidentally bill the wrong amount to your clients.
Additionally, you can forget the time you took to complete a task and generate incorrect invoices.
How can you prevent this?
By tracking time, you can record the time you took to complete tasks related to a specific project. You can further generate project reports for more clarity.
2. Gain Valuable Insights
When you track time, you get insights into your productivity pitfalls and your strengths.
If you notice that you take more time than necessary to complete tasks, based on what you observe, you can work on your drawbacks and improve your skills.
For example, if typing isn’t your strong suit, you’ll take more time to enter data. You can then take up typing exercises to boost your speed.
Similarly, you’ll know when you’re most productive in a day when you track your work hours. You can assign demanding tasks accordingly during those hours to finish them faster.
3. Increases Focus
According to a study conducted by Udemy in 2018, around 70% of the employees surveyed admit they get distracted while working.
Fortunately, time tracking can help you maintain your focus.
Time tracking motivates you to complete tasks according to your schedule. It reminds you of the time left to finish a project and encourages you to concentrate better.
What Are The Different Time Tracking Methods?
Primarily, there are two ways freelancers can track time?
1. Manual Timesheets
A timesheet is a spreadsheet that you use to record the time you spend working on different tasks. You’ll have to manually enter data whenever you check-in and out of work.
However, manual timesheets have several limitations like:
- Prone to human-errors.
- Files can get corrupted or lost.
- Difficult to analyze productivity as you only get to see the time taken to finish tasks and not how efficient you were.
2. Time Tracking Software
Time tracking software automatically logs the time you take to complete tasks. You can either manually operate the tracker or set the software to track time automatically.
Unlike manual timesheets, time tracking software offers several advantages like:
- Accurately calculate hours spent on tasks and projects.
- Record and analyze productivity with in-depth reports.
- Automatically generate invoices to bill your clients.
- Additional features like alerting you when you’re idle — so you can get back to work.
Key Features Of Freelancer Time Tracking Software
Time tracking software offers several features that help freelancers manage time and projects. Let’s look at some of them:
1. Time Trackers
The primary feature of time tracking software is to track the time you spend on each task.
While most tracking software provides manual and automatic time trackers, some tools also use GPS systems to track time when you’re on the go.
Using the time tracking features of these tools, you can:
- Evaluate yourself using the collected data on productivity, time worked, idle time, etc.
- Track time taken to complete tasks and projects to send to your clients.
- Create accurate invoices with hourly rates and billable hours.
Most modern time tracking software provide automatically generated employee timesheets.
While the primary function is to record attendance and log work hours, you can also use timesheets to:
- Accurately record time entries, like clock-in and clock-out time.
- Send proof of tasks done to clients.
- Know the amount of time spent on daily activities (tasks, breaks, etc.)
3. Invoicing Clients
Creating invoices is a tedious and time-consuming process — especially for freelancers.
It can be difficult to bill clients since different projects have different billable rates, and we’re liable to make errors.
Fortunately, some time tracking apps also calculate invoices using the tracked time and the billable rate. They can also let you set different payment rates for various projects.
4. Expense Tracking
Keeping track of your expenses helps you manage your finance, bill every client, and track budgets.
A few time tracking software can ensure that a project is profitable by tracking the project budget against the ROI (Return On Investment.)
Reports help you analyze your work time and make necessary changes to grow your freelancing business.
Some popular reports that you can generate with time tracking software include:
- Productivity Reports: Contains a detailed analysis of your productivity based on your web and app activities and your work hours.
- Expense Reports: Includes a comprehensive list of all your expenses. You can modify your budget and manage your costs based on this report.
- Client Budget Reports: Offers an in-depth review of how you’ve spent the client budget.
Using these reports, you can monitor your project and team performance and find ways to maximize output.
If you want to complete your projects smoothly and run a business simultaneously, you may have to get a project management tool, communication software, accounting software, etc.
That’s why you should get a time tracking app that will integrate with all the software you’ll need. This way, you can track time across apps and streamline data transfer with ease.
Based on the task and project, you might have to use different devices to complete your work.
Most time tracking tools have a desktop app that’s compatible with Linux, Windows, and Mac OS. They might also have an iOS and Android app that help you manage your workflow when you’re on the move.
Some tools would also be available as Firefox and Chrome extensions.
So before you choose time tracking software, check whether it’s compatible with all the devices you use.
Here’s a detailed look at the essential time tracking features you need in 2021.
Top 5 Tracking Software For Freelancers
While there are several time tracking tools available today, only a few are used widely among freelancers because of their efficiency and functionality.
Let’s take a look at some of the most used freelancing time tracking software:
1. Time Doctor
Used by freelancers, small businesses like Firehouse Subs, and major companies like Ericsson, Time Doctor is a time tracking and performance management software that can help you boost productivity and bill clients with ease.
Here are a few of Time Doctor’s main features:
A. Interactive Time Tracking
Time Doctor has an interactive time tracking feature that lets you track time manually.
You can start and pause tracking time by clicking on the ‘Start’ or ‘Stop’ button whenever you begin and end a task, respectively.
The benefits of using a manual time tracker app are:
- Records the time you work accurately.
- Gives you privacy by not tracking your web activity when you’re not using the tracker.
Note: Time Doctor also offers you an automatic time tracking feature that starts tracking time when you turn on your PC.
B. Tasks And Projects
Time Doctor lets you create projects and tasks and track time separately for them.
You can create projects for each client to organize your work better.
The app also lets you assign tasks to specific people and groups if you work in a freelance team.
Here’s how you can delegate tasks:
- Click on ‘Add Task’ and create a new task.
- Click on ‘People’ and choose the person you want to assign the task to.
It’s that simple!
C. Insightful Productivity Reports
Time Doctor provides you with real-time productivity reports that can help you improve your performance.
Let’s take a look at all the reports Time Doctor has to offer:
1. Activity Summary Report
This report will show your:
- Active minutes: Total minutes you’ve worked.
- Active seconds: Total seconds you’ve worked.
- Unproductive time: Time spent on unproductive websites while the productivity app was running.
- Manual time: Time records that you’ve edited manually.
- Mobile time: Time tracked through the mobile app.
2. Hours Tracked Report
This report will show you the time tracked during any time frame (day, week, month, or any date range you select).
3. Project And Tasks Report
Time Doctor lets you analyze the time you spent on each project and its tasks — unlike some time tracking tools like RescueTime.
4. Timeline Report
Using Time Doctor, you can view the daily and weekly reports of when you clocked in and out of work. These reports also include the time you spent working and on breaks.
5. Web And App Usage Report
This report displays the different websites and apps you used during a specific duration. It also shows how productive you’re during a day, week, or any date range.
Time Doctor allows you to classify websites and applications you use into:
According to these categories, the app determines whether the time you spent is productive or not.
This way, you get more accurate productivity reports, helping you take the necessary measures to improve your performance.
Time Doctor enables you to generate invoices and send them to clients in CSV, PDF, and XLS formats.
If you manage a team of freelancers, you can also create payroll and pay other team members with ease.
E. Powerful Chrome Extension and Integrations
Time Doctor offers a Chrome extension that integrates with many popular work tools.
Here’s how it works:
- Download the browser extension from the Chrome Web Store.
- The extension adds a start/stop button within your project management app.
- You can use the Time Doctor button within the tool, so you don’t have to switch between apps.
You can also integrate Time Doctor with 50+ tools like:
F. Platform Compatibility
Time Doctor has a separate desktop app for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. It also offers a powerful mobile app for Android devices.
- User-friendly interface.
- Can track time while offline.
- Can track the websites and apps you use during working hours.
- In-depth reporting features give you accurate productivity insights.
- Provides strict privacy and data security policies.
- Accurate invoicing feature to bill clients.
- Integrates with tools like Asana, Todoist, etc.
- Responsive customer support team.
Time Doctor offers a free 14-day trial. Its paid plans start as low as $8/user per month.
- G2: 4.4/5 (150+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.5/5 (300+ reviews)
However, the invoicing feature is only available in its enterprise plan.
- Log your weekly activities with in-built timesheets.
- Manually edit and add time worked.
- Export and download reports as PDF, CSV, or Excel sheets.
- Track profit accurately throughout the project.
The app offers a free plan for its basic features. Its paid plan starts at a flat rate of $9.99/month, while its enterprise plan costs $9.99/user per month.
- G2: 4.5/5 (70+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.7/5 (1400+ reviews)
3. Toggl Track
Toggl Track is a time tracking app that also comes with basic project tracking features.
However, Toggl Track offers only a few reports — limited to the detailed, summary, and weekly reports.
- Stop and start tracking time in a click.
- In-built Pomodoro timer.
- Forecast project budgets from the project dashboard.
- Export reports in PDF and CSV formats to clients.
Toggl Track offers a free plan for unlimited projects. Its paid plan starts from $10/user per month.
- G2: 4.5/5 (1000+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.6/5 (1000+ reviews)
Harvest is a simple time tracking and project management software that can help you be more productive, complete projects on time, and invoice clients.
- Add notes to your tracked time to remember exactly what you did at that moment.
- Visualize your progress with detailed reports.
- Automate creating invoices using billable time and other expenses.
- Receive payments in no time via Paypal or Stripe.
- Automatically reset project budget at the end of every month for convenient budgeting.
Harvest offers a free version to track two projects per user. Its paid plans start at $12/user per month.
- G2: 4.3/5 (600+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.5/5 (300+ reviews)
TopTracker is a dedicated freelancer time tracker. It offers a desktop and web app dashboard that gives you a birds-eye view of your projects.
- Online and offline time tracking modes.
- Hotkeys to quickly start, pause, and manage time tracking.
- Periodic screenshots feature that gives clients proof of work.
- Project dashboard that helps you track project status in real-time.
TopTracker is available for free.
- G2: N/A
- Capterra: N/A
Freelancing can be challenging as you need to manage several projects independently.
However, you can make freelancing simple and profitable by tracking time. Additionally, time tracking is essential for effective project management and accurate invoicing.
Using a time tracker will help you improve your time management skills and grow your business.
Unfortunately, not many time trackers offer cutting-edge functionalities like Time Doctor.
From interactive time trackers to powerful invoicing functionality, Time Doctor has all the essential features you need for time tracking and productivity management.
So why not sign up for Time Doctor’s 14-day free trial today and experience its power?
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor—a time tracking and productivity monitoring software designed for tracking hours and productivity of remote teams.