Freelance time tracking is a skill you should learn. You might have heard of the expression, “Time is money” but it certainly is more understandable when you become a freelancer, where literally, every second counts. If you aren’t a master of scheduling, there may come a time when one small minute can offset your entire schedule and you may fail to submit deliverables on time.
One of the best things about freelancing is you aren’t chained to a desk from 9 to 5. However, that freedom comes with a price—you’ll need to learn how to track your own time. Yes, even if you get paid per project or per day, time tracking is a must so you’ll know where your minutes and hours go every day, or rather the days when you are working.
Why Freelance Time Tracking Matters
You might have heard of various timing techniques, like the Pomodoro Timer or Time Blocking. But why does it even matter? What if you are able to submit all of your deliverables and satisfy all your clients without time tracking? Well, for one thing, you aren’t a machine. Humans are bound to make mistakes but you can easily resolve problems when you have the right tools, and this includes freelance time tracking. Below are 5 reasons why time tracking is a must for freelancers:
1. Boosts productivity
When you are aware of the time, you will most likely do the work. This is as opposed to having several tasks listed for the day and then you can just do them whenever. The trouble with an “open-time” plan is, you don’t get to maximize your day. You might end up focusing way too much on one project while neglecting others. Or worse, you can just be resting or binging shows when you know you’re supposed to be working.
With a time tracker, you can be held accountable for your schedule, which can then help improve your performance as a freelancer.
2. Helps you create the best rates
It’s quite difficult to create rates for your work, especially when you are starting from scratch. Whether you are getting paid per project or per hour, you can have an easier time creating rates when you are time-tracking. This way, you’ll know if you are making a profit on your project.
For example, if you have a rate of $15 per hour as a virtual assistant, you need to make sure you are earning more than spending on your operational costs. You have to take into account what you spend in one hour, this includes electricity or even the coffee that you buy to be able to work at a cafe.
3. Have a record of your work
When you have a lot of clients or projects going on, it’s hard to keep track of the tasks that you have done. With a time tracker, this shouldn’t be an issue. You will have a record of what you have done during the day, so when your client asks you about a specific report, you can always rely on your time tracker.
It happens, sometimes when you are working, you keep thinking, you are sure you have sent out an email to a client. Or you are sure that you have already sent a deliverable for approval. With a time tracker, you never have to wonder if you really did something because it is accounted for.
4. Reduce chances of burnout
Time tracking is not just about efficiency. It can also show you if you are overworked. A work-life balance is hard to maintain if you don’t keep track of your time. Sometimes, an entire day is dedicated solely to different projects or clients. If this continues, you’ll end up getting burnt out and that’s a difficult thing to happen to any freelancer or any worker for that matter.
So, if you see track your time, you’ll be able to see if you are actually working for 4 hours straight without breaks. It’s time to put spaces in between those hours, even just 5 minutes, to give yourself a breather.
5. Avoid clients who eat your time
When you are freelancing, you get to meet so many different clients. But one of the most challenging clients to deal with is those who eat up your time. They can call you in the middle of the day while you are focused on your project and this can really disrupt your concentration. However, if you are time-tracking, you can include this in your billable hours. Check out billing time increments to help you out.
If your client is aware that you do time tracking for billing, this can lessen the chances of those surprise calls. Or better yet, maybe they will just send you an email with all their questions and concerns instead of eating up your time.
Tips and Tricks
By now, you should have been convinced of the importance of freelance time tracking. It’s not just another task that you have to do as a freelancer. It is actually a tool that you can use to be a better freelancer and also to keep your work-life balance in check. Below are some tips and tricks that can help you stick to it:
Use a Flexible App or Software
It’s hard to keep track of time while you are working or juggling a dozen projects. So, put down your timer and try out a flexible time-tracking app or software. Kosmo is a freelancer software that already comes with tools needed for freelancing, one of which is a time tracker.
One of the best things about Kosmo is it offers two ways to track your time. One is the traditional way, wherein you input your project as well as the specific task you need to complete and then hit the start button. Once you are done, just hit Stop and it will be automatically added to your list.
Now, there are some people who are not comfortable working with a timer. Or maybe you just forgot to hit start. Don’t worry as Kosmo allows you to add your own time, too. Just add the project details and the date when you worked, then input the number of hours, minutes, and seconds. This will then be added to your list, too.
Don’t Forget to Pause
When you are working on a project, it’s advisable to take breaks. In fact, it might not be a good thing to sit in front of your computer for several hours straight. So, do take a break when you are time-tracking. And of course, do not include this under your billable hours.
Break it Down
One of the biggest problems freelancers makes when time tracking is not breaking down tasks. When you put it into your schedule, “Project A”, can be overwhelming. What you need to do is to chop it up. For example, if you are an artist, you can break your tasks into doing research, sketching, coloring, erasing, and touch-ups. Don’t just put make a portrait on your schedule as this will be difficult to track.
Find your Technique
There are many ways that you can track your time effectively. Know that if your fellow freelancer is using a time-blocking sheet and it works for them, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. Finding a technique is really all about trial and error. However, if you find the right one, time tracking will not be difficult. What’s important is you find one that works for you.
A good tip is to take time tracking step by step and see the big picture before getting into the little details. So, go ahead and make a calendar template, and lay out all of your plans and projects for the entire month. Once that is done, you can now do a weekly planner. Once you get the hang of that, it’s time to go daily, then track by AM or PM, then hourly, and so on.
It can be very difficult to stick to using a time tracker mainly because of your environment. If you work at home, make sure you are in a space where there are no distractions. Just imagine you are on the clock and you have to hit pause every time there is something to attend to, like your cat asking for food, a phone call, or someone ringing the doorbell.
Time blocking can be very helpful for those stay-at-home freelancers. You have to set a time specifically for work and specifically for tasks. It might also help to go to a quiet coffee shop or a co-working space.
The good thing about freelance time tracking is that it is a discipline. It is something that you can practice every day until you get the hang of it. Yes, at first it can be difficult, you might forget to click the start button on your timer. That’s okay, it happens. But what’s important is that you get into the habit of tracking your time.
Every time you receive a phone call from your client, write it down and log it so that you can be compensated for your time. Time tracking is for you so that you get the pay that you deserve. If you want to become successful as a freelancer or if you want to grow your business, freelance time tracking is an excellent discipline to master and utilize.
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