When discussing issues of trust as related to contractors, automobile mechanics are among the easiest examples to rely upon. Most people, simply because they don’t like looking at the large figures typical of these bills, tend to doubt whether or not a mechanic really spent the two or three hours they billed for on a project. While a garage is a much different situation than a computer programming shop or another enterprise run by small businesspeople, there are some similarities. Time tracking tools can actually provide an effective way of increasing trust between contractor and client and, at the same time, they can help a contractor to understand their own business better.
Understanding The Issue
Look at some of the questions that people ask online about contractors and you’ll find that the answers that they get generally have to do with hiring someone that they trust. Whenever somebody hires a computer programmer, computer repair person or another person involved in technology to handle a job, there is always a question as to whether or not they are padding out their hours or engaging in other business practices that will invariably reduce the level of trust that the client has in the contractor. By providing accurate time tracking information, a contractor can help to head off these disagreements.
Track Every Minute
Utilizing good time tracking tools, a contractor can essentially clock into any phase of a project. For many programmers, each different element of a project may be billed at different rates. For example, programming in a complex language such as C# may be billed at a much higher rate than programming HTML, though both languages may be involved in a single project. By accurately tracking the amount of time spent on both, it’s much easier for a contractor to communicate to their client why a certain part of a project took much longer than another part and why, therefore, that part of the project may be more expensive.
Conversely, this can actually make for a very happy client when they see that what they have been billed for makes complete sense. As an example of this, a client may be presented with an invoice with 10 hours of HTML programming that is relatively affordable and one hour of C# programming that cost nearly as much as the HTML programming. When they do look at the invoice, however, and they can see how the time on the project was allocated specifically, they can see why the project cost what it did.
This type of communication can set up a very productive relationship between a contractor and a client. When the client understands that they can trust the contractor to bill accurately and when they understand that the contractor very diligently keeps track of their hours, they don’t have to worry that they are spending money on something that is not worth the amount of cash that they are putting down for it.
Making It Easy
For programmers, one of the most difficult parts of time tracking is simply the fact that, during the course of the day, the rate at which they are billing may change several different times. Because of this, it’s imperative that programmers who do want to improve their time tracking and their relationships with their clients by doing so utilize a tool that makes it easy for them to switch over between different jobs and to accurately track the amount of time spent on each.
This should not require any significant investment of time by the programmer. They should, in fact, be able to simply select an option and start a timer. When they are done, they should have to do no more than stop the timer and have that time entered in the project that they are working on.
This does far more than keep things smooth with clients. In fact, it ensures that the programmer is able to pay their bills, as well. When programmers become sloppy with tracking time, one of the detrimental effects is the loss of cash that they should be earning. If they are sloppily keeping track of their time, for instance, they may end up billing an hour of very advanced, very involved programming as if it were simple webpage set up or maintenance. This doesn’t help anybody, the programmer most of all.
Finding the Tool
The best tools for these purposes are generally ones that can be understood and used by the client as easily as the programmer. To facilitate this, the better programs out there will utilize formats such as PDF and HTML to output reports and other information. This ensures that any time a programmer needs to communicate that information to client they can do so almost instantly and, in some cases, they can actually do it with the click of a button. The better programs will allow sharing information via email, which is one of the easiest and most effective ways to share information between businesses.
A good time tracking tool can increase the profitability of the business. While discussions of these tools are generally related to increasing efficiency and maximizing the usage of time, they also maximize the generation of income by allowing a contractor to be accurate about how much time and money they are spending on a project and how they need to bill that to their client to make the project profitable.
With the right tool, the communication that is facilitated can ensure that clients and contractors are always on the same page, but they always understand what the other is doing and that the client, when they get the bill, understands exactly what they are paying for and why it is of value to them. With the new tools available, there is simply no reason to have the types of communication difficulties that plagued the business-to-business world of programmers and clients in the past and that made it difficult for some programmers to find clients who trusted them.