When you work as an independent contractor or own your own business, the last thing you want to do is turn it into a mirror of a corporate job. The whole point, of course, is to get more freedom, not less. Time tracking software can allow you to do that. You do, however, have to use it correctly.
The first step is simply to start using it. This is oftentimes the hardest step, as most people who switch to self-employment or business ownership are not trying to recreate their former hourly employment based existence. There are very good reasons to go ahead and start timing the work you put in on projects, however.
For self-employed people, days off mean lost pay. This is why it’s so important to make sure you do get paid what you’re due. Having time tracking software set up is a great wait to make sure you don’t end up shorting yourself on hours.
Shorting sometimes happens because the person doing the work fails to accurately track their time and they don’t want to overbill. This can create a situation where good intentions really make work a lot less profitable than it should be. Those hours that aren’t billed for are lost and the money that should have come from the sweat put into work is not likely to ever be recovered.
Time tracking with software allows you to very precisely track time. This can help to ensure that you don’t put in abnormally long workdays when they’re not necessary and, of course, it ensures that you do bill correctly for the time that you put in.
This also increases the efficiency and accuracy of your bidding process. When you can look back and see exactly who long a particular task took, it’s a lot easier to provide an accurate bid for that same type of work in the future.
When You’re Not Working
For any self-employed person or small business owner, it’s likely that they have to spend some of their time doing work that is off the clock. This may include research that is related to but not directly billable to a project and so forth. Tracking how much time you spend doing this is vital and can help to make better business decisions.
For example, imagine that you spent 2 hours learning a new software program but that time was not billable to the project you were working on. This isn’t much, but imagine that this keeps happening over and over again. Over time, you may end up with days of your time that was spent on non-billable work.
This can help you to figure out whether or not it’s worth it to bid on some jobs. If the amount of side work that you’d have to do for the job would make the total pay for the job not worth it, you’ll know that at the outset rather than finding out after you’ve already invested the time. This can help you to understand when you should bid on a job or when the extra work it would entail makes it not worth putting in a bid at all. That time you don’t spend billing can be put toward something profitable rather than being wasted on preparing for a project that isn’t going to pay well, anyway.
With a good time tracking tool, there really isn’t much of a learning curve involved. Good time tracking tools should also allow people to share their information with others involved on the same project.
If you’re subcontracting work out, having the subcontractors use the same time tracking tool can help to make sure that everyone knows what everyone else is doing. This can eliminate redundant work and, in the worst case scenarios, may reveal when someone is trying to overbill for their work. If you see multiple instances of being billed for the same task, it’s an indication that there is a problem. If someone is billing hours but the project doesn’t move forward as one would expect given the time put into it, it’s also indicative that there is some sort of a problem.
This can guard against instances where you end up paying for work that wasn’t done or that didn’t need to be done and just served as a way for a subcontractor to fluff their hours.
That Off-the-Clock Time
Anyone who works for themselves probably takes breaks whenever they feel like it rather than sticking to a rigid schedule. This is one of the perks of being self-employed. Rather that checking a watch and trying to remember when you left and came back, its’ much easier to just use a time tracking tool and to stop the clock when you quit.
This ensures that you do record the hours that you were working. It also ensures that you keep good track of your breaks. If they’re getting too long, you’ll start to notice that, around the time you feel like knocking off for the day, you haven’t spent that much time on the work you set out to complete. This can help you to maximize the value of the time you spend working and to know when you have to cut a break short.
Better time tracking means you get paid more accurately and that you get jobs done more quickly. Because of this, you end up with more free time in the end. The fact that you can confidently say, at the end of a day, that you spent a reasonable amount of time on a project means that you can relax without feeling like you have more to do or that you’re slacking.
It’s important to track time so that you know how you’re spending it. It’s also important so that you know when it’s time to get away for a while and that you’ve gotten something accomplished, allowing you the mental space to relax, recharge and think about something other than work.