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Dec05

Tracking Your Time Helps You Understand Your Small Business


There are many different ways that small businesspeople start tracking their time. In many cases, people who start up a small business may not allocate enough of their energy to tracking their time, which has numerous detrimental effects. At first, one of the advantages of having your own business is obviously the fact that you don’t have to operate on someone else’s clock. What you will find out, however, is that your time is largely dictated by deadlines. If you are unaware of when those deadlines are approaching and what you need to do to reach them successfully, you may be setting yourself up on a path for failure that could easily be changed by simply adopting some good time tracking techniques.

Remember the Money

The first thing to keep in mind about time tracking is that it is not about turning your small business into an affair that feels too much like working in a corporate office. For a small businessperson, time tracking is all about tracking money. The obvious way to understand this is that, when you spend a certain amount of time on a project, that is the equivalent of a certain amount of money you need to get paid. This is really only the tip of the iceberg, however.

There are many different methods out there that people may want to experiment with for tracking time, but utilizing software – particularly software that is mobile – is particularly advantageous to small business people. In the end, this will allow anybody operating a small business to increase their profitability and it’s easy to understand how when it’s broken down.

Billing Means Bidding

For people starting out in the world of small business, one of the most difficult challenges to overcome is determining exactly how much they need to bill for a particular project. Until they have completed a couple of similar projects, it’s not likely that they will even have reliable data that will allow them to get an idea of how much they should bill. This may actually end up costing them jobs.

By tracking time when they are involved in a project, people who run small businesses are able to create what amounts to a template for a job. For instance, if a computer programmer is presented with a job to create a payment gateway for an e-commerce site, they can much more easily come up with a competitive bid if they have a realistic idea of how much time it will take. If they know how much time it will take and how each interval of time will be spent, they can quite easily put together a figure that will give somebody who wants the work done and accurate idea of how much they should expect to pay. When the job is all said and done, this means that the person who is paying for the job doesn’t get an invoice that is much larger than they were expecting, as the bid will have been accurate.

When It Goes Over

People who are starting out with their own small business have to establish a reputation for themselves as being reliable and professional. Part of doing this means being able to tell someone without fail how the time that the small business person spent on the project was spent and, in some cases, this can get a little bit heated, particularly if things went over budget. If a person running a small business can present documentation as to how they spent their time, why the client was build what they were billed and why the project went over, it’s much easier to count on the client’s business in the future. In fact, if a client is presented with good information, they may actually gain trust in a contractor, even if the contractor did have to go over budget a little bit.

Predicting Delays

Sometimes, as an independent businessperson, a person will find out that what they had originally estimated for a job is not going to turn out. This may simply be because something about the job turned out to be much more difficult and challenging than predicted. It’s easier to see if this is going to happen if time is being tracked accurately. When two hours, for example, was allocated to a particular phase of a project and the person doing the project is able to see that they are going to go over, they can quickly communicate this to the people that they are working for. If they don’t track their time accurately, they may not even realize that they are running up against a deadline and may end up getting in big trouble because they didn’t communicate that fact to somebody who is expecting work to be done on a given day.

Understanding the Work Process

If you happen to run a small business, you’ll find that tracking your time helps you to understand your strengths and weaknesses to a much more granular degree than you would be able to otherwise. For example, it may turn out that you program CSS much faster than you thought. When you see this, it will allow you to bid more accurately and, sometimes, to get a competitive advantage, as you will know that it’s not going to take you that long to put together a style sheet when another contractor may actually take a long time to do that same work.

By understanding what your business has to offer, you’re able to sell your product to clients in better faith. You will be able to tell them, with great confidence, how quickly you can get a job done and you can base that assessment on data that you already have. Remember that time tracking does provide you with a large backlog of data after you have tracked a few projects. This data never becomes useless. You will always find that, in the future, being able to look back and see exactly how a project unfolded will help you to better bid and complete projects in the future.

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