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Jan02

Tips for Tracking Billable Time as a Freelancer


If you’re working as a freelancer, time tracking software can increase your billable rates in several different ways. Here are some of the ways that you can take advantage of this tremendous capacity offered by today’s software.

First, Know the Project

When you take on a project, be sure you know what it really entails, right down to the last detail. Each separate element of the project can be broken out into different tasks. For instance, if you’re a programmer, a project may require C# and Perl programming, and you’ll want to figure out your rates for both.

Once you know what’s involved, you’ll want to start figuring out what the project will require. Will it be mostly C# programming or mostly Perl? What proportion of each? This information will help you to get an idea of what to bill. These different parts of the job are broken up so that you can track them as the project unfolds.

Second, Bill Realistically

In the aforementioned example, we used two relatively complex programming languages. Imagine that the project will also require some time programming HTML/CSS for a website. There’s really no way that billing a client the same rate for C# and HTML/CSS programming is fair. They’re radically different things requiring very different levels of skill.

To make your bids more competitive, you can make sure that you’re accounting for the time you spend billing for less expensive tasks accurately and billing for them fairly. This ensures that you’re not pricing yourself out of existence.

Third, Track

Time tracking software is a necessity these days. It allows freelancers to clock into and out of the various tasks involved in their projects precisely. It also allows them to be sure that they’re not charging too much or too little for their work.

When you’re caught up in a project, it’s easy to lose track of time. If that time is worth a lot of money, you don’t want that to happen.

Likewise, it’s easy to get obsessed with details that don’t matter in the end. You might, for instance, find yourself spending an hour on slightly shifting an element of the page over when the client wouldn’t even know the difference whether you did or didn’t. If you see this happening in your time tracking data, you can stop it before it starts cutting into your profits unnecessarily.

Budgeting your time requires that you first understand how you’re spending your time. When you start to see that one part of a project is taking way too long, you can analyze why and see if it’s something that you have to update on your bid, or if it’s something you can let go and still get quality results.

Fourth, Report

Clients always want to know where their money is going. With good time tracking software, you can make sure that they know where it’s going in great detail.

Offering reports to your clients shows them how you’ve been spending the budget for the project. It gives them more reason to trust you, as well, since it makes it apparent that you take your job seriously and that you make sure you’re offering good customer service.

Use the reports you get out of your time tracking software. Share them with your clients, if they ask, and offer them as part of the end bill, if you want. This helps them to manage their business better, as well, as they get a better understanding of how much to expect for similar work in the future.

Finally, Analyze

Those reports should, in all reality, be just as useful to you as they are to your clients.

By knowing how long it takes you to do certain types of work, you can accurately bid for it in the future. By making sure that you do get paid for your most expensive work, and fairly, you can make sure you stay in business and that it’s profitable for you going forward.

You’ll also start to see that there may be types of work that you want to give up. For example, if you find that the HTML/CSS work you did in the above example wasn’t really worth the time you put into it, you can drop this service or only offer it under certain circumstances.

Getting Going

The hardest part about using time tracking software, particularly for freelancers, is likely to be getting into the habit in the first place. Without someone else asking for this information, it’s sometimes hard to make sure that you generate it for yourself. Once you do, however, you’ll generally find it useful enough that you’ll want to make sure you track your projects closely.

Time tracking software with simple interfaces and that offers mobile and desktop access is best. Particularly if you have to do some of your work out of the office, the mobile aspect is very important, as it allows you to avoid having to estimate hours and to keep all the information in the same place.

Bringing in Collaborators

When you do have projects that require you to work as part of a team, the time tracking software becomes even more valuable. The team members can see where you are on a project and how close to completion it is. You can update it with notes and other information to keep them posted on the progress, allowing you to avoid conversations that might take up a lot of time for little information that’s really important.

There are plenty of creative ways that time tracking software can be used by freelancers, but all of those ways offer some very real benefit. With good time tracking habits, the software can provide a lot of insight into how a freelancer does their work and how they could do it better and more efficiently. It also ensures that the bills are accurate and, for a freelancer, that means that you get the most possible benefit out of your work and that you can keep in business into the future.

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