When you charge clients by the hour – or even if you don’t – the question will inevitably come up about how you’re spending the time you bill for each month. Typically, the conversation will go like this:
You: “Here’s my invoice for last month’s services.”
Client: “Thanks – can you please send detail of how you spent the hours billed on this invoice?”
Time tracking doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, time tracking is useful not only for your clients but also for you to analyze and make business decisions based on where your time is spent. For example, I found that I was spending a significant amount of time on busy tasks that weren’t really in line with the marketing strategy my clients were paying me to complete. My solution was to hire a part-time marketing coordinator for whom I’d bill a lower rate so I could focus on the strategy. This gave me the opportunity to scale up and bring in more business because I freed up my time.
So where do you start with time tracking? The first is to find the right tool. While a good old Google Sheet can work just fine, you’ll have to do a lot of manual work entering the tasks and time and then converting it into a report or invoice at the end of the month. Our preference for tracking time on projects is to use a web-based app that does all the busy work in the background for you.
SPARK LIST’S FAVORITE TIME TRACKING TOOL FOR CONSULTANTS
Harvest is a great time tracking tool that also allows you to quickly invoice and collect payments in one, cloud-based solution.
What We Love:
- Multiple projects with tasks and rates: In Harvest, you can track clients by project and assign a flat fee or hourly rate. What’s great is that you can assign different hourly rates by person and that rate can be different from project to project.
- Mobile App: Harvest’s app allows you to track time while on the go. We also love that both the web-based and mobile versions allow you to actually “time” a task that runs a timer while you’re performing it or you can input time spent after the task is complete.
- Retainers: We talk about collecting on invoices in this article that discusses retainers – Harvest makes it easy to input retainers that are then accounted for when you send a final invoice. This means Harvest automatically deducts time spent from the retainer and only invoices for overages, if necessary.
- Invoicing: Literally in a few clicks, Harvest makes it simple to generate an invoice, attach the backup for all hours spent and email it off to your client.
- Payments: Lastly, Harvest makes it easy to collect payments. You can easily integrate the invoices with payment platforms like PayPal or Stripe to collect payments directly from the emailed invoice. Harvest then tracks the payments and you can sync or export the reports to your accounting software.
Pricing: Harvest is free for 1 person who needs to track 1 – 2 projects. After that, it’s $12 a month per user. If you want to try it out, there’s a free 30-day trial AND if you use the code SPARKLIST, you’ll get 50% off your first month after the trial!
ASANA – A lot of people love Asana, we aren’t fans. While Asana is better for mid-sized to large teams vs. the solo entrepreneur or smaller team, we just find that sometimes too many bells and whistles is more distracting than helpful.
Do you have a favorite time tracking tool we missed? Tell us about it in the comments!