A freelance writer might get paid at a certain rate per word rather than for the time spent pumping out an article. A freelance graphic designer might charge a flat fee for creating a logo instead of receiving compensation by the hour.
And both of these payment models work—often better than hourly rates. But even if you get paid by project, it’s important to be aware of the actual time spent to better manage your workload and ensure you’re making a reasonable wage.
Understanding how you spend your time is one of the most important aspects of project management as a freelancer. Time is money, after all.
The Benefits of Time Tracking
Tracking your time has benefits that range from improving your focus to increasing the cash in your wallet. And if you haven’t started doing this yet, I promise you’ll thank me once you’ve read through our pick of the top five benefits that come from learning to manage your time effectively as a freelancer.
More Accurate Client Invoicing
Trust is fundamental to any client relationship. By logging your working hours, you give the client the proof of time and remove any room for questioning or ambiguity about your process. This is a must for any time-based payment method, but it’s also important for billing your client in other formats.
Time tracking software makes your (and your client’s) life simpler when it comes to invoicing. There are a couple reasons here:
- With the knowledge you gather from the software, you’ll be able to give more accurate quotes on future projects
- Having logged hours of work in documentation certifies the accuracy of your project durations when you report them
Efficiency and Productivity
I’ve spent a lot of time getting distracted in between (and during) client projects. Being in an office surrounded by team members encourages you to stay focused. Being a freelance worker from home (or anywhere else) leaves you prone to distraction.
Once I started tracking my time and I could visually see how much time was passing per project, I was motivated to put the distractions away and instead work with the clock to make my time more valuable and get my work done more efficiently. It was a new measure of accountability for me, and now I can’t imagine working without some sort of time tracking tool.
Understand Your Limits
We all know that with more projects we can make more money, so we inhale them as they come and get excited about building our clientele. But without time tracking you may fail to accurately evaluate how much time a project will take. And even if you get everything done in time, the quality of your work might take a big hit and exhaustion isn’t the feeling you want to start a new week with.
Track your time as you take on more work. Look at the numbers in front of you and use that data to gauge how you feel and the quality of your output. You’ll better understand if you can undertake more work or if it makes more sense to hit the brakes a bit.
Improve Your Estimates for Future Projects
If you spend your time guessing how long you might take to complete a project (especially if it’s a type of project you’ve done before), it’s time to get a time tracking app, like Toggl (free) or Harvest (paid). You’ll thank yourself later as you more quickly and accurately improve your estimates for future project tasks. Life will be a whole lot easier.
Increase Your Bottom Line
Freelancers are small business owners. And at the end of the day, no matter how much we love the work we do, we have to make sure we’re not barely scraping by. Time tracking can play a big part in this.
Here’s an example: You have two clients who have hired you to redesign a company website, and they both pay you $1,000. But after using a quick check with your time tracking app, you’ve seen that Client A’s website took you 10 hours total and Client B’s website took you 6 hours total, due to the different level of requirements.
Without tracking your time, you may have thought that you were making the same amount of money from each project, but it’s ultimately clear that while you’re making $100/hour with Client A, you’re making just over $166/hour with Client B. The difference is drastic, and you may not have even realized without time tracking.
Time Tracking Is a Learning Challenge
As you continue to time track, you’ll better get the hang of managing your own business and working with different clients. You’ll become more efficient and productive, and life as a freelancer will be that much easier. Work smarter, not harder.