For independent PR consultants, time is a precious commodity. And not just because we're busy – even for those who don't bill by the hour, effective time tracking has a direct impact on productivity and profitability. Whether you're working on a short-term project or a more involved long-term retainer, recording your time enables you to not only track it for billing purposes, but also provides important information for estimating future projects, particularly when developing proposals.
The best method to track your time is the one you'll actually use. Some of us rely on sophisticated software and online apps and systems, while others resort to Excel spreadsheets or – gasp – even paper and pen. If you're looking for time tracking tool suggestions, you've come to the right place!
These tools are recommended by members of Solo PR PRO Premium:
- QuickBooks – Accounting software for small businesses. Helps users save time with their billing and invoicing as well. Enables you to track income and expenses, manage invoicing and purchase orders as well as print checks and record transactions. Free trials are available across all product tiers.
- FreshBooks – This allows for invoicing, accounting, time tracking, reporting and payments all-in-one, and provides a timer to track per client/project/activity – for hourly-based clients and retainer clients alike. (30-day free trial available.)
- Harvest – Online time tracking software that offers invoicing and reporting options. It enables users to track time easily on many devices, including computers, smartphones (iPhone/Android) and Apple Watch. It supports multi-currency online invoicing, budget management, data import and export functions, Google Apps integration, data backup as well as third-party add-ons. (30-day free trial available.)
- Klok – Personal time tracking software that offers such features as timesheet exporting, invoice creation, dashboard reporting as well as mobile and Cloud syncing. You can also connect Klok to a number of popular time tracking systems, such as Harvest and Freshbooks.
- Timely – A time tracking and scheduling online tool. it integrates with your calendar and automatically logs meetings (including client calls). And it can integrate with all major calendars (e.g., Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc.). There is a free option for one user and five projects. The regular plan ($14/per user/month) offers a 30-day free trial and allows for unlimited users and projects.
- Toggl – The basic package is free, and offers tracking and reporting features for unlimited projects and teams composed of up to five members. It allows you to easily see the exact minutes spent on each project – on computers or mobile devices through using color coding for each job. It’s free but can be upgraded for $5 a month.
Some additional time tracking options:
- Fanurio – Time tracking and billing software application for both solopreneurs and teams. It can be used on multiple platforms (e.g., Windows, Mac OS X, etc.), use multiple currencies and enables you to import and export your data. You can also manage tasks, track expenses (even mileage) and analyze your performance (e.g., with various data filters and reports on project tasks, client summaries and task summaries by date, etc.).
- My Hours – Offers time tracking (solo and team options) and invoicing functionalities. The solo version is free, and allows for unlimited projects, tasks and clients.
- Paymo – Provides time tracking tools, including a web timer app where you can easily record your time spent on projects or activities where all entries are saved with start and end times for each task. Provides timesheet data, invoicing, reports, team management and collaboration capabilities.
- Ronin – Online invoicing, time tracking and client management software designed with small businesses in mind. Includes a comprehensive suite of tools for tracking expenses, sending estimates and much more. A scaled down free version is available; however, 30-day free trials are offered for all plans.
Tools for reducing time wasting and keeping you on track
In addition to the tools that make it easy to record billable hours, there are also services that can help uncover your areas of distraction and pockets of procrastination. Consider adding one of these to your arsenal:
- I Track My Time – A time tracking app that enables you to monitor and analyze your daily activities for the purposes of increasing your productivity levels overall.
- RescueTime – This helps you monitor and track your online activities for understanding your daily habits so you can increase your productivity. It can track the minutes spent on various sites or applications, while enabling you to block distracting websites and gives you detailed reports based on your activities.
Our Value Goes Beyond Time
Though we're firm believers at Solo PR Pro that all consultants should be tracking their time, it bears repeating that we aren't advocating time-based billing for everyone. Of course, the value we bring to a project is determined not by the clocked number of hours we spend working on it, but by the expertise, insights and strategic thinking we provide.
How do you track your time? Do you use an app or online tool that we haven’t listed? We’d love to hear about it! And we welcome your feedback and shared experiences in the comments section.
Image Credits: “Time is Money” image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.