Do You Track Your Time?

How long does it take you to research and write a 500-word article? What about a piece of copy for a website? Knowing how long it takes you to complete a particular piece of project can make it much easier to increase your income:

  • You can tell quickly if you’re charging enough for a project.
  • You can focus on those projects that you can complete quickly in order to bring in more money, faster.
  • You can tell if a particular client is using more of your time.
  • You can tell what you’re really making per hour and decide whether you can cut back or need to work harder.

My tracking system is simple enough: I have a timer and a spreadsheet. I keep track of how long it takes me to write each article or otherwise handle a project and record that number on my spreadsheet, along with the name of the project, the pay and the client. I’ve played around with Excel enough that I can get my spreadsheet to compute how much I’m making per hour, per client and other useful information.

There are also quite a few pieces of software that take my simple spreadsheet to the next level. Harvest is particularly useful: it tracks time and expenses, as well as handles invoices and estimates and analyzes just how you’re spending your time for clients. It’s just a matter of clicking a button when you stop and start work on a particular project. You don’t have to record any numbers or otherwise handle information — and if you have an iPhone, there’s actually an iPhone application that lets you track your time when you aren’t at your computer. Harvest offers a plan geared towards freelancers that is priced at $12 per month, with a 30-day free trial.

Such a system definitely makes processing the all the information that comes out of tracking your time much easier. And the easier your time-tracking system is to use, the more likely you’ll be able to just get into the habit of using it.

Do you use a different system to track your time? If so, it would be great if you could mention it in the comments and tell us what you particularly like about it.

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