Are You Tracking Your Time? 5 Reasons Every Writer Should

I think in terms of how much I make per article or per word most of the time, rather than about how much I make per hour. That can prove to be a problem, though. Since most articles aren’t automatically a matter of working a certain number of hours to complete, it’s very easy to wind up with no idea of how much I’ve really earned per hour. After all, five hundred words can be a matter of sitting down at the keyboard for an hour — or it can be a matter of conducting two interviews and spending an hour checking facts before I even start writing. But since I track my time, I can do a little math and make sure that I really am earning enough money. There are many reasons that adequately tracking your time is crucial.

  1. Check if you need a raise. Just because a project was once worth the amount you were getting paid doesn’t mean that you’re still getting enough. Maybe the scope of the project has grown or maybe your bills are a little higher. If you can double check what your hourly rate really is, you can make sure that you’re getting paid appropriately.
  2. Add in your own projects. If you’re working on fiction or other projects, you may need to be earning a certain amount per hour in order to free up time elsewhere to work on your own projects.
  3. Decide if you can grow. If you want to take on new clients, you have to have an idea of the time you’re spending on your current clients.
  4. Give better estimates. If you keep records of how long different projects take, you can make sure that your estimates for different types of articles or other writing are really in line with the amount of time the project will take.
  5. Keep your work and life in balance. Working around the clock is generally not the best idea. With an idea of how much time you really need to be spending on your work, you’ll know when you can afford to cut back and do something fun.

There are a lot of options on how to keep track of your time. A simple stop watch and a spread sheet may be more than enough. However, there are also some technological options. A couple of good starting points are Klok, SlimTimer, and RescueTime. Personally, I fall into the spread sheet crowd on this one, but all three software options are good alternatives, as well.


  1. Isao   •  

    I do part-time translating gig and although at first I thought penny-per-word payment scheme is fair, now I am thinking differently and your story illustrates the point.
    Per-word billing does not reflect the amount of research works or dead-time we nevertheless spend. As the project gets larger the per-word and per-hour billing starts to look equal, but for a small project (say, 100 words of translating an advertisement copy) that is a serious issue.
    Thanks, I am seeing things more clearly.

  2. thursday   •     Author

    @Isao, I know that translation can require significant amounts of research, even for a document only one hundred words long. It’s important to make sure that you get paid for all the time you spend on a project — not just the end result.

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