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Time Tracking Tips for Freelancers

Alsyd Eabidin
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If you’re self-employed or a freelancer, tracking your time can be tricky. After all, how do you know how much time you should bill your clients when you don’t know exactly how long each project will take? The best solution to this problem is effective time tracking. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of using time tracking software, the benefits of using time tracking apps, and the most efficient ways to track your time without getting distracted from the task at hand.


Time Tracking Tips for Freelancers


Use Online Time Tracking Software


There are a lot of great time tracking apps and programs that you can use to help keep your work on track. If you’re working with multiple clients, however, it can be a challenge to keep things straight; in these cases, project management software can make your life a lot easier. 


Time Doctor is one such tool—it helps you track time spent on projects across different categories, organize all your data by client or task type, and even allows you to export your data if necessary. It also features a strong password protection system so no one else can access your data.


Manage Your Schedule Efficiently


Time tracking is important if you have a hard deadline, like a looming project or an approaching presentation. But it’s also important if you work with clients in other time zones, which can create a patchwork of 9-to-5 and 5-to-9 schedules that are far from ideal. Managing your time efficiently starts with building good habits—and tracking your daily activities is one way to do that. 


After all, no one knows how long they’re spending on something better than they do themselves! If you know what tasks take up most of your day, you can plan accordingly. Use a spreadsheet app like Google Sheets to track every activity during business hours (or as many as possible). Even when you’re working from home, set aside dedicated office hours when clients and coworkers know they can reach you via email or phone.


Plan Your Week Beforehand


Even if you use time-tracking software to manage your hours, it can be helpful to plan out your week in advance. 


Getting a clear picture of how long each project is likely to take gives you an opportunity to identify any conflicts with other clients, prevent scope creep (Oh, I have 20 more minutes—I’ll just add one more feature...), and allocate enough time for administrative tasks like responding to emails or sending invoices. 


It also helps you gauge whether or not you need to bring on extra help at certain points during the week. If all goes according to plan, great! But if something unexpected comes up, having a sense of where your time is going will help you adjust accordingly.


Track Everything You Do


Even though you may be working as a freelancer, when it comes to managing your time, you might as well be working in an office. Time tracking is a common business practice that can help you keep on top of how much time you spend on various tasks. 


While there are countless apps and software programs designed to help freelancers with time management, most work better when combined with some old-fashioned pen and paper tracking. 


When you’re just starting out, make sure to track everything—even things like social media and personal errands—so you can get a good sense of where your time goes. You’ll likely find some surprises along the way!


Get Project Updates in Slack


Time tracking software can be a great resource to help you stay organized and on-task. But if you use more than one time tracker, like Toggl and Hubstaff, then it can get tricky to keep them both up-to-date. 


One solution is to use a project management app like Slack (which also has team messaging capabilities) as your single point of communication. 


You can share your updates in real time from all your projects and keep everyone in your network informed about what’s going on. If you need help learning how to set up Slack with Hubstaff, check out our tutorial here


Set Deadlines and Reminders


It’s human nature to procrastinate. It’s also difficult to remember exactly what you wanted to do a week from now, much less three months from now. For freelancers who take on multiple clients, deadlines are one of those things that can easily slip your mind. 


To help yourself stay on track, try setting reminders for yourself about deadlines and tasks through tools like Toggl and Google Calendar. You could even automate these reminders by using Zapier. This will help keep you focused on completing projects in a timely manner—and avoid late fees!


Use a Pomodoro Timer


When starting out as a freelancer, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed. This may result in distracted work, with your mind wandering from one task to another. One easy way to increase productivity is by using a timer to focus on one task at a time. 


How do you use it? Set your timer for 25 minutes and focus on one task during that time. After your timer beeps (also known as pomodoro) take a short break and go back to work. Repeat until you’ve completed all of your tasks for the day. 


You can also set daily goals for how many Pomodoros you want to complete each day, which will help keep track of your progress over time.


Keep Tabs on How Much You Spend


If you’re a freelancer, one of your biggest concerns is likely getting paid on time. If you’re working with a big company that’s already set up to pay you, then it probably won’t be an issue. 


However, if you find yourself working with clients directly, it can be hard to get paid. To make sure you don’t fall behind in your bills, try using a tool like Freshbooks or Paypal to send invoices and track payments. 


That way, you can always see how much money is coming in and when—and avoid any surprise fees down the road.


Block Out Breaks from Work


If you spend a lot of time in front of your computer and don’t take breaks during work, your productivity can suffer. 


Try out a tool like Toggl or Rescue Time, which let you monitor how much time you’re spending on each task and analyze it later. The extra diligence will help you get through even large workloads more quickly than before—which translates to getting more done in less time. You’ll be able to enjoy breaks knowing that everything is under control! 


Another trick freelancers can use involves integrating time tracking into their daily routine with tools like Toggl and Rescue Time . By using these applications to clock in at various intervals throughout the day, freelancers are alerted when they need to switch gears for another task. Since today’s average attention span is about 8 seconds , ensuring that you aren’t overwhelmed by distractions from other tasks is crucial.


Use an Accountability Partner


Once you’ve picked your specific method of time tracking, it’s helpful to have someone in your corner who will keep you honest. Make a bet with another freelancer that you’ll both keep up with your time logs, or share reports and make comments on each other’s progress. In addition to helping you avoid procrastination, a partner is great motivation to hit those goals because they’re holding you accountable. (And if you can’t find a willing partner, try an app like Rescue Time.)

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