Time Tracking

round-analog-clock-820735The importance of accurate time tracking is pretty obvious: if you don’t track the time you spend working for clients, then you can’t bill for that time. As with finance-tracking software, there has also been an avalanche of time-tracking sites and apps in recent years. Many are great, some are even free, and most have demos. The problem in selecting one is three-fold:

First, you don’t really have a workflow yet, so you won’t know exactly what you need. You need to work a while to see whether you absolutely need something accessible on a phone, whether you’ll be tracking time for a lot of clients, a lot of projects, mostly phone support, what kind of descriptions you’re going to enter, and so on.

While this is true of many things when starting a business, since time tracking is part of practically everything you do, it’s influenced by everything and so you can’t demo it effectively until you’re already running the business. You can demo RMM software by running it on a few systems and you can demo cell phones and toy with scripts, but you can’t demo time tracking software when you don’t know where, when, how, and for whom you’ll be working.

Second, you don’t want to go platform-hopping when you’re starting a new business. You don’t want to be juggling apps and needing to import and export data as you try apps out, all while you’re trying to run your business and send out bills.

Third, you really want your time tracking information to integrate with your billing system. You don’t want to get stuck in import/export purgatory where you just end up re-entering everything manually.

So what to do?

My suggestion is to mock up some simple spreadsheets when you get your first clients. Keep track of everything there for a while, and when that system starts to drive you nuts with its problems, look for a solution that solves those particular problems. That will give you an idea of what problem you need to solve without getting too invested in proprietary apps, demos, and subscriptions. It will also leave you with whatever information you’ve already entered in a format that you can easily export or which you can continue to tweak.

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