Do you know how you spend your time each day? Do you really know how long those few emails take or how long you spend on the phone with that client talking through a brief?
Yes? Unless you track your time, you might have a rough idea, but you don’t really know. Not really.
Why I started to track my time
Some of my clients I bill by the hour and some are project-based billing. In the early days, when I worked a few part time hours each week across one or two clients, I had a spreadsheet for each one which I updated after making notes throughout the day. And this worked well at the time, so I thought.
The small amount of work that I did that was priced per project, I didn’t bother to check too closely how long it took as my output was the actual work, the deliverable, rather than my time spent and I was happy with that.
I’d seen Toggl mentioned on a few websites, so eventually I signed up and started using it to track my work time. I’m a late adopter, really; I take some convincing.
I was very quickly a complete convert. This was for two reasons:
1 – My per hour billing increased, not by much, but it did. I found out that in my method of spreadsheet timekeeping, I was consistently rounding down and small amounts of time weren’t being recorded at all.
2 – My per project pricing was inaccurate. I realised that I had to either get much quicker at the work or charge more for fixed price projects.
In both cases, I was basically I over-servicing. In my dedication to provide a good service for my clients that was also good value, I was undervaluing my time. Using Toggl gave me the actual data to accurately bill my clients and plan and estimate future work much better.
The real clincher came after I’d been using Toggl for a year. I was going through a slight work slump with one of my clients so I was reviewing the arrangement generally. Part of this review was looking at my turnover against time spent. Long story short, I realised I was working for very little, the non-billable time – speculative work, quotes, plans, estimates – outweighed the billable. We parted company soon after and the whole experience was a huge learning curve for me about how I manage my work.
Now, time-tracking for me is second nature. If I’m working, then I’m Toggling. I’ve reviewed how I set up my projects and tasks, tracking billable time against non-billable. I schedule regular reports straight to my inbox so I can get a snapshot view of my retainer client status and burn rate of any estimated project time. I also track my own admin time by setting up myself as a client on my Toggl workspace.
Real data aside, I enjoy a strange sense of achievement from knowing how productively I can work. It motivates me and also helps me to focus, find my flow and make the most of my day.
Why does this matter for my clients?Whilst I agree that most clients won’t want to read that I either put my prices up a bit or that my billing increased marginally, they do know that my billing is accurate and transparent and that they can view reports if they choose to, to see exactly how I’ve spent my time. That’s reassuring for them to know how my time is being spent on their budget.
For me, when managing projects, my time estimations are more accurate. This helps me to plan work schedules and deadlines well. This means I can be realistic when a client approaches me about a project and this all helps with providing a good customer service.