My inaugural blog for the Society for Technical Communication, published 11 February, reviewed the excellent second edition of What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants. But why should you, especially if you are an employee, care about charging for your work? As I wrote in the blog, author Laurie Lewis suggests that we should “log every activity on every project and then mine those logs to understand more clearly how long the tasks of a prospective project might take.” I would argue that freelancers and employees alike need to know how long our work activities take so that we can provide valid estimates of future work when asked. Knowing how long tasks can take could help us prove to a boss or client why it is impossible for us or anyone to meet unrealistic goals.
Never an early adopter, I have been using my kitchen timer while performing many of my work activities and then capture my time on scraps of paper or Excel spreadsheets. Several of my freelance friends have suggested a better way―digitally capturing time using time-tracking software.
I did my due diligence and researched some programs on the market, spending 2 hours and 22 minutes (according to my kitchen timer). I’ve narrowed my own options to Category 1 below, and I include the others categories that I found so that you, too, might know what your options are if you should want to track your time digitally.
Four main types of time-tracking software
- Standalone―used only to record timesheets and generate reports
- Integrated into accounting system―timesheet data feeds into company accounts
- Integrated into billing system―used to generate invoices, especially used by contractors and professionals such as lawyers
- www.easyprojects.net (cloud, 15-day free trial, $ to purchase based on # of users, invoicing, reports)
- www.getklok.com Klok (Klok Cloud Sync for Mobile, Klok Mobile, Klok Desktop) (cloud and desktop, $, free trial)
- www.myintervals.com, Intervals (cloud, $ to purchase based on # of users, free trial, invoicing)
- www.bill4time.com (cloud, free trial, $, mobile app)
- www.getharvest.com (cloud, $ subscription, free trial, add contractors, Mac app)
- www.officetime.net OfficeTime (Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, desktop, $, free trial)
- www.nchsoftware.com/ HourGuard Timesheet Software (Mac, PC, $, free trial, several components can be bundled)
- Integrated into project management systems
You’ll find an interesting matrix of time-tracking software on Wikipedia (it reviews many other programs not listed above).
And now I’d like to ask you to help with this research. If you have used any of the time-tracking software above or any other similar product, please share your experience by answering my one-question survey. (Or you could just comment below, if you wish.) I’ll share your helpful comments in a follow-up blog and article.
Elizabeth (Bette) Frick, PhD, ELS is president of The Text Doctor LLC in Boulder, CO. She teaches technical writing in corporations and edits medical documents. Bette is an STC Fellow and has been independent for 23 years.