Tracking your time has multiple benefits. You might know it's a smart method to give estimates and to bill your clients, but did you know you may be missing some huge opportunities to predict your behavior and improve your overall business if you’re not analyzing your time?
It can take a while to get used to the idea of having a time tracking app, but once you start using it you’ll feel more informed.
Want to know why successful freelancers like to track their time? Keep reading!
Learn which clients are worth keeping
There’s usually one or two clients that demand more time from you than the average client. They call you everyday and send hundreds of emails. They want to be involved in every little detail and they don’t want to pay for it. Other clients demand high quality work and offer you a lower rate for the job.
Once you realize which clients are costing you money, you have two alternatives: increase your rates or let them go.
At the beginning, it might be hard but eventually you’ll find out it’s the best decision for your business. The time spent on that client’s projects could be better spent on better paying clients.
Improve your workflow
You’re a freelancer dealing with multiple clients and making a living from your passion. Suddenly you start tracking your time and you notice you spend way too much time on every project and you could be making twice your current salary.
You may find out you spend 45 minutes searching for the perfect stock image. You could be interested in finding new ways to simplify your process.
If you don’t make tracking your hours a habit, you’ll never know where you’re spending most of your time and will never be able to develop a better workflow.
Have you ever tried to track your time when you’re doing multiple things at the same time? I have and it’s difficult. That’s why tracking your time decreases the bad multitasking habit.
When you’re focused on learning how much time you spend on an specific job, you avoid surfing the web or reading your facebook updates.
When I’m doing research for my blog posts and I find an interesting unrelated post, I bookmark it and move on. Later when I have time, I can read it. In the meantime, I continue with my work. Since I started doing that I feel more efficient.
When you’re on a deadline, it can be tempting to leave the work up until the last minute. You work hard to finish your job but sometimes it takes longer than you expected.
If you track time you can make smarter decisions. Let’s say you have 4 projects and each project needs 10 hours for completion. Which means you have 40 hours of work to complete. Considering you could work from monday to friday 8 hours, if you waste 2 hours watching TV, how are you going to recover those hours? Working on weekends?
Having this information makes you less likely to procrastinate.
Make financial decisions
People build businesses to make a profit. Most entrepreneurs are following their passion, but at the end of the day you need to cover your bills. If you compare the time spent on your business and the income you earn every month, is your business worth it? What could you improve about your business?
Here’s a practical example: If you’re working on a Wordpress website for a client, what’s a better decision? Buy a template and customize it for your client or begin coding from scratch? Determine your hourly rate and how many hours you need to code it, and compare that to the theme’s price and customization time.
We freelancers tend to think we’re superheroes. We don’t like delegating. We take care of invoicing, sending proposals, reaching out to new clients, working on projects, marketing our businesses and so many other tasks I can talk about all day.
Truth is we don’t have the time or the capability to do them all well. It makes financial sense to reduce our time spent on tasks we’re not good at.
If you’re an excellent developer but you don’t have the eye of a designer, hire someone to help you with the design.
If you charge $75 an hour and it takes you 3 hours to do some tasks, we’re talking about $225. When you hire a pro charging you the same amount, but it only takes the designer 2 hours to accomplish the same goal, you’re now saving $75. Besides that, you also have 3 more billable hours to recover that money and triplicate it.
When you have the data, making this decision is easy.
Know your most productive days and hours
This is interesting. If you’re familiar with the human body, you know you have better and worse hours to produce work. Some people feel sleepy after lunch. Some people are slower at mid-morning. Everyone’s different.
Tracking your time will confirm you when you’re productive and when you’re not. Based on that, you can determine measures to minimize the impact. Maybe talking a walk, a quick nap or a change of pace.
Make better estimates
Have you ever underquoted a project because you didn’t know how much time it would take you? Or even worse, have you ever missed a deadline?
This lack of knowledge costs your business real money. If you want to improve your lifestyle and your income, learn to make better estimates by including every single phase and stage of a project in your client’s proposals.
See how much you have progressed
I wish I had tracked every second I spent on my freelance business. It would help me to know better how I improve my skills and if my workflow runs smoothly compared to the industry standard.
It’s rewarding when you analyze your data and you find out your projects are taking you less time because you’re more experienced.
Deliver better customer service
Running your business like a swiss watch ultimately benefits your clients. If you know the ups and downs of your business and you’re able to give accurate estimates, your clients will know exactly what to expect from you and they’ll be happy to work with a trustworthy professional.
Remember you’re a business owner. It’s awesome to work on your own terms and it could be even better when you use your time wisely. It gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your loved ones and to follow other interests.
Have you ever tracked your time? Why did you start tracking it? We’d love to read more about you!
One common freelancing problem is communication with clients. How many times have you had to deal with unlimited revisions? Did you have a client underestimating your work because he or she thought it took you a few minutes?
Yeah, you'll eventually meet a client from hell. However, if you're constantly dealing with unrealistic expectations or unsatisfied clients, you may be lacking strong communication skills.
As freelancers, we're obsessed with our particular craft. You're an awesome developer or designer and you learned to manage your finances. With so many things going on we sometimes don't find out how to communicate effectively with our clients.
Luckily, in this post you'll learn a few techniques to improve your client relationships.
Get to know your client
It sounds simple, but it's essential. You might think you're delivering a good service, but do you know exactly what your clients do? What are their goals?
Understand their needs from the beginning and you'll get a grateful client. It will decrease the amount of changes to the project because every decision you make is with their goals in mind.
It's also helpful to learn the way they run their businesses. How do they handle communication? With small businesses you talk to the owner. Bigger companies usually implies a manager, an assistant and even more people.
Set together a contact person to centralize the feedback and when you're looking for approval, contact the right group of people to avoid project delays.
Establish a personal connection with your client
Imagine this scenario. You can choose between two coffee shops, one next to the other.
In the first coffee shop, the barista's name is Adam. You usually chat for a few minutes before he gives you your latte. He knows your favorite drink and makes suggestions about new beverages.
The other coffee shop is fine. They deliver your coffee to your table with a smile on their face. That's it. Nothing memorable.
Let's assume they both have similar prices, where do you prefer to buy? People don't like talking with machines. Approach your clients and ask about their day, work or family. We usually appreciate when people try to connect with us. And we're more willing to help them out when they need it.
Be careful, though. You don't want to cross the fine line between caring and being intrusive. If your client doesn't want to talk to you about their personal lives, don't do it. Adjust to that depending on the case.
Some people are tech-savvy and some people are not. Your clients usually don't want to know how you implemented a script to their website or how you changed their CSS file.
The only thing they want to know is if you fixed the bug or if you changed the arial font to an elegant cursive font.
Talk about the project process and the results in terms they understand. Explain the relevant facts about the project when necessary without trying to show off.
One way to reduce misunderstandings is to repeat what our clients say to verify if we understood what they wanted.
If you're unclear about the project scope, ask them to amplify their point. And always get it in writing. If you talked over the phone, write them an email with your conversation summary asking them to confirm the information.
Don't assume your client always knows everything. If he or she asks you for a change outside the project scope, communicate it before doing any changes and let them know about the extra fee.
Remember to include as much detail as possible to avoid surprises, which leads me to the following point.
Before starting a project make sure you both know what to expect from each other.
Imagine you have to develop an ecommerce website. Your need the product images, information about the company and the content. The website will go live January 1st, so it has to be ready by the first week of December in case you need to modify something.
You're charging a flat fee. The price includes the template customization, uploading the image files, testing and setting everything. However, you don't do copywriting or take photographs.
You include 4 revisions. This doesn't mean your client can't change your design after you started coding it. You're willing to make smaller modifications like font size or color, outside the 4 revisions. You charge an extra fee for more revisions.
You break the project into phases: Draft, design, coding, customization, images and content, testing. Every phase has its own deadline. You'll deliver the files after final payment.
See? There are many things to consider when talking about a project. It's your job to communicate them all and ask your client questions about the process.
Don't take criticism too personally
At some point you'll face unhappy clients. They don't like your design, they want you to eliminate everything you did or they don't implement your recommendations. This can be minimized with great communication .
However, when this does happen, remember you're running a business. Don't get too emotional about it.
Always respond with a positive attitude and be willing to understand what went wrong. Keep these changes in mind to make better estimates in the future.
Respond promptly, but don't be desperate
Clients appreciate a reliable freelancer. They like when you respond to their emails and provide solutions.
You want to be professional, but you still have a personal life. Don't answer emails at 3 a.m., or accept demanding clients. Explaining how you handle communication filters out bad clients. Tell them your business hours and when they can expect a response from you.
Let them know when a stage of the project will take you one week. Don't just disappear for one week until you have the tasks ready. That way they don't have to wonder if you took their money or if you're procrastinating.
Show your expertise
It's your job to guide your clients. Find out what they want and use it in your proposed solution. They appreciate when you listen. They want results and if you know the best way to get them, they'll appreciate you even more. Always explain how you got to your conclusion and answer their doubts.
Showing your expertise helps you to avoid micromanagers and low-paying clients. You'll be hired because you're the expert in the craft and you'll attract the type of client who wants results.
Learn from your mistakes
Find your patterns:
- Do you feel your clients ignore you when you make suggestions?
- Do they boss you around like you're an employee?
- Do you usually waste time doing a tenth revision?
With that in mind, which techniques could you use to improve your client relationships? A few small communication habits could make your life easier!
Do you have an awesome tip to talk to clients? Let us know how it works for you in the comments!
Getting things done can feel like an impossible task sometimes, especially when you work from home. You spend all your work day answering emails and phone calls or finishing pending tasks.
Suddenly it’s midday, you’re still wearing pajamas and you see you’ve hardly accomplished anything. Being your own boss has its perks. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be disciplined, so it’s a good idea to establish productivity habits.
If you spend your weekends working to meet your deadlines, maybe it’s time to learn new ways to increase your productivity. You’ll have more free time to be with your family, practice a new instrument or catch up on your favorite TV shows.
Here are a few tips that can help you to organize your morning to maximize the amount of work you get done.
1. Set the tone for your workspace
It’s hard to work when you have a cluttered office. It makes you feel disorganized and your mind is all over the place. Avoid cleaning your office in the morning because you will lose time. If your office isn’t organized, go to a coffeeshop. Once you’re back in the afternoon you can deal with the messy office and have a better start the next day.
Have a dedicate space for your work, it doesn’t matter if it’s a little desk in the corner of your living room. Whatever you do, avoid working in your bedroom because that’s where you sleep.
Try to make your desk as creative as possible. That way you’ll really want to work. I realized I’m more motivated when I see cool workspaces or I go to my coffee shop or garden. It might be dumb but it makes me feel more creative and productive.
2. Plan everything the day before
It’s easy to waste time with meaningless tasks when you haven’t planned the day before. I usually lost time deciding which clothes I should wear in the morning.
Also it’s easy to skip breakfast when you open the fridge and don’t find anything healthy to eat, or you have bread but you’re out of ham. You have cereal but you run out of milk. You can get tired of finding out what to eat, so you just sip your cup of coffee and start working.
That’s not a good way to start your morning because you won’t have full energy to work, you won’t be focused and you’ll lose momentum in the middle of your work when you feel your stomach empty.
Take a few minutes every night to plan your breakfast. That way when you wake up you won’t lose time doing this and you’ll be more focused on your work in the morning.
Speaking about planning, it’s the same thing with your work schedule. Don’t start working without some sort of direction because at the end of the day you’ll realize you spent an entire work day working on tasks you thought were important, but you skipped the more meaningful ones.
3. Wake up early
This is easily said. I know it can be hard to do. One way to wake up early is to program your coffee pot to wake you up with the smell of fresh coffee.
Or you could try using a smartwatch to help you rise early in the morning. Remember to have a good night sleep, otherwise you’ll be sleeping in the morning and it doesn’t matter how early you wake up, you won’t be productive.
4. Have a schedule
Just because you work from home and don’t have to commute doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shower and get dressed in the morning. Wear something different from pajamas. It doesn’t have to be a tie and a suit.
You could wear jeans and a t-shirt. Or whatever you would feel comfortable wearing if you were out of the house. Make your bed and leave your room, eat the breakfast you planned the day before to get in the mood for work.
5. Get out of the house
Take a ten minutes walk out of the house. Think about the things you want to accomplish for the day and remember your long-term goals.
Where do you see yourself in a few years? And how is what you do today going to help you get there?
6. Focus on your most enjoyable task first
Now get back to the office and start with one task. Begin working on a task you enjoy.
Once you start working on something you love, you’re more likely to feel productive afterwards and jump to a bigger job.
7. Work on one big project next
You’re probably in a good mood now because you initiated working on a project you like. Now it’s time to accomplish the bigger task of the day.
That way if something happens after, at least you finished the most important to-do point for today.
8. Eliminate distractions
I like working with music. However, I noticed I get distracted with the lyrics of my favorite songs.
I drum in the desk and I get lost in my project. Music, TV shows, your pet or even kids walking around the house can be a huge distraction. If it’s impossible to eliminate those distractions, go to a library or a coffeeshop.
In the case of the music, I started listening music without lyrics to improve my concentration.
Email is also a real source of distractions. We think we accomplish something by answering them but the truth is it’s a time sucker.
If you have a bad time avoiding email, leave your cellphone in your bedroom and create a work user on your computer to focus on your projects and have a separate account to check emails.
You could even put a filter on your web browser to stop you from watching youtube videos or checking facebook. You can do that from your personal account.
9. Finish your worst task in the afternoon
The best way to start your morning is knowing you dealt with the worst task the day before.
You’ll begin your day eager to work. After midday, work on your worst task. As you already accomplished a lot of things in the morning, you’ll feel more motivated to finish this and the fact that you will start the next morning without that task will inspire you to do it too.
What do you do to keep your morning productive? We’d like to know your work routine!
Dealing with late payers is awful. Nobody likes to chase clients, especially freelancers because we usually have more hats to wear. The time we use to collect money is time we don’t get back and we could be using to bill another client.
That’s why I compiled a list of tips to invoice clients and increase our chances of getting paid on time. Here you go!
1. Research your client
Before you start working with a client, do your job and see who your client is. See what people on social media are saying about them. Go to forums and see if past employees or freelancers are complaining about them.
Getting to know your client will help you to avoid a headache. It’s a red flag if you can’t find anything about them online. If you can’t find social media accounts, a website or references, be careful.
2. Get paid first
To minimize the risk of working in exchange of nothing, ask for an upfront deposit. Depending on the size of the project, you can ask from 30% to 100%. If you have a solid reputation your client won’t think twice in paying you.
Avoid working with a prospective client who refuses to commit to the project. If he or she’s not willing to pay you an upfront payment, you’d better pass on the job.
You could offer a warranty for upfront payments in case your client decide to cancel the project before you start doing any work.
3. Automate the process
Invest in an invoicing tool. It helps you to send invoices immediately to your client’s email and notifies you when you have a payment receipt.
You could break the project down in smaller phases to invoice your client for each stage of the project and improve your cash flow.
If you’re not ready to spend money on an invoicing app, you could use this awesome free invoice template to invoice your clients.
4. Contact the right person
Sometimes your contact person is not the person in charge of paying the bills.
Instead of waiting until your contact sends the invoice to the payment manager and making the process more complicated that it has to be, make sure to send a copy of your invoice to your contact person and their accountant.
Ask for their accountant’s email before starting the project, so you can have it way before you need to send the invoice.
5. Add your payment terms
Be clear about this with your clients. You must include the due date, your preferred payment method and finance charges for late payments.
Also, if you usually give 2 weeks to your clients to pay you an invoice, reduce that time to 1 week. Play with it until you feel comfortable with the way your clients are responding to your terms.
As freelancers, it’s rare to give a client 30 days credit. That’s why it’s smart to send smaller invoices and get paid frequently for every stage of a project.
6. Integrate your payment platform with your invoicing tool
A good way to make payments easier for your clients is to integrate your invoicing app with your payment account.
Use popular platforms like Paypal or Stripe to redirect invoices to your account and get paid immediately.
Remember that these platforms usually take a small percentage of your payments, but that’s nothing compared to a late payment and the bad payers nightmare.
7. Include business information
Always add to your invoice these details:
Your tax ID
You Skype/local phone number
Contact’s phone number
8. Detail the product or service
Avoid charging your client for "Design" or “Web Developing”. They already know that.
If you have a regular client who always needs multiple services, this isn’t helpful. Gives as much detail as you can. It’s better to detail the service as "Brochure Design For Christmas Campaign December 2014 Product X".
9. Be friendly
You catch more bees with honey than vinegar. Always be polite and friendly with your clients. Learn the payment manager’s name, involve it in the project and contact them every once in a while.
Always call your contact person and/or the accountant when you’re sending them an invoice. This way you avoid the excuse "The email got lost in the way". Wait in line until they receive the invoice and ask if they have any questions.
10. Notify your client if they’re asking for changes out of the project scope before doing any more work
If you realize your client is asking for work out of project scope, notify them immediately. Don’t send a surprise invoice with all the details without them even knowing.
This will decrease your chances of getting paid and it will probably make your client angry.
11. Make early payment discounts
When you deal with big projects, you could use this as an incentive. Make 5% or 10% discounts for early payments.
This works great with $5K-$10K projects. Don’t make discounts for smaller invoices because it won’t have that much of an impact to your client or to you.
12. Use estimates and proposals
You should always give proposals and estimates to your clients before the project begins. You may include things like deadlines, delivery items, revisions and other considerations.
This is helpful because you can refer to this when talking to your client about the invoice. Here’s a free quote template you can use, that you could convert to an invoice later.
13. Follow up
Don’t forget to follow up. Send the invoice, pick up the phone and tell your client you sent it.
Remember to tell them the invoice due date and call them a few days before is due to remind them about the payment. Better safe than sorry, right?
Do you have any other tips? How are you handling your invoicing and payments with clients? We’d love to know more! Feel free to tell us in the comments section below
We started Paydirt three years ago because we needed a tool that would help us manage, bill, and provide great service to our clients.
Today, Paydirt is used by thousands of people around the world, from freelancers to small and mid-sized creative agencies.
As a small token of thanks, we'd like to give back by showcasing a personal success story in hopes that you might be able to apply it to your business. Now let's get on with it!
One thing that's worked so well for us is giving stuff away. Yep, that's right.
To help grow our user base, we published a nifty Invoice Template and Quote Template completely for free, and below are the results.
Let's take a look at the last 30 days of organic search traffic...
Whoa! This is a good bit of traffic. This means 500 potential customers hear about Paydirt every day just because they found us on the web while searching for something they needed. The more eyeballs you get on your product, the more chances you have to sell.
At first glance it may appear our quote template isn't performing as well as the invoice creator. But a quick Incognito search with Google Chrome reveals we're actually ranking top 3 for both terms:
To explain what's going on here, we can check out the average search volume for each product, provided by Google's Keyword Planner:
Our Invoice Template generates 7.5x more traffic than the Quote Template, which lines up loosely with the average monthly search volume above. This is good news because it means we're capturing as much traffic for Quote Template searches as possible.
Now let's look at the holy grail of product marketing – conversion rates.
To make things more interesting, below is data from a few months of organic traffic to each tool:
In the far right is the conversion quality for these visitors – 8% and 7% for the Invoice and Quote templates, respectively. With the average freemium conversion at 3%, Paydirt is performing at 2x the industry standard.
It took quite a bit of tinkering since our humble beginnings three years ago to achieve these results, but these days you can leverage incredible software tools to better track your progress and enjoy similar results for your product.
If your practice relies heavily on inbound queries for new business development, we recommend Moz as the definitive SEO resource. And for a limited time, Moz customers now receive 50% off any plan for the first 3 months on subscriptions to our usability testing tool, UsabilityHub. Head over to the Moz perks page to learn more.
We use Trello every day. Everybody uses Trello. Trello is awesome. But lots of you want to be able to track time on Trello cards, and time tracking is one thing that Trello doens't offer. No problem! Today we've released our brand new Trello integration for Paydirt, and it's pretty sweet.
Here's how it works:
First, connect your Paydirt and Trello accounts:
Now you can import Trello Boards into Paydirt as Projects.
Head to your client's screen in Paydirt, and select
Create from Trello Board
Choose the Basecamp Project to import.
When you create a project form a Trello Board you can import all of your cards as tasks right away, or have them created in Paydirt as you track time towards them using our Chrome Extension.
If you've installed our
you can now log time on your cards directly in Trello!
to add a time log, or
to start a timer ticking for that to-do.
Logging time happens directly in Trello,
so you can log your time without ever leaving the board.
And cards update in real time with their total duration logged.
We hope you enjoy tracking your time in Trello with Paydirt. If you need a hand getting set up just email us at email@example.com and we'll help you out.
Over the last year we've received lots of requests for importing Basecamp to-dos into Paydirt for time tracking. Today we're releasing our integration with Basecamp, and we think you're going to love it! Yes, you can import your to-dos into Paydirt, and if you use Google Chrome, you can even log your time directly from your basecamp project page!
First, connect your Paydirt and Basecamp accounts:
Now you can import Basecamp Projects into Paydirt.
Head to your client's screen in Paydirt, and select
Create from Basecamp Project
Choose the Basecamp Project to import.
When you import a Basecamp Project, you can import all of your to-dos right away, or have them created in Paydirt as you track time towards them using our Chrome Extension.
If you've installed our
you can now log time on your to-dos directly in Basecamp!
to add a time log, or
to start a timer ticking for that to-do.
Logging time happens directly in Basecamp,
so you can keep working on you project uninterrupted!
And to-dos update in real time with their total duration logged.
We hope this makes time tracking in Basecamp a breeze for you and your team. If you need a hand getting set up we'll be glad to help. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We've just launched Expense tracking for Paydirt!
Here's how to get started.
Like tasks, expenses are logged under a project. If your work for a client is ongoing, just use the default "General" project.
button to log a new expense.
Enter a name, quantity and unit price for your expense. These values will be used when you create an invoice.
The total price is calculated automatically. You can come back and edit the expense (you might want to increase the quantity, for example) later if you need to.
When you're ready to bill for your expenses, click the link to "Draft an invoice" for the project.
The invoice composition screen lists your outstanding expenses (as well as tasks with unbilled time). Select which expenses to include in the invoice, and the preview will update automatically.
When you're happy, click the big blue
Draft this invoice
Your invoice will be created as a draft, so you can make any additions or modifications before sending it to your client.
As always, if you've got any questions or feedback, just shoot us an email (email@example.com) or a tweet (@paydirtapp).
We'd love to hear from you!
We've received heaps of requests for automatically recurring invoices in Paydirt, and we're happy to say that they're now available.
Many Paydirt users have recurring expenses for their clients (like website hosting), monthly retainer agreements, or are using Paydirt to handle subscriptions. Recurring invoices will make these kinds of repetitive billing tasks a breeze.
Creating a recurring invoice is pretty easy.
First, head to your recurring invoices in Paydirt
and click the button to
Create a Recurring Invoice.
Say who the invoice is for, and define how often and when you want this invoice to be automatically generated. You can set invoices to run weekly, monthly, or annually; and can define how often (eg. every 3 months) and when (eg. on the 8th day of the month) too.
Then compose your invoice as usual. You don't have to enter an invoice number or any dates, because those will be generated automatically each time.
And you're done!
When the scheduled date rolls around your invoice will be drafted, and we'll send you (just you - not your client) and email to let you know. Then you can preview, modify and send it.
Tristan and Nick
A small update here: you can now add more billable time and expenses to an invoice after it has been created. Previously this was pretty trick to do (sorry about that), but now it's super simple.
Just edit the invoice, and you'll find a button to
Add logged Time & Expenses to this invoice
And that's all there is to it. You'll be taken back to the screen where you can select which additional tasks and expenses you'd like to include in the invoice.