Why Successful Freelancers Track Their Time
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!