If you bill your clients by the hour, than providing accurate, detailed invoices should be considered a critical part of your customer service strategy; and is essential for the long-term success of your business.
Tracking your time, whether for billing purposes or for personal productivity, is easier than ever; there are a great many online services dedicated to helping you find out where the time went, as painlessly and as easily as possible. The time tracking apps below are all free to use for at least one user and, based on your timesheet data, can create robust reports full of charts to visualize your time usage by client, project, and task. Most also offer a smartphone app for on-the-go time tracking, so you can capture all of the hours you worked, wherever you are.
Choosing a time tracking app doesn’t have to be a headache, and what works best for you won’t necessarily be what works best for the next guy. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a time tracking app for your business.
Timer or Timesheet?
Most time tracking tools, software and web-based apps alike, fall into one of two categories:
- tools that require you to log your time after you’ve finished working
- tools designed to keep track of your time as you work
Although it may not seem as intuitive as a timesheet, there are some pretty compelling reasons to choose a timer-based time tracking tool. First, real-time tracking tools are faster and more convenient to use. Rather than creating several project entries at the end of the day, you simply start and stop your project timers as you work.
Next, timer-based apps give you more accurate data. Because timesheets and calendar-based tools rely on your memory, they’re inherently error-prone. When you use timers, you log your time as you go, not at the end of the day (or week), when you’re likely to forget.
Real-time data also allows you to make smarter, more informed business decisions. As you track your hours over time, you gather valuable intelligence that will enable you to better plan for future projects and provide potential clients with more accurate, more detailed estimates. And capturing billable hours in real time allows you to better serve your existing clients, enabling you to answer critical budget questions on the fly and more closely monitor project status.
What Do You Really Need?
Many apps combine time tracking with other functionality like project management or invoicing. Apps that combine time tracking with invoicing often box users in to a specific invoice format or content. While this may work for someone new to business ownership, it can be confusing for your customers and a major accounting hassle to switch gears mid-stream. If you’re happy with your existing invoicing system, look for a time tracking app that allows you to generate custom reports that can easily be imported into the tool you already have.
Likewise, beware of apps that combine time tracking with project management as well as time tracking add-ons for project management systems. If time tracking functionality is an afterthought, it is likely to be either poorly integrated or overly simplistic, which may mean less valuable data.
Bear in mind that if you choose a multi-faceted time tracking tool, you’re going to pay for the extra functionality. Take care to invest only in those features you expect to use regularly.
Which Time Tracking App to Choose?
Price will be, of course, an important consideration when choosing any kind of tool to help you run your business. Web-based time tracking apps vary widely in terms of cost. As you review various time tracking solutions, bear in mind that the most expensive product isn’t necessarily the best one and “free” tools often come with hidden costs or simply don’t offer the functionality you need.
Timer-based apps, in general, come out ahead of timesheets in terms of usability, but it shouldn’t take more than one or two clicks to start, stop and switch between projects. As you consider your options, look for the app that is most intuitive, easiest to use, and best complements your work style. Here is the list of the top five time tracking apps.
Time Doctor is a website and application monitoring software that "silently" records user keyboard strokes, mouse movement, takes screenshots and much more. Timedoctor also has a dashboard where you can edit your work hours, review screenshots and even manually add/remove projects. You can use it for free 30 days ( limited features) and after that there is a price of $9.99 monthly per user.
Time doctor website Download
TimeCamp is a timesheet software which features great options such as one click time tracking, manual time recording, a drag and drop option and the ability to add notes. TimeCamp is ideal for professional service agencies, companies and consultants. It is also for startups, business managers, office managers, teams, and busy individuals who require a time management application to improve efficiency and productivity. It has three pricing plans, free for individuals that are productivity fanatics, 6 $ monthly/per user for small-medium companies and 9 $ for large companies.
TimeCamp website Download
Paymo offers both time tracking and integrated invoicing for free for up to 2 users (3 invoices/month), which makes it especially convenient to use for freelancers and others who have to bill for their time. You can track tasks by clients, projects, and users; view milestones on a calendar; attach files to tasks; and mark tasks as billable or non-billable -- in other words, you can do a lot with the system. This greater functionality means, however, that you'll need a little time upfront learning how all the components work together. Desktop widgets are available for Macs and PCs, and there is also RSS and iCal integration. Price is $8.95 monthy/per user.
Paymo website Download
Toggl is based on a single-click timer: the app features just a button and a task description, so you can switch to monitoring time on a different task with just one mouseclick. Cross-platform support for Toggl (desktop widgets, iPhone and Android apps, code for embedding in iGoogle or Netvibes) is also one of Toggl's strongsuits, and reports can be downloaded as PDF or CSV. You can also give report access to different team members (the service is free for up to 5 users), which means you can share project status with clients or your manager. The paid version (from $9 per month) lets you track your earnings, plan tasks ahead, add your logo to reports, and integrate Toggl with Basecamp, iCal, and RSS.
Toggl website Download
Harvest is more than an online timesheets progam: it includes expense tracking, invoicing, and budget tracking in one package. There's support for QuickBooks export (a plus for SMB staff), team recording, desktop widgets, and more. The free plan allows tracking for up to 2 projects and 4 clients, with unlimited invoicing; pro/business subscription plans add other features and fewer limits. Price is 12 $ monthly/per user.
Harvest website Download