If you’re a freelancer that bills by the hour, accurately tracking the time you spend on a project is crucial. A good time-tracking system makes invoicing easier, presenting all your tracked hours in an easy-to-understand format that can either be quickly transferred to an invoice or exported into your chosen invoicing software. Here are some of the best time-tracking tools you can use to track the time.
Toggl is widely know, and the app is one of our favorite time-tracking tools. It sports an excellently-designed interface that makes using the software intuitive, with almost zero training required to get up and running. Time is easily attached to different projects, and those projects are associated with specific clients. The free version is flexible enough for an individual (or even small teams) to use forever, but the paid version includes some more useful features. With Toggle Premium time can be specifically marked as billable or non-billable, exported time sheet templates can be easily saved, and team collaboration becomes easier. The premium version starts at $18 per user per month, with a company-scale Enterprise version starting at $49 per user per month.
Toggl is a web app, so it’s accessible from anywhere, with mobile apps for iOS and Android. It also has a native macOS app, but in truth, it’s not that well designed. The web app is really the superior interface, and you can use an app like Fluid to give it its own app wrapper. Toggl also integrates with more than 85 third-party services like Basecamp and Todoist to better integrate time-tracking into your existing workflow.
Invoicing is build into Harvest from the very beginning. That’s because this time-tracking app is designed especially for freelancers and small businesses. Like Toggl, Harvest has a straightforward time tracking interface allowing you to attach time to specific projects, clients and tasks. But unlike Toggl, Harvest includes a built-in invoicing tool that can generate invoices directly from your tracked time. It also integrates with QuickBooks Online and Xero to generate invoices in existing financial pipelines. Harvest can integrate with project management tools like Basecamp and Trello. It can also be accessed from a Chrome extension, Mac app or smartphone app. A limited version of Harvest is available for free, and the more fully-featured version starts at $12 per month.
Unlike the preview web apps, Timing is a native macOS app through-and-through. As a native app, it has deep system integration that allows it to track what you’re doing on your computer. When the app is enabled, it automatically tracks which application has focused, with details like which web pages you’re visiting and which Word document you’re editing. It might even be a little creepy if it wasn’t so useful! You can use this information to determine how much of your “work” time was spent productively, compared to the time spent on…morale-building activities. Once everything is tracked, you can assign your tasks to different clients and projects, putting an end to debates about what exactly you did for all those billable hours. As a plus, this more honest time keeping method can also help you analyze how you spend—or maybe waste—your time the most. In addition to app tracking, you can also add your own time entries or set stopwatch timers, and everything gets broken out into chart-based reports. The app license is available from $29 up to $79, depending on how many of the features you want access to. The “standard” version is $49.
Timely is a tracking tool designed specifically for creative teams, integrating with project management software to help budget resources and track invested man hours. Like other time-tracking apps, it makes entering billable hours simple, but its team-based power is where Timely differentiates itself. Different team members can have different hourly rates. Tasks can be sorted into project phases like Pitching, Design and Coding.
Project managers can check logged time against the available hours for a project. This helps keep project-centered views on time and within planned budgets. Users can import Google Calendar and Outlook events as billable time too. Time sheets can be exported to help clients audit time spent on the project. Gmail integrations help you log emails against projects and preserve detail for reference later. And the Memory feature can automatically log time into Timely based on the documents and applications you’ve worked on. Timely’s apps are available for macOS, Windows, iOS and Android. After the 14-day free trial, Timely is available starting at $15 per user.
Time tracking is an essential tool for businesses of all sizes. If you get some software that’s easy to use and integrates into your existing workflow, it will make your invoicing and billing process more accurate and easier.