Don’t only track your time for clients

Tick tock. Tick tock.

I think time tracking is one of the top complaints freelancers have about the business. (Right below finding clients and dealing with problem clients)

You’d think by now it would be a solved problem. I mean, the only thing you’re doing is keeping track of what task you’re working on when you’re working.

It’s nowhere near as complex as the US tax system.

It’s not like it’s rocket surgery.

Yet it’s still a major complaint amount freelancers.

Yummy, yummy data

I’ll admit it. I’m a data and numbers person. I like metrics and measuring. I always have.

Since I’m so numbers-oriented I started tracking my time right away when I started Little Stream Software in 2007. And I’ve continued to this day.

I even track my time on non-client projects and internal stuff like taxes and email.

There is one benefit that many freelancers miss when they decide to ignore time tracking,

I track my time to know how much of it is used on good tasks and on bad tasks.

Time spent on the phone selling a client: good task.

Time spent on the phone to get a server fixed: bad task.

Value is in the review

Tracking time, it and of itself, isn’t that valuable. It’s valuable when you analyze and review that data.

Every few months I’ll do an analysis of where I spend my time.

  • How much time did I work on billable client work?
  • How much time did I work on my products?
  • How much time did I spend on marketing?
  • How much time did I use on other tasks?
  • How long were my days, on average?
  • How long were my weeks, on average?

And most important of all:

  • Are there any long-term trends in these?

This analysis let me discover many things in the past, such as:

  1. I was billing most of my time but wasn’t marketing, which lead to a lean time a few months later.
  2. My total billable time each month for each client would fit into a month, which lead to replacing my hourly rate with a weekly rate.
  3. There’s an average of 20 days per month which I could bill.

I could have happened across these insights without tracking my time, but they would have just been guesses. Realistically, I wouldn’t have seen them at all.

Even if you don’t track all of your time, try to do an analysis like this on the time you do track (e.g. client work). You might be surprised at what you find.

Eric Davis

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