When you charge by the minute, it makes sense to accurately track how much time you put into different projects. But time tracking offers consultants so much more than just getting paid honestly for their work.
From creating better schedules and preventing burnout, to learning how to improve operational efficiency and profitability, here’s why every serious consultant tracks their time.
Too many consultants and small business owners dismiss time tracking for being too labor-intensive, intrusive and clunky. While the majority of online time tracking tools certainly feed this stereotype, a new breed of automatic software is deconstructing it – outsourcing time tracking so users don’t have to consciously do it.
Automatic time trackers remove the faff and inaccuracy of traditional manual methods by:
Ultimately, there’s no point paying for time tracking software that doesn’t offer any real technological advancement from a simple stop watch and notepad. Transferring a fussy manual analogue task to a fussy digital setting won’t make your time tracking any better. Look for tools that actually improve the accuracy of your tracking and make minimal demands on your time and effort.
…So you actually get paid for all your work! It’s an obvious one, but an extremely important one. Aside from underselling time spent on tasks you remember, without a comprehensive time tracker you’re likely letting a whole load of billable work slide into oblivion. The US economy alone loses $7.4 billion a day because workers don’t accurately represent time on billable client email. The beauty of automatic time trackers is that you get a complete account of everything you do at work – meaning even “hidden” billable hours make it to your invoice.
Time tracking isn’t just about logging billable hours; it’s great for keeping all the time you spend on non-billable tasks accountable too. Essential admin, networking, new business and pitching, contract development, marketing, branding – all the work that goes into running and growing your consultancy business can easily be managed with a good tracking tool. These all need to be factored into your actual project rates after all, so it’s a good idea to document them accurately.
When you understand everything that goes into a project, you can set competitive rates that offer you the best return for your effort. That involves knowing when to charge a fixed or hourly rate, or what to charge for a flat monthly retainer for a specific client. Time tracking arms you with that essential data. Just refer to similar past project to average the time you’ll need for specific tasks, including the amount of time required for client communication and iterations.
Effective consultants know their limits and give themselves the right headspace for each job. Accurate time data is central to making commitments you can actually deliver on. Without knowing how much time you need for certain tasks or clients – or what you can realistically fit into a day – it can become dangerously easy to overpromise, gambling work quality and wellbeing. A solid time tracker will help you factor in all the time you need for a project against your available capacity – and keep the hours you actually end up putting in front and center.
Seeing how you spend your time helps you understand how to spend it more intelligently. That can mean making sure you spend the right amount of time on each client, project and task, as well as reviewing your own work processes and productive behaviors to run a more efficient operation. A good time tracker should make accessing these insights effortless – translating your activity into real-time dashboards and reports for you so you can focus on action.