Victor James

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Overcoming Procrastination: Harnessing the Power of Time Tracking Software

There was a time when a stable 9-5 job was everything a person could want. It made life simpler and left adequate time for us to spend with family. But the Coronavirus pandemic changed everything. The whole world was forced to work remotely. From home or elsewhere.

It was the time when a huge portion of the world’s workforce realized the power of freelancing. As it turns out, you don’t need to attend the office to get the work done, especially for knowledge workers.

time tracking software for freelancers

Personally, I’ve been a remote worker and a freelancer well before the pandemic days. I like the freedom of choosing my own hours and managing my own projects.

But being your own employer isn’t free from its drawbacks. For example, I have to manage my time, projects, invoices, taxes, and everything else that comes with it.

In those trying times, it was time-tracking apps that saved me. If you’re interested in exploring the benefits of a freelancer’s life, I recommend you start looking into time-tracking software for freelancers as well.

How Procrastination Became My Biggest Enemy

In our daily lives, we procrastinate often. In most cases, it’s very subtle and most of us don’t realize it. But when you manage projects on your own for a long time, the signs of procrastination become a lot more prominent.

procrastination

Of course, I gave in to it during my early days without knowing what I was dealing with. Thankfully, I have always been an avid researcher who can figure things out eventually. I set out on a journey to find out what’s stopping me from achieving my dreams. After a few hours on Google, it turned out I was procrastinating.

Let me point out the biggest signs of procrastination. If you see more than a couple of these happening to you, it may be time for you to think things through.

You Keep Delaying the Urgent Tasks

It’s the textbook definition of procrastination. You were supposed to start working at 10 but it’s 10:15 already. So, you wait for it to be 11. Before you know it, it’s 12. I know how it happens because I used to struggle with time management a lot.

This kind of behavior comes with long-term downfalls. Your brain adapts to the habit and doesn’t allow you to perform to your full potential.

You Keep Making Promises Only to Break Them

Another telltale sign of procrastination is breaking commitments in terms of deadlines. You promised your supervisor or client that you’ll get the job done. But you’re late and you end up apologizing.

Of course, this can happen even to the best of us but it can’t happen often. If you find yourself apologizing for late submission multiple times in a month, it might be time to look into how you’re managing your time.

You Can’t Defeat Distractions

With the progression of technology, we’re adding new distractions to our daily lives. When you’re in an office environment, it’s relatively easy to control your impulses because you have co-workers around you. You can’t really put music on blast and walk around the house.

But for freelancers and remote workers, there is nothing to draw the line on. if you end up listening to an hour-long podcast during work hours or find yourself wandering around on Amazon, you might be procrastinating.

You Don’t Plan

This is perhaps the biggest trigger behind procrastination. And new remote workers are more prone to the downfalls of aimless task management. Without a structure, you can’t expect to finish everything in time. It’s simply because you have no idea of time management.

Even if you don’t invest in time tracking or expense tracking right away, at least consider planning your day out. Be generous with the time allocations at first and gradually tighten them. This will allow your brain to slowly adapt to planned itineraries.

You Give Up in Dire Situations

We all face very hard days at work from time to time. It feels like there is no other option but to quit. But you can’t quit because you have bills to pay. What matters the most is how you handle these situations. If you find yourself giving up every time life gets hard, you might need help with the time spent.

You Spend a Lot of Time in Bed

Freelance work and remote work are both location independent. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the arctic circle. And it doesn’t matter if you’re under the blanket on your bed, nice and cozy.

In my opinion, the bed is not a good place to work. It’s because our brains are wired to go into relaxation when in bed. If you try to force work in a relaxing situation, it results in limited productivity.

What are Time Tracking Software for Freelancers?

As the same suggests, a time tracking software is a piece of software that tracks time spent on tasks or activities. They’re different from using a timer on your phone because there is no record-keeping. One of the main ideas behind time tracking is to keep track of every hour.

A typical time tracking app will allow you to assign time for different tasks and notify you when it’s due. You can program automatic time entries to avoid forgetting them.

Using a tracking app the right way can change how you work forever. You’ll most definitely end up with more billable hours during the day, adding up to more revenue.

Do I have to explain why you need to track billable hours? It’s particularly true if you’re handling multiple projects.

Many time-tracking apps these days also include features like team management, project budgets, detailed reports, support for mobile devices, desktop apps, browser extensions, and a lot more advanced features to make the best of your projects.

Throughout this post, I’ll explain the benefits I’ve enjoyed over the years by using popular project management tools. I’ll share the most important factors you need to keep in mind when choosing different time tracking apps.

Why Should Freelancers use a Time Tracking App

To convince you to get a time-tracking system for your workload, I believe I owe you my experience. In this section, let me illustrate the benefits I’ve witnessed in my own workflow as well as many of my colleagues.

Automatic Time Tracking with Reminders

One of the main obstacles to effective time management is time itself. If you have to keep track of what you’re doing every hour, you’re spending a big chunk of the billable hours on non-billable work. This needs to change.

I was skeptical about the time-tracking tools just like you are right now. But I soon realized the power of automatic time tracking. Most tracking apps for freelancers offer it to take the pressure off your shoulders.

All you have to do is set up the tracking software once and let it run on autopilot. The best time tracking systems come with adequate documentation to guide you through the process. In my experience, it can take a few hours but the time spent is well worth it to me.

A time tracker not only does what you expect it to do but more. For example, you get to allocate time slots for different projects and set reminders. When the freelance time tracking software notices you’re spending more time on a project than you should, it’ll notify you.

Smooth Workflow Thanks to Integrations

The world is currently high on time tracking tools and organizations can’t seem to get enough of them.

Most sensible organizations have adopted different tools for project management, invoicing, payroll processing, task management, HRM, CRM, and whatnot. A time-tracking tool is nothing but an addition to their existing stack.

But for freelancers and remote workers, the needs are not the same as large organizations. From what I’ve seen, simple time tracking software for freelancers can also supplement project management tools.

The best thing here is that you don’t have to settle for the limited project management app features if you don’t want to. You’re free to get any kind of payroll processing tools or other software for freelancers and integrate them with time tracking systems!

The linear approach to tracking time spent along with project management results in incredible efficiency. This is something you can’t realize unless you do it.

Reporting Features

One of the main goals of using time tracking software for freelancers in your workflow is to hold yourself accountable. How do you expect to do it if there are no records?

That’s where time trackers with their reporting features come into play. Even a free time tracking app will offer custom reports to the users in a timely manner. You set up the metrics you want to monitor and let the app do its job of tracking work hours.

Needless to say, having access to data from your past projects can help with future projects. You can identify where the idle time is going to streamline your work hours and potentially work on unlimited projects.

A More Productive Lifestyle

Now, you can’t expect to see changes right away in this regard. But if you keep using time tracking tools and all of their features properly, you should notice a dramatic increase in your productivity.

As I already said, you will extract more billable time from a working day, allowing you to focus on more tasks. You’ll be learning more about new clients, making room for growth in your lifestyle.

If you keep at it for 6 months, you won’t be able to go back to your procrastination days. I promise.

Important Features of Time Tracking Apps

Using time tracking software is not as simple as installing it on your computer. There is an elaborate setup process followed by the usage of the features. So, it’s important to look into what you’re getting before you get it.

time tracking checklist

Not to brag but I have extensive experience in using time tracking systems for multiple years. During this time, I’ve identified some features that matter more than others.

Here they are.

Subscription Cost

For productivity tools, the world has effectively eliminated the “pay upfront” model. Almost all software solutions out there are subscription based which means you’ll keep paying for them as long as you use them.

This makes the cost of implementing time tracking software for freelancers an obvious consideration. These tools come in a free version followed by premium plans and even enterprise solutions. What you spend must be feasible and make sense for your expenses.

If you’re an individual freelancer with no collaboration with other workers, you can get away with the free version more often than not. You can even try different free trial versions of these apps before settling on one.

Whatever you do, just make sure you’re not spending a fortune on features you don’t even need.

Accuracy of Time Tracking

Time-tracking apps are supposed to be the best at what they do. If the time spent on projects is not accurately recorded, you’re not getting the full picture of your billable hours.

For this reason, the most important feature of freelance time tracking software is tracking time accurately. Accurate time tracking is especially important for tools that offer automatic time tracking.

Of course, you get the option to edit time entries manually if you want. But if you have to spend a lot of time doing it, that defeats the purpose of automation.

To ensure that you’re giving the best time-tracking software the best chance of accurate timekeeping, make sure you download the desktop app and any other drivers. Read the instructions provided by the software provider before deploying it in your workflow.

Reasonable Learning Curve and Ease of Use

When you start using any tool, it’s only normal that it takes you a while to get a feel for it. This is known as the learning curve. If you’re spending hours at a time figuring out the features of a tracking app, it may not be the right app for you.

The best time tracking software for freelancers will always ensure quick deployment with little to no learning curve. The software for freelancers should feel intuitive.

Not only that but the app must also be easy to use on a daily basis. Although everything should work automatically, you’ll still need to visit the app for daily reports.

What I’m trying to say is that the time tracking tool you use should not be an extra chore on your to-do list.

Billing and Accounting

Ideally, you should invest in separate accounting software. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense for individual freelancers or remote workers who don’t need to manage multiple accounts.

So, I think you can get away with simple time tracking apps for billing and accounting needs. Not every time tracking app you come across will offer it. But when you’re on the market looking for apps, look for basic accounting features.

Some time tracking tools even offer payment reminders, tax calculations, and guidance. But I won’t rely on automatic software to calculate taxes as the law varies dramatically from country to country, even state to state in the same country!

3rd Party Integrations

As I already said, digital work is very much dependent on integrations. Even if you don’t plan on using any other apps for your freelance business, it never hurts to have the option for scaling.

Who knows, you might end up hiring more people to aid in your work as time progresses. When that happens, you can’t rely on a time tracking app entirely.

For example, you may want to get Zapier to manage projects. If you have plans to launch an e-commerce business, you’ll need to invest in software solutions for ecommerce too. Wouldn’t it be great if you could integrate your time tracking tool with those tools to control everything centrally?

That’s what 3rd party integrations can do for you. I say don’t get shortsighted and focus on long-term growth as an individual by investing in integration opportunities.

Data, Reporting, and Tracking

To make effective decisions, you need data for analysis. Pretty much all, even the free time tracking apps offer reports. You may not get custom reporting with the free version but it’s still a great place to start.

On the reporting section of your account dashboard, you get to choose what data you want to be included in the reports. You set it once and the best time tracking tools will keep on delivering until you make any changes to the settings.

Project Management

I’ve already covered bits of this. Everyone, even freelancers, can benefit from professional project management instead of trying to keep everything on Excel sheets.

Of course, you can’t expect full-blown project management features from a freelance time tracking app. But even a free time tracking web app should offer minimal project management features.

These basic features may allow you to create tasks and distribute them, create professional invoices for billing, create project estimates collaboration for group tasks, employee monitoring for managers, progress tracker, etc.

If you have a fixed budget, I recommend going for time trackers that offer the most holistic project management software in that budget.

Permission and Privacy for Team Collaborations

Landing a project large enough that you need external help is every freelancer’s dream. When you do land such a project, it’s critical that you’re prepared. Believe it or not, a time tracking system can help you.

Most apps that track time also track other things like app usage and expenses. Advanced apps offer employee monitoring tools. When you collaborate with a team or multiple freelancers or a large project, you don’t want everyone to have unrestricted access to your dashboard, do you?

I know you don’t. So, invest in a time tracking application that lets you set permission to different users. If it offers guest logins, it’s even better. You can simply register the outside workers as guests and give them limited access to tools and documents.

Device Compatibility

When I think of a working environment, I surely think of desktops and laptops. But it doesn’t mean you have to agree with me. I’ve seen a big majority of the global workforce shifting their mobile devices. Why shouldn’t you?

Instead of sitting in front of a desktop screen, wouldn’t it be better if you could use the time tracking system on your mobile devices? Almost all tracking apps for freelancers now offer mobile apps. You can download them from their respective app stores.

The best thing is that there is virtually no difference in the features you find on desktop and mobile devices. Everything is synced thanks to the cloud-based approach of these tools. The best free time tracking tools offer browser extension for major browsers as well.

A Free Trial

Well, this is not one of the core features of tracking apps for freelancers but it surely has its benefits. When you get to use a free trial, you get to take all functionalities for a spin and see what works best for you.

Isn’t it better than dumping a lot of money on paid plans only to figure out that the solution is not right for your needs?

Best Time Tracking Apps for Freelancers

If you know me, you also know that I won’t let you empty-handed from this post. I have assembled the top lineup of time tracking apps you can get your hands on right now.

Remember, they’re no different from a traditional time tracker. The only difference here is scale.

Timely

To get all your work done timely, you may consider using Timely, an AI-powered automatic time tracker. To be honest, I won’t focus too much on the “AI” aspect when using it. Every business is trying to leverage the AI hype so I don’t blame Timely.

timely time tracking

But when it comes to the feature, there’s no way to deny that it’s an excellent choice. Timely offers one of the best automation features in business and it’s surprisingly accurate. May this is where artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms come into play.

Timely allows you to not only track time but also track projects, team members, and plans. Apart from the automated entries, you can use manual time entries to make the tool more accurate over time. This is one of the few award-winning time trackers on the market, making it the first entry on my list.

This tool is available for use on desktops and mobile devices. Visit the Google Play Store and Apple Store to download them.

TimeCamp

This cloud-based time tracker is an excellent choice for project managers as well as individual freelancers. It provides an in-depth analysis of the scheduled tasks. You can

timecamp

even segment the tasks for different clients and assign different metrics to track the progress.

TimeCamp is perfect if you have plans to expand your team or collaborate with other freelancers. Even the free version of the tool allows unlimited users.

If you use other tools like Slack, Trello, Google Calendar, Zapier, etc., you can integrate all of them with TimeCamp and control them from the same dashboard.

But there is a serious drawback to TimeCamp’s free offer. It doesn’t include any reports. If you’ve been paying attention to this post, you know I’m a big advocate of detailed reports to point out inefficiencies in the system.

Clockify

If a true free time tracker had a face, it would look like Clockify. It has been my favorite for a very long time for its Forever Free tier. You can include as many users as you want on the dashboard and enjoy many otherwise premium features for free!

clockify

By design, Clockify is a time tracker and a timesheet. You can use it to track project progress without going back and forth in Google spreadsheets or other project management tools. You also get to edit time entries if you feel Clockify is failing to track time accurately.

Of course, how can I not mention the integration features? Clockify works amazingly well with tools like Asana, Trello, Jira, Todoist, ClickUp, and all other major providers you can think of.

The Forever Free is not the only tier you can get. If you end up opening a business with your remote team for other

freelancers, you can easily scale it on the same time tracker. Just get the better tiers of Clockify as your company grows.

Toggl

Toggl is another of my preferred tools for automatic time entries. It’s one of the most holistic time-tracking solutions out there. It offers a modular approach to both companies and freelancers.

For starters, you can only get the time tracker for only $3.50 a month. If you end up adding more members to your team and you need a way to track their attendance, just that module for another $3.50.

toggl track

The best part is that you can get both for only $4.50 upfront. I barely see any other tools offering this kind of customization when it comes to time tracking.

You’d be glad to know that Toggl can also substitute as a project manager on your behalf. The tool comes with built-in features that track time based on project budgets and even do expense tracking!

My Hour

To get the best out of free time tracking methods, I highly recommend My Hours. This is a tool I still use personally. It’s perfect to track time through the desktop app while also keeping an eye on employees.

My Hours is essentially a project management tool rather

my hours

than a mere time tracker. It proudly markets features like group task monitoring, team reports, project estimates, and managing expenses. And you can enjoy all of these features for free!

There is also a Pro version that you may consider getting in the future. When you switch to the paid plans, it’s going to cost you $8/month for every team member.

Other than Quickbooks native, you get to have over 50 integrations to add to this tool. This is perhaps the perfect solution to not only increase billable time but also create invoices and pay employees!

FAQ

How do freelancers keep track of time?

Most freelancers don’t. They confuse the freedom of work with freedom of methods. Even if you’re a freelancer, you still have to perform business-related tasks if you want to be successful. Data shows that successful freelancers all manage their time by allocating appropriately for projects.

What is the app to track freelancer hours?

There are multiple apps you can choose from. I’ve listed and briefly reviewed some of the time tracking apps on the market today. If you have to pick favorites, I go with My Hours and Deputy.

How do I track my independent contractor hours?

If you work as an independent contractor for a remote company, you need accurate records of your billable time. Even a free time tracking tool can help you with it. If you’re not using any, I recommend you look into it as soon as possible.

How do I keep track of freelance projects?

Unless you’re working on many projects at once, the project management features on a time tracker will suffice. But if you handle a large volume of work, it’s best to invest in a dedicated tool.

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