For a couple of years (why, why didn’t anyone tell me it could be so much easier!) I did all my time tracking and invoicing using a painful system of Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, saved on my hard drive. The discomfort of using Microsoft Office tools was made worse by the inefficiency of my system—not to mention the total lack of style. Not having any design chops, I never did bother to make my Word invoice template look pretty.
But that all changed about six weeks ago, when I discovered FreshBooks.
The first thing I did was to create an invoice for work I had already done. It took about 2 minutes, I emailed it away to the client, it looked marvelous, and I was hooked.
The next week, I decided to try out their timesheet function. How glorious! It does everything I was doing in Excel, only it does it way better. You enter the client, you enter the project, you enter the task. You enter your hours. Then later, you generate an invoice based on those hours. Of course!
A few weeks later, things got even better still, when I decided to play with the little stopwatch feature. It’s pretty basic, really — you enter what project and task you’re working on, and you hit “start”. You can pause, or you can stop, and then you can send those hours automatically to your timesheet. Now, this stopwatch won’t do you much good if you’re working offline (airplanes, non-wifi cafes, at the cottage, whatever), but other than that, all good.
I’d never actually worked with a stopwatch or timer before. And this may be obvious to people who *have* used such a thing befo… but I felt like it seriously enhanced my focus. I am rather too prone to succumbing to distractions, and to flipping around from task to task while I’m working — even though I know that it’s an inefficient way to work, most of the time. With the timer running, I felt an obligation to actually just stick to the task at hand, and I stayed with it until it was finished (save a phone call that I decided to take, and I just hit “pause” for that).
All this to say that I really like FreshBooks, and I think that you should consider giving them a whirl. As a bonus, an independent contractor with 3 or fewer current clients can get away with using the free service. But their service can also be used by businesses with needs much more complex than mine, and I’m sure it would make life easier for many small businesses. As I said — local Toronto company, great people, responsive to customer needs, and a very useful service. Happy Time Tracking!