How Time Tracking Can Unlock Immense Value for Your Business

April 26, 2017


If you asked a novice small business owner what their most valuable asset is, they would likely say money. And a more seasoned business owner would probably disagree. Whether you’re designing a website or dog walking, the services you provide take time. Since there is only so much of it in a day, time is more precious than money. Time Tracking in FreshBooks is as fast, flexible and natural as it is with pen and paper—so it’s painless for you to start.

Time Is Your Most Precious and Undervalued Asset

Time Tracking in FreshBooks is as fast, flexible and natural as it is with pen and paper.

Many small business owners chronically undervalue time. Think back over the last week or two and jot down what you spent money on, how much you spent and when you spent it. For that same time period, write down what you worked on, how long you spent and when you worked on it.

Chances are you can pinpoint exactly when and where you spent money down to the dollar, but when it comes to identifying how you spent your time, there’s a lot left unaccounted for. When time is your most precious asset, why is it so often given so little attention?

There’s a Correlation Between Time and Money, Even When You Set the Price Upfront

“I set a fixed price for the project up front, so there’s really no point in time tracking.” In other words, time tracking is a means to an end — earning money. In reality, even though the price might be set up front, time still plays a crucial role.

We talked to hundreds of small business owners when designing the Time Tracking feature in FreshBooks. They described the pricing process they use:

  1. Work with the client to understand the scope of the project
  2. Break it down based on the different services you’re required to deliver
  3. Estimate how long each of the various services will take
  4. Multiply the hours by the hourly rate for each service
  5. Calculate the total price for the project

Even for businesses charging a fixed price, the formula is the same as those who charge hourly – Money = Hours x Rate — it just happens to be calculated up front.

Time Tracking Results in More Precise Estimates

No matter how you price — whether it’s fixed, hourly or a combination of the two — time tracking can unlock huge value and potential for your business. Luckily, FreshBooks was designed to make it easy to understand where you’re spending your time.

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The Projects page helps you get a high-level view of how much time went into similar projects.

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The Time Entry Details Report will give you an even more detailed breakdown to help you estimate your costs more precisely.

When It Comes to Time Tracking, One Size Does Not Fit All

Different businesses have different ways of working: one size does not fit all. When we talked to small business owners about the challenges they face in time tracking, they repeatedly told us how interruptive the process is.

Most online time tracking tools require you to enter potentially irrelevant information. To a web designer providing design and photography services at different rates, the client, project and specific service are all critical pieces of information. But to a contractor working on a number of different jobs at the same general labor rate, the client is the only relevant piece of information.

How to capture time also differs from business to business. Some folks are “trackers”—they use a timer to actively track the hours and minutes for the work they’re doing. Others are “loggers”—they’ll add a few time entries at lunch or at the end of the day.



New Time Tracking Features Help Address Challenges

Regardless of how you choose to capture your time, there are challenges. For trackers, forgetting to start or stop the timer means you spend as much time fixing mistakes as you do working. For loggers, overlooking when you started a task or not being able to recall what you worked on at the end of the day threatens the accuracy (and usefulness) of the time you log.

The redesigned Time Tracking in FreshBooks has two really exciting new features that help with these challenges.

  1. Just Press Play to Get the Timer Started

You’re about to call a client and want to get your timer started. Now, you can just press play without having to jump through any hoops — there is no required information. Once the timer is running, you decide what details to add to your entries. The same goes for bypassing the timer and making an entry directly in FreshBooks instead.  You decide what information is important to you and your business, not the tool you use.

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  1. Identify Any Gaps With the All-new Timeline

At one point or another, you might neglect your time tracking. With the all-new Timeline, quickly identify any “gaps” in the time you’ve logged for the day. Easily fill them in with the details that matter to you and you’re on your way.

With Time Tracking, the Reward Requires a Long-term Investment

When you own your own business, there’s no one to give you a high five and tell you “great job!” for a hard day’s work. But FreshBooks wants to help you celebrate those successes. With Time Tracking, small business owners told us that seeing a full Timeline provides a well-deserved sense of accomplishment each and every day. Not only when an invoice is created or the next project kicked off.

time tracking

Create Accurate Invoices That Reflect Your Client Relationships

Our customers tell us that the key to their most successful projects is good communication throughout. Regardless of whether or not the project is going smoothly, proactively reaching out to the client ensures there are no surprises at its conclusion and getting paid is a cinch. One of the ways FreshBooks helps with this is by highlighting how owners and their teams are tracking against their estimate of hours.

time tracking

Ultimately, invoices are just another way that businesses communicate with clients. So once the project is complete and it’s time to send an invoice, FreshBooks makes it easier than ever to transfer the time you’ve tracked in a way that reflects the relationships that you have with your clients.

time tracking

Keep it high-level and group your hours by the services you provide or add detailed notes from the time you’ve tracked.

Past Performance Provides Insights That Help You Price More Accurately

FreshBooks wants to help your business succeed. And while no two clients or projects are exactly the same, examining past performance can provide insights to help you price more accurately in the future. This is where having your time captured in FreshBooks becomes so powerful. The information you need to make pricing decisions can be accessed from the same place you send your estimates from. Time pervades your workflow and unlocks immense value for your business. Once you begin harnessing your time, you will have even more control over your business and its success.


about the author

Senior Product Manager, FreshBooks Adam is a Lead Product Manager at FreshBooks. His days are spent helping turn the challenges of small business owners into a product that makes running a business just a little bit easier. When he’s not at FreshBooks, you can find him at the cottage, on a golf course or yelling at a TV when the Leafs are playing.