As working from home becomes more commonplace, companies and individuals alike are looking to time-tracking software to help manage their day-to-day activities. Whether it’s at the request of your employer or you’re looking for ways to improve your productivity, there are many reasons to track your time and analyze what you’ve accomplished.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the types of people who can benefit from this software, the advantages of using one, and our picks for the best time tracking apps on the market today.
Who needs a time keeper app?
Time tracking software can be used for a number of different purposes and by different types of businesses. From independent contractors who want freelance time tracking to larger corporations who are looking for a daily work log app, this software has a variety of applications.
As an independent contractor, chances are you have at least one client who requires that you track your progress, which may mean a time tracking spreadsheet. When you work with numerous moving parts, it’s invaluable to have a system to track the progress of your projects for you instead of trying to do so manually. Plus, when you have several clients, you need to know that you are billing the right client for the amount of time you put into each task.
Some of the best time tracking software in our list lets you invoice based on the hours you tracked, which saves you the time of calculating it yourself. You can also get a better idea of how much time certain services take so you can properly plan your days and bid for future client projects, as well as bill accurately on the current ones.
Companies that use contractors
Agencies, startups, and small businesses usually rely heavily on contractors for items outside of their scope or for outsourcing purposes. Time tracking software provides accurate work hours and gives agencies the chance to see which projects need more attention. Also, if you have contractors or freelancers with different pay grades, you can easily track their task lists and calculate their rates with some of the software on our list.
Architecture and law firms
Architecture and law firms can benefit from time tracking software when they have a number of employees working with the same clients at varying hourly rates. Billing clients the proper amount of time spent is a necessity in these industries, and so is having a good idea of your workers’ productivity.
Benefits of time tracking
There are a number of reasons to adopt time tracking as a part of your work. If you find yourself struggling to be productive or distracted when working from home, time tracking can help you be more aware of exactly how much time you spend on each assigned task.
Understanding how time is actually spent
Time tracking has become an important tool not because employers want to micromanage but because they want to get an idea of how employees can best spend their time. This could mean that you’ll be pulled onto other projects or that a task needs to be abandoned for something more productive.
For business owners, this allows you to see the ROI for your workers’ time and see if it can be better spent on other projects.
Better communicates your progress
Want to communicate your progress on projects as a team more efficiently? Consider time tracking software. Instead of only receiving verbal confirmation that a project is going well, you can actually see how far along it is and how much more time is needed to complete the work.
For managers who work with a lot of people outside of their organization, time tracking can give you a more accurate idea of which projects need more time and which can be finished quickly. You can also get an idea of what your budget will look like in advance.
For contract workers or freelancers, your employer may require you to show your hours before you submit your invoice. In some cases, you may not be paid without some sort of proof that you worked the amount of time you submitted. With time tracking software, you can show that you’re completing tasks in an efficient manner.
5 best time tracking apps
There are a lot of time tracking apps to choose from right now. However, a few offer more features and flexibility than others, which puts them head and shoulders above the competition.
Your decision on the best productivity app for you will likely depend on your industry, budget, and the size of your team. We’ve taken all of these into account in our list of the best time tracking apps to use for your business.
1. Toggl - best free time tracking app
Toggl is well-known for helping users track their activities as well as their time. It makes it much easier to understand which tasks need to be completed, and the user-friendly platform is easy to learn.
Beyond its ease of use, Toggl is especially popular because it’s free for up to five team members. If you’re a freelancer or contract worker, chances are you can use it without spending a dime. That goes for some small businesses as well. And for bigger companies, those that pay for use, Toggl offers individual support and expert training.
- Free for up to 5 team members
- $9/month per user for bigger teams
- $18/month per user for premium package features
2. Freshbooks - best job tracking app for integrations and client invoicing
Freshbooks is best known as accounting software, but it has a time tracking feature as well. For that reason, it lets you seamlessly integrate your tracking and your billing, making it easy to let clients know what they owe and how much time it took to complete a project.
This software was designed with all sorts of users in mind, which is why it features integrations with major apps such as Shopify, Gusto, Stripe, Zoom, Dropbox, and more. Pair those features with an easy-to-use interface and sharp design, and you’ll have no problem tracking projects and putting invoices together for your clients.
- $15 to $50/month based on clients and users
- Free 30-day trial
3. Timely - best time tracking app visual interface
Timely is a unique approach to managing projects and time. It uses a timeline-like system so you can see exactly what takes up the majority of your day and determine how you can optimize it.
This visuals-heavy software makes it simple to see which projects need more time than others, and lets your team easily access one another’s timelines. This is especially great for teams working within a funnel and those that require one project to be done before the next begins.
Timely has a number of integrations available, too, including Monday.com, Trello, Asana, and other project management systems. It also helps you track your time away from the office with a mobile app, so you can stay on top of projects and your time when you’re on the go.
- Moonlight: $5/month, 5 projects
- Freelance: $11/month, 25 projects
- Professional: $18/month, 125 projects
- Businesses: $39 to $359/month based on users and projects
4. Clockify - best free time tracking software for freelancers
Clockify has made a name for itself by being completely free to both businesses and individuals. While it may not have some of the features of other software, such as integrations and AI-powered billing, it’s a great option for small businesses or contractors looking to cut costs on software.
This free time tracker for freelancers allows you to see a number of projects, so you can know who's handling what. It also lets you create visual reports that you can send to clients as PDF, CSV, and Excel files, making them easy to share across email and messaging platforms.
One of Clockify’s best features is that you can use it on multiple devices. Track your work on the desktop app for Mac or PC, within your web browser, or on your cell phone. This feature makes it ideal for those on-the-go.
5. Harvest - best collaborative time tracker app
Time tracking software is a great tool for teams, and Harvest was designed with this in mind. It also aims to provide deeper insight on how you spend your time and how you can optimize it. With this in mind, Harvest is a great tool for increasing production among your entire team and seeing where you may be wasting time as a group.
Harvest also has a number of helpful integrations with Slack, Asana, ClickUp, and more so you can get a comprehensive idea of where your business can improve and if you need to reconsider how you run your operations.
- Free for individuals
- $12 per person per month for companies
Creating a home office setup using time tracking software
It’s usually a very simple process to set up time tracking software. As a business owner or employer, you will need to ask your workers to download your preferred software through the company account or with their company emails. From there, they can add some personal settings such as how many hours a week they need to work, contact information, and their hourly rates if applicable.
Depending on the software, you should be able to organize your work, either through tasks or through time. You can decide what works best with your processes and your workflow, or you can just track the minutes or hours spent working on each task. Finding what works best for you or your company will depend on how your team works and completes projects.
Make sure the time tracking software is compatible with your company’s devices, and include any guides or walkthroughs for your workers to get familiar with it.
Time tracking software can be one of the best ways to find out how you can increase productivity, how you can bill clients properly for your work, and to determine if you can optimize any projects. With a number of great tools available, you’re sure to find an option that works within your budget.
For those on a tighter budget with a small team, we recommend starting with Toggl. If you’re handling bigger projects with many moving parts, consider using Timely.
About the Author
Daniel Horowitz is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author and has written for publications such as USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.
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