One of the things I promised myself when I started freelancing was that I’d never work for a client that wanted me to keep detailed timesheets. As it turned out, one of my early clients wanted me to keep a record of the work I completed each day. It wasn’t a strict regime, as is often used in law firms where time is billed in six minute increments. But it was a record of what I did and when I did it.
Today, I use timesheets for all my major clients whether they ask for them or not. I’ve found that they are a useful tool to help me manage my time better.
Timesheets and Self Discipline
I try to be very organised about how I allocate my time. Each week I look ahead at my diary and work list and block out the time I’ll need for each job over the coming two weeks or so. As I work, I keep a record of start and end times and what I get done.
The task if recording my work makes me more aware of the time I spend on various tasks and less prone to wasting time. It provides a way for me to reconcile how long a task took with how long I thought it would take.
Timesheets and Planning
Whenever I am asked to quote on a job, I use my timesheets to look back at previous work and see how long a similar job took. This helps me quote more accurately and means that if a client queries the amount of time I say a task will take I can show them that I have a data to support my assumptions.
It’s pretty easy to set up a timesheet system. In my view, you need to capture a few critical details.
The client you’re working for
- Date of the work
- Start time
- End time
- Summary of activity
I also like to record the billable time unit. I bill several of my clients on either half or full days so I record whether I’ll be billing a full or half day. While I could do that with some maths on the hours worked I prefer to manually manage it.
As far as applications go, I created a simple system using an application called Bento although you cold just use a spreadsheet created in Excel. There are also lots of cloud-based systems but I like Bento as I can enter information on my iPad and have it sync to my computer.