Time tracking is an important step in managing time effectively for a consultant or anyone offering freelance professional services. Time tracking gives insights into how long you spend on a client project and how to improve your time management skills and productivity.
It’s also the easiest way to ensure you get paid for the hours you put in. This also ensures that an employer won’t underpay or overpay its consultants.
In this article, we’ll discover more about time tracking for consultants, why it’s important, and explore three popular time tracking methods. We’ll also highlight the best time tracking solution for consultants.
Let’s get going.
What is time tracking for consultants?
Time tracking is how organizations monitor their employees’ working hours. It’s also how a consultant records their billable hours.
The process consists of three main components:
- Time entry: Clocking in when you start a shift and clocking out at the end.
- Approvals: Submitting tracked time records to a manager or supervisor for approval.
- Reporting: Analyzing tracked data for payroll, invoicing, productivity management, etc.
Time tracking might look like another extra task to add to your list. But this additional task is actually really important. Let’s see why.
4 reasons why time tracking for consultants is important
If you’re a professional services provider like a consultant, here’s why you should track time:
1. Allows transparency
Time tracking allows a consulting firm to be transparent with its client. Keeping track of a client project and storing accurate time records helps assure the client that hiring a consultant is worth their money.
Productivity and time use reports from a time tracking tool allow clients to see the project progress, timeline advancement and budget usage.
2. Accurate payroll and billing
If you’re a consulting business owner, you’d be working with multiple clients. You must precisely track your work hours, especially when charging by the hour.
By tracking work hours, you can track exactly how long you or a consultant took to complete tasks related to each client project.
You can generate a timesheet based on this tracked employee time data, which can then be used for payroll purposes — ensuring accurate payments.
3. Gain productivity insights
By tracking time, you can gain insights into your productivity and identify your problem areas.
This way, you can focus on your pitfalls and further improve productivity.
For example, if you take longer on research, you can get additional training on research techniques to improve your skills.
You can also plan your day better by allocating less time to tasks you’re more familiar with. These insights can also help your client evaluate the productivity of the professional services they’ve paid for.
4. Increase focus
On the busiest days, our minds can become scattered with everything we need to accomplish. By tracking the time each task takes, you can focus on one deliverable at a time.
You can also schedule your workday more efficiently and limit the time you’ll spend on each task. This way, you can motivate yourself to complete tasks on schedule.
Now that you know why you should track time, let’s check out some time tracking methods you can use.
3 popular methods of time tracking for consultants
Once you’ve decided to start tracking time, you’ll need to determine the best time tracking method.
Here are the three popular time tracking options:
1. Paper timesheets
A paper timesheet is the most basic form of a timesheet. Most paper timesheets record the date, day, and time clock ins and outs of each shift.
However, a paper timesheet has several limitations like:
- Risk of damage or misplacing the timesheets.
- Incorrect time entries, either by mistake or on purpose.
- Tedious timesheet approval process.
- No way of verifying the accuracy of the timesheet, especially if a consultant works remotely.
- Doesn’t help with productivity measuring or assessment due to lack of analytics.
2. Spreadsheet programs
If you’re looking for a paperless tracking solution, you can use Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or a similar spreadsheet app to manually track billable and non-billable hours.
These timesheets usually have space for consultants to record their clock-in and out times and a section to record leaves, breaks, and free time.
They also let you download a timesheet template.
Although this method is slightly more advanced than paper timesheets, it also has limitations. An excel timesheet can be stored digitally, but like all manual timesheets, it’s prone to human error.
That’s why most companies prefer tracking time with software.
3. Time tracking software
A time tracking software is the most efficient and effortless way to track time.
Most tracking software offer automated time tracking with a time clock or timer. You can start tracking time when you start work and stop when you’re on a break or sign out.
This way, there’ll be less scope for time fraud, and your data won’t get lost or corrupted.
Time tracking software also offers detailed reports and graphs that let you dive deep into user working habits and productivity.
If you’re planning to get a time tracking software, let’s check out a few essential features you should look for when choosing one.
5 key features of time tracking software
A typical time tracker software offers numerous features that help freelancers and consultants manage their work hours. Let’s look at some of them:
1. Time tracking
All time tracking software tracks a user’s working hour— however, their methods may differ.
Most tracking software offers manual and automatic time tracking, but the best time tracking tools also provide GPS tracking and mobile apps to track time on the go. This would be useful if your consulting firm meetings require you to move from one location to another.
These tools create timesheets, reports, and invoices based on the tracked data.
The main goal of using timesheets is to record your time entry and billable hour, so you can send them to the client as proof of work and project progress.
Most leading time tracking software generates automatic timesheets based on tracked hours.
You can then use these timesheets as a reference for payroll and client billing.
Some clients require timesheets to accompany each consultant invoice. Additionally, if you’re working on US military contracts, the DCAA (Defense Contract Audit Agency) requires you to keep daily timesheets to account for billable hours.
3. Invoicing clients
If you’re a consultant, calculating consulting hours and creating invoices might be tedious and error-prone, especially when each project or client has different billable hours and rates.
Thankfully, there are time tracking tools that calculate invoices for you, so you won’t need separate billing software like Quickbooks. The best app lets you set different payment rates for individual projects or clients, simplifying the billing process.
4. Detailed analytics
When choosing a time tracking tool, always look for one that offers a detailed analytics function. Most tracking software provides such data in the form of reports.
Reports you can generate with a consultant time tracking app include:
- Productivity reports: Contains detailed data about productivity based on a user’s working hour, web and app activity, etc.
- Client budget reports: Provides in-depth reviews of how you’ve spent the client budget.
- Expense reports: Displays total expenses and payments made by the company.
Based on these reports, you can analyze your workflow and identify inefficiencies.
The time tracking software you choose must offer integrations with the apps you use.
Why do integrations matter?
Without them, your consultant would spend extra time jumping between programs, opening and closing a series of apps and browser windows to manage time.
Integrations help teams save time, juggle various tasks, and collaborate more fluidly.
Next, let’s look at some time tracking tools you can use to track work hours.
3 best time tracking software for consultants
Now that we’ve explored what to look for in a time tracker tool, here are three tools that offer those features and more:
1. Time Doctor
Time Doctor is a robust time tracking and performance management software that can help you boost employee productivity and bill clients with ease. It’s used by small businesses like FirehouseSubs, major companies like Ericsson, and individuals like consultants.
A. Key features
Here are some of Time Doctor’s main features:
1. Flexible time tracking
The tool has an interactive time tracking feature that lets you track time manually.
Here’s how the manual time tracker works:
- Open the app and enter your task and project name.
- Click on the ‘Start’ button to begin tracking.
- Hit the ‘Stop’ button when you want to end the task or take a break.
The time tracking tool also offers optional automatic time tracking for more flexibility. This function runs in the background and automatically tracks time when you turn on your PC.
2. Task and project management
Time Doctor lets you create tasks by project or client and track time separately for each of them.
The app also lets you assign projects and tasks to specific people and groups if you’re working with a team of consultants.
Here’s how simple it is to assign tasks:
- Click on ‘Add Task’ and create a new task.
- Click on ‘People’ and choose the consultant you want to assign the task to.
With this, project managers can spend less time worrying about task allocations and focus on other deliverables.
3. Comprehensive productivity reports
The tool offers real time productivity reports that help measure productivity and improve performance. You can export these reports in CVS, PDF or XLS formats.
Here are some of Time Doctor’s insightful time reports:
- Timeline reports: Keeps track of how much time a consultant works in a day or week.
- Activity summary report: Displays active minutes, seconds, unproductive, manual, and mobile time for each team member over a selected period.
- Attendance report: Records when a consultant is present, absent, partially absent, or late.
- Hours tracked report: View how much time a consultant or employee tracks daily, weekly, or for any date range.
- Projects & tasks report: Displays the time consultants spend on each specific project and task.
- Web & app usage report: Records the user’s time on various websites and applications.
4. Payroll management
Time Doctor offers payroll automation based on tracked time and billable rates.
The app also has payroll integrations with leading billing software like Wise and Gusto to simplify payroll processes for your consulting firm.
But what if your consultant or client is from overseas?
The app allows you to easily customize the currency and payment method for payroll.
5. Powerful Chrome integration
Time Doctor’s powerful Chrome integration allows the time tracker to work across 60+ tools, including project management tools like ClickUp, Trello, Asana and Zoho Projects.
- Download the browser extension from the Chrome Web Store.
- The extension adds a start/stop button within your chosen project management tool.
You can use the Time Doctor button to start and stop tracking time, so you don’t have to keep switching between apps.
- Track time anywhere, even when offline.
- See what consultants are doing during work hours with optional screenshots.
- Prevent time theft with an idle time tracking feature.
- Track time across devices such as Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and Chrome.
Time Doctor offers a free 14 day trial without any credit card information needed. Paid plans start at $7/user per month.
D. Customer ratings
- G2: 4.4/5 (320+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.5/5 (460+ reviews)
2. Toggl Track
Toggl Track is a time tracking tool that lets you track your activity across various platforms.
It provides task management and revenue tracking features to help your professional services firm improve its efficiency.
A. Key features
- Generate daily, monthly, or weekly timesheets based on time logs.
- Track time across the web, desktop app, mobile app, or browser extension, and all entries sync automatically.
- Turn meetings into time entries on your mobile device with the Google calendar integration feature.
- View the team’s workload and distribute tasks easily using the team dashboard.
Toggl Track offers a 5-user free plan with unlimited projects. Paid plans start from $10/user per month.
C. Customer ratings
- G2: 4.6/5 (1500+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.7/5 (2100 + reviews)
ClickTime is a useful app with simple time tracking functionality.
It’s good for hour tracking, project management, and budgeting, but measuring productivity can be difficult. It doesn’t show which apps and websites your team visits during a work hour.
A. Key features
- Automatically record employee time, costs, billing rates, and accrued time off.
- View each project and its progress against goals and budgets on the dashboard.
- Track time across devices with the web app, Chrome extension, and iOS and Android app.
- Manage resources and plan future project costs and expenses with the Resource Management tool.
ClickTime offers a 14-day free trial for all their plans. Pricing starts at $10/user per month.
C. Customer ratings
- G2: 4.6/5 (600+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.6/5 (200+ reviews)
If you’re a consultant juggling multiple projects for various clients or a professional services provider with a team of consultants, tracking hours can be challenging.
Consultant time tracking is essential and can be done in different ways. But the best time tracking method is to use a tracking app because it’s convenient, employee friendly, and helps save time.
Using a time tracking app can also help improve your time management and productivity, which can help boost project profitability. Fortunately, Time Doctor has all the features to help you, from flexible time tracking to productivity management.
So why not sign up for Time Doctor’s 14-day free trial today and experience its impressive features yourself?
Vaishali Badgujar is a Content and SEO specialist at Time Doctor, an employee-friendly time-tracking system that boosts productivity.