Just throwing it out there, but how do you guys keep track of the hours you work on a particular project? Pen and paper? Day-by-day rota? Desktop app? Online tools?
If you do use any particular applications, please give them a shout out so I can check them out! :roll:
Personally, I use Freshbooks. I’ve set up a system where I can manage all of my clients while still using the free account. It’s not the greatest system (and I’m open to doing some research on other options when I get some spare time), but I really like the company. I had to deal with their customer service once and it was amazing – ended up exchanging some emails just talking about music!
I’ve tried about 10 (I’m sort of a research-a-holic :P), and the best deal for what you get is Harvest. But I just really like the way freshbooks works, so I’ve since bit the bullet and bought a paid sub.
I’d like to add a bit of advice as well: don’t get too wrapped up in recording hours unless you are actually working for an hourly wage from another company. I charge everything by the project based on my own hourly calculations, and then every year or so, I do some very specific tracking to make sure I’m still being accurate. I think it alleviates stress on both you and your client’s side.
Oh yeah – I stick to original estimates to get a site live, the hourly rate only comes in afterward to keep the whole "while you’re at it" thing in check!
I’ll give Freshbooks a look, see what they’re about. I”ll click on Chris’ ad and he can owe me a cent! :D Anyone else come accross any gems – or just good practices?
EDIT: Yeah, the more I think on it, the more I want to look at what others do to manage their day – do you guys work on one site on Monday, another on Tuesday, etc.; or do deal with one site’s particular issue of the day before moving on to another site’s problem? Or maybe you like to have a .htaccess Friday? A Markup Monday? ;)
My big problem is that at them moment, I just sit down in the morning with a specific site’s specific problem in my head and, once that solved (or I grow bored/frustrated!) I just aimlessly drift to something else. Next thing I know the day has passed by and I have no hand-on-heart way of saying what hours I spent of actual labour on so-and-so’s site. I end up guessing, and then undercutting myself to err on the side of caution. That’s no way to make a living!
Well, take what I’m saying with a grain of salt because I’m still working my day job, but the trick to being in business for yourself is to make sure that you are investing your time.
It’s very easy to let your time get out of hand work you work for yourself and you get burned out really quickly. So make sure you set your time with a purpose, so like say from 9am to 4pm, any time you are not working on a project, you will need to create ways to invest your time in things that benefit you. This means that perhaps you should take some time to write down some things you would like to learn how to do (how can I add a qjuery slider to a WP site? how can I make a better menu? etc), or spend that time investing in what brings you business. Should you be prospecting your network to see if anyone can recommend someone who might want a site built or graphics done? Should I attend a chamber of commerce business lunch? Maybe try a form of advertising and put in place a plan to track how much business it generates.
You can also craft contact messages to your previous clients, such as a quick tip on a news letter or something that can help and also keep you in front of your clients for future work.
Whether you are advertising or prospecting, remember that if you are not growing, you are dwindling. There is no such thing as maintaining – it’s just a matter of how slow you grow. Clients move, die, lost interest, go to different service providers, etc. So make sure you bear in mind that you will always need to be actively looking for new clients.
Like I said, take it with a grain of salt, but those that invest their time will always find themselves better organized, preparred, and less stressed than the vast majority of sole proprietors that do not.
I have to say, I’m giving Freshbooks a go, and so far it’s all working a treat. Set up your own profile, set up clients, assign projects to those clients, and track time spent on projects either manually/retrospectively or by timer (which can automatically log those hours for you).
I can also set an hourly rate, a client or project rate, give discount, track exspenses, the works. And so far (as I have only three clients on it) it’s all free! Seriously thinking of subscribing…
EDIT: I had a look at Subernova Andy, but was immediately put off by the $15 pm charge, albeit with a 30 day free trial. Freshbooks’ policy of allowing complete use for up to three clients for free beyond a fixed time period is a big plus for me. Plus its built-in invoicing means that a time-limit would probably mean that you wouldn’t get to see or use many of the invoicing facilities available to you otherwise… my 2 cents ;) … although they are cheaper than Freshbooks’ $20 pm and do offer a more reasonable yearly rate of $145(ish) which I was looking for from Freshbooks but cannot see the option. $240 per year is a little on the steep side.
They’re different types of apps honestly. I know the pricing scares some away and I didn’t enjoy it at first but its a life saver to me now.
Subernova is much more than just an invoicing system. It is a Project Management system. It includes the ability to add milestones, deadlines, projects, clients, links, and still does the automatic invoicing within that.
Subernova is what I’ve found to be the best fit for me. I know it won’t be for everyone but you should check out the free trial. Its more competition to bigger more expensive apps like 37 Signals Basecamp.
I liked freshbooks when I tried it, but I just wanted something that had invoicing + project management built in to kill 2 birds with one stone.
You ever thought about the old school Microsoft Excel spreadsheet? I’m a process guy so it’s natural for me to reach for Excel when tracking, well, just about anything. I know it’s not a wild and awesome new solution, but it’s my go to tool for what your suggesting.
I’ve been using BlinkSale recently… I signed up when I got a promotion discount from mightydeals… and I’ve been liking it. It doesn’t handle expenses really well… but I just created a client for myself and I invoice myself to handle expenses. And the developer is really good that runs it. I’ve emailed him several times with questions and gotten answers back in no time. And it’s one of the only ones I saw that had unlimited invoices and clients for a flat fee.
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