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  1. #1
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Question How do you track your time?

    Hi,

    My business, happy to say has mushroomed in the last couple of years. I have always bid a job and stuck to the bid amount that I quoted even if the job took me longer to complete than I thought it would.

    However, I am thinking about going to an hourly rate, especially for long-term clients and large projects. My question is, how do others here keep track of their time when they bill hourly?

    I have downloaded several time-keeper programs but found that many of them take a lot of time just to use... time which I don't have to spare.

    I have used MS journal which is great as long as you remember to close what you are working on if you need to leave for a minute or two. But what do you do when the quick phone call turns into a long phone call?

    Is there a site that gives you an idea of how long certain things "should" take or a rule of thumb that you use?

    My business is divided into two parts: 1) graphic design for screen and print and 2) writing and editing web content, press releases, newsletters, etc.

    I'm interested in knowing how others track their time. Thanks for your help in advance.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    I just look at the clock on my computer screen - at the end of a session, I add the number of hours to the client's timesheet (this sheet being their actual invoice). Can't be bothered with all that time tracking software - just another manual to read!

    We only bill by the hour for minor maintence work (text changes, ading new images etc) but I wouldn't suggest you bill by the hour for development work - clients prefer to know how much something will cost (and don't like the idea of paying more if you work slower!) - this also means you can charge not based on time, but on value.

    If you do this, you can always bill by the hour for work beyond the initial brief (or quote for the additional work in advance).

    hourly billing is something I try to avoid if possible - if I do it, I attach a minimum incident fee.

  3. #3
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Thank you. I think you have given me excellent advice!

    I have been billing by the job, but it seems I have been reading a lot about what people charge by the hour. I really prefer to bill by the job though. That way both the client and I are usually satisfied.

    One more question, if I may ask... what is a minimum incident fee?
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  4. #4
    SitePoint Wizard LeoWebDesign's Avatar
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    I actually have a time sheet that sits beside my computer. I am constantly changing tasks throughout the day, so I simply write down the client and start/stop time on my sheet. It can be confusing at times because I am always switching back and forth from hourly work to flat fee work. Writing it down is the quickest and easiest way for me. At the end of the day (sometimes once a week) I transfer it to Quickbooks.

    It may be low tech but it works for me.

  5. #5
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeoWebDesign
    I actually have a time sheet that sits beside my computer. I am constantly changing tasks throughout the day, so I simply write down the client and start/stop time on my sheet. It can be confusing at times because I am always switching back and forth from hourly work to flat fee work. Writing it down is the quickest and easiest way for me. At the end of the day (sometimes once a week) I transfer it to Quickbooks.

    It may be low tech but it works for me.
    Thank you for your reply.
    I have tried this. Because I do a lot of writing though, I also have to do a lot of research... and sometimes an interesting topic or site gets me off-track and I lose track of the time. Believe it or not, I have tried a kitchen timer and a stop watch but I am too much of an airhead when it comes to practical application for either of them to work for me. I'm great at pressing the start button, but not so hot on the stop.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  6. #6
    _ silver trophy ses5909's Avatar
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    I use TimeStamp .Net. http://www.syntap.com/

    I don't know if it will be of much help if you aren't very good at clicking the stop button. But, it helps me keep my projects seperate.

    It is also very easy to use.
    Sara

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower

    One more question, if I may ask... what is a minimum incident fee?
    It's the minimum I charge for each request for minor updating. So if a client sends me an email with instructions to update a couple of links on their link page, I will charge them for 30 minutes, regardless that it takes me 5 minutes. This encourages people to save up requests into one email - this way I can plan my time more efficiently, otherwise some people just keep sending endless emails with each one asking for a single link update or 'change that word to bold'.

    I had one client send me over 30 emails over 2 days before I introduced the minimum charge.

  8. #8
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    Working as an accountant for several years I had to account (strangely enough ) for every 6 minutes of my working day. Now as the owner of a web development consultancy I'm very glad to be away from timesheets and would never inflict them upon those who do the actual development for us.

    One of our actual guarantees is that we never charge more for a project then we quoted up front. Of course the project is scoped out properly in the quote and anything outside that quote is additional. Because of this, as previously mentioned, we can charge based on the value of the project to the client's business.

    To do this correctly you need to ensure the client is aware of the real cost of the problems you are solving for their business. Once they are aware divide that value by 2 or 3 and there is your quote. Most often this will be much more than you could make charging by the hour.

    Itís also a possible road to business success because you are no longer charging for your time (which is finite - both the rate per hour clients will be willing to pay and the amount of time in the day) but for the value you are creating.

    Hope that helps.

  9. #9
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    It's the minimum I charge for each request for minor updating. So if a client sends me an email with instructions to update a couple of links on their link page, I will charge them for 30 minutes, regardless that it takes me 5 minutes. This encourages people to save up requests into one email - this way I can plan my time more efficiently, otherwise some people just keep sending endless emails with each one asking for a single link update or 'change that word to bold'.

    I had one client send me over 30 emails over 2 days before I introduced the minimum charge.
    Thank you so much again! This is something that I really wondered about. Great idea!
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  10. #10
    chown linux:users\ /world Hartmann's Avatar
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    We use an internally designed task management and time tracking utility to track all of our time and manage tasks (and how much time was spent on a particular task).

    It was fairly easy to build and suits our needs well.

    If you wanted you could build (or have one built) one that suits you, even if it's extremely simple.


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