December 15th, 2011 by John Reeve
When it comes to time tracking, small businesses and freelancers alike either love it or hate it. On the love side are those who’ve embraced time tracking in a way that benefits their business, clients, and empowers individual team members. On the hate side, some track their time because they are required to, while others steer clear of it given the choice. Whether or not you decide to track your time is ultimately a personal decision. There is no one-size-fits-all methodology for time tracking, billing clients by the hour, or flat bidding projects. You have to go with what works for you and your business. However, there are three common myths that simply aren’t true for web designers, developers, and other small businesses who decide to incorporate time tracking into their workflow.
Myth #1: Hourly billing devalues your work
The argument goes like this — the better you get at what you do, the faster you are able to do it, resulting in decreased value for services performed. If it takes you ten hours to build your first web site, and now it takes you only five hours, you are only making half as much now designing and developing web sites. This is only true under two conditions. First, you never increase your hourly rates, and second, you become faster at everything you do.
The reason you are getting faster at what you do is because you are becoming more experienced. So it should follow that the more experienced you become the more you should charge for your services. Just like a finish carpenter or a photorapher, you have to increase your rates as you become more skilled at your craft. Because you are not just building web sites faster, you are designing and developing web sites of a higher caliber.
And you are not becoming faster at everything you do. Yes, some tasks can be completed in less time. But some tasks still take the same amount of time to complete as they always have. Design work often takes a similar amount of time for research, brainstorming, sketching, meeting time, etc. Development work usually requires a similar amount of time for setting up versioning, developing unique features, and deploying web sites.
The truth: Hourly billing does not devalue you or your work, provided you periodically increase your hourly rates and continually deliver professional results.
Myth #2: Time tracking demoralizes the team
It is said that when employees, subcontractors, or freelancers are required to track their time, it becomes a monotonous and tedious chore, resulting in pulling one’s hair out, breaking pencils in half, and throwing books across the office. It’s not that bad. Especially if you use online time tracking software to facilitate filling out timesheets. But, that’s not my point.
My point is… every job I have ever worked (except for Pelago) has been marked by the same inter-employee gossip and frustration. Joe is hardly ever in the office. Sally is always showing up late. George spends half his time outside smoking cigarettes. The truth is usually far from that. Joe is actually telecommuting from home a few days a week. Sally is also leaving late. And George needs to cut down on the smoking breaks. When a team tracks their time, it cuts through a lot of the gossip and frustration because now everyone can see how much everyone else is working. Slackers can be talked to, and hard workers can be praised, both based on the time tracking data. This benefits the team and the business alike by increasing morale.
The truth: The team benefits of time tracking far outweigh individuals’ minor frustrations.
Myth #3: Time tracking is a waste of time
I’ve heard people say that the time spent tracking and entering your time is a waste of time. That all depends on how you are tracking and entering your time. If you are using paper timesheets and Excel to track and enter your time, then you need to change that up. This is the age of the Internet. What may have been taking up four to six hours of your week should take no more than thirty minutes. Most online time tracking software makes it very easy to stay on top of entering time efficiently and accurately. Just a few clicks of the mouse and your day is accounted for in hours and minutes. Aside from making time tracking easy, online software carries the additional benefits of reports and/or invoices. The ability to quickly generate productivity reports for team meetings, personal reviews or client billing is an invaluable asset to have.
The truth: Time tracking is not a waste of time if you are using efficient tools.
Photo credit: tommyTags: debunked, myths, time tracking