It can be difficult to justify spending money on a monthly subscription to a web-based service that tracks your time. Whether it’s a freelancer shelling out $20 a month, or a small business paying $175 a month, it can become understandingly hard to quantify the return on such an investment. Here are a few alternative options to paying for online time tracking software, followed by our thoughts on why a paid service is best.
- Option 1: Build your own time tracking app
The pros to building your own app is that you have complete control over every aspect of it — the functionality and the interface are entirely decided by you. However, what about client work? Whose paying the bills while you are building this software? And once it’s complete, there is the question of where you are going to host it — on your local server or on a paid hosting plan. In summary, the amount of time spent in producing the app is probably financially equivalent to what you’d spend on a paid service, and your time is probably much better spent focusing on the business of your business, which is your clients.
- Option 2: Install a free / open source time tracking app
There are some great open source alternatives out there. We’ve tried a few of them ourselves. But it’s never as simple as just downloading the app and installing it on your server. The question of hosting comes up again. And then you’ll inevitably want to lift the hood and start tinkering to get it to do more of the things you want. We know because we did this once. In the end, it’s not really free because you are spending time and money updating and hosting the app. However, open source is a great route for those who have the technical skills and the communal inclination to tweak and contribute their changes back to the open source community.
- Signup for a free hosted time tracking service
This route works great for some, especially freelancers who may not need the more in-depth features of a web-based app. The lack of features on these free plans can sometimes be a barrier, which is why many free plans have the option to upgrade to gain more functionality.
- Option 4: Pay for a hosted time tracking service
Regardless of which route you take, you are going to have to inquire about the company or the community behind the web-based app you are choosing. With simple online apps showing up on the scene daily, it’s difficult to predict which ones will still be around in a year or so. The same is true with open source apps. We’ve seen some of our open source favorites dwindle or implode because of communal rivalry or lack of community involvement. Paying for a service is a transactional agreement between you and the time tracking company that you are going to be there for each other. As for Intervals, we take our customers comments and concerns very seriously and want them to get more than just a piece of software. We want them to have a learning experience where they gain a deeper understanding of how to run a business and overcome common hurdles. That monthly payment is a guarantee that the company behind the service has your best interests in mind
Whichever route you choose to take — there are several very good time tracking apps out there to choose from — it is an undeniable fact that you should be using a time tracking tool, especially if you bill by the hour. We’ve seen companies increase their billables by as much as 30% simply by using better time tracking tools and stopping lost time from slipping through the cracks. In regards to using a paid service, it makes simple sense to me that paying for an app that increases your revenue justifies the monthly expense.