Billing clients has to be the least enjoyable responsibility of any agency. When done right, however, billing can help maintain consistent cash flow, and free up creatives to focus more on their work.
In our experience as a web design and development agency, we discovered the two biggest time sinks with billing were the time spent creating invoices and, subsequently, explaining them to the client. We thought billing clients should be a seamless and painless conclusion to doing the work. So we made this idea a core tenant of our project management workflow.
Project management, put simply, is the process of breaking down a project’s scope into a series of manageable tasks and working through them until the project is complete. Employing task management software helps automate and streamline the project management process.
That’s great for getting projects completed on time, but what about coming in under budget? The answer is time tracking. When you layer time tracking in with task management, the financial pieces of the profitability puzzle come together. Beyond the benefits of improving team productivity and delivering projects under budget, the combination of time tracking and task management provides two big benefits when it comes time to bill the client.
Fast and accurate invoicing
When an agency regularly tracks time during a project, the data is immediately available for billing clients. Creating an invoice no longer requires trying to recollect the past or sifting through paper timesheets to tally up the hours. A few clicks is all it takes to query and compile time tracking data into a presentable and detailed invoice.
In addition, an agency that’s tracked time on tasks has the option to deliver an invoice with any level of detail — from a high level project billing to a low level accounting the client’s money spent on each task. The time it takes to create invoices — a process that used to take hours — is reduced to minutes.
Transparency creates trust
The number one question clients respond with after receiving an invoice is “how was my money spent?” It’s an understandable question, especially when billing a time and materials contract. And when asked, the agency should be able to provide an accounting for how the client’s money was spent.
Accountability and transparency are essential for building trust with clients. And both are much easier to implement when the data is readily available. When billing clients, the ability to generate detailed invoices — including time tracking data segmented by task — answers most questions before they’re even asked.
Productivity and billing clients go hand in hand
Time tracking and task management are two agency workflow practices that, when combined, become more than the sum of their parts. The agency benefits by becoming more productive, delivering each project more efficiently than the last. But, they also benefit from less time spent billing clients.