Two of the most important responsibilities consultants have is keeping track of billable hours and getting paid in a timely manner. That’s why most consultants will employ paper timesheets, spreadsheets, or time tracking software. Tracking consultant hours can seem overwhelming, especially when juggling multiple billable projects at once. And, you may be hesitant to take on yet another responsibility. That said, here are a few good reasons and tips to get started tracking your consulting time.
Pick a Time Tracking Tool
The first step is to sign up for time tracking software. There are plenty to choose from, but I recommend using one that has timers, a weekly timesheet, and reports. Good time tracking software is more than just a digital timesheet, it should track time for you and generate detailed reports for analyzing your billable hours.
Using timers daily will increase your billable hours up to 30%. And, detailed time tracking reports will help you get paid faster. These two benefits alone will help any consultant increase and maintain a steady cash flow.
Track One Project End to End
It’s most likely that your consultancy business is already in full swing, and adding one more responsibility may seem overwhelming. Don’t try to transition your entire day-to-day operations to a time tracking platform all at once. Take it slow and learn as you go.
I recommend tracking your time on just one of your next projects. You want to ease into the software and fine tune it to fit your workflow. As you get started think about the types of reports you’ll want to pull for you and your clients. Having a clear idea of what you want to get out of the time tracking experience will guide how you manage your work.
Analyze Your Time
Don’t wait until the project is over to start analyzing your billable consulting hours. Start running reports the same day you start tracking your time. Checking in with the project periodically will give you a clearer picture of where your billable time is going, so you can keep the project on time and under budget.
Your weekly timesheet will reveal how much you worked each week, which is important for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. However, it’s the reports that will be most useful for analyzing how your consulting business is performing overall.
The more you track time the more data you will accumulate, and the more meaningful your reports will become. Analyzing your time will reveal indispensable insights into your best (and worst) clients. This trove of historical data will also make you better at estimating future work.
The time tracking process will get easier and more financially rewarding with each consulting project you complete. But it does require patience and diligence. That’s why I recommend starting with one project and then growing into it. Before you know it, keeping track of your billable hours will seem second nature.