Alright for all of my fellow Indy’s out there we all have a problem! Granted its a good problem to have, it is nonetheless a bugger of a problem. Overtime as we move from client to client and as our network grows and grows we collect a slew of side work (again a good problem). And while its great that this happens, sometimes tracking billable hours on such things is a hard thing to do effectively. Example you ask? For years I had the sticky note method where I jotted down a hash mark for each hour I worked. At the end of the month I would add them all up for each client, and create an invoice. Yes I know, pretty lame. After all I write software that does things, how is it I don’t have a better solution to manage this? Now that is a question with a really simple answer, its because I am really really lazy. Developers tend to get bored quickly and when they get bored they cut corners on stuff that does not really matter. And what is more boring then tracking hours! Excluding Garrison Keillor of course. And what the heck is wrong with a sticky note anyway! After all my trusted sticky note has never failed me! It works, its simple, and excluding the few times the cleaning lady has tossed it in the trash (oh yeah I said cleaning lady!) it has been a solution that was just good enough to last. Much like ITunes.
Enter 2013, where my wife Pragya and I have agreed that we are adults and that sticky note accounting, well its not really a great way to understand where time goes. And to be frank there have been times where I have missed a few hash marks as the 3am blur overcomes me. So as I thought to myself, how can I solve this problem? The developer inside screamed “just build it to fool” but the lazy part of me said look for a free solution first. So that is what I did. And I was happy as a clam when I found the long over do solution to this problem! A wonderful tool called Toggl. This site is so simple and its the perfect solution to my ‘sticky’ problem. Simply push a button to start work, and push a button to stop work. When you stop it you can tag that session for a client and at the end of the month use the reporting features they have to see where your time has gone. Its brilliant! It’s just what I wanted and needed, and almost built myself!
So what have I learned from Toggl? Well first of all I work a lot more than I bill. Almost 50% more in fact! The developer in me says ‘that simple text change is a 10 min thing’. But as I used Toggl I soon found out I was sadly mistaken, those ’10 minute’ sessions are usually about 20 to 30 minutes. Add that up over time and that 50-60% adds up to real cash. But that is not worst of it! This underestimation leads to some serious problems such as over allocating yourself. Committing to more than you can accomplish does nothing for you. It hurts your relationships with your very valuable customers, it hurts your personal relationships, and it hurts your health because you feel like you are being pulled in 500 different directions 38 hours a day. So using the information you can get form Toggl is not only better than sticky notes, its better for your health!
So if you are like me, and need a better solution for these sorts of issues check out Toggl, I think you will like it! And no I do not work for them, however if any of the Toggl folks bump into this blog, I do have some ideas to make your tool better, and I would love to use your tool to bill you 🙂
I’ve encountered the same problem with invoicing. Have you checked out http://invoicemachine.com? I’ve only started looking into these solutions, so I’m not sure how they compare to Toggl.
Hey Winonageek! I had not heard of this, look pretty sweet though. Kind of handles the tracking and invoicing. Worth a look for sure! Thanks for the tip.
good post..and a very valid point that in retrospection you will find yourself spending more time in fine tuning stuff and failing to account for those hours!