Wondering Where the Time Has Gone? Try Toggl for Tracking Yours (Tool Review)

Time-tracking for the Solopreneur / Professional Services Provider – My Experience with Toggl

A few months ago, I wrote a post to share some time-tracking tools solopreneurs and professional services providers might consider using in their businesses.  I was in the process of finding a tool that I thought would serve my purposes (and those of my clients) well – and I decided to give Toggl a try.

What’s Cool About Toggl

I admit it, one of the features that drew me to Toggl is the fact that it’s free. Like other tools and apps that are built on a “freemium” foundation, Toggl offers a “Pro” version that gives more bells and whistles including the capability to set billing rates within it, set task hierarchies, include more than 5 team members, integrate with Basecamp and other apps, and share reports with clients and colleagues.

So far, I’ve found the free version of Toggl to have all that I need. While I bill most of my clients on a project rate basis, I do have a few that prefer me to track my time and apply an hourly rate when invoicing them.  Toggl gives me a more professional way to track my time.

Tracking Time Spent on Projects and Clients

In Toggle, you can easily and quickly set yourself up to track time devoted to specific projects for specific clients.

Toggle new client/new project form screenshot

You can easily add projects and clients to Toggl.

Whenever you start a task related to a certain project, you simply select the project from the list you’ve stored in Toggl, enter your task and begin tracking your time.  Toggl also lets you “continue” tasks, so you can start and stop as much as you like and still keep an accurate record.

Toggl timer and manual time entry options screenshot

Timer and manual time entry options provide flexibility.

You have the option of either using Toggl’s built in timer or entering your time manually (especially nice if you forget to turn the timer on – or turn it off when you’re finished working on a task!).

From your Toggl Home Page, you get a nice view of the tasks and projects you’ve tracked over the past week. Along with an up to the minute bar graph of the time you’ve tracked in the current week.

Toggl Home Page screenshot

I find running reports in Toggl quite easy, too. There’s also a good bit of flexibility when drilling down into the details of your data.  You can specify what you want to include in a report by date range, client, and project – and then you have the option of exporting your report into either a CSV or PDF file. Because I haven’t (yet) upgraded to the Pro version that allows for billing rates to be set within Toggl, I download reports in CSV format so I can calculate billable amounts due for clients who have opted to be billed hourly. Then I convert those reports into PDFs which I send as accompaniments to the invoices I generate from Quickbooks.

Track Time Even If You’re Not Billing by the Hour

Tracking your time spent on certain tasks or projects is beneficial even if you aren’t billing clients by the hour. While I don’t use Toggle to capture even close to everything that I work on, I have started using it to monitor my time investment in certain projects and activities. As a solopreneur, time is money – even when you’re not billing by the hour! Some things you might consider tracking via Toggle or another time tracking system…

    • Time spent on assignments for which you’ve quoted a project rate – I’ve found keeping tabs on this particularly helpful in assessing whether I’ll need to consider charging more for similar projects in the future. Sometimes I’ll discover that certain types of projects demand more time than I’ve anticipated…and then sometimes certain clients demand more time than anticipated. Tracking time on project-rate projects will help you work through all that.
    • Time spent on emails, phone calls, and meetings with clients – Remember, all of those collaborative efforts should be considered, too, when tracking your time on clients’ projects.  They’re particularly important to capture when you bill clients on an hourly rate basis.
    • Time spent on your social media and blogging efforts – If unlike me, social media content and blogging are not at the core of what  you do, you might want to get a handle on the time you’re spending on them. If it’s significant – and if it’s taking you away from your revenue-producing work – you might want to consider outsourcing some elements of those activities.

Wrapping It Up – In The Interest of Time

While I haven’t tried some of the other free time tracking tools available online, I’m very happy with Toggl so far and recommend it to other solopreneurs and small professional services businesses. I’ve been using the free version since June and am very much considering moving to the Pro version very soon. For a not at all cost-prohibitive $10 monthly, that will allow me to run billable rates directly in Toggl to calculate billable amounts for the clients I bill by the hour…and I’m certain I’ll find value in some of the other enhancements that come with the upgrade after I start using them.

by Dawn Mentzer

Your turn! How do you track your time when billing by the hour? What systems have worked best for you?

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Dawn
Full-time independent content writer and copywriter based in Lancaster County, PA. I am not Amish nor do I drive a horse and buggy, but they pass by my house every day. I'm a fitness enthusiast, lover of live theater, and I believe everyone should adopt a pet from a rescue (unless you're allergic). I specialize in blog content, website copy, newsletter articles, industry editorials, press releases, and social media profile content. Please note that when reading my blog, you interpret and use the content at your own discretion and risk. Tips and guidance that have worked for me, may not produce the same outcome in your situation.

Comments

  1. Hi Dawn,

    I’m a fan of Toggl too: simple but effective. However, as I often forget to let Toggl know I’m switching activities (or forget to turn it on or off) I’ve developed a utility that tracks your daily activities by asking what you’re doing in a discrete manner. The resulting data can be used to provide Toggl (or Harvest or any other tool) with required information.

    This helps you focusing on your job instead of reminding yourself to control Toggl. Hope you get the idea. Let me know if you want to try it yourself: I’m more than willing to provide a free promo code which you can use to download the app from the Mac App Store.

    Check http://www.dailytimeapp.com for more info.

    Bye!

    • Thanks for the info, Niels. It’s always great to know what other tools are out there! While I haven’t run into that problem when using Toggl, I can see where what you’ve developed could be of value to those who have encountered it.

  2. @Great information! Thanks for blogging on Toggl. I’ve been looking for a time tracking software for some time and haven’t found one that I liked, but I like the sound of the capabilities and of course I love free so I think it’s worth giving it a try.

  3. Hey Dawn, nice review you’ve got there. I hope you’d also be able to check out the time tracking tool that I’ve been using for almost 3 years now. 🙂 It’s Time Doctor: http://www.timedoctor.com/
    I am a fan of time tracking tools because it motivates me to focus on work. Especially because I work from home, I needed something to push me to work better and not be tempted on doing unproductive stuff all day.

    • Thanks for your comment! I hadn’t heard of Time Doctor before. I’ll have to check out their site. Good to hear that using a tool like that is helpful for keeping your focus on track – I think that’s something a lot of home-based professionals struggle with.

  4. Hi Dawn,
    Great suggestion! This is Day 2 of my toggl experiment, and I’m loving it. It’s so easy to change between tasks, and it’s already helping me to focus better on one thing at a time.
    Thanks,
    -Danny

    • Hi Danny! I’m so happy to hear it’s working well for you. I’ve been using it for over 5 months, and don’t know how I’d function without it now. Thanks for taking the time to drop me a note here!

      Dawn

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