Time Tracking Tools for Professional Services Solopreneurs

Like many freelancing solopreneurs, I bill for my time, effort and end product in a variety of ways. Most often, I propose Time is moneya project rate that encompasses everything into an all-inclusive one-time rate (for once and done projects) or into an all-inclusive monthly fee for work that is recurring. But sometimes, I bill by the hour if the amount of work, collaboration, research, etc. that will be required is tough to assess up front. Billing by the hour can work just fine and keep you whole as a freelancer if you set a rate that’s both reasonable for your clients and favorable to you. But it also presents a significant challenge: accurately tracking and reporting your time to your clients.

Some projects bring with them “here and there” short bursts of email collaboration and other activities that aren’t as easy to keep tabs as are other tasks that lend themselves well to blocking out dedicated windows of time to work on them. For me, that results in a really sweet deal for my by-the-hour clients because I tend to under-calculate the time that I’ve spent on their projects. Not by hours and hours and hours, but 5 minutes not tracked here and 5 minutes not tracked there can add up – and it can prevent hard-earned income from entering your bank account! That’s why I’ve asked my intern extraordinaire, Jenna Dutton, to look into some online time-tracking options available for bringing precision – and ease – to tracking and reporting project time. Here’s what she found…

Toggl (available online, via desktop and as a mobile app) offers a free basic program and a full-featured version for $10 per month. It’s a time-tracking calendar program in which you type in the project or task you’re working on, and then press the “start” button to make it track the time you’re spending on that particular activity. To stop the timer, you just click the button again. And fear not if you forget to click, because you can also enter your time manually. Toggl also offers tagging capabilities, so you can categorize activities according to tags such as “Invoice in June” or “Personal,” etc. and you can export your time reports to Excel. Another cool feature: Toggl lets you create graphs to see a visual breakdown of what activities are taking most of your time. It appears to be a very simple, one-click solution for tracking time.

Office Time is a software program with a one-time purchase price tag of $47. It also comes as an iPad/iPhone app. The user-friendly program provides an easy way to track time and expenses associated with projects – and it enables users to create invoice templates and make summary graphs. Plus, you can import its screens into Excel. Besides those functions, the program also recognizes when you’ve been away from your computer and alerts you about your time away so you can log that time against another project, or you can remove it from the records altogether. Office Time seems like it would be a nice fit for professional services providers who are looking for some accounting software in addition to time-tracking capabilities.


Clockodo is available online, as a computer download, and as a smartphone app at the rate of $8 monthly for a single user and $5 for each additional user. In addition to tracking project task time via a start and stop time clock, the program also enables you to create reports using customizable templates. As with Toggle, if you forget to clock out of a project, you can update your time manually. Clockodo also lets you import existing data from other systems that you use to track time so no billable hours slip through the cracks. You can also automatically create timesheets through Clockodo, which can help you invoice clients more quickly and accurately.


As with Toggl, you can get a free version of Paymo or invest in higher level plans that have greater capacity and more bells and whistles.

  • The free version includes 1 user, unlimited clients/projects, 1 invoice per month, and 50MB storage.
  • The “basic” version, for $9.95 per month, includes 2 users, unlimited clients/projects, 30 invoices per month, and 5GB file storage.
  • The premium version is $14.85 per month and includes 3 users (each additional user is $4.95 per month), unlimited clients/projects, unlimited invoices, and 15GB file storage.

Paymo uses a timer to track the time you spend on projects or tasks. And if you make any errors in turning time on or off, you can change, add blocks of time, or delete time to correct your records as required. Paymo also offers a variety of project templates, and you can organize your project work into subsets of tasks, milestones, timesheets, files, and discussions. So, in addition to time tracking, Paymo has some project management functions built into its program.

Decisions. Decisions.

I’ve personally decided to give Toggl a whirl. I like the freemium approach that will allow me to take a no-obligation, no hassle test drive. Plus, it seems super simple. Life is complicated enough so I want to use a tool that won’t take too much of my time and attention as I track my time (otherwise, what’s the point?!). But none of the above seem cumbersome and all appear user-friendly enough, so be sure to carefully consider the features you want and need before deciding on the time tracking tool that will serve you best.

Your turn! Do you bill your clients by the hour? What system do you use to track your time? What challenges have you run up against when billing by the hour?



Image courtesy of CoolDesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Taking a Break Without Breaking Business Momentum – Tips for Making the Best Use of Time on a Road Trip

Thrilled about taking a holiday break, but stressed at the thought of projects falling behind and work piling up? If you’ll On the roadbe one of the many small biz pros on the road (literally) to an extended weekend over Easter, relax! There are ways to get away from it all and manage to stay on top of things.

Consider these ideas for taking care of business without officially punching the clock while you’re road-tripping it…

  • Take note – Traveling gives you uninterrupted time to think about things and brainstorm – take full advantage of it! Bring a notebook to capture ideas. If you’ll be behind the wheel; ask someone else to take notes for you.
  • Load up on apps – Before you leave for your journey, make sure your smart phone has got essential apps loaded and ready for action. A few I wouldn’t leave home without: WordPress, LinkedIn, Evernote, Facebook Pages Manager, Google+, Twitter, Hootsuite. If you haven’t use any of them recently, do a quick check to confirm that they’re not asking for updated usernames or passwords…things that you probably won’t have on hand after you leave your local environs.
  • Read up! – I’m guessing you’ve got a list of “do business better” books that have caught your attention, but that you haven’t found time to consume. During a road trip, take advantage of your status of captive audience and read (or listen to in e-book form) one from your hit list.

Remember, the point isn’t to work a lot while you’re taking time away – but keeping up with a few little tasks and taking care of some to dos can help make your return to business as usual a much more smooth  and less-harrowing transition.

Enjoy your weekend! And I welcome your thoughts on ways to make productive use of road trips!

Image courtesy of seaskylab / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hungry for a Way to Simplify and Organize as a Solopreneur? Taste some IFTTT Recipes.

Among the several technology tools on my “to explore” list, has been If This Then That. And FINALLY, I’ve gottenIFTTT screen shot around to digging into how it might save me time and improve my solopreneurial efficiency.

What is it?
If you haven’t yet heard of If This Then That (IFTTT), it’s a free tool that allows you to set up “recipes” by which you specify causes and effects across the various online channels that you use.

“If This Then That” really says it all about as simply as anyone could: You prescribe that if THIS happens, then THAT happens.

So how can it help you as a solo-professional? IFTTT allows for automation of certain tasks and can aid you in getting and staying organized.

With 59 different channels to choose from, IFTTT can be a tad intimidating at first glance. But like any other new tool, the more you experiment and familiarize yourself with it, the more it will make sense. Just a few of the platforms that IFTTT lets you prescribe recipes for include: Gmail, Google Reader, Facebook, Facebook Pages, Evernote, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Hootsuite and more, more, more.

How does it work?
After you’ve signed up for IFTTT, you get to choose which channels you want to activate and use as part of your recipes. Choosing any channel as a “trigger” means that it will be the platform at the start of your recipe. Basically, you’ll be defining that if something happens on that channel, you’ll want something else to happen on another channel (the “action” channel) according to certain details (“ingredients”) that you specify.

A sample of what it can do…
For each channel, there are a number of conditions or actions you can choose to spark other specific actions on another channel. For example, in choosing Gmail as a trigger channel, I’ve specified that if I “star” an email, it will automatically be sent to a notebook in Evernote. My master plan for that particular recipe is to have a more efficient way of moving emails related to client projects into Evernote notebooks. Rather than forward each individual email into Evernote, now I need only click the star and the email will automatically copy over into an “IFTTT Gmail” notebook from where I can easily move it to the appropriate project notebook later.

I’ve also created recipes using a “Date & Time” channel whereby every year on specific dates, an email will arrive in my Gmail to remind me that family members’ birthdays are a week away. This one will allow me to impress my loved ones because I’m historically quite awful at remembering important recurring dates!

And though I haven’t yet set up specific recipes for the purpose, I’ll also start using the Date & Time Channel to remind me to send monthly invoices, pay certain bills and take care of other tasks that need to occur on regular intervals.

The possibilities are nearly limitless…
If it seems a tad overwhelming to set up your own recipes, fret not! There are virtually countless public pre-made recipes by others that you can activate. You might have interest in or find the following amusing…

  • “Everytime an email is labeled as “ToDo”, create an event on GCal as a reminder.”
  • “Text me if it’s going to rain.”
  • “If a new link is posted on my Company’s Facebook Page, post the link on LinkedIn”
  • “When Facebook profile picture changes, update Twitter profile picture.”
  • “Track Foursquare check-ins (w/Maps) in a Google Drive Spreadsheet” – This might be a great way to track business mileage. For security/anti-stalker reasons, I suggest checking in when you’re preparing to leave the address.
  • “Creates an Evernote every time you “star” an item in Google Reader.” – I’ve activated this particular recipe to see how I’ll like it in comparison to using the Evernote Web Clipper extension in Chrome. Both save and keep top of mind articles that I want to refer to later.
  • “Rescue me from a meeting” – You send a text to IFTTT, and IFTTT will ring your phone to summon you away. I would NEVER use this one – but found it entertaining and worth mentioning . 😉

Though there’s a slight learning curve with IFTTT, overall it’s intuitive and easy to use because of the many existing recipes available for the many different channels the platform connects with.  I’m currently far from having mastery of it, but I’ll keep you posted as I discover additional ways to save precious time and improve productivity while becoming more experienced with it.

Your turn! Are you using IFTTT? What recipes have helped you the most while running your small business?

9 Ways Solopreneurs & Small Biz Owners Can Juice Up Their Marketing with Twitter’s Vine App

I really want it, but I can’t have it yet. – says this Android mobile user with dismay. But if you’ve got an iOS device (e.g.

As an Android user, I need to wait to harness the marketing potential of Vine.

As an Android user, I need to wait to harness the marketing potential of Vine.

iPad, iPhone), you can – and if I were you, I’d start experimenting with Vine.

What is Vine?
To bring you up to speed if you haven’t read about it yet, Vine is Twitter’s new app that gives you the capability to make short and sweet 6-second video clips (or shorter clips strung together to create a 6-second video) and share them via the Vine app, Twitter and – with some additional effort – Google Plus. (Note that in theory it should work with Facebook, but users have been experiencing some issues. No doubt they will resolved before too long.)

Though I don’t have access to it yet, it’s captured my attention because I believe it offers solopreneurs and small business owners a way to really spice up their marketing efforts. As you face the pressure to consistently create relevant content to engage – and keep the interest – of your audience, Vine offers a way to quickly generate short unedited blips of content and share them. From what I’ve read, Vine has some – what I’ll call – “technical bugaboos,” but surely those will be worked out and it will only get better.

How might you use Vine to add some pizazz to your marketing? Check out these ideas…

  • Share breaking news about your biz.
  • Show off new product packaging.
  • Announce a new client (with their OK first, of course!).
  • Announce a new project.
  • Demonstrate your [tasteful] sense of humor.
  • Generate buzz about an upcoming event.
  • Give quick tips to your audience.
  • Give a shout out to another professional or a business.
  • Make a call to action for folks to visit your blog or website.

What I’m excited most about is the down-and-dirty opportunity to mix things up. If you’ve primarily generated text content for your business and steered clear from doing video because you found it cumbersome, Vine provides a fast and easy way to do it.

Keep in mind that Vine videos are brief – the 6-second window doesn’t allow for anything very substantive – so depending on what you share, you might need to follow up with additional details via a blog post, newsletter, etc.

Want to learn more about Vine? Here are some helpful posts from various sources…

Vine for Twitter, and what it means for you on Android by Phil Nickinson via AdroidCentral – A rundown of some quirks you might encounter with Vine.

How to Share Vine Videos to Google Plus by Mark Traphagen via Virante Orange Juice – A handy step-by-step for uploading your Vine videos to Google+.

Watch as Vine becomes the next great news-gathering tool by Daniel Terdiman via CNET.

Why Vine’s Going to Grow Into Something Huge by Mat Honan via Wired Gadget Lab.

Have you tried Vine yet? I’d love to hear about your experience! What ways are you using it to enhance your marketing efforts?

What You Need to Become a Solopreneur Superhero [Infographic]

Though a monogrammed cape would be nice, there are other things that are far more important for sky-rocketing your solopreneur ranking to superhero status.  My thanks to Ryan Roth at UniTel Voice for the opportunity to share this clever infographic which shows some of the essentials.

What would you add to the list of solopreneurial must-haves? My additions would be “thick skin” and “an ability to leap over adversity in a single bound!”

Solopreneurs: Boost Your Biz with a Technology Tools Training Plan of Attack

We assume many different roles as solopreneurs to keep our businesses running day in and day out. Bookkeeper, Sales Technology tools researchAccount Manager, Customer Service Representative, Marketing Director, Technician…and the list goes on! Fortunately, there’s a plethora of free or low-cost technology tools available to help us.

Unfortunately, we’re very busy doing what we do. And so, we often don’t take the time and effort to learn how to use the very apps and platforms that could expand our reach, help us build stronger relationships with our customers, and that could save us far more time than we invest in conquering the learning curve.

Confession and new approach

I admit that I’m guilty of it. Though I’ve made reasonably good use of several tools, there are still a few on my list that I’ve failed to follow through on. So I’ve created a technology toos training plan for myself. Just like planning my work for clients and other key business activities, I’ve put my technology research and training on my calendar. I know me – and I know that if I don’t schedule it; it won’t happen. And that means I could be missing out on landing some key business opportunities and running my solo-business more efficiently.

What about you?

Have you set aside some time this year for learning new tools? If you haven’t, think about your business goals first, and then seek out tools that can help you accomplish them.

  • Do you want to start a blog? Maybe learning the WordPress platform is a good fit.
  • Are you aiming to expand your social media presence? Getting proficient at Hootsuite, Buffer or Tweetdeck could help.
  • Do you want to get a better grasp on your website’s impact on generating leads and sales? Explore how to do that through Google Analytics.
  • Will you be stepping up efforts to take on more client projects? Perhaps productivity and collaboration tools like Evernote, Dropbox and newcomer Commonfig should be on your agenda.

On my list…

For 1Q2013, I’ve got the following tools on my “to tackle” list…

IFTTT – For the sake of efficiency and better day-to-day management of incoming emails and collation of important information, I should have moved on this one months ago when my friend Peter Abraham first brought my attention to it. And now that Peter Cuce of Project Latte shared his IFTTT experience with me, I know I should no longer wait! I’m scheduled to start using it by February 9.

Triberr – I had GREAT intentions of becoming well-versed about this blog amplification platform a few weekends ago. Guess what. It never happened because I didn’t put it on my calendar! Check out Daniel Sharkov’s article on Reviewz N Tips to get a feel for the potential.  I’m scheduled to get a grip on it by March 9.

Feel free to hold me accountable and check back to see if I did what I’ve professed to do. And after you’ve set your technology tools training goals, consider making them public to give you that extra incentive to stay on track.

Your turn! You’re welcome to post your own technology tools mastery goals here, and let me help you stay accountable. Post the tool(s) you plan to learn, your target completion date, and the best way to contact you. I’ll keep a log and send you a note or give you a call to see if you’ve done it. 

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 Ways Building a Business and Bodybuilding Are The Same

Some years ago, I was big into competitive bodybuilding. Not only was I a fan, I was also one of the peeps on stage Bodybuildingflexing and posing to impress the judges. Although this disclosure might seem irrelevant to being a solopreneur, in truth there are many parallels between bodybuilding and building a business.


It takes immense discipline to compete as a bodybuilder. No slacking, no excuses. It shows if you aren’t putting forth an honest effort. The same is true in starting and running a business. If you’re not giving it all you’ve got, you’re not going to see results. You need focus and follow through.

 You are what you eat

In bodybuilding, you can tell who stuck religiously to their pre-contest diets and who didn’t. There’s no pretending in bodybuilding – if you don’t walk the walk, you’ll look like crap on stage. Being in business is no different. You need to prepare, you need to feed your brain with quality information from quality resources, and you need to practice your craft to raise your level of expertise. Faking it won’t get you very far.

No pain, no gain

Training for a bodybuilding contest is grueling. Your muscles are sore nearly every day, you’re exhausted from doing cardio conditioning workouts twice a day and you’re sick and tired of eating egg whites and plain oatmeal for breakfast each morning. But you have to stick with the plan to reach your goal. Being in business also demands that you work through the less than appealing tasks and challenges that come with the territory. You need determination and to sometimes dig deep for the motivation to take care of business when the going gets tough.

I no longer bench press anywhere near the weight that I did back in the day, but the one thing I did retain from my bodybuilding endeavors is the knowledge that hard work and a “stick with it” attitude are necessary for success. Pump the iron. Persevere. There are no short cuts.

Can you think of any other bodybuilding/business parallels?

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net