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.
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.
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.
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?