If you do a quick Google search on small business challenges (and who among us hasn’t done that?) you’ll probably find money is a consistent theme. No surprise there, given small businesses tend to have recurring issues related to income, including rate setting, billing methods, and invoicing. There’s no simple solution to money management, but those of us who have found stability and growth can easily point to several indispensable strategies, especially using a time tracker for day-to-today business activities. Although it sounds like an oversimplified solution to money woes, the best time tracking for small business owners allows you to measure project costs, justify rate changes, provide proof of work, and ultimately create a more efficient, revenue-generation business model.
What Is a Time Tracker for Small Businesses?
At a high level, all time trackers are designed to accomplish what the word suggests: track time. However, for small businesses, a time tracker needs to do more than just tell you how much time has passed. The key here is in the data that a time tracker will provide, and what you can then do with that data to make it more actionable. Small businesses should do what they can to leverage their available business data, especially given companies that use data tend to increase their revenue and reduce their costs.
As for time trackers, even a simple one (such as the stopwatch feature on your smartphone) provides data that you can use to make valuable decisions that impact how much you earn and how much you spend. For example, if all you do is use the stopwatch on your smartphone to work more efficiently, you can use that information to stabilize or grow earnings by capturing more time for additional projects. That’s certainly a win, but it’s far from what a good time tracker can for a small business owner.
How Can Small Businesses Use Time Trackers?
Tracking time as a small business is about more than just making sure you aren’t late for your next Zoom call. Time tracking has numerous benefits for small businesses, but we’ll focus on three that you can put into use almost immediately:
- Measure the real cost of each project in your workflow
- Establish new rates based on project complexity and demand
- Meet your contractual agreements
All of this is possible thanks to the data you can extract from a time tracker. Let’s elaborate a bit more on each of these benefits to help give you a better idea of how they’re built on operationalized time tracker usage.
Measure and Respond to Project Costs With a Time Tracker
When you and a client sign a contract, it will either be established as a flat rate, hourly rate, or as an estimate. A time tracker has value in each of these situations.
With a flat rate, the client will pay you an agreed-upon amount, regardless of how much time it takes you to complete that task. A good practice for flat-rate billing is to determine an hourly rate that you’re comfortable with, and then charge your flat rate based on an assumed amount of time it will take to complete that project.
That, of course, is only possible if you actually understand how much time that type of project usually takes to complete. Run a time tracker for each flat-rate project you complete. That data will help you determine the actual value of that project. Over time, you can average that data to figure out whether that type of project or service is a real revenue driver or a money pit.
This is perhaps the most obvious use case for using a time tracker. If you’re billing hourly, you need to be as accurate as possible to ensure you’re not cheating yourself on time, or overbilling your clients. To that end, the best time tracker for small business hourly projects should also be connected to an automated invoicing tool that calculates the invoice amount based on the rate you’ve agreed to with the client.
Contracts signed as estimates are where time tracker usage really shines for a small business. Because the contract is an estimate, you and the client operate under the agreed assumption that it’s possible for the final bill to be higher than or less than the estimate. As with an hourly rated job, a time tracker will help you determine exactly how much the final invoice will be.
What’s more, if the invoice ends up being higher than the estimate, time tracker data is exactly what you need to help clients feel confident that you’re not engaging in shady overbilling practices. A good client relationship can help avoid this kind of suspicion even without tracked time, but small business owners should always play it safe and have verifiable data that eliminates this kind of doubt and serve as documented proof should a client refuse to pay an invoice.
Adjust Rates Using Time Tracker Data
Once you begin tracking time for your projects, you’ll start gathering a body of data that will help uncover the actual cost of each type of project or service you offer. For example, if you charge a flat rate of $200 for 1,000-word blog posts, you’ll quickly learn whether you need to adjust that rate upward, and which niches or clients give you the most value for the work.
The same can be true of hourly projects and projects you establish based on estimates. Hourly projects that you can crank out extremely fast may necessitate a rate change to allow you to maximize revenue based on your skill and value-add clients. And if you’re consistently knocking out estimated projects fast enough to come in under budget every time, you may need to either boost the estimated amount to capture more revenue from those projects.
Meet your contractual agreements
There may be occasions where you sign contracts with clients that require proof of tracked time. Most clients won’t be satisfied with a Google Spreadsheet or Excel file you’ve used to manually input recorded hours, especially given the number of detailed third-party time tracker apps currently on the market. This is why many popular freelance platforms now have built-in time tracker apps that allow clients to review tracked time on projects.
However, many small business owners do not work through freelance platforms. Third-party time trackers fill that need and are increasingly in demand from clients who want to verify completed work for hourly contracts. Not just any time tracker will do, however. The tracker you use should offer a professional way to match your hours directly with the scope of work and send to each client for seamless invoicing.
HoneyBook Has the Best Time Tracker for Small Business Owners
Many small business owners shudder at the idea of paying for yet another third-party tool. With HoneyBook, however, you can access a multi-functional time tracker that’s fully integrated into the rest of HoneyBook’s extensive CRM suite. Instead of trying to cobble together several different apps for time tracking and invoicing, you can do it all under one roof.
The HoneyBook Time Tracker allows for both manual time input and automated time tracking via a desktop or mobile app. And because it’s integrated into HoneyBook’s project workflow and invoicing software, you can also use the Time Tracker separately for each client. Once you’re ready, HoneyBook can automatically generate your invoices that utilize the tracked data you want to include in that invoice, at the proper rates for each client.
Are you working with teams? HoneyBook is an excellent solution if you have multiple team members working on the same project. Each team member assigned to a project can track time with all of the associated Time Tracker features. You can review each team member’s tracked time and select the time to include on the invoice you send to the client.
This only scratches the surface of the benefits you get from using time tracking for small businesses. What’s certain, however, is that if you want to save time and money on accounting and increase your revenue, the HoneyBook Time Tracker is an excellent starting point.