Why you should track your time as closely as your income (at least in the beginning)

There you are, living the dream, doing what you love, and even getting paid for it.

But are you really earning what you should? My guess is: no.

You work more than you should. More than you get paid for, anyway.

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Maintaining a healthy work-life-balance is never easy, and when you love what you do, life and work tend to blend into each other. Which might actually be a good thing, in terms of fulfillment, but…

Is your bank account as full as your time account is empty?

Let me take another guess here: nope. And why? Because you’re not tracking your time as well as you should.  Am I right?

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Today, we’re going to stop the excuses and start tracking now.

Cutting through the excuses

There are so many tools out there to help you. All you have to do is hit a button on your phone and – tick, tack – there you go. Your time is tracked and you know how many minutes you’ve been spending on each client or project.

No excuses anymore! Just do it.

Here’s why you simply have to track your time meticulously.

Time is literally money for freelancers & solopreneurs

Think about it, time and money are the only things we can spend, but which is more precious? We tend to think we have ample time on our hands – even though we all know our lifetime is ticking away with every second.

On the other hand, we need money to pay the rent, buy food, and generally to survive in the world we live in. It’s sad, but true; time is money. Especially if you’re going freelance, your time and your talent are your most valuable resources.

Tracking your time will not only help you to get paid for the hours you’re putting in, but make you aware of how you’re spending your time.

Your time account should be tracked as closely as your bank account

You probably have a bank account, right? Then you are automatically keeping track of what you’re spending all that money on. Even if you don’t dare to look at the reports, you know the bank is keeping track of your money.

So why not do the same with your time, the most precious thing you have? The day has only so many hours, and you need to know where they go.

Do you have accounting software? Some of the smarter ones designed for freelancers, like Freshbooks or Moneypenny, have built-in time trackers that let you assign your time to tasks, projects, or clients, and then create invoices using the tracked time.

Improve quality, not quantity

Is putting in more hours improving your work? Probably not.

 Quality and quantity are very different things, especially in a creative process. Sometimes you’re stuck for hours working on a solution that just won’t develop, while a couple of hours later it might take you five minutes to find it. This is the reason why some creatives charge per project, not per hour.

Even if you want to get paid for your result, it’s worth it to know how much time you put in. Time tracking makes you work smarter: If you know how you’re spending your time, you become more aware of your individual working rhythm.

You’ll learn the flow of your work, including when the time can’t move fast enough. Knowing when to take a break at the right moment can improve the quality of your work and work-life balance.

So even if you don’t bill by the hour, tracking your time helps you know how long a project takes and allows you to better estimate the cost of a project.

Time is all you have…don’t waste it

Even if time is money, we can’t take the latter to the grave. In the end, time is all you have. Do you know what people regret the most? Working too hard, and not spending enough time with the people they love.

If you’re like most freelancers, you know what I’m talking about here. Keep doing what you love, but don’t let it take your time away. Time may be money, but it’s your life. Take care of it.

Let me know how you balance and track your time in the comments.

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  1. I LOVE what I do.
    It is so easy to burn the midnight (and 3am) oil when you love what you do.

    But I have a family.
    I need this.

  2. I discovered a wonderful app (Mac only and syncs with Freshbooks) called Chronometer for my freelancing that tracks time beautifully; I can’t applaud it enough:


    What’s awesome is that if you get distracted (phone call, doorbell, someone talking to you, etc.), it tracks the idle time so that when you come back, it offers you 4 options: 1) Keep time and stop, 2) Keep time and continue, 3) Remove time and continue, 4) Remove time and stop.

    It also allows you to add as many Projects and Tasks as you want. For a one-time fee of $20 (and that’s it! not a recurring fee or anything, which is crazy)! I’m now working for a startup and trying to find something similar, but there doesn’t seem to be anything out there that is as easy-to-use / seamless while at the same time having such a nominal cost.

    (Somewhat off topic, but if anyone out there has a suggestion for a Mac-compatible time-tracker for teams that is just as good as Chronomate, please share!)

  3. Many good points here Catharina Graf. Tracking time can be a real eye-opener. I often find that the quality vs. quantity issue has me under-pricing my work. As you gain experience and can potentially complete a project faster you need to consider that simply pricing by the hour is a mistake. Thanks for the reminder and insight!

    1. Hello Paula, glad to hear. You’re totally right. It’s so hard to take everything into account, experience, effort, time…to get a fair price. Keep it up!

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