In the ever more connected world we live in, remote work has become increasingly popular. And even in offices, most reporting now happens virtually. But how do you manage and track your team’s productivity? Time Tracking Tools are the answer. Or at least, it’s the beginning of the answer. Today I’ll look at why time tracking is important to your digital agency’s success.
Why Use Time Tracking Tools?
Let’s say you’re a digital agency that does a quotation for each new project. You don’t charge by the hour, you meet with the client and you set a price for whatever it is you’re going to do. Build a website, create an ad, run a campaign, whatever it may be. Why is it even necessary for you to track your team’s time at all?
A few reasons, actually:
- Employee/Contractor Cost: Your team members either get salaries or some sort of contract payment for a period of time that they work for you. Even if you agree on a set monthly rate, you’re really still paying them per hour. 8 hours a day, so many days a month equals their hourly rate. Your team members may be spending way too much time on one aspect or part of a project, making it less profitable. This is exacerbated when you’re juggling more than one project at once, where you or your team are spending way too much time on a client that is less important than a higher-paying, more profitable client.
The takeaway here is: Time Tracking on tasks enable you to steer your team’s efforts in the best direction for your business.
- Keep Your Team on Schedule:
This might seem like an obvious one, but it is so often overlooked. I think one of the reasons it’s overlooked actually happens in the hiring pitch when adding new team members. And this is a mistake I made myself initially. You want talented people to think your company is cool, so you say:
“We don’t care what you do with your time, as long as our deadlines are met”
Not only are you setting yourself up for inefficiency, your neglecting your duties as a project manager and to top things off, you’re not actually helping your employee either. Designers and Developers alike enjoy working their craft. Most of them want to deliver excellence. Adding scheduling and prioritization to their list of things to worry about is not helping you or them. It’s your job to keep the team on track. By having your team use time tracking tools, you’re ensuring your project is delivered on time AND you’re giving your team more headspace to focus on what they’re good at.
- Scope-Creep Insurance:
If you’re in any sort of creative or digital agency, you’ve had to deal with scope-creep. You and your client agree on the project scope, you’ve got your deposit and your team is chugging away nicely. What could go wrong?
You get a text from the client: “Hey, I just want to make sure we also consider the scenario where …” and the client adds a bunch more work for your team to do. You can make the mistake of just swallowing it and doing it to “keep your client happy”. But I don’t recommend that. In 5 years of running my own agency, I’ve touched that stove enough to know that it burns. Your client just gets free work, mostly without realizing that is is even extra effort and work, your team’s morale goes down and you get burned out.
Instead of sacrificing your happiness at the altar of the false gods of happy clients, make sure your scope is well defined in your proposal, and in a friendly manner inform the client that, sure we can do that, but it is not in the original scope of work and we may need to charge a little extra for time spent adding this in. Our rate is $X per hour. When your team works on that specific new task, use one of the tools below and you’ll be able to calculate exactly how much extra the client needs to pay. Remember to also let your client know that the deadline will be affected if that is the case.
- Know if you’re pricing right:
Once you’ve got even just one project handled where you used time tracking, you will have valuable data! You can now see exactly how many hours a developer, costing X per hour, spent on the project, how many hours designers had to get involved and their particular costs. And every other role.
You can also include your own time spent managing the project. With all of this information, the next time a project rolls around, you’ll be far better equipped to calculate the cost and give your client a realistic estimate that works both for you, your team and your client.
Time Tracking Tools:
OK, it’s time to get into the tools!
This easy to use and easy to get started tool for Time Tracking is a great introduction to using time trackers. With simple time tracking and surprisingly detailed reporting, this tool is great for freelancers and solopreneurs.
Toggl has a very functional and great free tier, very detailed reporting and a very nifty Chrome extension for you to stop/start the timer from anywhere.
If you’re working with a team, especially larger teams, Harvest is a powerful solution to your time-tracking and reporting needs. It goes deep, with everything from warnings if a project reaches a certain percentage of its budget since you can assign dollar values to employees time. To invoicing at time intervals and very detailed reporting per team member.
Harvest is amazing, but is a bit on the pricey side, with a cost of $12 per user per month, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to use this for teams. There is a free tier, but it’s limited to only 2 projects and one person, so use that if you want to try out its functionality.
We’ve used Harvest a ton in our agency before switching to the last item on our list: TaskBeetle.
OK, so I may be a little biased here in that some of our team members actually worked on this, but Taskbeetle is really an excellent tool for time tracking, among its other features.
Of all the Time Tracking Tools mentioned here, Taskbeetle is the only one that isn’t dedicated solely to time tracking. It combined time tracking with a client dashboard, service and billing management, as well as customer chat interface.
But if you want to use just the time tracking and nothing else, Taskbeetle still packs enough features and best of all, it’s completely free. There are no limitations on how many users or projects you can add and you get team member level breakdown of who’s been doing what:
Furthermore, if you’ve encountered scope creep issues, as mentioned above, Taskbeetle gives your client a way to log in and pay for any out of scope work, calculated directly from your team’s activities:
Freebie: Time Tracking Tools Consulation
Each business is different and you need to make a decision on which tools work best for your unique situation. If you’d like some recommendations on how to get started with improving your own agency’s efficiency, schedule a free 20-minute call with me here: Free Time Tracking Tips Consultation.