Freelance Timekeeping

As I am beginning my wonderful journey into full-time freelance work, I find that I would love some simple, quick, easy little computer widget that will allow me to punch in and out of individual projects, so that my invoicing will be more accurate. It would be wonderful if it could also organize those projects by client and maybe even the rate at which each is billed.

Does anybody here use anything like that or have some other method of logging in hours spent? I’ve been getting by with the good old pen and paper, but I yearn for something a bit more… dynamic? (and accurate). A quick google search brings up a few programs that are available for purchase, but I thought I’d see if any of my design peers has some input or advice.

So what sayeth the throbbing brain that is the Core77 Boards?

I have been using an iphone app called hours tracker lately. It lets me punch in and out by project and I can add the hourly rate for each project. It lets me email a simple spreadsheet summary to myself as well.

Generally, I have been using my own Excel spreadsheet which I start when the project starts. I note how many paid hours I have alotted for each project phase, then I track how much I have worked each day and the activity (example: “prepare presentation sheets” etc.).
I review these spreadsheets when I write a proposal for a similar project in order to have a better estimate on how long certain activities might take.
Now I track the hours with the iphone app and then copy them in my Excel spreadsheet at the end of the day…

Check out It does everything you are looking for and more including budgeting, invoicing, estimates, different rates by team, task, etc. Super easy use web app plus there is an iPhone app that you can use as start stop timer. Free for up to 3 clients at a time I think.

Excellent. I use it myself.


I like both of those - exactly what I was looking for.

Once again the Core-mmunity has delivered!

I just use iCal… that way I can block off parts of my day ahead of time for scheduling and then adjust it as the day pans out.
Then when the projects done I just go back through and tot up my hours… I also have a clear view of the projects I have worked on in any one week.

I tried using a simple timer but I would always forget to start it or stop it… and I generally round things up to the nearly 15 mins anyway.

A vote for Freshbooks too… I do all my billing using it, I find it very good indeed. I used to do all my expenses too but it started getting a bit too much for me, never finding the time or really wanting to enter all the data so I got myself a bookkeeper for all that fun stuff.

I also started using time tracking tools like Talygen since start of my freelancing career. I must say, I never extended any project above deadlines due to these helpful tools.

maybe I’m old-school or engineer-y, but I like keeping physical project notebooks for different clients.

It’s for all the meeting notes, my notes and sketches while I’m working, etc… always including dates/times.

I usually bill ‘time and materials’ (hourly), so I record my hours in there.

Love the idea of going digital, but sometimes it just seems too complicated to deal with

I use Travis’ system. I round to the nearest 1/2 hour. I also look at my phone logs a lot. I seem to spend a lot of time on the phone.

In some cases, it can be used as IP protection too.

And you get to buy a lot of sketchbooks!

Faraz from FreshBooks here, just wanted to drop by and say thank you for the mention :slight_smile:.

Thought I’d chime in with my 2 cents - we’ve got a lot designers using FreshBooks, but choosing the right solution really depends on your specific needs. I’d say research the heck out of what’s out there, attend a few webinars and start a couple of free trials, then select one based on your experience. If you need any help along the way, you can send me a line at :slight_smile:.

I use a spreadsheet for timekeeping - there’s always something I don’t like about the time management apps. I keep different notebooks too - plus ambiguous file names for clients -so anyone snooping a look is not going to find out anything.

One of my clients keeps separate bags containing all of the information (notebooks, files etc), for each brand she works with, going to shows with her is a nightmare - none of these bags are small - she looks like a concierge!

I use a spreadsheet too for my accounting too.

Sometimes I feel like I am doing things the hard way but it stills feels easier to me than Quickbooks

Wow, you people actually keep track?! I just make them up at the end of the month.

When I was freelancing, I used OfficeTime (I think that’s what it was called). It has an iPad/iPhone app that interfaces with a program on your desktop. You can log in and out of specific projects and it tracks it to the minute and even generates an invoice for you. It’s not free but I found it was worth the money.