What is the best way to track time for freelance projects?

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What is the best way to track time for freelance projects?
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Freelancing offers a flexible work environment, but it also requires diligent time management, especially when it comes to tracking working hours for various projects. Freelancers rely on consultant time trackers to maintain detailed records of their billable hours, enhancing their professionalism and client trust.
So today we'll explore the importance of time tracking for freelancers, different time tracking methods, and how freelancers can effectively track their working hours to maximize productivity and ensure accurate billing.

The importance of time tracking for freelancers

Time tracking for freelancer is not just clocking in and out, it's about understanding how you spend your time and making informed decisions to improve efficiency. For freelancers, accurate time tracking is essential for several reasons:
  • Project management Time tracking helps freelancers understand how much time they're spending on each project, allowing them to prioritize tasks and meet deadlines effectively.
  • Billing clients Accurate time tracking is crucial for billing clients accurately. It helps freelancers justify their fees and build trust with clients.
  • Improving productivity By tracking their time, freelancers can identify time-wasting activities and focus on tasks that contribute to their business goals.

Time tracking methods

Freelancers have several methods available to track their time, ranging from traditional manual methods to modern digital solutions. Understanding the pros and cons of each method can help freelancers choose the right one based on their work style and preferences.

Manual methods

Manual methods involve recording time spent on tasks manually, typically using spreadsheets, paper logs, or notebooks. While these methods are simple and accessible, they can be time-consuming and prone to errors. Additionally, manual methods may not offer real-time tracking or the ability to easily generate reports.
  • Simple and inexpensive to implement.
  • Can be used offline without the need for internet access.
  • Allows for customization based on individual needs.
  • Time-consuming to input and manage data.
  • Prone to errors, especially if not updated regularly.
  • Limited functionality compared to digital solutions.

Digital methods

Digital methods use time tracking software and apps to automatically track and record time spent on tasks. These tools offer features such as real-time tracking, reporting, and integration with other tools such as project management software.
  • Offers real-time tracking and reporting for accurate time management.
  • Automates the tracking process, reducing the risk of errors.
  • Provides insights into time spent on different tasks for better productivity.
  • May require a learning curve to use effectively.
  • Cost associated with purchasing or subscribing to the software.
  • Reliance on internet connectivity for cloud-based solutions.
  • Choosing the Right Method
When choosing a time tracking method, freelancers should consider their work style, preferences, and the nature of their projects. Some tips for choosing the right method:
  1. Assess your needs Determine what features are essential for your time tracking needs, such as real-time tracking, reporting, or integration with other tools.
  1. Consider ease of use Choose a method that is easy to use and fits into your workflow seamlessly.
  1. Evaluate cost Compare the cost of different methods and choose one that offers the best value for your budget.
  1. Try before you buy Many time tracking software offer free trials. Take advantage of these to test the software and see if it meets your needs.
Contractor time tracking is essential for freelancers working on projects with hourly rates, ensuring accurate billing and effective time management. By understanding the various time tracking methods available and evaluating their pros and cons, freelancers can choose a method that helps them track their time accurately and efficiently.

Best time tracking software and apps

For freelancers, having the right time tracking app can make all the difference in managing projects efficiently and accurately. Here, we'll explore some of the best time tracking apps available, each offering unique features and benefits.


Key features Toggl offers simple time tracking with one-click timers, project and client tagging, and reporting features. It also integrates with various project management tools.
Toggl is known for its user-friendly interface and easy navigation, making it suitable for freelancers of all skill levels.
Cons Some users find that Toggl's reporting features are not as robust as other options, and the pricing for advanced features can be expensive.


Key features Harvest offers time tracking, expense tracking, and invoicing features. It also integrates with popular project management tools like Asana and Trello.
Harvest is praised for its intuitive interface and comprehensive features, making it a favorite among freelancers.
Cons Harvest's pricing can be a bit high for freelancers on a tight budget, and some users find the mobile app to be less user-friendly compared to the desktop version.


Key features Clockify offers time tracking, reporting, and team management features. It also has a mobile app for tracking time on the go.
Clockify is known for its simple and easy-to-use interface, making it ideal for freelancers looking for a straightforward time tracking solution.
Cons Clockify's user interface may not be as modern or visually appealing as other apps, and some users report occasional bugs or glitches.


Key features RescueTime offers automatic time tracking, website and app usage monitoring, and goal setting features. It provides detailed reports to help freelancers understand their productivity.
RescueTime's automatic tracking makes it easy for freelancers to monitor their time without manual input, although some users may find it overwhelming.
Cons Some users find RescueTime's automatic tracking to be intrusive or inaccurate, and the free version offers limited functionality compared to the paid plans.


Key features Hubstaff offers time tracking, activity monitoring, and payroll features. It also has GPS tracking for mobile workers.
Hubstaff's interface may be more complex compared to other options, but it offers comprehensive features for freelancers managing remote teams.
Cons Hubstaff's pricing can be higher compared to other options, especially for freelancers with larger teams. Some users also find the interface to be complex and overwhelming.


Key features Automatic time tracking, project and task management, invoicing features.
Offers a user-friendly interface and integrates with various tools.
Cons Some users report occasional glitches in the software, customer support could be more responsive.


Key features Automatic time tracking, productivity tracking, invoicing features.
Simple interface with detailed reports.
Cons Some users find the software to be too basic, and customization options are limited.


Key features: Time tracking, expense tracking, project tracking, reporting features.
Easy-to-use interface with customizable reporting.
Cons Some users find the interface to be outdated, and pricing can be a bit high for small businesses.


Key features Automatic time tracking, productivity analysis, project tracking.
Intuitive interface with detailed analytics.
Cons Some users report issues with the mobile app, and pricing plans may be a bit high for individual freelancers.

Time Doctor

Key features Time tracking, screenshot monitoring, task management.
User-friendliness: Easy-to-use interface with detailed reports.
Cons: some users find the screenshot monitoring intrusive, and pricing can be a bit high for small teams.


Key features Time tracking, project management, invoicing features.
Simple interface with customizable reports.
Cons Some users report occasional syncing issues with third-party apps, and the free version has limited features.


Key features Time tracking, project management, invoicing features.
Intuitive interface with comprehensive project management tools.
Cons Some users find the pricing plans to be a bit high for freelancers, and the mobile app could be more user-friendly.
Choosing the right time tracking app for freelancers is crucial for effective project management and billing. By considering the features and user-friendliness of each app, freelancers can find a solution that best fits their needs.

How do freelancers track their working hours?

Freelancers have diverse methods for tracking their working hours, reflecting their individual preferences, project requirements, and work environments. Understanding these practices can offer valuable insights into effective time tracking strategies.

Real-life time tracking practices

Freelancers often use a mix of manual and digital methods. Some prefer traditional approaches, such as paper logs or spreadsheets, for their simplicity and flexibility. Others opt for digital solutions like time tracking apps, which offer convenience and automation. The choice depends on factors like project complexity and personal preference.
For example, I can't imagine starting a new project without my Moleskine and a flair pen, but I still like to track my progress digitally. This blend of analog and digital methods helps me stay organized and focused throughout the project.

Common challenges and solutions

Freelancers face challenges such as accurately estimating project timeframes and remembering to track time consistently. To address these, freelancers can break projects into smaller tasks, set reminders, and regularly review their time tracking methods to improve accuracy.
By understanding the diverse approaches freelancers take to track their working hours and the strategies they use to overcome challenges, freelancers can refine their own time tracking practices to enhance productivity and client satisfaction.

Contractor time tracking tips

Time tracking is crucial for freelancers and independent contractors to accurately bill clients for the work they complete. By using effective time tracking methods, freelancers can ensure they are billing clients correctly and fairly. In this part we'll discuss how freelancers can use time tracking for accurate client billing, best practices for documenting and invoicing time, and tips for handling clients who question billed hours.

Using time tracking for accurate client billing

Freelancers can use time tracking to record the time spent on each project or task. This allows them to calculate the total billable hours for a project and invoice clients accordingly. Time tracking also helps freelancers track their productivity and ensure they are spending an appropriate amount of time on each project.

Best practices for documenting and invoicing time

  • Use a time tracking tool Use a reliable time tracking tool or app to record your work hours accurately. This helps avoid manual errors and provides a detailed record of your work.
  • Document time spent Keep detailed records of the time spent on each project or task. Include start and end times, as well as any breaks taken.
  • Provide detailed invoices In your invoices, include a breakdown of the time spent on each task, along with the corresponding rates. This helps clients understand how their bill is calculated.
  • Be transparent Be transparent with your clients about your time tracking and billing practices. Provide them with access to your time tracking records if requested.

Dealing with clients who question billed hours

  • Communicate clearly Explain to your clients how you track your time and how you calculate your billable hours. Provide them with any necessary documentation to support your invoicing.
  • Address concerns promptly If a client questions your billed hours, address their concerns promptly and professionally. Provide them with a detailed explanation of the work completed and the time spent on each task.
  • Offer a resolution If there are discrepancies in the billed hours, offer to adjust the invoice accordingly. Be willing to negotiate a fair resolution with your client.
By using effective time tracking methods for independent contractors, freelancers can ensure they are billing clients fairly and transparently. Following best practices for documenting and invoicing time can help minimize disputes with clients and maintain positive working relationships.


To sum up, effective time tracking is crucial for freelancers to efficiently manage their projects, accurately bill clients, and enhance productivity. Throughout this article, we've explored various time tracking methods, software, and apps that freelancers can use to monitor their working hours.
It is crucial for freelancers to find the right time tracking method that suits their individual needs and work styles. Whether it's using manual methods like spreadsheets and paper logs or digital solutions like time tracking apps, the key is to find a method that helps freelancers stay organized and focused.
By finding the right time tracking method, freelancers can not only improve their time management skills but also enhance their professionalism and client satisfaction. So, don't be afraid to try new methods and find what works best for you!
To all the freelancers out there, remember that effective time tracking is not just about billing clients—it's about maximizing your productivity and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. As you navigate your freelancing journey, experiment with different time tracking methods to find what works best for you. Stay organized, stay focused, and keep embracing the freedom and creativity that freelancing offers. Wishing you continued success and growth in your freelance journey!

Written by

Ivan Burban
Ivan Burban

Onigiri Co-Founder