Time Track with Toggl (or Lose Your Pants!)

Toggl Tracking Screenshot
My “on the clock” time, since October, when I started tracking my freelancing work with clients.

Time tracking (with Toggl) is a pretty new experiment for me… but I’m loving it.

One of the most influential podcasts of my “20 Hours Ahead” formation has been an interview with a Genesis developer by the name of Bill Erickson on The Matt Report. Erickson uses systems and time tracking to maximize his revenue per hour by measuring the time it takes to complete a task and trying to improve on or automate it.

Summing up the interview on his blog, Matt Medeiros references his cousin’s operations background in measuring efficiency and applying that to the tech world:

“What [my cousin] does know is how to analyze where our time and costs are going and how we can improve in those areas to help build a sustainable system… This is exactly the approach Bill uses to run his day to day operations.” – Read more at The Matt Report

The idea of tracking your time may seem trivial, or maybe obsessive. However, for someone who is making money part-time, “on the side”, hustling, my Revenue per Hour (R/H) is one of those essential metrics that must be tracked.

I use Toggl* for this, and it rocks!

Alliterations Aside, Efficiency is Essential

In the current iteration of my business, I don’t charge by the hour… yet!

A potential client posts a project they need done on a job board, and I respond saying I will bring the project to completion for $XXX (there have never been more than three digits in a proposal of mine… yet!). I base that proposed number on two factors:

  1. The amount of time I believe the project will take me to complete.
  2. The maximum price I believe the client will accept for the project.

In the future, I will also factor in complexity and my unique value, but that time has not come… yet!

During the meantime, I need to get projects completed as quickly as possible. Tracking my time allows me to make notes on what is going well and what isn’t, where I’m seeing spikes in my time, and where I’m actually moving faster that I thought.

Currently, I see more spikes than not, but this will change, I am sure.

The Point is Controlled Improvement…

Since “nothing is new under the sun, I’ll leave you with this thought I just googled, a variation on what I have heard before (and the other quote I was looking for):

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” – H. James Harrington

Measuring the time it takes to complete a website setup and arrangement for a client is one of the best ways I know to improve my R/H at this point in time. Tracking my time does not include learning, tutorials or advice I receive from others; it is pure client work.

And in the pure client work, I am improving in two ways:

  1. I am getting better, faster, stronger in working with WordPress.
  2. I have raised my rates (a little bit) twice already (yes, in the span of four clients!)

Both of these factors increase my R/H, and will continue to do so as long as I am engaged in this type of freelancing.

…And the Point is Focus…

I have not always tracked my time, but I know I can lose hours down a rabbit hole if I am not careful. Hours have been lost trying to fix broken sites or finding the perfect way to migrate a site from a development environment to a live site (more on that later).

When the timer is on, I have to focus on what I am doing. If I get distracted or leave it on, I do not have an accurate representation of my time spent on a project.

Focus is definitely a discipline. As noted above, the amount of time I believe it will take me to complete a project is one of the most important factors of deciding whether or not I will take a project.

If I cannot focus on getting the job done, I cannot move onto the next project, I cannot increase my R/H, and I definitely cannot improve as a junior developer.

…And That’s the Point

And the point is staying “20 Hours Ahead” of where I was.

And that takes putting in those twenty hours of time.

And if I don’t track it, I don’t know where I am…

…And I’d have nothing to write here:
Total time I have freelanced for clients in tracked time: 25 hours, 23 minutes and 25 seconds.
Total time not on the clock doing client work: 15-20 hours
My hourly rate after my first client: around $10/hour
My hourly rate after four months of tracking my time: about $30/hour.
Not bad.

*Affiliate link.

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