Why you should use a time tracking tool for your business
If you can recall exactly the last time you said 'If only there were 36 hours in a day' or 'I'll save this for the weekend', and if you are reading this in spite of the fact that you 'don't have time for it', this article may well be worth your time.
Time is money
Understanding exactly how much your time is worth is key to the growth of your business - and to your sanity.
Freelance translators embrace a profession which seems so straightforward at a first glance ("Oh, so you spend your days on a dictionary") but actually involves all sorts of activities and tasks that you can only accomplish and survive by a) covering your desk in post-its, b) writing lists on toilet paper, and c) having your coffee intravenously.
From the moment you realize you are going to do all that in 24 hours a day just like everybody else, you'll start to see minutes pass and disappear like golden coins falling through a sewer cover.
What if those coins could fall into the slot of your piggy bank instead, and the time you spent could actually become the fortune you build your success on?
Tracking the time you spend working on your projects as well as on extra activities can and will make a difference in your business, at first on a daily basis, and subsequently in the long term. But before you implement this strategy, there's a couple of questions you should be asking yourself, because every step you take depends on how you answer:
How much do I want to earn a day/month? What is my daily output in words/pages? How long do I want to spend exclusively translating each day? Do I want to commit to marketing activities (YES!) and for how long each day?
Make sure you give exact answers. It's not enough to set a range of income or hours you'd like to fall in. Go for precise figures. Setting goals for yourself is the first step to reaching them.
Here is an example of how you can calculate your hourly rate. And don't think for a second that this does not apply to you because your clients won't pay you by the hour, but only per word or per project.
You can still measure your performance: before you start working on a project, divide the job amount by your hourly rate and you'll have the maximum number of hours you need to spend on that project to consider yourself working at that rate.
(Project wordcount) x (Eleonora's word rate) = (Job amount) / (Eleonora's gross hourly rate) = Max. time to be spent on the job
If it turns out you are faster at completing a project, congratulations! You have been working at a higher hourly rate than what you intended to charge. If, instead, you regularly exceed the expected time for a certain client or project type, here's the news: it's about time you increased your rates for them. This way you can work your way up to your desired hourly rate, and income.
A time tracking tool will be a lifesaver if you decide to monitor your performance this way.
Time tracking and productivity tools
The market offers plenty of tools that are just one click away, so don't worry if setting them up will take away some of your time - it'll be more than worth it. Whatever tool you choose, make sure it includes a billable hours feature, which means the tool will not only calculate the time you spent on a job but also how much that job is worth so that you don't have to do the math yourself. Here are a few examples:
- Toggl offers a straightforward design and a whole set of free features. You will also be sent a practical report of your tracked hours each week directly to your inbox, at the start of a new week. To use the billable hours feature, however, you'll have to upgrade to a paid subscription. Investing in time management is one of the smartest things you can do anyway.
- Timely, which I've personally been using for a while, offers all sorts of report functionalities and a nice weekly view to track your planned and logged hours for each day. Each project is conveniently assigned a different colour and you can further customize each entry with tags. This tool is only available by subscribing to one of 3 reasonable plans.
- LSP.expert's built-in time tracking feature allows you to track the time you spend on single projects within LSP.expert. It's a great option if you already use the platform for project management. For each month you also get a Performance report showing your hourly productivity for each kind of service and unit you are measuring your projects in.
Once you start tracking your time you'll obtain valuable data to measure your work performance. In my next article we'll see how to analyse that data and keep going from there.