Google

Time tracking easy enough for a consultant to use

Google Apps and a couple of well-chosen apps from the Google Apps Marketplace make time tracking and billing much simpler.

Ah, the life of a consultant: Do the work. Invoice the client. Get paid. Repeat the process.

In most cases, consultants charge for time, completed work, or expenses. Which means time and expenses need to be recorded, and projects need to marked as "completed". Only then can invoicing occur so clients can pay.

Unfortunately, while consultants are experts in their field, they are not necessarily good timekeepers. They got into consulting to do the work, not fill out timesheets and expense reports. Ask your favorite consultant which they prefer: working on a project or filling out a timesheet? Most consultants will choose the project.

So tracking time, expenses and projects needs to be easy - very easy; so easy that even a consultant will do it.

Simplify

Here are four ways time tracking can be made simpler for Google Apps users, thanks to three apps found in the Google Apps Marketplace: Crisply, Freshbooks, and Harvest. These three apps all enable time tracking and invoicing.

1. Easy to access

Choose time tracking and invoicing apps from the Google Marketplace, so consultants don't have to remember additional website URLs, usernames or passwords. Instead, consultants login to Google Apps, click on "More..." in the universal navigation bar, then click on the name of the time tracking app.

Crisply, Freshbooks and Harvest all integrate with the Google Apps universal navigation bar. To enable any of these three apps, a Google Apps administrator must add and configure the app from the Marketplace once for the entire organization.

2. Easy to track, enter, and edit time

Freshbooks provides a web page for users to select a project, enter a task, then enter billable hours and notes. Freshbooks time entry occurs on the Freshbooks.com website.

Freshbooks provide easy time entry

Harvest also provides a web page for users to enter billable hours for projects by day. Harvest time entry can be done at the Harvest.com website. Harvest takes the Google integration a step further: consultants may enter their time without leaving Gmail, by filling out a form sent from Harvest to users. That extra prompt may help spur consultants to complete their timesheets!

Harvest also allows time entry from within Gmail

3. Easy to automate time tracking

Crisply integrates with a user's Google Calendar: it pulls in all appointments from a consultant's Google Calendar as potential billable activities. As long as the consultant adjusts Calendar meeting times to reflect actual start and end times, Crisply will accurately identify billable time for the calendar event.

Crisply draws on several sources to identify possible billable activities

Crisply can connect with Gmail, Google Docs, Google Voice, Dropbox, Foursquare and many other services to identify possible client related activity. For example, if a consultant makes a phone call to a client using Google Voice, the date and time of the call will display as possible billable activities. The consultant reviews and approves which activities are to be billed.

Crisply lets the user select which activities are to be billed to clients

As of January 11, 2013, Crisply does not have a payment processing solution. But Crisply does integrate with QuickBooks Desktop and Online, as well as Harvest. A consultant might use Crisply to identify billable time, and then use Harvest to provide a friendly client-facing interface for invoicing and payment.

4. Easy to use while mobile

Harvest and Freshbooks both support mobile time tracking with an iPhone app. Harvest also provides an Android app.

Crisply doesn't provide a mobile app. But since Crisply accesses data from Gmail, Google Calendar, and Foursquare, any activity on those services - even from a mobile device - should be pulled in and identified.

5. Easy to afford

All three services offer relatively affordable paid plans. FreshBooks is free to use for invoicing three clients, with paid plans starting at $19.95 per month. Harvest starts at $12 per month for a single user. And Crisply is free for up to five users, with paid plans costing $5 per month per user after the fifth user.

Of the three, Freshbooks and Harvest offer relatively complete solutions for consultants. And Crisply offers the most innovative way to identify potentially billable time for web-using consultants yet.

As a consultant, I want time tracking and billing to automatically happen. Time tracking and billing isn't magic yet, but Google Apps and a couple well-chosen Google Apps Marketplace apps certainly make the process simpler.

Also read:

About

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

13 comments
ChicagoMS
ChicagoMS

From looking at the comments, there are definitely good time tracking service providers out there, and everyone has their own experiences to add for suggestions! I just want to add my experience having used Hubstaff. It's super easy, efficient, and helps both sides of the business relationship! I think it's getting up there as the best one (in my opinion) - https://hubstaff.com/

nicholassparks
nicholassparks

Using time and expense app lets you find where your money is going. But you may don't have enough time to do that. So a customized, efficient time and expense tracking software is necessary for freelancers and for a business as well. It should not eat up your time but should give your accurate information in multiple views so it will be effective for analysis.  In my search, I have got a time and expense tracking app for my iOS devices from a company called Karya Technologies ( http://www.karyatech.com ) and it has reduced my work and let me concentrate on my business rather than spending time and effort in calculating and analyzing my expenses and time.

andy
andy

Just got the chance to look at all the comments. Thanks for the great additions and suggestions of additional resources and tools! Andy

emma0123
emma0123

Time Tracking is definitely the most important aspect for small and medium sized businesses for better and easy project and task management. Hence, we had been using Replicon's simple to use cloud based time tracking software - http://www.replicon.com/time-tracking-softwares.aspx It is just too quick to implement and has got nice features too such as calendar view interface and completely hassle free experience that can be accessed from anywhere, being a cloud based application.

samori08
samori08

I use a time tracking tool that easily integrates with Harvest, Basecamp, Freshbooks and other popular project management applications. It's called Worksnaps (http://worksnaps.net/). It has pretty much everything I was looking for, from tracking time and work activities to creating reports and charts, generating simple invoices and connecting with multiple third-party services. Very recommended, affordable & easy to use.

kmed11
kmed11

Couldn't agree more - ease of use is a necessity when it comes to time tracking!! Harvest, Freshbooks, and Crisply are great solutions. Personally, I went with TSheets (http://www.tsheets.com) for my diverse workforce. Employees can clock in from any computer, smart phone, cell phone, landline, or even Twitter. Yes, we have some people Tweet to get on/off the clock! And the alerts and reminders I can set up as a manager make the accuracy of our time tracking down to the second.

joostschouten
joostschouten

Hi, You might also like to checkout http://yanomo.com. It can import your Google Calendars so you can log time to your appointments. Like you say "...they are not necessarily good timekeepers". Having your planned day as a guideline to log your hours makes is a lot easier, quicker and more accurate. It is also available as a Google Marketplace app: http://www.google.com/enterprise/marketplace/viewListing?productListingId=8955+4306296467348698182. Cheers, Joost - CTO Yanomo.com

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

[i]"Unfortunately, while consultants are experts in their field, they are not necessarily good timekeepers. They got into consulting to do the work, not fill out timesheets and expense reports. [/i] "by filling out a form sent from Harvest to users. That extra prompt may help spur consultants to complete their timesheets!" [b]Easy to automate time tracking[/b] "As long as the consultant adjusts Calendar meeting times to reflect actual start and end times," I too deal with a lot of companies that have time tracking issues and customers contesting billable time. For $25/mo they track their vehicle arrival and departure times, driver logs, and a lot more but it is completely, 100 %automated. Just print the reports you need without entering ANY data.THAT's automating, not being prompted to manually enter and update your info.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Many, many years ago when I worked as a public accountant, we tracked every minute of every day using a program called TimeSlips and it was painful. Now, there are new web-based tools that simplify this task. How do you keep track of billable time?

SES21
SES21

@ChicagoMS Hubstaff looked sort of interesting but it was a big fail for me when I saw it doesn't have any mobile apps! Anyone have suggestions for time tracking that works on desktop & mobile, with or without internet connection at the time it's used?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

You said: "I too deal with a lot of companies that have time tracking issues and customers contesting billable time. For $25/mo they track their vehicle arrival and departure times, driver logs, and a lot more but it is completely, 100 %automated. " To whom to these companies pay $25/month?

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Me, who else? Vehicle tracking has become the standard for outside worker time and charge tracking and reporting now, PLUS all the reports can be exported to PDF or XLS for accounting software import, tax purposes etc. Tracking by vehicle also provides theft security and reduces insurance costs. I provide hardware and services to consultants, technicians, sals teams, installers, tow trucks and taxis, limo's, tour bus companies, electricians, tug boats, delivery companies, movers and couriers, lawyers etc. all over North America, Each company has a specific and very different need than the next and tracking their time on site solves many problems. Customers billed for 1.5 hrs may say he was there an hour, which is then proven and no longer contested etc.