One of the most pressing issues with freelance IT support, one-person shops, or just about any type of client-based business is tracking time. You go out on a run, do a job, and hope you’ve retained reliable records of billable time spent.

This is easy if you’re in the office all the time or you have someone watching over you every step of the way. But when you’re on your own, you need a bit of help to maintain order for your business. That’s where time management apps come in to play.

Let’s wind the clock, punch in, and see what’s available.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: Time Meter Time Sheet

Time Meter Time Sheet (Figure A) is incredibly well done and makes it easy to track time for a task. You simply open the app, type a task description, select a tag/category, and tap Start. Once you start tracking the task, you can pause it, stop it, share it, add a reminder, and add a note. Time Meter Time Sheet has made it so simple, you don’t even have to set up categories. Just add them as you go and the app saves them for later use.

Figure A

The app also saves recent tasks for quick recall and use. You can even do remote backups to Google Drive, Dropbox, Yandex Disk, etc.). If you want more detail (or you need to manually enter time) just tap the + button on the main page and enter the information from the Time Meter page. You’ll also find a handy data exploration tool, where you can get a rundown of your time spent. Time Meter Time Sheet is free and does not include intrusive ads.

2: Time It

Time It (Figure B) keeps it simple… when you fully understand how to use it. Once you grasp how to make use of Time It, it really is quite straightforward. Tap the Start button on the main page and do your thing. Once you’ve completed a task, tap the stop button on the timing screen and then (on the resulting window) tap Unselected to add a category, add a comment (if applicable), and tap Save. You can then tap the Feed button to check all your recorded time in feed form or tap Stats to get a graph of the time you’ve recorded.

Figure B

You can add your own categories or edit the order in which they appear in the drop-down by tapping the Settings icon (gear in the top-right corner of the main window) and then tapping Category. Once in the Category window, long-press a category and then, when the line appears below it, drag it to alter the order. Time It is free and includes no intrusive ads.

3: TimeTune Schedule Planner

TimeTune Schedule Planner (Figure C) is a bit different from your average tool in the category, as it is based on routines. You create a routine, create an activity within the routine, and create a notification within the activity. Routines can be edited, cloned, or deleted. To get the most out of TimeTune, you need to create routines for everything you do.

Figure C

To really make this tool work for business, consider creating a routine for each client you have. Once you’ve created a routine for each, you’ll have a much more accurate representation of what you’re doing and for whom. The only caveat to using TimeTune is that it’s not a “stop/start” type of time tracker. You must manually set the time worked for each routine (or client). TimeTune is free, but it does include ads.

4: Toggl

Toggl (Figure D) allows you to log time as a team or an individual. To use this app, you do have to sign up for a Toggl account (it’s free for a personal account… with limitations, of course). Toggl is simple to use: Tap the Start button from the main window and enter the details for the project, and you’re up and running. Because you sign up for an account, your time records will be accessible (and updated in real time) from the Toggl website. It is also from the website that you can create teams to track. You can also create clients to associate with projects (this can only be done from the website as well).

Figure D

With the free app you can track up to five teams with unlimited projects. If you upgrade to the Pro version you gain billable rates, time estimates, subprojects, and more. The Business version of the app adds team reminders, scheduled reports, lock timesheets, runtime audits, and priority support. The Pro version is $5 USD per user/per month. The business version is $49 USD per user per month (billed annually versus $59 USD per user/per month billed monthly).

5: Timesheet

Timesheet (Figure E) s a bit more involved than some of the others. To start using this (mostly) free app, you must first set up clients, projects, and a company. You can then start adding new time records, analyze time records (by bar or line chart), and even invoice clients with timesheets. You can set up multiple clients and projects, hourly billing, and much more. Once you start adding time to a project, you can also include expenses and mileage.

Figure E

Although the free version does offer lots of features, you’ll run into certain options you must purchase (such as export/send reports as HTML, CSV, or Excel documents). The export feature is $7.99 USD but the price for each feature varies. The charts feature is somewhat rudimentary, but it does give you an idea of total time and billable hours.

Other trackers?

There are many time-tracking apps available for the Android mobile platform. I used a table to test the ones on this list, but they also work well on a smaller smartphone form factor.

Have you found a solid solution for mobile time tracking? Share your suggestions with fellow TechRepublic members.

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