The Importance of Clocking-in and Bookkeeping

ClockSometimes people in the online writing community use working at home as an excuse to not only work whenever they want, but to not even track the hours they are working. Working a convenient schedule is one of the best parts about working at home, but that does not mean that you shouldn’t keep records of how many hours you are putting in. Punching your version of a time clock is a valuable tool for motivation, discipline, organization, writing proposals, and explaining your business to family and friends.

Stay on Target

All writers know that one major challenge is staying focused on work. The internet is vast, and filled with distractions, not to mention family members popping in with their needs and wants while you’re supposed to be “at work”. If you are “punched in” to work it is much easier to stay focused on the task at hand. You know you will have to clock out if you want to watch that YouTube video, or check your personal email. Also, if the clock is running you can see how long a certain project is taking, and this should help you to want to stay focused enough to complete it.

 Keep it Organized

If you track how much time you spend on each project then you will be able to know where your time is best spent, and where you need to improve. This is especially important if you work on several unrelated projects simultaneously. If you develop your own website, write for private clients, write content for a blog, or have any other money makers going on keep track of them all separately so that you can see where your time is going. Being as detailed as possible helps you to see which areas are most valuable when it comes to pay day. It also helps you to see in the long term how much effort projects took that don’t necessarily pay out right away.

Keep a spreadsheet on your computer or on google documents to track the date, the project name (be specific so you can remember later what you were doing), how much time you spent working, how much money you were paid if you get paid for the project right away. You can track second or third sessions of work in other columns if you break your work up throughout the day. It will be so rewarding for you to be able to look at your work and see how much you’ve accomplished!

Know How Much You Make

Often times when people ask a freelance writer how much money they make the answer is, “Well…” or “Last year it was about…” or “Enough to make it worth it…” or some other non-descript answer. If you track how many hours you put in and how much money you make (track your invoices!) then you will be able to come up with an exact amount per hour. You will be able to add together how much time you spent finding clients plus the time you took to actually write the articles and figure the average hourly rate. Giving a definite answer adds legitimacy to your reputation as someone who works from home.

This is not just helpful when explaining your job to your friends and family, but also when you are working on proposals for new clients. If you know exactly how much time it takes you to research topics, write, proofread, make an invoice, find new clients, submit articles and anything else involved then you will know exactly how much to charge to make it worth it to you. It might sound like a lot to work for a certain amount per word or per article, but if you break it down by how much total time you spend on the project and not just how much time you spend writing, you might look at it with a new perspective.

Get Started!

There are apps you can use for this very purpose, but to get all of the features you will need you will probably have to pay for it. Some are great apps but don’t track more than three days of progress without paying. If it is worth it to you, go for it. However, keeping a spreadsheet and using the stopwatch feature on your phone or finding one online or on your watch works just as well. Go ahead and get started now, but remember to clock in to create your spreadsheet! That is working, too.

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  1. says

    I agree that keeping track of your time is vital to know whether it is worthwhile to continue with a project. You can’t assess what you don’t measure!

    I work in the accounting field and we have to account for our time. Truth be known, it is the bane of my life, but it is amazing how much more time you spend on a job than you think you did!
    Tamsin recently posted…Success Summary 22 December 2013My Profile

  2. says

    I like your point that timing yourself helps you focus. This certainly works for me, and that is not why I started tracking my time; it’s a side benefit.

    Using an app made a big difference for me, after 15 years of just jotting start and stop times on a spreadsheet. 1) I don’t like hitting “stop”, so I now chunk my tasks and reduce the little interruptions. 2) When I do have to accept an interruption, I don’t worry that I’m miscalculating time for either task.

    That timer (app) showed me that “just answering this one email” takes FAR longer than I had been estimating. The same goes for the billable task itself: those ones that I get really into seem to take no time at all. But I was wrong; keeping records is how I know.

    Your other points are essential to business success. Without that strategic approach to evaluating your time, you’re just flailing around like an amateur. Or like an employee. Freelancers can vastly improve their bottom line (and probably thus their job satisfaction) by looking at their business with a critical eye at least once a year. Collecting productivity data makes this possible.
    Adrienne (scieditor) recently posted…Speak the first draft of your bookMy Profile

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