How Time Tracking Is Improving My Productivity As A Freelance Writer

How Time Tracking Is Improving My Productivity As A Freelance Writer

Being your own boss can be a finicky thing because while you have the freedom to work how you want, you’re the only one holding yourself accountable. Last year, I left a long-term contract job to become a full-time freelancer and I was navigating my way through it pretty well. When I was evaluating my goals for 2023, I wanted to be more strategic with how I spent my time and the best way I knew to do that was by time tracking. 

My History with Time Tracking

The first time I use an online time tracking tool was when I worked my long-term contract job. For my boss at the time, it was a way for her to assess how much time the team was spending on clients. As someone who worked hourly jobs before, I had no issue with it, of course.

I ended up using it for a freelance client I have in 2021 when my workload changed from set project rates to an hourly rate. I still have this client and was using the tool last year as a full-time freelancer, but only for this client.

How I Track My Time

I use Toggl to track my time as a freelance writer and have found the free version is all I need. Toggl has everything laid out well to organize where you’re spending your time. I categorize by client and you can choose to categorize by project as well.

For my purposes, I find it easier to just use the client’s name for both the client and project categories. However, if you’re doing multiple tasks for one client, you can categorize specific projects. When tracking time, you’ll title an entry, which is usually where I tend to keep project titles. For this, I’ll use the name of the article I’m writing.

Once you’ve logged your time, you’re able to use reports to see where you’re spending your time. You can customize this as you see fit. I have my reports auto-populated to weekly but you can track it by month, year, or even day-to-day.

If you’re working hourly for a client, which is my method of payment for two of my clients, time tracking is a must. You have to know exactly what time you’re spending on a client to know how much to invoice for. Since you’re able to categorize by client, you don’t have to worry about your time tracking mixing with other clients. It’s super simple to organize your time by specific clients. 

I debated on whether I should include other tasks on my time tracker, such as when I was conducting business-related tasks, working on my Etsy shop, or preparing homeschool lessons for my kids. While I did try these at first, I ultimately decided that simply tracking where my time was spent on my clients was the most effective for me. I may navigate into adding those in later, but for now, this is what’s working for me.

Time Tracking Benefits

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to track my time this year was to evaluate how much time I’m spending with my clients. Overall, I want to see if the input is profitable. As a freelancer, you have to know whether it makes sense to work with a client or not. If you’re working an exorbitant amount of hours with a client only to find out they’re your least profitable, you know it’s time to make a change.

On the other hand, seeing how much my time is worth is a huge motivation booster for me. Some weeks I average $90 an hour and others the average is more around $50 an hour. Either way, it’s still great and it’s showing me that the work I’m putting in is reflective of my skills. I never even considered tracking this before and now that I’m doing it, I realize how key it is in evaluating my business success. 

How Time Tracking Is Improving My Productivity As A Freelance Writer

The Impact on My Productivity

Knowing how much time I’m spending on my work in relation to my pay is great. The biggest impact I’ve noticed on tracking my time is the change in my productivity. A huge reason I knew I needed to be diligent with this is that I found myself in over my head when completing tasks. It would take me longer than I thought or I would struggle to stay focused. 

With tracking my time, I knew I would only turn on my time tracker when I was actively working. I’m constantly turning my timer on and off if I have to refill my water, get my kids a snack, or use the bathroom. This way, I only track exactly when I’m working and can see where the gaps are.

Having this mindset with time tracking has been hugely beneficial to my productivity. I’m less inclined to reach for my phone or surf the web when I’m tracking an assignment. It’s almost like a challenge to myself to stay on task and it’s been exactly what I needed to maintain focus.

Aside from this mindset change, knowing how long certain tasks take me helps me properly map out my weekly assignments. It’s also helped me visualize how long something takes and avoid getting hung up on an assignment taking too long. I would sometimes procrastinate on an assignment because of how long I perceived it to take. Now, I know that an assignment could take me 2 hours, on average, so it feels more manageable to me.

Of course, this knowledge came with time. It’s only been in the last month or so that I can now see how long tasks take me. Most of my clients are rather consistent with the workload. That consistency means I can employ strategic time management on future tasks.

Future Goals to Consider

As I review my time tracking on the whole, I’m able to see how much time I spend on work daily and weekly. It’s much less compared to a traditional job, which is quite inspiring and a reminder of why I’m freelance. But it’s also eye-opening into how I manage my workload.

Even if I only work up to 4-5 hours a day, I may have my computer out for about seven. I often (always) manage daily household tasks during work hours. This knowledge is something I plan to use going into the second half of the year to make the most of my time.

Luckily, my husband has a flexible work schedule as well. I want to maximize the time he’s home to get my work done so that I have more free time. It’s a work in progress, but something I wouldn’t know to work towards if I didn’t have this knowledge.

Give Time Tracking a Shot

I won’t lie, I have been hesitant in the past about tracking my time. It sends off warning signals in my brain because it feels so corporate and so not free. I’m finding the opposite of that to be true now. I am so glad I committed to it and stuck with it. If time management isn’t something you’re great at, give time tracking a try. You never know what you’ll learn from a little experimentation. 

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How Time Tracking Is Improving My Productivity As A Freelance Writer