Where does the time go?

Although the websites I build are done at a flat-rate fee agreed in advance, additional work that is subsequently requested is often charged at an hourly rate. This is the norm in the freelance world.

This presents a nice organisational challenge, especially when a working day is diced and sliced between two or three different projects. Not only do I need a method that enables me to track where I've spent my time, my clients rightly need to know that when I charge them for x amount of time, then it really was like that.

To help manage this, I use a nifty piece of software called Fanurio, available at www.fanuriotimetracking.com. The software is neatly described as time tracking and billing for freelancers and a great piece of software it is.

I'm really fussy with software. I should be: I've written tons of it myself! I take careful note not just of what it does but the way that it does it too. Fanurio tracks my time well and does it in a way that is intuitive.

Behind a very plain, albeit attractive, interface lies the means to specify clients, to assign projects to a client, then to assign jobs/services to these projects. Individual billing rates can be defined (in the appropriate currency) and there's bags of scope for ad hoc notes.

Once these minimal details are provided, you can then switch Fanurio to mini-timer mode, click the 'Start Timer' button and get working:

Screenshot of Fanurio's mini timer

This iTunes-like floating palette can be dragged to my second monitor, can be paused for a coffee break and resumed as required. By priming the software accordingly and then telling it when work starts, pauses, resumes and stops on a variety of projects, I can get a detailed breakdown of where my time goes.

Fanurio also integrates very neatly with Word so that it can generate professional invoices that display a breakdown of time spent on different projects for the same client. At present I'm using it to generate reports of time spent which I can attach to simpler invoices, but that more sophisticated option exists.

I'm normally a bit wary of software written using Java, but this one is an exception. I've not yet found a bug. It is surprisingly simple for so sophisticated an application. It's uncluttered and and is not burdened down with excessive cruft.

Best of all, it helps me account for where my time goes.