Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tracking (and Billing) Time

I've been reading numerous articles and posts lately about how much billable time is not billed. Expert consultants that bill by the hour (which should be most, since billing based on outcome is unethical!) are definitely at risk. In our fast-paced world of constant email, phone calls and other interruptions, it is easy to neglect writing down that fifteen minutes working on X before the next interruption. Later, you may not be sure or may think "it wasn't enough to worry about" and so on. But that time adds up and let's face it, your time is money.

I know there are many time-tracking tools, both online and in billing software. Are you using any? What would you recommend to other experts?


Dan Whittle said...

I'm a patent consultant and expert witness and have been using (and recommending) SpiritWorks Software's "Activity & ExpenseTracker" for several years. It is straightforward to use and allows specific activities, times and expenses to be captured with a simple timer and customizable pull-down menus. It costs $79, so it lacks a lot of collaboration and electronic interface features of more expensive packages. But these aren’t really needed for an expert witness. Of course, the simplicity means that there is almost no training or set-up time overhead investment.

I have never had a problem with the level of detail of time or expenses on invoices generated using this software. If you are juggling different cases, it is easy to manage multiple projects at once each with different terms. I don't have different billing rates for travel or testimony, but you could set up different rates for different activities on the same project.

I use it for capturing and tracking time on all of my consulting projects as well. It is easy to get an immediate assessment of a project total for any user defined time period. They also have a more expensive version, but I haven't been motivated to consider it. A free trial is available at Good luck.

Meredith said...

Thank you, Dan. That is one I haven't heard of yet. I'll check it out.

Softplan11 said...

TimeSlice is a relatively inexpensive clocking tool that I've used for the past 8 years. It's as complex as you want it to be and easily defined for your style of accounting. Once you've decided on the template of your just add client/project names with rate; start the clock in resident (pause the clock when that time comes); add in expenses and billables along with notes of work performed. Save it and move on or simply add another client and post your daily billing to the lucky account exec doing your billing.

There's also a unique code generator that you can copy/paste to a file description for any particular document in reference to that billing.

Richard Neville said...

I use a simple Excel worksheet which not only tracks my time (in hundreths of an hour, such as 2.75), tracks expenses such as travel, and can be converted into a pdf invoice on the last day of the month. I e-mail the invoice to the responsible party and include instructions for optional electronic payment. Some clients use this, and I have my payment much faster than with a check, and without the need for a trip to the bank.

Meredith said...

Richard, how do you offer an optional electronic payment?