Success usually comes with a lot of practice, trial, and error. Plus a lot of failure. You can always tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs.
But you don't have to be the trailblazer all the time. Sometimes you can copy a few choice ideas. Here's one of them.
Download a copy of this timesheet and give it a try. A lot of successful consultants have already gone down that road. It's a road well-traveled.
How to track time like a consultant
Start by creating a new project for your latest client. (Choose File, Project Wizard.) Now add some tasks to represent the work you plan to do, or are already doing. You'll see those tasks on your desktop timesheet, and on your phone. Now you can track time to them. When you do, you're collecting billable (and some non-billable) client time. That time can be invoiced by date range, milestone, or a percentage of a fixed price.
Milestones and percentages of fixed bid are a really nice way to invoice clients. If you've already agreed upon a fix bid for the entire job, you can bill in thirds or at certain milestones.
"Milestones make invoicing much simpler"
You've got project management blended into your timesheet. And reports for just about every consulting need there is.
Getting in deeper with consulting tools
You followed the basics above? Good. That gets you started. Now consider the following tools to improve your craft. (If you're not improving, you're slipping back.) The next idea to try is selling blocks of consulting time or blocks of support time. Use project tasks to represent those blocks of support. You'll be noticied when a block is nearing completion so you have time to sell the next block. That keeps the sales engine running.
Next, are you customizing your consulting fees for each client. Actually, that's a normal part of the job. You naturally try to get the most you can for your work, and those rates change with the state of the economy and client relationship. At least you'll have a time tracking app that supports the varying fees.
How about watching your utilization rates and effective billing rates? What's a utilization rate? It's how much you are working, compared to how much you're getting paid. If you're not working many billable hours, but you're still getting a full salary, then you may be losing money. Your effective billing rate may be horrible. Keep an eye one it with this tool. The effective billing rate is the rate you're getting for all the scheduled work hours. Doing a lot of in-house maintenance? Bad.
Here's a timesheet designed just for consultants. (this is a two-part series) You might find this a welcomed relief from spreadsheets and scraps of paper you're currently using to collect time, expenses, and mileage on. All those manual operations increase admin time, and reduce effective billing rates.
One last thing: Did you know your client can log in to check their own time and expenses? That's another way to reduce admin time and satisfy customers.
Want to know how successful consultants track time?
It all starts with Standard Time®, so download that first.
1. Create new projects for each client
2. Estimate task durations and completion dates
3. Look for those tasks on timesheets and smartphones
4. Track hours on your phone, tablet, or web
5. Sync time and expenses with the cloud
6. Invoice clients by milestones
7. Clients view status with ProjectBot app
8. Rinse and repeat! :)
Get Standard Time today!