How do you keep track of time?

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I charge my time out by the hour. That translates to every 6 minutes counting as 0.1 hr that I can bill out. If you also bill out your time on an hourly basis, instead of a fee-basis, you probably have some system in place to keep track of your time.

It’s so easy to get caught up in other matters these days … especially with the Internet, blogging, family life, pets, good weather, and so on and so on. We expect payment for our services and it’s only fair that our clients pay us what we bill them on a timely basis. To be fair to our clients, we should only charge them for time spent working on the job.

Now – that took me 0.1 to type out the above statement. If I were working on a client’s file, and go to the washroom, or think of a blogging topic that I wanted to add .. I must have something in place to properly keep track of my BILLABLE time, and ignore the NON-BILLABLE (or Putzky time as I like to call it!).

It’s easy for me, because I have a poor memory – I write everything down. To keep track of my time for billing purposes, I am using Caseware Practice Administration for time and disbursement billing, which not only keeps track of my time by client, by activity, but also my receivables and my cash collections. I don’t bother to use it for my general ledger program, but use the summary reports to give me figures to enter into my own preferred personal G/L so I can see how I’m doing.

Usually, I have two types of jobs. I have the ones that drag on and on, and takes more than one sitting. For these jobs, all of my time gets recapped and posted into my time and billing software, and I describe what I am doing, what month I was working on, what year end I was doing, who was at the meeting, what we were talking about on the phone, and so on. For the other jobs, like tax returns, or other similar consulting that I would “instant bill”, I recap my time onto billing reports or other typing reports for the taking.

In my car, I keep a bunch of pens and several of those 5″ x 3″ notebooks in the sling of my car door. In my office, I have been using this since 1985 … It’s called “ELECTRIC MEMO PAD”. You can look, but I was having great difficulty finding anything like it on the internet. But, it’s cool. All it takes is a D-Battery and a roll of calculator tape. I write down my information of what I am doing, to be recapped either on the typing report – or in the time and billing software.

Neat, huh? Well, it’s hard to read – but this is what it says – there are two actual timesheets being recorded here.
(A) 10:13-11:47, 1:12-1:19, 2:11-3:55 ==> 205 min / 60 = 3.4 hours
(B) 0.3 + 0.3 ==> 0.6 hours.

(A) represents a monthly job that I am committed to $150/month for the time being. As far as I’m concerned, that was the amount I agreed to BILL monthly – not be inclusive of my time because when I gave the quotation, I had no way of knowing what the time would really be – and I let my client’s know this in advance. My rates currently is $48/hour so as you can see .. $48 x 3.4 = $163.20 is a losing thing for me. However, because I input into my time and billing software, I keep track of all the time and apply my progress billings against it, so I can recapture some overages when it comes time to do the Year-End. In the early months, when I started this account I lost a fortune but, over time have been making up for the time and have, on occassion, come in under $150. It’s good to keep track of time this way.

(b) represents an instant billing. Here in Canada, we can Efile up to September 30, 2005 so, I have a few people coming in at this late time in the year. I charge my time but, stop before I print and assemble, because on my typing report, I add administrative charges. In this case, my time was 0.6 hour to prepare 2 tax returns. I add $25.00 per return plus $5.00 each for E-Filing, so all together this tax return will be charged $48 x 0.6 = $28.80 plus $60.00 = $88.80 — I always round up so, I charged him $90.00 plus taxes.

Here is my typing report – I’ll try and update it for 2005 and put it in the “Stuff for the Taking” category before too long.


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