Time sucker, task stalker, that little timer sitting in the corner of your desktop that you constantly forget to turn on until you’re 40 minutes into a certain task…how do you refer to your time tracker? If you ask most PR professionals, they’ll tell you that tracking time (i.e. marking and assigning your day into 15 or 30-minute increments in order to keep track of hours spent against client retainer dollars) is one of the most laborious and irritating of all agency admin tasks.
However, whether you are running your own PR agency, a freelancer or an employee, it is possible to feel differently – and even become a champion of – the value of time tracking for both you and your clients. After all, it’s crucial to be able to both quantify your time in order to ensure that current budgets are keeping efforts profitable (and that clients understand what you are doing on their behalf each day!).
The truth is, as a freelancer, I would be terribly lost without my timesheets.
1. Time Tracking Makes Invoicing and Reporting Easier (Which Means Getting Paid Faster)
By having a running log of all your efforts from any given month, providing clients with a record of efforts made on their behalf becomes a cinch. Even more so, if you are an independent contractor operating on an hourly rate, your time tracking becomes an instant invoice. Whether you choose a simple time tracker app or something like Harvest, which integrates with software like Freshbooks, a time tracker is a time saver when it comes time to getting paid.
2. Time Tracking Helps You Build a More Realistic Budget (Which Means Getting Paid More)
We all want to work with clients that we love, and especially in fashion & lifestyle PR, this can mean a bit of flexibility and compromise on budget. However, if you are repeatedly underselling and over-working, time tracking will reveal exactly what your hourly rate looks like at the end of the month. You may be surprised to note that your actual time spent is way above what was budgeted for.
This awareness allows you to negotiate for higher retainers, as well as gives you a handle on what you should be realistically charging when new clients come a knocking.
3. Time Tracking Makes You More Efficient (Which Means Better Results)
Time tracking doesn’t have to revolve around money, it can also help you visually see where your time is going during a work day. I use Toggl to track every project and task, even on monthly retainer work. I like to have something to look back at to see how I spent the work week as well as knowing I have a backup when evaluating and reporting results back to clients.
It’s easy to spend the day moving in and out of different client priorities, as well as getting sucked into the rabbit hole of research, or the robotics of pitching against your media list. By tracking your time, you’ll quickly find out if you’re spending too much time brainstorming or not enough on follow-up. When you have a clear sense of where your time is going, you can adjust your efforts according to client priorities and budget.
As PR pros, each and every day on the job is different—and it’s one of the many reasons why we love what we do! And, in order to run successful, profitable businesses, it’s crucial that everyone – from CEO to Intern – track their time. With so many great programs to help automate this effort, there’s no need to feel like this is just another thing to add to your endless to-do list. Instead, look at time-tracking as an essential part of demonstrating your value and ensuring your best work.