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Time Is Money: The 10 Best Time Tracking Tools for Freelancers

James Richman

Here’s a New Year’s prediction for you: 2016 will be the year of the freelancer. Disagree?

That’s fine, but maybe you’d want to consider a number of developments from the dynamic business year that was 2015.

First, think about the major upheaval in the employer-employee relationship caused by companies like Uber.

The traditional model of employment, including the good, old-fashioned nine-to-five office job, are coming under fire.

Major companies like GitHub are going 100 percent distributed for their whole workforce, and while that isn’t necessarily a product of freelance labor, it is a trend that largely contributes to that progression, so much so that Fortune is predicting that nearly half of the whole workforce will be freelance by the year 2020.

Related Article: 15 Best Freelance Websites in 2015

That’s in less than five years.

While some companies like Yahoo are turning away from this remote model, other companies are moving ahead full throttle into the remote freelance world.

Toptal, the world’s largest network of elite freelance developers and designers, is leading this trend.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, consider keeping an eye on the freelance marketplace, as it is poised to blow up in 2016.

For those of you already ahead of the game, either as freelancers yourselves or as someone hiring freelancers, you know that there are still some kinks to work out in terms of how to track one’s productivity and progress on projects.

Luckily, there are plenty other folks out there who are also onto the freelance trend, so you can rest easy knowing that your good work will not get lost in the void.

Here are the 10 best time tracking tools for freelancers looking to make a splash in 2016.

1. Toggl

Another solid choice for a simple but highly functional time tracker, Toggl works very similarly to TopTracker in its basic functions, dividing up your tasks and timing them individually as you work on them.

What makes Toggl great is its ability to integrate other apps and programs, such as GitHub, Freshbooks, Basecamp, and Google Drive, just to name a few.

Its very intelligent desktop version also allows you to get down to work without worrying about whether or not your timer has started or whether it’s timing during your idle hours; it does it all for you.

Related Article: Skin in the Game: Top Hacks to Boost Freelance Team Productivity & Satisfaction

2. TopTracker

As we’ve already established, Toptal has the whole freelance thing down to a science, and to prove it, they’ve built a free, standalone time tracking app that is great for both freelancers and employers.

Available as a web or desktop app, TopTracker is, at its core, a pretty simple app: create a project, optionally add team members, and track your work.

TopTracker App example on desktop and mobile

 The customizable features, however, really put this app over the top, as you can control exactly what work gets tracked, including whether you’d like screenshots of your work taken and how often and even adding blur to screenshots as needed.

It’s easy-to-use interface leads the way for freelancers in 2016.

3. PivotalTracker

Especially useful for a freelancer working remotely as part of a larger team, PivotalTracker’s platform is based on agile project management tactics to streamline the collaboration process.

The main user interface acts as a life infographic, so you can track your own progress and productivity while keeping an eye on the progress of the team project as a whole.

The streamlined platform also does a good job of keeping all your work organized, so you don’t have to use multiple screens or flip back and forth between certain pages.

4. Everhour

This web-based app is, much like PivotalTracker, especially useful for freelancers working in the context of a team, with the main focus still being on your own work and productivity.

Everhour offers detailed reports of your progress, integrates well with other project management tools so you don’t have to be switching tabs every thirty seconds, and offers a fun, unique way of logging tasks, using a series of “@” symbols and hashtags to track your ongoing projects with great accuracy.

5. Paydirt

Sporting a nice-looking interface and a very intelligent Chrome extension that tracks your web browsing habits, Paydirt is another viable option in the time tracker world, with one key feature that makes it really stand out.

It has a very well-integrated invoicing system that combines your time tracking with your billing.

While it’s not the cheapest option out there (except for the free trial), it does give you the ability to kill two freelance birds with one stone.

6. Timely

For freelancers who want a more all-encompassing time-tracking app, Timely offers a fantastic service.

Its platform combines time tracking with your calendar, so instead of setting meetings or work hours on your Google calendar and then starting your separate timer when you’re ready to work, Timely covers both facets of the process for you.

This means you can plan ahead very well, which is useful if you’re working on a team. You can see your progress as a percentage and keep an eye on how much time you’ve blocked out for that task, so the end goal is always in sight.

7. Harvest

Similar in its offerings to Paydirt, Harvest is a great one-stop shop for freelance individuals and teams alike.

The app’s reporting function gives you live in-depth updates on the progress of your projects, and the invoicing and numerous integration offerings for other apps make it a good place to serve as your central hub.

Harvest App displayed on desktop and mobile devices

The mobile versions of Harvest also have a great feature to track your expenses; just save photos of your receipts to the app and log them into your expense sheets.

8. RescueTime

If you’re a freelancer who falls prey to easy distractions on the Internet, RescueTime might be your new best friend.

What’s especially great about this app is that it runs automatically and intelligently. Forget to turn on your time tracker? No problem. RescueTime tracks your computer activity for you.

All you have to do is set up the presets and categorize each program, app, and website you use.

You can even tell RescueTime which sites and programs are productive and which are distracting, so you can get real, accurate reports of just how well you’re working, and where you can improve.

Related Article: Freelancing in the Digital Age: The Freedom and the Fear

9. Timesheet

On the go constantly? Need a good mobile time tracker to keep up with your busy life? Have no fear. Timesheet is here for you.

This powerful app can do as much on a mobile platform as many desktop apps can do, from simply timing your projects to tracking your expenses and earnings to offering a good space for taking notes on your projects and assignments.

Timesheet also syncs well to Excel, so you can always export any files you may need on your desktop.

10. Paymo

For those freelancers who are highly collaborative, working with a team of freelancers and remote workers, Paymo may be the ultimate project management app.

The nice thing about Paymo is its simplicity: it has an automatic timer function, with the clock always visible on your desktop screen, so when you need to, you can cut out the frills and stay on task.

Paymo App displayed on desktop and mobile device

Beyond that, though, Paymo has a great range of offerings, including a super in-depth team analytics home page and, as the name suggests, highly advanced expenses and invoice tracking features.

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
James Richman Member
Host of Business Mistakes podcast. The world's first and only DAILY podcast where guests openly talk about ONE of their Business Mistakes and a core LESSON behind this mistake.