About two months ago, I came across a tool called Toggl and it has really helped me transform my business. (I wish they had an affiliate program because I would join it!) Even if you bill by project, this tool will help identify your ideal clients.
Until using Toggl, I would find myself working hellacious hours every week, but I wasn’t seeing a change in my billable hours. Crazy as it sounds, my goal in life is to work fewer hours, more strategically, and earn more money. Who’s with me?
Before I made any drastic changes, I decided to evaluate my clients and track my activities for one week using Toggl. The software allows you to set up clients, projects and then tasks, and view reports that give you a clear breakdown of your activities and show your gross income for the week. In the exercise, I recorded the hours I spent operating and marketing my business as non-billable. My client revenue of course pays for my operating costs, but I wanted to look at how much time I was spending on non-billable activities and what were those activities.
What I found out really surprised me. In the week I recorded everything, I worked 28 billable hours and nearly 18 non-billable hours. I also worked seven days. My goal is to work a 35-hour work week (billable) Monday through Friday, and I was nowhere near that number. Here’s a look at my problem areas and how I fixed them.
Problem #1. Working non-billable and late hours for clients.
I had one client in particular that was affecting the days I worked each week and the hours. The client’s headquarters is based in Phoenix, Arizona and they have 13 offices throughout the U.S. They hold late afternoon team meetings a couple of times per week and that would push my hours into the evening as I’m on EST. I also was receiving calls outside of our scheduled call times and on weekends, which pulled me away from other projects, and when I looked back, I saw I often forgot to bill for this time. Beware of the “quick question” client. Ten quick questions slow your productivity and compromise your focus, and they can add up to a good hour of your time each week.
In my client evaluations, I looked at each client and the relationship we had, and the progress we were making. I need the relationship to be mutually beneficial and want to ensure my company is the right solution for the client. As a result, I gave a 45-day notice to the clients that weren’t aligned with my strategic business objectives.
Finding #2. Not recording all activities for all projects and clients.
One of my clients has a large team that corresponds heavily through email. I evaluated my email activities and found I was spending two to three hours per week answering and composing emails to the team. I wasn’t accurately recording the activity or billing for all of my time. To solve this issue, I began scheduling email tasks three times a day per client, for my email driven clients. During these 15 minute windows, I only manage their emails. If there is nothing to work on, I move on to other scheduled activities.
I also found I wasn’t always recording my out-of-office meetings. With today’s technology, business professionals can work from anywhere. If you leave your office, remember to bill for those hours. Toggl offers a phone App for this.
Finding #3. Too many pro bono projects.
I believe every business should contribute to the communities they serve in a meaningful way. I look for projects where I know my expertise will make a tremendous difference and cost savings to the organizations I help, but I also look for opportunities that will help grow my business. I didn’t realize how many pro bono projects I had going until reviewing my non-billable hours. I had to make some tough choices and wrap up some of the projects.
Toggl is a free program, but the professional program, at a reasonable $5/month, allows me to track billable hours and produce detailed client reports using my company branding. My clients receive a clear picture of what I do for them. I love the difference it has made and highly recommend it.