Billing by the hour can be both a blessing and a curse for freelancers and contractors. Although not so common in publishing professions such as web development and consulting live and breath this method.
Long term contracts in particular where the freelancer is basically an employee prefer hour-by-hour billing. There’s many different programs to keep track of the time. The most basic offer little more than a jazzed up calendar while other go the whole hog with automatic tracking and analytics.
Time Cockpit offers individual users and teams a middle-of-the-road solution with their new combination of desktop app and web portal. Let’s check it out.
After signing up on the website I was greeted by a fairly drawn out installation process. It wasn’t necessarily the fault of the program, but its reliance on Microsoft’s .NET framework. It required both version 4.0 and 2.0, with a restart required after each one. Thankfully, the developers were thoughtful enough to include download links in the installation wizard so I didn’t have to work very hard to get them.
Once I installed and signed in with my password I was ready to go. The homescreen is a little daunting at first. I don’t use time tracking software that much so was slightly unfamiliar with the concept.
After a few minutes of playing around I realised that I needed to create profiles for each of my clients – assigning each a unique identification number and filling out their contact details. Pretty much the same process is required for logging new projects and work hours.
So for example, if you get a new client you enter their details to create a new profile for them. If they award you a project you can create a new project and attach it to their profile. Each time you do billable work on the project you have log a new time block to track the work.
You can log time blocks in advance the same way you would with an old-fashioned calendar app.
The cool part starts when it comes to tracking your work. Time Cockpit logs everything you do during the time block. You don’t need to manually start the tracking yourself. If you forget to do work during the specified time it’s no sweat. As you can see above the programs you use and you level of activity are logged during each time block so you’ll know not to bill.
It will only track what application window you have in focus so it’s fine to have your music playing in the background or other browser window open. If you get up and leave your PC a notification will appear from the taskbar requesting modification to the time block as you were not working.
When time blocks are completed their listed under the client or the individual project’s profile.
For collaboration among team members or transparency with a client you can invite new users to participate with you on tasks. Team members can all work on projects together and bill separately or as one. Individual work and activity, again, is tracked under the client and project profile.
One of my favourite features of Time Cockpit, and yet one of the most complex, is the ability to manage your holidays, sick leave and other entitlements. It gets complex because it involves a lot of work to integrate it well with clients. I imagine this feature would only be of use to people who are contracted on a permanent basis with a company. You could also use it to manage the billable hours of your whole team of freelancers if collaborating on a project for a client.
As an individual you can have multiple devices with Time Cockpit installed. Computers will automatically sync with each other so no matter what machine you’re working on you’ll be tracked along with all your other work. The web portal too will track all your work and client lists.
I think Time Cockpit looks quite nice actually. All too often administration apps face-lift a design reminiscent of Windows 2000. All of the icons, logos and backgrounds used in Time Cockpit are original. The scheduler in particular looks really well with good layout.
In terms of usability the designers have made things quite easy. Everything is in its logical place and hovering the mouse over a button or feature reveals its purpose.
Time Cockpit is one of the best time tracking apps I’ve ever seen. Its power might not be for the average user but for anyone with a long job list, lots of clients or a team of freelancers collaborating this is the app to keep track of things.
It costs €6.20 per month with an initial free month’s trial. There are free open source apps available out there for people who cannot justify parting with that every month. But in my opinion, for easier invoicing and confidence from clients I think it’s worth it.
Time Cockpit is a premium application for tracking billable hours for freelancers. You can work alone with multiple devices or invite further team members to work with. It tracks you application usage and require moderation to ensure accurate billable hours are produced.8