One sure way to improve your writing income is to begin tracking your time. You need to know pretty accurately how long it actually takes you to write whatever kind of writing you do for income.
When you begin tracing your time you’ll discover several things:
The most obvious is how long it takes you to research and write whatever. Yes, you should also time your research, and the time it takes you to find the best photos or graphics or create them. Of course the phone calls between you and your client should be timed and recorded. If you need to buy something for the project, you need to track the time it takes to find it, order it, pay for it etc. as well as the actual costs.
Perfect for setting rates
Knowing how much time you’re spending by actually tracking your time puts you on firm ground when setting your rates. If you’re charging by the hour you can also use your time tracking as part of your invoices.
Tracking time also lets you set flat fees for whole projects with much more confidence than you’ll have if you don’t know how much time it takes to write something.
Tracking time can improve your productivity
One truth about freelance writing is it’s pretty easy to waste time. Seeing that it’s taking us say three hours we thought was only taking us two may be the way we being to pay more attention to actually getting the job done. It can help us become conscious of distractions we hadn’t noticed, lead us to turn off our phones and email during prime writing time and even ignore the doorbell ringing.
Tracking time can also help us understand what’s going on when we’re writing more slowly than we usually do. Today’s blog, for example, is dragging for me because I’ve got a very sore leg. Nothing another trip or two to the chiropractor and time won’t fix completely; I am on the mend. And I’m slower than usual. I also know I won’t work as long as usual today and tomorrow because what that leg needs is rest.
Best ways to set up time tracking so you’ll do it
I started time tracking with a folded in half piece of letter size paper. Before I’d start writing I’d date the top, put Time in the middle and note the time I started whatever I was writing. This works except I tend to lose track of single pieces of papers and it’s not always easy to see exactly how many minutes / hours I actually spent writing.
That’s when I began to hunt for time tracking software that was free and easy to use. I found Toggl.com pretty quickly. It’s free – a price I adore, and easy. After logging in I pick the project I want to track or add it, then click start. When I stop for more than a brief break I click stop and continue when I start again. It adds, subtracts and always remembers how to decide minutes into hours etc. If you have more sophisticated needs check out their paid plans – they may have what you need.
Time tracking probably won’t make you rich, not by itself anyway. Instead, think of it as one more piece to the freelance writing puzzle – a bit of information you’ll find easy to collect an benefit from.
Got thoughts or questions? Put ’em in comments.