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Start Tracking Time and Increase Your Freelance Writing Income

tracking timeOne 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.





{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Tracking time = Increased productivity, spot on!

  • Yes, time tracking won’t make you rich, but you’ll know for sure how much value you can bring to the table for your clients and to your bottom line as well.

    For e.g. if you charge $50, you could invest in like 10 hours ($500) and create your own mini info product like a short eBook (PDF guide) on your favorite topic and multiply your income, while reducing how much time you’re working..

    • Well, you need to market that ebook too… that’s a step many overlook when thinking about writing an ebook.

  • I’m going to have to try Toggl. I’ve done the scrap-of-paper thing, and not only do I lose the paper, I forget to note stop/start times. Plus, I hate doing the math.

    Something else people might want to track their time with—social media. I know I lose track of time when I check Twitter and Instagram, which is why I’m trying to restrict it to a little while in the morning, during my lunch break, and the evening.

    • Ah, yes, social media… you can use toggl to track that too… just create a social media project – you could track each one you use, or all of them lumped together. I hate the math of paper and pencil too.

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