Time tracking software is painful. Not only for those of us doing timesheets but also as project managers, trying to manage project budgets and getting our teams to track their time accurately. Not only can time tracking tools be painful, they can be expensive too. In this article, we’re on the hunt for the best free, or nearly free time tracking software. Most importantly though we’re looking for the best in class time tracking software – tools so good and easy to use, that people want to submit their timesheets. Just imagine that!
Time tracking software – why is it important?
Time tracking software and expense tracking software is no one’s idea of a party, but it’s a necessary evil in the digital agency world, for professional services and consulting when you’re charging time and materials or billing by the hour and you need to track budget burn. Likewise, invoicing is not fun, but it’s necessary and requires accurate timesheet detail to function.
Fundamentally, there’s budget and financial tracking information that’s needed to keep a business alive; we need to know the project budget essentials:
- Are we above / below the project budget?
- Are we tracking to hit the budget?
- How much should be invoiced to the client?
- How profitable is the project / job / client?
Accurate timesheet reporting is also important to us as project managers so we can give proper analogous estimates based on past project performance. In order to estimate properly, we need to be able to look back at timesheet data, in the time tracking software and gauge how much should be charged for the next project. We need reliable, accurate time reporting data and people to use time tracking software properly.
Unless you’ve got no interest in the effort it takes to deliver your project, and the profitability of your projects then there’s no avoiding the pain of timesheets, time tracking software and hours reporting.
The problem is, if the time tracking software you’re using is more than a bit fugly and a pain to use, then no one wants to use it, and the data you get from it can be almost useless.
But does time tracking and reporting need to be painful? Surely there must be some hot time tracking software tools out there, right?
The best time tracking software?
As a given, the best time tracking software needs to be able to handle large teams, lots of clients and many projects simultaneously. But beyond a product that works well at capturing time, we need to think about what happens with that time-tracked information; how does it start as an estimate, how is it tracked, and once tracked, how is it then invoiced?
In choosing the best time tracking tool, it’s worth thinking through your agency or studio workflow, and think about the end to end experience – from the person creating the estimate to the person doing the work, to the person invoicing it; how does it all fit together?
- Will people actually use it? The software needs to look pretty and be really easy to use.
- Integrate time tracking easily with projects and tasks? It needs to link to a source of truth of clients, projects and tasks.
- Integrate with estimates and tracking? It should easily create a project estimate or quote, and then be able to track estimate vs actuals with visual reporting and analytics.
- Integrate well with invoicing? It has to be easy to then turn project reports and actuals into estimates to send to clients.
- Integrate well with 3rd party applications? Particularly useful is the ability to integrate with accounting software like Quickbooks or Xero.
Forecast – https://www.forecast.it/
Forecast takes advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to support your estimates in becoming better and more accurate. Total time spent on tasks will automatically be benchmarked against your estimates and the AI learns from this to improve future estimates, thereby reducing your risk of under- or over-estimating your projects. This will have significant impact on the effectiveness of your resource planning, enabling you to improve your delivery and profitability.
Forecast is a full resource & project management solution that lets you track time using any method you want. Effortlessly track time on the projects and tasks you’re assigned, whether on the go using mobile iOS and Android apps or directly on the web. It’s great for distributed teams and has both daily and weekly timesheet views so you can track time the way that suits you. Set up weekly or daily reminders to ensure that everyone tracks their time correctly. Keeping track of budgets and estimates becomes second nature with Forecast. Forecast is fully integrated with the most used web apps and they can seamlessly be installed from the app catalog. For instance the deep JIRA integration makes Forecast ideal as a time tracking and resource planning add-on, Forecasts functionality covers a large spectrum of the capabilities needed to run and manage projects and people effectively, with as little overhead as possible. Forecast can tell you, if your project is profitable, how much money your team is making and whether or not your favorite client is also bringing in the most for the bottom line.
Forecast is used globally by agencies, consulting companies and enterprises – has a free plan, as well as professional and enterprise options that cost from $19/user/month (14-day free trial).
Hubstaff – https://hubstaff.com/ (free time tracking software)
Hubstaff is a full featured, free time tracking software tool (with fremium upgrades) that’s an excellent tool particularly if you’re working with remote or distributed teams. It’s a lightweight, native time tracking tool that includes screenshots, time tracking and project management. It’s been designed well with a beautifully simple interface and design that makes it really easy for your team to enter their time and for you to track their progress.
Budget management is straightforward – using Hubstaff you can easily set time limits and budgets for your team to bill against with a maximum number of hours you want a member to be able to work in a week and the app will automatically prevent them from exceeding the limit.
When you’re working with a distributed team it can be hard to verify exactly what people are doing and how they’re spending their time so Hubstaff has some pretty handy snooping tools to give you insight into what your team is doing in the time they’re logging to your project with screenshots and activity levels. Now you can also see which applications your team members are using and what URLs they are browsing while they’re tracking time.
Integrations are well supported across stacks of different tools including project management tools Asana, Jira, and Basecamp, payments, accounting and invoicing integrations including QuickBooks, Paypal as well as Salesforce and Zendesk among others.
Hubstaff is a free time tracking software tool although paid versions cost from $5/user/month.
TimeCamp – https://www.time-camp.com/ (free time tracking software)
TimeCamp is a great free time tracking software tool (with fremium upgrades) that includes manual and automatic timesheets, a time diary, and automatic task detection capabilities. It’s well designed and easy to use with a clean and fresh design.
TimeCamp is based around projects and tasks, and you can set budgets for either so that you can easily track accumulated hours against projects and tasks. Vacation tracking and accrual tracking is supported with attendance and absence analysis so you can track who is in and who is out at any given time, see when they start and finish work and track their holidays.
Timecamp integrates well with invoicing and is able to automatically (or not) produce invoices based on billable hours with worked generated in TimeCamp. There is an integrated payment gateway and helpfully you can get a notification when a client views an invoice.
A great feature within TimeCamp is their pretty unique time management tools which give some great insights on what are people are actually doing; the most time-consuming websites and applications they’re using, with productivity analysis and detailed history on how people spend their time by using automatic computer usage tracking – this also enables you to evaluate time spent on documents, even tracking offline activity and the ability to approve or reject timesheets.
TimeCamp has got stacks of powerful integrations which make it a very flexible time tracking software tool. Integrations include project management favourites including, Jira, Wrike, Trello, Podio, Basecamp and Asana – invoicing including Xero, Quickbooks and Free Agent, as well as Insightly, Wunderlist and Zapier.
TimeCamp is free time tracking software although paid versions cost from $6/user/month.
Timesheets – https://www.tsheets.com/ (free time tracking software)
Timesheets is a fully featured free time tracking software tool (with fremium upgrades), complete with hourly time clock, project time, mileage and expense tracking, time off / vacation and stacks of powerful HR functionality to support managing your team within the agency.
Timesheets is easy to use and they offer the option to skin the timesheets software so it can look pretty and match your agency brand.
Timesheets integrates fully with projects and tasks and they offer flexible entry options with tracking projects in real time using timers feature, single project entries daily, or fill in their timesheet at the end of the week. Budgets are easily managed and reporting is simple with the ability to use live, up to the minute data to drill down to separate out specific employees, projects and dates.
Timesheets has some pretty powerful HR tools if you’re looking for a more complete HR time tracking software solution that does more than just track time and expenses. The HR functionality includes powerful time off management with the ability to review accrued balances for vacation, and request approval request for vacation request to management and review the agency’s time off in a single view on a calendar. The HR functionality also includes a suite of standardized employee documentation including employee training manuals, performance reviews, staff communication, employee files, and notes.
Timesheets has a QuickBooks integration and the data can easily be exported for other accounting software.
Timesheets is a free time tracking software tool although paid versions cost from $9/user/month.
Bill4time – https://www.bill4time.com
Bill4time is the full package – a full-featured time tracking software tool with time tracking, expense tracking, billing & invoicing, invoice templates and online payments supported by a client portal, it’s more than just time tracking but billing software too.
Bill4time have created some well-designed and good looking tools with mobile and desktop apps to enable some pretty flexible and powerful time tracking; you can simultaneously run timers, record multiple time entries in one screen and automatically convert appointments into time entries. All of this makes time tracking easy.
What’s really unique about Bill4time is really the powerful back-end management functionality that allows you to keep better track of users, projects, clients and accounting. Using the rich data and dashboards you can easily track financial performance, identify trends, review payment history, productivity and more so you can more easily optimize performance. Reporting is powerful and flexible so you can be sure to stay on top of the productivity and financial status of your clients and projects.
Bill4time doesn’t have a large back-catalogue of integrations but they do have the essentials; Quickbooks, PayPal and Stripe, so if you’re using those systems, you’re in luck.
Bill4time offer a free 30 day trial and costs from $15/user/month.
Streamtime – https://streamtime.net/
If you’re struggling to get your team to do their timesheets, and you’re up for trying a slightly different way to do track time, Streamtime is a great choice! Streamtime takes the classic To-Do list and turns it into a method for tracking time. It looks very pretty and it’s incredibly simple to use.
Streamtime tracks your team’s time using intuitive to-do lists that are auto-populated from job plans so it’s well integrated with projects and tasks. Time is tracked by dragging tasks and marking them as done so that time gets logged against the job it’s associated with and time is tracked. Streamtime has tried to make time tracking painless and re-imagined what timesheets are! It might sound a bit crazy but check it out, it works!
Streamtime allows you to easily plan, assign and then track jobs. When planning a job you can create project estimates, complete with tasks, team and deadlines, and quickly turn it into a quote. When approved, you then have all the info to resource, manage and track your project.
Tracking progress reports, estimates vs actuals, is straight forward with rich analytics and reporting which enables you to cut the data pretty much any way you want. Invoicing is also easy and invoices can be auto-calculated from your team’s logged time or simply by converting the initial estimate into an invoice.
Streamtime has some other great functionality. It’s got a combined resource scheduling and team task management so that you can easily, move tasks between team members, see the big picture and track your team’s tasks and progress.
Streamtime’s weakness is with its integrations – if you’re using Xero for invoicing, you’re in luck, but there’s currently no Quickbooks integration. There are also no integrations for other platforms too – so if you’re using other tools that you need to connect with, it might not work so well.
Streamtime offers a 14-day trial and costs $15/user/month.
Function Fox – http://www.functionfox.com/
FunctionFox is a timesheet and project management software for built specifically for advertising agencies and small creative firms. FunctionFox offer their product in three tiers, so you can pay for the functionality you need.
FunctionFox has been reasonably well designed although being a full featured and powerful tool, some of the interfaces can look overwhelming at first. It’s pretty easy to use though and you can log time using a classic timesheet or with a very basic stopwatch timer to keep track of what you’re doing.
FunctionFox integrates well with project tracking and the creation of clients, project and tasks so you can easily manage burn rate and see estimate vs actuals on a project. FunctionFox has some nice built-in reporting with helpful visuals so you can get a bird’s eye view of projects and clients across the agency. The same information can then be easily used to generate PDF or HTML invoices. However, there are no integrations with any 3rd party applications so you’d need to manually import them into your accounting software.
With the more expensive subscriptions of FunctionFox, they also have some other interesting project management and workflow functionality including project request forms or work order forms to brief and manage the project through the agency. There are also powerful analytics with the ability to develop cycle and capacity reports alongside resource forecasting. With their file sharing service too, there’s the option to use it as a complete project management agency tool.
Function Fox offers a 14 day trial and costs from $5/user/month
Harvest – https://www.getharvest.com
Harvest is a very popular agency time tracking software tool used by thousands of agencies as their time tracking software solution. Its functionality covers everything from timesheets, invoicing, expenses, project budgeting, budget tracking and reporting.
Harvest is popular because it’s easy to use and it’s been very well designed with a beautiful and intuitive interface that works across desktop and mobile. Harvest covers time tracking with clients, projects and task tracking which power some powerful reporting so you can easily analyze your data including billable and non-billable time for specific staff, tasks, clients, and projects.
Helpfully, for complete budget tracking solution, Harvest supports expense tracking, invoicing and timesheet approval; it’s a fully baked product covering the essential time tracking software tool functionality and stacks more. Harvest also has a sister product, Harvest Forecast, which has resourcing management features so you can schedule a team on projects, know who’s working on what and when and then easily compare estimates vs actuals and know exactly when a project hit its budget.
Harvest really excels at its integrations, offering more than 70+ integrations across project management with Jira, Asana, and Basecamp, accounting with Quickbooks, Xero and Stripe as well as many others across issue tracking, CRM, productivity, communication, contracts and proposals, developer tools, and analytics and reporting. If you’re using industry standard tools, you’re very likely to be able to plug in the Harvest add-ons to track time across your project workflow.
Harvest offers a 30 day trial and is a free time tracking software tool, although paid versions cost from $12/user/month.
Toggl – https://www.toggl.com/
If you’re looking for simple and free time tracking software, Toggl is a great place to start. It’s beautifully designed and incredibly easy to use. If you’re looking for a solution to get started today, and to simply track time against different projects and clients, then Toggl is great.
Toggl allows you to create projects, tasks and track hours using your browser, Chrome extension, mobile or desktop apps. While it allows tracking of accruals, there’s no way to set budgets and track against them. If you want to track against an estimate, or create an invoice, you’d need to use a 3rd party tool.
Toggl has some good functionality to support helping people do their time tracking properly with automated reminders to keep people on track, and you can create required fields for time entries, so ensure people always add comments or tags to their timesheet entries. You can also enable auditing tools where you can trigger alerts for suspicious looking timesheet entries, like if someone claims to have worked 10 hrs straight on a single task!
Toggl has some good integrations out the box, which make it one of the best free time tracking software options available with integrations for Jira, Asana, Basecamp, Freshbooks, GitHub and Teamweek among many others. So even though it’s lacking in some of the budget tracking and invoicing functionality, you can easily tie it in with other tools that specialize in reporting and invoicing.
Toggl is a free time tracking software tool although paid versions cost from $9/user/month.
ClickTime – https://www.clicktime.com/
ClickTime is a powerful free time tracking software tool with functionality that spans time tracking, expenses, project budgeting, workforce management and enterprise controls. It’s well designed and simple to use, with the option to customize with your own branding.
Clicktime has job estimation built in, and options to estimate by job by month, by job by person, by job by task and then track your budgets: by dollars or hours. Built for managing large teams, Clicktime includes powerful enterprise features with project-based timesheet approvals and dynamic billing rates. With ClickTime’s built-in budget tracking and forecasting tools you can then carefully manage project budgets, predict profitability and monitor costs on dashboards that allow you to view costs, margins and profit in real-time.
ClickTime has powerful reporting built-in with 70+ reports ready to go with rich analytics ranging from project profitability to employee utilization so you can empower managers and employees with actionable insights that improve operations and reduce costs. The executive dashboards are great for offering a high level snapshot with immediate visual insights into operations, finance, employee performance, and more.
Clicktime has a plethora of powerful integrations across accounting including QuickBooks, Sage, and Intacct, CRM including Salesforce, Highrise and Pipedrive, project management including Trello, Jira and Asana, and payroll products including ADP, Paychex and MS Dynamics Great Plains. They’ve also got integrations with Cloud storage, Google Apps, forms, communication apps and more.
Clicktime offer a free 30 day trial and costs from $10/user/month.
Tick – https://www.tickspot.com/
Tick is all about keeping projects on track with the budget. It’s a great time tracking software tool and and time management and optimization tool, particularly if you use Basecamp, Asana or Trello as your main project management software.
Tick has been beautifully designed and is super simple to use. It integrates very well with projects, allowing you to set budgets for individual tasks and give each task in a project its own budget, so you can track employee’s time against smaller budgets and identify trouble spots before they become real problems. Whenever you start a task or log time you receive updates on how much time is left to complete a certain task or project.
Project budget reporting is robust with dashboards that provide a clear picture of open projects and where each one stands on budget. Time reporting is easy to run by client or person and you can easily get specifics on time entered and drill down into details, without running another report.
Tick is well integrated through Zapier, but out of the box has accounting integrations with Freshbooks and Quickbooks as well as strong project management workflow integrations with Basecamp, Trello and Asana.
Tick is a free time tracking software tool although paid versions cost from $19/month/10 projects.
Other time tracking software tools worth considering:
None of the above work for you? Check out the list below for 15 additional time tracking software tools:
- Minute Dock – http://minutedock.com
- Zoomshift – http://zoomshift.com
- Boomr – http://boomr.com
- Time Doctor – https://www.timedoctor.com/
- Big Time – https://www.bigtime.net/
- FunctionPoint – http://www.functionpoint.com/
- Freshbooks – http://www.freshbooks.com/
- SpringAhead – https://springahead.com
- Replicon – http://www.replicon.com/
- Intervals – https://www.myintervals.com
- actiTIME – https://www.actitime.com/
- Journyx – http://journyx.com/
- BillQuick – http://www.bqe.com/billquick-billing-software-all/
- MoneyPenny – https://moneypenny.me/
- Hub Planner – https://hubplanner.com/
What do you think?
What do you think we’re missing? What other time tracking software tools or timesheets software have you found that we don’t know about? We’d love to hear if you’ve got any suggestions, tips or thoughts on using this kind of software – why not share them using the comments below?