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Ask HN: How do you track your billable working hours?
34 points by kshivendu 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments
Hi, I'm curious to know what are the tools that agencies/freelancers/startups use to measure the billable working hours ?

Also, what are some downsides of your tool ?


I run a custom software development firm for fast-growing HealthTech companies. From 1 to 3 people, we utilized Excel. After 3 people we started utilizing Toggl Track as it was becoming a nightmare to record all our billable hours. Toggl has a feature-rich, free version up to 5 people that gives you a good idea if you like the platform. We're now a 14 person company on Toggl's paid plan (I think it's called team). Well worth the investment from my perspective. Eventually, I feel like we will outgrow Toggl, but I think it should scale to at least 25 or 30 people.

Harvest (and the hcl gem). Bonsai is supposed to be pretty good, too.

When I used to bill per hour, I used Harvest - https://www.getharvest.com/ and their mac app https://www.getharvest.com/apps/mac.

The great thing about the app is that if your computer is idle for a while it stops the timer. That was the most annoying thing that used to happen to me. When I went to pick up the kids or something I would forget to stop the timer. But the app automatically stops the timer and asks you to confirm.

I still use harvest to bill my clients using the invoice feature. Their free plan is all I have ever needed.

I've used Harvest, and I really like it. They have a free tier for 1 seat and up to 2 projects: https://www.getharvest.com/pricing

I am also a happy customer of Harvest (https://getharvest.com/)

I have a script called nagme that pops up once an hour

set logfile="%USERPROFILE%\My Documents\What have you been doing.txt" echo %DATE% %TIME% >>%logfile% notepad %logfile%

and I put my current job code, task etc, and then search and sort at billing time. If I'm on the road I keep a paper journal, and or a note in my phone in the same note as my vehicle log for the day.

All a bit time consuming but it captures enough.

I recently self-hosted a NextCloud instanced and was surprised by the timer app.

You set your clients and projects. When you do work on a project you just start the timer and when you press stop, assign the time to a project along with a description.

Google Sheets. One spreadsheet per client, per year. Each spreadsheet tracks start time, end time, adjustments (like for coffee breaks), and then totals for day, week, month. A comments column summarizes what work was done for that period.

Quickbook - https://quickbooks.intuit.com/in/

They have a decent interface, press the "clock in" button and the time starts. Whenever you want you can "clock out". You can see the "total time" report as well as the invoices or payout made.

The only downside I see is that when you "clock in" you get a small input box in which you can choose to write whatever work you've done or you are doing. The issue is that box is super small and you can't really see that much in it. So there is lot of scrolling involved.

The team and I are building HourStack - https://hourstack.com. We are focused on scheduling and tracking time at the task level, which works well with billable hours. We also integrate with task, event, and issue platforms so you can drag existing tasks onto your calendar to schedule and track time against them.

This can be quite nice when working with clients across different platforms like Asana, Trello, and GitHub.

As for downsides, we are a young company and don’t have the full feature set built yet. We are working hard though and making great progress.

I use an app I made for myself:


The main downside is probably that it doesn't automatically share data between devices, but it's fine for me as I just use it on my main work PC.

It can save/load data to files so I have an `inotifywait` script watching my Downloads folder. When I save/download a file from the app it automatically gets backed up to cloud storage.

I'm not sure how usable it might be for people. I've made a start on hints/instructions but that part of it is pretty threadbare as I've not got around to sharing it with others yet.

Cool! The wheel is already invented!


ledger-cli tool + a stop watch


It also acts as my accounting tool And manages different currencies for me Along with helping me analyse my expenses , etc in one place

GnuPlot + Ledger-cli together gives me pretty graphs anytime i want to see how im progressing at any point :)

I have a python script which autogenerates my invoices based on this ledger data file at end of each month and emails it to my clients with a link for payment.

I don't charge for my time, I charge for value created which is always more.

A poor salesman charges for his time.

Time does not take into account experience, knowledge or efficiency.

Right On! Congrats for that mindset.

However, I suggest that you should still track your time to determine whether your "Value" is worth the "Cost of Goods Sold".

Measure What Matters. :wink:

> Time does not take into account experience, knowledge or efficiency.

That's why more experienced, knowledgable people charge more per hour.

Hamster[1] has GNOME shell integration, making it relatively easy to use from a Linux-based desktop.

It has a few quirks and could do with some UI improvements, but it's nice to be able to switch task (with some basic autosuggestion and categorization) using a text input in the system tray.

[1] - https://github.com/projecthamster

I use my own, simple CLI tool* (not only to track working hours, but also to track open source or hobby activiets). For many years I used Toggl, which is great and powerful - I just needed something that works offline.

[*] https://github.com/WojciechMula/timetracker

I used tickkl.com. It has lovely dashboard and calendar is color coded so you know the days you tracked and the days you skipped. Also gives possibility to automate some parts of your tracking. Downside I guess that it is not using google calendar api, not sure though they added it or not.

Timely. Great product that tracks what you are doing on your computer and automatically suggests billing rows for you. The company has a strong focus on privacy and is developed in Norway, which has fairly good privacy laws.

Watson. Fits my needs perfectly.


Org Mode clocking commands (Emacs), Rescuetime, Wakatime, and ActivityWatch. There is an intentional overlap between them.

The wheel is already invented!



Same! For those on Macs, the alfred-toggl workflow is a godsend: https://github.com/jason0x43/alfred-toggl

It's much faster than the native Toggl app, and it lets you do things like restart timers (not possible through the web or native apps). It's a surprisingly full-featured workflow.

I use Watson which stores the time tracking data in plaintext so I get to push them to Git.


Same here. I've used Toggl and similar in the past but it was an overkill. Currently using 1 sheet per month setup, 1 row for day/task. Simple and works.

For all of the evils that spreadsheets cause, they are super easy to administer.




I invoice for the maximum number of hours I can get away with, not sure what is the benefit of using the actual number of hours worked?

It sounds like you’re fraudulently reporting hours you worked and stealing from the client.

On the flip side, most projects I work on on the side are now are bid based vs hourly based. I wasn't a fan of it at first, but now I've really come to like it.

I know what I'll get paid, and the client knows what they're going to end up paying for the work that's been scoped out. It's up to me to determine whether I'm managing my time/rate correctly to make it a value for the client and that I'm getting what I feel I'm worth.

What sort of projects are those? Not software I assume? I've yet to work on a project in my life which remained in the initial scope. Plus debugging seemingly trivial bugs can take entire work days.

It's software development. It's true that the scope is flexible, but it's not to a point that I think I'm doing an uneven amount of work compared to what I'm being paid, and if the additional features are too big then we begin working on the scope for another bid.

To avoid major bugs, I make it clear up front that if they stick with the stack that I choose for them (which is a stack and development pattern I've been using for the past 4+ years), the product will be delivered quicker versus if they need to use a specific stack.

Typically the client doesn't care how the product is built and generally doesn't care how it looks as long as it's easy to use and does the job they need. Everything is outlined in the bid/contract so there are no hidden surprises about the work being done.

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