Time-tracking and billing tools help you monitor the hours worked by a contractor or employee, compare those hours against estimates , and invoice your clients. These tools make it easy for freelance professionals and companies paid by the hour to manage their working hours and charge their clients accordingly.
For successful time tracking, you must make it as easy as possible for an individual to track their hours worked against specific tasks or projects. The tool should also track unbilled time and vacations.
Support complex organisation structures
For complex organisations, you may need a time-tracking tool that is capable of matrix reporting. Your staff may divide their time between different clients, managers and business units. Look for the ability to manage permissions, and reporting.
If you operate on a time and expenses basis, some tools integrate expense tracking with time tracking, to help you monitor a project’s reimbursable expenses. These should be automatically consolidated into client invoices. This feature is available in Replicon and Invoicera.
Look for a tool that supports customisation of fields, workflow, reports and organisation structure to fit your needs.
The best tools include a wide-range of pre-built reports, and a fully customizable reporting system. Aside from invoices, you may need to generate periodically reports like total billed/invoices per client or project, expenses over time, payments received over time, uninvoiced expenses and hours, and unpaid invoices.
Managing your budget against project and cost estimates is essential. Look for applications that track estimates sent to clients and convert them to invoices once approved by the client. I also recommend software that provides a menu of costs, allowing you to quickly construct an estimate, or reuse old estimates. We like the estimating functionality in Billing Orchard, CurdBee and Harvest
Integration with payment system
Vendors such as Paymo, Curd bee and Billing Orchard provide electronic payment of invoices through standard payment gateways (like PayPal, Google checkout and Authorize.net)
If you already have a CRM system
You may already have a customer relationship management (CRM) system, and I highly recommend you find a time tracking tool that integrates to keep client lists, addresses and other information up-to-date.
If you don't have a CRM system
If you don’t have a CRM system, look for a time tracking system with client management functionality. At a minimum, look for functionality to manage a list of all your clients and all the information you need for invoicing. Some applications have a more advanced client management module – they offer custom fields for client records, tracking interaction, client portals and related reports.
Integration with accounting system
To minimize your own effort, look for fully-automated integration with your accounting system, for all payments and invoices. At a minimum, your time tracking and billing system should provide a data export that can be imported into your accounting system easily.
Generate and send invoices
For ease of communication with clients, choose a tool that can easily generate invoices in different file formats (PDF or HTML is best), and automatically email to the client.