As a freelancer or small business, one of the biggest decisions you can make (from a business perspective, at least) is how to track your time and invoice your clients. There are a few really good options out there. Quickbooks Online seems to be a good solution, but it can get pretty expensive pretty quickly. A friend of mine recommended CurdBee, which looks like a pretty nice option, too.
My software of choice, though, is an application called Paymo. Paymo works extremely well, is easy to use, feature-rich and is extremely affordable. There are basically only two reasons you would ever pay to use Paymo. The first would be if you need to issue more than 3 invoices in a month. The other reason would be if you need to allow more than 2 users (yourself and one other) to track their time in the application.
Other than that, all of the features of Paymo are baked right into the free version of the service. The Web interface offers a timer that you can use to track exactly how much time you spend on a specific task (provided you remember to start it and stop it at the right time), easy invoicing (with the ability to print, e-mail and convert to PDF all invoices you generate) with permalinks that can be provided to clients, easy creation of new clients, new projects, new timelines and milestones and more. You can generate invoices directly from time sheets or add charges to the invoices manually.
The timer that’s available through the Web interface is also available as a PC application (to be installed on your Windows machines) and as an iPhone app. The PC application is really nice, because it even tracks when you’re actively using your machine. Therefore, even if you forget to stop the timer when you walk away from your computer, Paymo prompts you when you come back, asking if you want to count the time you were gone, or if you want to stop the timer whenever you stopped using your machine. The iPhone app is really handy for meetings and field visits.
The nice thing about the unlimited invoice option (which costs $9.99/month) is that it can be a month-to-month decision. If you generate your third invoice in a month, and you know you’re going to need to issue more, you can upgrade your plan. At the beginning of the next month, if you don’t think you’ll issue more than 3 invoices again, you can downgrade your plan easily.
Is Paymo perfect? No. Are they better than any other option out there? I honestly can’t say for sure, since I’ve only used a handful of time tracking applications. However, I can say that it’s very rare that I find Paymo lacking a feature I’d want.
Quite honestly, the only feature I’ve found that I wish they would add is the ability to set a time budget for each individual task on a task list. Unfortunately, although you can set a time budget for the entire project, and you can set individual costs for each task on the tasklist, you don’t have the option to set time budgets for each task. For instance, if you add three items to a tasklist:
- Create design
- Perform revisions
- Prepare for production
You can set a time budget (40 hours, for instance) for the project as a whole, and you can set costs for each item on the list (let’s say $50/hour for the first, $30/hour for the second and $45/hour for the third), but you can’t set time limits for each item on the task list.
Other than that, however, Paymo already has most other features I’d want in a package like this. Have you used Paymo? What did you think? Are you using a different time-tracking application? Which one? What do you think?
Disclosure: Although I did not receive any compensation for writing this article, nor was I asked to write this article, I did receive 3 free months of unlimited invoicing from Paymo as part of a contest they held around Christmas 2010. At that time, though, I was already a very happy user of the system.