One point of difficulty for marketers, especially for marketing agencies, is time tracking. Timesheets tend to get put toward the bottom of the to-do list. People with creative spirits (i.e. marketers and designers) often find themselves resentful toward the idea of being micromanaged by having their time tracked. Truth be told, they may also want to avoid truly knowing if they have been wasting time or spending too much time on one project.
Because marketing agencies typically work within the confines of billable hours, tracking time isn’t just an annoyance imposed by higher powers in order to make everyone more miserable. Timesheets offer useful and necessary data that help an organization understand if projects are profitable and within budget.
Often, instead of keeping track of hours in real time, employees will make an educated guess as to how many hours a particular project took. This tendency toward inaccuracy works against the organization. Information gleaned regarding estimated hours vs. actual hours spent on a project helps the company bid more appropriately and set project prices more accurately in the future. But if the marketer doesn’t track the actual time and is only guessing, accurate information is lost.
Time tracking (and time tracking software) also keeps your team from over-committing on project. With an accurate portrayal of what time resources are being allocated, there’s less likelihood of over-promising to a client and then not being able to deliver on time.
While it may come with some growing pains, time tracking works as an effective tool to lead your organization or department toward productivity and efficiency. When incorporating a time tracking system into your organization’s culture, these are some critical points to plan out ahead of time:
Get Everyone on Board
Explaining the reasoning behind time tracking and helping employees understand the benefits to your organization may help mitigate some of the negative responses. Help employees and managers understand that a time tracking system is not meant to be a babysitter and does not communicate a lack of trust. Instead, it offers insight into a critical commodity upon which your organization runs: time. Top-down sponsorship is critical. It's natural for managers and directors to want to understand how time is being used in their company.
Related: 12 FAQs for Marketing Agencies
Provide not only initial training, but also give ongoing support to your employees on your new software program. Help them understand how to use the time tracking program to their own advantage, they may be much more willing to buy in. The more user-friendly your time tracking software is, the more compliance you'll see.
Find creative ways to thank your employees for complying with their timesheet tasks, such as recognition or small gifts. Creative incentives might include extra breaks or time earned back for simply turning in their timesheets when they are due.
Integrate into Workflow
Choose a time tracking program that is easily integrated into the rest of your employees’ regular rhythms, whether in calendars, mobile devices, or project management software. Making the timesheet a natural part of the workday encourages compliance and means that people aren’t logging into a spreadsheet and making everything up at the end of the week or month.
Set and Share Goals
If your employees and organization are truly going to benefit from the implementation of time tracking, then the software must be used to understand where you are and where you are going. Once you’ve analyzed your time, use this information to set goals for better efficiency, higher productivity. Your analytics will help cast these goals for your organization to work together to meet.
Time Tracking Software Options
Choosing time tracking software requires a bit of research, but once the decision is made and the program implemented, it could be a game changer for your agency. Considerations for narrowing down which software to choose should include:
- Sync with Other Software and Apps
- Ease of Use
- Potential Company Growth
- Mobile Device Options
- Accuracy (not easy to “fake” working)
- Resources for training and other support options (webinars, email
Once you have narrowed down your needs, take a look at this list of software options for time tracking:
- Works well for a group
- Boost Productivity
- User friendly
- Transparent billing and reports
- Works on all platforms, computers and mobile devices
- Offline time tracking
- Limitless number of projects and clients without additional cost
- Free for basic use, add a small monthly fee for increased features
- Created with marketing agencies in mind
- Screenshot proof feature for remote workers
- Client viewing options –unlimited for free
- Manual time logging options
- Indicates when employees are online or offline
- Tracks remote teams in one place
- Set Budget and time limits
- Particularly effective for those outsourcing to remote employees
Free plan for one user, additional cost for upgraded features or larger teams
- Basic and easy to use for anyone
- Complete reporting
- Invoicing within App
- Integrates with other project apps
- Budgeting Alerts
- Basic monthly fees, assessed per user
- Calendar Interface with existing calendar
- Effective for teams or freelancers
- Comparison between allotted time and spent time
- Clean interface
- Easily export timesheets
- Free up to 5 projects, pay monthly for larger plans
- Effective for teams
- Minimalistic Design
- Easily exported reports
- Integrates into most management apps
- Analytics and productivity analysis built-in
- Invoicing capabilities
- Free to use individually, monthly fee for additional users
- For both windows and Mac, iPhone and Android
- Simple to use
- Integrated calendar for task management
- Reporting and analysis
- Streamline workflow with project management, invoicing, etc., using Zapier
- Free up to 9 people, upgraded for a monthly/per-user fee
- Tracking by project, client, employee, or task
- Integrated with expense sheets to track costs
- Budgeting feature
- Resource planning tools for managers
- Low monthly fee per user
- Easy to use
- Allows the user to track project completeness in real time
- Overall budgeting options as well as task-specific budgets
- Reporting and analytics
- Integration with time management tools such as Basecamp
- Free for one project, additional fees for increased users
Regardless of the software you choose, remember the the overarching business goal behind time tracking. You can't manage want you can't measure.