consultant time tracking
Image: Bruce Mars

As a consultant, you know the value of time. The hours and minutes you have available to you likely influence what you prioritize, what you’re able to accomplish, and probably what you earn, too. But even if you know how important your time is, are you accurately tracking how you spend it? The best way to go about this is with consultant time tracking software.

While it’s possible to monitor your time manually by jotting down how much time you spend on each job on a notepad or spreadsheet, this is a notoriously unreliable method. Especially in consultancy work, which tends to involve juggling multiple projects and tasks simultaneously. Are you sure you only spent an hour on a particular client? Did you do anything else in between? Can you reliably use this data to inform your quotes and invoices?

Automatic time tracking for consultants, on the other hand, gives you access to detailed, accurate information you can trust. This helps you to boost your productivity, manage your work-life balance, and improve your bottom line. Let’s explore how it works.

Table of Contents

Why is Time Tracking Important for Consultants?

Knowing how you spend your time shouldn’t be a guessing game. It should be an exact science, backed up by reliable data. As a consultant, time is the backbone of your business model. You simply can’t afford to lose valuable hours to distractions or unprofitable projects. And having accurate information on hand can help you identify these pitfalls.

Time tracking is important for consultants because it provides real-time insights that you can use to make informed decisions, optimize your workflow, and enhance your business efficiencies. It helps you to stay on top of complex schedules, projects and tasks, which can ultimately help to grow your business and ensure its success.

Even if you don’t charge by the hour, but instead opt for a fixed-price model, you need to have a sense of how long a particular project will take you in order to set up your rate card. Keep tabs on this over time. If a project is taking you longer than you initially thought, this can erode your margins and reduce your profitability. However you structure your consultancy services, your time should be a priority.

Here are some of the most important benefits of consultant time tracking.

Accurate Quoting and Invoicing

Consultants usually quote and invoice their clients based on the time they spend on specific clients or jobs. Every minute matters, and needs to be accounted for accurately. Failing to do so can have far-reaching implications.

If you underestimate how long a project takes to complete, you’ll soon start running at a loss. Overestimate this time, and you might lose your client to a competitor who assesses their time more fairly.

Using your time tracking data to inform exactly how long it takes you to file a tax return (if you’re an accountant), assess a new case (if you’re a lawyer), or write a blog post (if you’re a copywriter), will help you quote and invoice consistently and transparently. This can play an important role in attracting and retaining clients.

Read more: Top Invoicing Software for Mac: Reviews, Ratings and Tips for the Best Tools in 2024

Improved Efficiency and Productivity

By tracking time, consultants can identify how long different tasks take, which can enhance their time management. A powerful automatic time tracking app (like Timing!) will give you detailed insight into when you’re most productive. Pay attention to this information, and you can adjust your schedule around your best working hours.

The Timing Stats tab below, for example, shows that Wednesdays and Thursdays between 12pm and 4pm are this person’s most productive hours. If they use this time for dedicated deep work, and their less productive hours for less-intensive tasks, they’re likely to improve their overall efficiency and productivity.

timing dashboard

Better Performance Analysis

Are you really working as effectively as you can? Are some tasks taking up more time than they should? What about your clients? Are you focusing on one at the expense of the others?

Robust time tracking data can be analyzed to assess your performance. You might be interested in identifying the time-consuming activities that are causing bottlenecks and time sinks. Or you might be curious about the clients that are dominating your schedule, and whether you should diversify your client base to enhance your business’s profitability and sustainability.

Transparent Client Reporting

Robust time tracking software will provide detailed, easy-to-access and transparent reports on your time. Download these reports to share with your clients if they require this sort of information. Being open and honest can enhance client satisfaction and help to build and maintain long-term client relationships.

Ensures Strong Work-life Balance

Consultants tend to have a bit of a poor reputation in terms of work-life balance. Working in this field is often demanding and highly pressurized, with professional commitments regularly spilling into evenings and weekends. Some consultants work as much as 50 to 80 hours a week, as opposed to the 40 hours required of most employees.

This isn’t sustainable — either in terms of your business success or (more importantly) your health. Keeping tabs on your time can help you to see when your work-life balance is hitting a speed wobble and make a few adjustments.

Working efficiently and putting work boundaries in place are critical in helping to prevent burnout.

How to Choose the Right Consultant Time Tracking Solution

Now that we’ve established that managing your time efficiently is vital, it’s time to choose the right time tracking tool. But how do you go about this? The challenge lies in finding a solution that aligns with your specific needs. As you weigh up your options, keep the following criteria in mind:

  • Your budget: Cost is always an important factor. But bear in mind that free tools don’t always give you the features you need until you upgrade. Weigh up cost versus functionality to ensure you get a solution that makes it easier, rather than more time consuming, to manage your time.
  • Remote access: If you or other members of your consultancy team work remotely, your solution must be available in the cloud.
  • Your business’s size and structure: While individual consultants usually only require fairly moderate functionality, larger consultancy firms may need more robust systems. Opt for a solution that not only meets your current needs but also has the potential to scale.
  • Your industry-specific requirements: Different consulting domains have different demands of time tracking solutions. Look for a tool that meets your sector’s needs, and integrates well with other apps your business or industry uses.

consultant time tracking

Image: Scott Graham

Consultant Time Tracking Apps: Key Features

Finally, what are some of the key features you should be paying attention to? Bear in mind that these might be slightly different as a consultant, compared to if you were a freelancer or small business owner.

Manual vs. Automatic Tracking

Manual tools can be cumbersome and (ironically) time consuming to use. And they can be inaccurate if you don’t remember to look at the clock every time you start or stop a task.

Automatic tools, on the other hand, track every app, website or document you use, so that nothing gets missed. This is especially useful for consultants, who regularly switch between different tasks.

Ideally, a combination of the two is usually best.

Multiple Projects and Clients

As a consultant, your client base and workload is likely to fluctuate. Choose a tool that can scale with your changing needs, accommodating both smaller and larger projects, and multiple jobs and clients.

Part of this involves prioritizing a user-friendly interface and an easy categorisation method — so that you can allocate projects to your multiple clients easily. Timing uses rules. By simply clicking the ⌥ key while dragging an element from the Activities screen to the correct project, you create a rule that Timing will automatically follow every time.

In-depth Reporting and Analytics

Comprehensive reporting and analytics are important for making informed decisions about time management and client billing. This is especially important if your time directly correlates with revenue, as it does if you’re a consultant.

Reliable Support and Training

Your time tracking tool is likely one of several pieces of software you use to manage your business. While it should be accessible and intuitive, you might have questions from time to time. Ensure that your tool comes with robust customer support and training resources so that you can get the most out of it.

Top 6 Time Tracking Apps for Consultants

Now that you know exactly what you’re looking for in consultant time tracking software, it’s time to choose one. These are the top six time tracking apps for consultants.

1. Timing

Best for: Keeping track of your time accurately and automatically on Mac
Manual or automatic: Automatic
Price: Free 30-day trial. The three-tiered pricing plan comes with a 20%+ discount on annual billing. The Professional, Expert and Connect plans cost $9, $11 and $16 per month respectively with annual billing, and $11, $14 and $20 respectively, billed monthly.
Capterra rating: 4.8 out of 5

Timing is one of the most seamless, user-friendly solutions on the market. It’s designed to operate in the background while you work so that you can do what you do best: being a successful consultant.

By tracking every app, document, and web page you open, Timing knows exactly when you start or stop a particular project, or when you switch between tasks. It also understands that your work doesn’t only happen when you’re in front of your computer. That’s why it’s fully integrated with Screen Time so that any work you do on your iPhone or iPad will appear in your Timing log, too.

Your calendar events are also integrated, ensuring no meeting gets missed. Of course, you’re welcome to add time entries manually, too.

timing vertical timeline | time tracking for consultants

2. Tyme

Best for: Tracking time manually
Manual or automatic: Manual
Price: 14-day trial, followed by $4.99 per user per month, billed monthly.
Mac App Store rating: 4.6 out of 5

Tyme is a manual, timer-based app with a friendly and intuitive interface. You need to set a timer every time you use it. Fortunately this is relatively easy to do with Tyme’s vast selection of shortcuts. But — and it’s a fairly big but — you still have to remember to use these shortcuts in the first place, which can make Tyme a little unreliable.

Tyme’s comprehensive dashboard offers a detailed snapshot of everything you’re working on. And it provides a variety of reporting options so that you can evaluate your time tracking data in the format that suits you best.

Tyme integrates well across all Apple devices, and its teams version helps you collaborate with others easily.

3. Toggl

Best for: Generous free time tracking solution for excellent manual time tracking
Manual or automatic: Manual with some automatic functionality
Price: Free tier, followed by Starter and Premier plans at $10 and $20 per user per month respectively, billed monthly. Enterprise plans are also available.
G2 rating: 4.6 out of 5

Toggl is another manual, timer-based app. It’s widely recognised for its intuitive interface and has a generous free plan. It’s especially useful if you simply want to open your next project and start working — you can enter all the relevant details later.

The Toggl Chrome extension has a timer button that appears in almost every web app you use. This makes it easy to remember to start or stop your timer. Its idle detection is also excellent, and helps you to correct your time if you step away from your computer but forget to stop your timer.

Toggl does have some automated time tracking functionality, but it isn’t very well developed and can be quite cumbersome to use.

4. TimeCamp

Best for: Broader task management
Manual or automatic: Manual with some automatic functionality
Price: A free forever plan, as well as Starter, Premium and Ultimate plans from $3.99, $6.99 and $10.99 per user per month respectively, billed monthly.
Capterra rating: 4.7 out of 5 

TimeCamp is a comprehensive time tracking app that seamlessly integrates with various project management tools and collaboration platforms. This helps it to adapt smoothly to your existing workflow processes.

Although TimeCamp refers to itself as a fully automated solution, you do still have to start and stop a timer yourself. The automatic functionality is based on pre-set up keywords which will then connect the time entry to a relevant task – but only once you have manually started the timer. So TimeCamp works similarly to other manual tools on the market.  It does provide detailed reports that demonstrate how you’ve spent your time, which can help you to stay on top of your productivity.

It’s not the most intuitive interface, however, and can involve a bit of a learning curve. Its wide variety of features can also be a bit clumsy for consultants who are looking for a more streamlined solution.

consultant time tracking
Image: Anna Shvets

5. My Hours

Best for: Timesheet management
Manual or automatic: Manual
Price: A free plan for up to five users, and a Pro plan for $9 per user per month, billed monthly.
Capterra rating: 4.8 out of 5

My Hours is a user-friendly time tracking app that’s all about simplifying your timesheets. It’s easy to clock in and out, categorize tasks, and stay on top of your project timelines.

One of its standout features is its visual timeline view, which helps you to see your day at a glance. It also offers excellent reporting features, which you can use to generate reports on how your projects are progressing.

However, some users have reported that its advanced features are a bit limited. If you’re managing multiple projects, you might find that it doesn’t quite cope. Its customization options are also a bit restrictive, which can be limiting.

6. Clockify

Best for: Free time tracking
Manual or automatic: Manual, with very basic automatic functionality
Price: Free tier, followed by Basic, Standard, Pro and Enterprise plans that go for $4.99, $6.99, $9.99 and $14.99 respectively per user per month, billed monthly.
Capterra rating: 4.7 out of 5

Clockify is a versatile time tracking app that makes it easy to monitor your tasks and projects. Its key strength lies in its simplicity and its cost. Clockify is all about providing robust functionality without overwhelming you with unnecessarily complex add-ons. It’s one of the best free tools on the market.

But while Clockify’s free version is quite robust, it might not offer everything you need. For advanced features, such as invoicing or more detailed reporting, you’ll need to sign up for one of Clockify’s paid plans. Its customer support for free customers has also received some criticism in the past.

Consultant Time Tracking: A Summary

Time tracking apps for consultants can help you improve your productivity, quote and invoice accurately, maintain a work-life balance, and ensure the sustainability of your business. In a sector defined by complex schedules and the juggling of multiple projects, it’s best to automate this process.

Manual tools can be error-prone. But automatic time tracking for consultant tools help you allocate every minute to the right project and task.

Start your automatic time tracking journey by downloading Timing’s free 30-day trial today.

Consultant Time Tracking: Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Consultants Spend Their Time?

It isn’t easy for consultants to know exactly how they’re spending their time without time tracking software. An automatic tool can help you see which projects you’re working on at different times of the day. This helps to manage your productivity and invoice accurately.

How Do You Track Consulting Time?

You can track your time manually, on a notepad or spreadsheet, or by starting and stopping a timer. Or you can track it automatically by using automatic time tracking software for consultants that runs in the background while you work.

How Do I Report My Consulting Hours?

With time tracking software, it’s easy to create accurate reports that detail how much time you’ve spent on each project. You can use this data to analyze your performance, share with your clients, and draw up your invoices.

What’s The Best Time Tracking Tool for Consultants?

There are many consultant time tracking tools. Timing is an automatic time tracking solution that is ideally suited for Mac users. It’s intuitive, easy to use, and offers a generous free 30-day trial.