Time tracking leads to smoother projects and proposals

Project Management 5 min read

Time tracking

Last updated: September 27th, 2018

In the fourth installment of our web design process series, we’ll talk about the importance of time tracking during the project.

At this point in the process, you’ve set your project schedule and everyone knows what is expected of them. Your web designers know what to design, your web development team knows how they’ll be implementing the design, your client knows when they’re expected to provide feedback and sign off. You’re maintaining the project schedule and keeping everything running smoothly.

At this point everyone retreats to their own private corner of the project and gets to work. Before you lose them down a rabbit hole of design and code, make sure to remind everyone of the importance of time tracking.

Time tracking needs to become habit

Whether you’re a salaried employee at a large corporation with an ID badge, a contractor submitting time sheets, or actually clocking in and out of work, we all have one thing in common—we’ve all had to track our time at work.

Successful projects and businesses rely on accurate time tracking. By keeping track of how long project-specific tasks take, you’ll be able to better plan and prepare. Not just in the current projects, but in projects to come.

Thinking vs. knowing

Here’s a scenario. A potential client lands on your doorstep asking for a site redesign. They want you to put together a proposal for them by the end of the week outlining the time and money they can expect to invest in the project.

If you’re a designer or developer that has tracked their time on previous projects, this shouldn’t be daunting. You have the data, you just need to plugin the numbers for the potential client’s specific needs.

More often than not, you’ll end up eating those extra hours to make good on your promise to the client.

But if you haven’t been tracking your time, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed at the potential client’s ask.

You might think you know how long the project will take, but what if you’ve miscalculated? What if you underestimate the amount of time a project-specific task takes?

Do you think the potential client is going to be happy when you come back to them and tell them that you’ve underbid and the cost of completely the project has increased by 40%? Unlikely. More often than not, you’ll end up eating those extra hours to make good on your promise to the client.

The goal of time tracking is to collect the data you need to turn your “best guess” in to a highly educated estimate. If you can submit estimates and proposals to potential clients that are backed up real world data, you’ll end up saving a lot of time and frustration.

When to start time tracking

Let me start this section off by warning you that time tracking is not easy. It seems simple enough in concept. But it will require a lot of self motivation to be diligent about logging your hours. But if you can keep your hours up to date and take the time to analyze your data, I promise you will reap the benefits in the end.

Once you have a better idea of how long a particular task takes, you can provide your client with a more accurate proposal with a lot less room for error.

Now that you’ve made the commitment to tracking your time, should you wait until your active project is over and begin logging your hours at the start of the next project? No way, start today! Every bit of data you can gather on how long you spend working on an item or task can help you going forward.

Here at 45royale we’ve found the easiest way to start collecting your time data is to use a product like Harvest.

If you’re like me, you’ve got so much going on that you can’t recall what you were doing last week, much less what you were doing last month! Keeping your time on Harvest will give you the ability to look back at last week, last month, or even last year and see how you were spending your time.

You have the data, now use it

Tracking your time and having that information in hand is extremely powerful. If you know how much time you spent on each phase of your web design project, then you can analyze your proposals.

Were your estimates accurate? Did you spend less time on one phase, but more on another? If your estimates were accurate, you now have the data to back up your assumptions.

If your estimates were accurate, you now have the data to back up your assumptions

However, if you realize that you drastically under (or over) estimated how long a particular task would take you, you may need to dig a little deeper to see why your estimate was off. Did it take longer than you thought it would to complete those comps? Did the requirements or scope change during the project?

With the knowledge you gain by tracking and analyzing the time you spend working, you can make sure your next proposal is a more realistic depiction of the hours it will likely take to complete the job.

Time’s up!

I know this was a lot of information to take in, but I can’t stress enough the importance of tracking your time.

When you know how long things ACTUALLY take, you and your team are better equipped to make smarter decisions for your company.

That way, the next time a client comes to you with a hard and fast deadline, you can feel confident in saying you can or can’t make that happen. Your team will be less stressed, and your client will be pleased when projects come in on time and on budget.

What to expect in Part 4

Keep your eyes peeled for the final installment of the web design process series. In it we’ll cover a topic people often shy away from: what to do when a web design project goes wrong…

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