Time tracking software doesn’t have to be painful! As a project manager on a variety of agency teams, I’ve used my fair share of time tracking software—both for simply tracking time and also for tracking budgets and estimating future projects. Each team is different, so I’ve chosen a handful of the top time management tools that I recommend, along with summaries of their features, pricing, and main pros and cons to help you choose the right time tracker for your projects.
As project managers trying to manage project budgets and getting our teams to track their time accurately, we use time-tracking tools for many different purposes aside from simply filling in timesheets.
Time management tools can be expensive, so I’ve hunted down a good number of the best free, or nearly free time tracking software. Most importantly, though, we’re looking for the best in class tools that are so easy to use, people actually want to submit their timesheets. Just imagine that!
Time tracking software – why is it important?
Time tracking software and expense tracking software is no one’s idea of a party, but it’s a necessary evil in the digital agency world, for professional services and consulting when you’re charging time and materials or billing by the hour and you need to track budget burn. Likewise, invoicing is not fun, but it’s necessary and requires accurate timesheet detail to function.
Fundamentally, there’s budget and financial tracking information that’s needed to keep a business alive; we need to know the project budget essentials:
- Are we above / below the project budget?
- Are we tracking to hit the budget?
- How much should be invoiced to the client?
- How profitable is the project / job / client?
Accurate timesheet reporting is also important to us as project managers so we can give proper analogous estimates based on past project performance. In order to estimate properly, we need to be able to look back at timesheet data, in the time tracking software and gauge how much should be charged for the next project. We need reliable, accurate time reporting data and people to use time tracking software properly.
Unless you’ve got no interest in the effort it takes to deliver your project, and the profitability of your projects then there’s no avoiding the pain of timesheets, time tracking software and hours reporting.
The problem is, if the time tracking software you’re using is more than a bit fugly and a pain to use, then no one wants to use it, and the data you get from it can be almost useless.
But does time tracking and reporting need to be painful? Surely there must be some hot time tracking software tools out there, right?
The best time tracking software?
As a given, the best time tracking software needs to be able to handle large teams, lots of clients and many projects simultaneously. But beyond a product that works well at capturing time, we need to think about what happens with that time-tracked information; how does it start as an estimate, how is it tracked, and once tracked, how is it then invoiced?
In choosing the best time tracking tool, it’s worth thinking through your agency or studio workflow, and think about the end to end experience – from the person creating the estimate to the person doing the work, to the person invoicing it; how does it all fit together?
- Will people actually use it? The software needs to look pretty and be really easy to use.
- Integrate time tracking easily with projects and tasks? It needs to link to a source of truth of clients, projects and tasks.
- Integrate with estimates and tracking? It should easily create a project estimate or quote, and then be able to track estimate vs actuals with visual reporting and analytics.
- Integrate well with invoicing? It has to be easy to then turn project reports and actuals into estimates to send to clients.
- Integrate well with 3rd party applications? Particularly useful is the ability to integrate with accounting software like Quickbooks or Xero.
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1. Smartsheet – A work execution platform with integration with your favorite PM tools and apps, custom branding options, collaboration tools, charts and graphs and more.
Smartsheet is a spreadsheet-like project management tool with time tracking features. It has won a few awards for quickly becoming a favorite business app. It’s a nice project management software if you’re comfortable working in Excel but want a break from complicated formulas—Smartsheet performs all the calculations for you across multiple sheets. You can also add customized brand logos and set color themes for individual projects.
You can track time easily with pre-filled timesheets that make it easy for them to submit, track and edit hours spent on a project. Team members get notified of critical changes in real-time, and the tool provides shared views, detail history, activity logs, automated alerts, reminder, and status reports to keep everyone aligned and informed. Reporting is a strong feature of this tool, with editable summary reports that you can easily export to Excel.
Smartsheet integrations include Microsoft and Google apps, as well as development essentials like Jira, and useful business apps like Salesforce, servicenow, Slack, Box, and Tableau. The platform is extensible through a REST API and webhooks.
Smartsheet costs from $14/user/month and offers a 30-day trial.
Forecast takes advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to support your estimates in becoming better and more accurate. Total time spent on tasks will automatically be benchmarked against your estimates and the AI learns from this to improve future estimates, thereby reducing your risk of under- or over-estimating your projects. This will have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your resource planning, enabling you to improve your delivery and profitability.
Forecast is a full resource project management solution that lets you track time using any method you want. Effortlessly track time on the projects and tasks you are assigned, whether on the go using mobile iOS and Android apps or directly on the web. It’s great for distributed teams and has both daily and weekly timesheet views so you can track time the way that suits you. Set up weekly or daily reminders to ensure that everyone tracks their time correctly. Keeping track of budgets and estimates becomes second nature with Forecast.
Forecast is fully integrated with the most used web apps and they can seamlessly be installed from the app catalog. For instance, the deep JIRA integration makes Forecast ideal as a time tracking and resource planning add-on, Forecasts functionality covers a large spectrum of the capabilities needed to run and manage projects and people effectively, with as little overhead as possible. Forecast can tell you, if your project is profitable, how much money your team is making and whether or not your favorite client is also bringing in the most for the bottom line.
Forecast is used globally by agencies, consulting companies and enterprises – has a free plan, as well as professional and enterprise options that cost from $24/seat/month (14-day free trial).
Actually is a simple and easy to use time tracking tool. This software is suitable for small and medium-sized teams working with projects. Actually, it is easy to enter project hours on desktop and mobile without the frustration of complex forms, timesheets and user interfaces.
It is easy to input hours and view flex time balance. Managers can see missing time entries and check the overall hours by person or by the project. Team and individual flex time balance can be connected to different calendars for holidays—one can even create a calendar of their own. Actually also supports individual workday lengths fluctuating over time. This makes it really easy to track and report the hours of part-time employees. Reporting needs are met quickly with Actually’s dynamic reports.
Actually’s look and feel is fresh and modern, with an easy to use interface design.
Actually provides a simple to use JSON API for retrieving all the data you need for your reporting and other master systems. Actually can also be used for larger teams alongside existing ERP/PSA systems. Actually is also integrated into Silverbucket, the resource planning software, for the combination of agile and extensive project resource planning and hour tracking.
Pricing starts from approximately $4/user/month. 30 days of free trial available.
Hubstaff is a full-featured, free time tracking software tool (with freemium upgrades) that’s an excellent tool particularly if you’re working with remote or distributed teams. It’s a lightweight, native time tracking tool that includes screenshots, time tracking, and project management. It’s been designed well with a beautifully simple interface and design that makes it really easy for your team to enter their time and for you to track their progress.
Budget management is straightforward – using Hubstaff you can easily set time limits and budgets for your team to bill against with a maximum number of hours you want a member to be able to work in a week and the app will automatically prevent them from exceeding the limit.
When you’re working with a distributed team it can be hard to verify exactly what people are doing and how they’re spending their time so Hubstaff has some pretty handy snooping tools to give you insight into what your team is doing in the time they’re logging to your project with screenshots and activity levels. Now you can also see which applications your team members are using and what URLs they are browsing while they’re tracking time.
Integrations are well supported across stacks of different tools including project management tools Asana, Jira, and Basecamp, payments, accounting and invoicing integrations including QuickBooks, Paypal as well as Salesforce and Zendesk among others.
Hubstaff is a free time tracking software tool although paid versions cost from $5/user/month.
Bill4time is the full package – a full-featured time tracking software tool with time tracking, expense tracking, billing & invoicing, invoice templates and online payments supported by a client portal, it’s more than just time tracking but billing software too.
Bill4time has created some well-designed and good looking tools with mobile and desktop apps to enable some pretty flexible and powerful time tracking; you can simultaneously run timers, record multiple time entries in one screen and automatically convert appointments into time entries. All of this makes time tracking easy.
What’s really unique about Bill4time is really the powerful back-end management functionality that allows you to keep better track of users, projects, clients and accounting. Using the rich data and dashboards you can easily track financial performance, identify trends, review payment history, productivity and more so you can more easily optimize performance. Reporting is powerful and flexible so you can be sure to stay on top of the productivity and financial status of your clients and projects.
Bill4time doesn’t have a large back-catalog of integrations but they do have the essentials; Quickbooks, PayPal, and Stripe, so if you’re using those systems, you’re in luck.
Bill4time offers a free 30-day trial and costs from $15/user/month.
TimeCamp is a great free time tracking software tool (with freemium upgrades) that includes manual and automatic timesheets, a time diary, and automatic task detection capabilities. It’s well designed and easy to use with a clean and fresh design.
TimeCamp is based around projects and tasks, and you can set budgets for either so that you can easily track accumulated hours against projects and tasks. Vacation tracking and accrual tracking are supported with attendance and absence analysis so you can track who is in and who is out at any given time, see when they start and finish work and track their holidays.
Timecamp integrates well with invoicing and is able to automatically (or not) produce invoices based on billable hours with worked generated in TimeCamp. There is an integrated payment gateway and helpfully you can get a notification when a client views an invoice.
A great feature within TimeCamp is their pretty unique time management tools which give some great insights on what are people are actually doing; the most time-consuming websites and applications they’re using, with productivity analysis and detailed history on how people spend their time by using automatic computer usage tracking – this also enables you to evaluate time spent on documents, even tracking offline activity and the ability to approve or reject timesheets.
TimeCamp has got stacks of powerful integrations which make it a very flexible time tracking software tool. Integrations include project management favorites including, Jira, Wrike, Trello, Podio, Basecamp, and Asana – invoicing including Xero, Quickbooks, and Free Agent, as well as Insightly, Wunderlist, and Zapier.
TimeCamp is free time tracking software although paid versions cost from $6/user/month.
10,000ft is known for their simple design and easy-to-use interface for project and resource management. This extends to time tracking, where one-click timesheets are pre-populated with scheduled hours to keep team members focused and help managers set clear expectations.
When logging in to 10,000ft, team members land on the Today View, where they see the current and upcoming assigned projects, phases, and tasks. Timesheets link to corresponding projects for easy access to more detailed information about timelines, deliverables, and budgets.
Team members see a side-by-side of planned hours vs. actual hours spent, so they can self-monitor and communicate overages. This comparison is also visible to managers who track project health to spot potential issues and course correct early on.
Project dashboards update in real time across the app so you have the most accurate information for budget status tracking, project accounting analytics, and company-wide reporting. Data accuracy is key for teams looking to create better project estimates, and 10,000ft delivers in this area.
10,000ft offers two integration options. Through popular third-party tool Zapier, access out-of-the-box interactions with thousands of other tools. For more custom integrations, use 10,000ft’s robust API to create specific workflows.
Considering the support level, feature set, team scalability, and ease-of-use, 10,000ft is very well priced against other top tools in the industry. Their pricing plans start at $15/user/month for smaller teams, and they offer a Pilot program, as well as customized Enterprise pricing for larger teams.
Companies who use 10,000ft range from 10-person shops, to 100-person teams within global brands, to 1,000+ person professional services firms. Some of the notable companies within their user base include Ogilvy, Accenture, Mercedes Benz, Twitter, AECOM, and SONY
Visit 10,000ft.com to learn more about their software and sign-up for a free trial
Timesheets.com is a fully-featured free time tracking software tool (with freemium upgrades), complete with hourly time clock, project time, mileage and expense tracking, time off / vacation and stacks of powerful HR functionality to support managing your team within the agency.
Timesheets.com is easy to use and they offer the option to skin the timesheets software so it can look pretty and match your agency brand.
Timesheets.com integrates fully with projects and tasks and they offer flexible entry options with tracking projects in real-time using timers feature, single project entries daily, or fill in their timesheet at the end of the week. Budgets are easily managed and reporting is simple with the ability to use live, up to the minute data to drill down to separate out specific employees, projects and dates.
Timesheets.com has some pretty powerful HR tools if you’re looking for a more complete HR time tracking software solution that does more than just track time and expenses. The HR functionality includes powerful time off management with the ability to review accrued balances for vacation, and request approval requests for vacation requests to management and review the agency’s time off in a single view on a calendar. The HR functionality also includes a suite of standardized employee documentation including employee training manuals, performance reviews, staff communication, employee files, and notes.
Timesheets.com has a QuickBooks integration and the data can easily be exported for other accounting software.
Timesheets has a freemium version that’s good for freelancers and single users, and paid versions cost from $4.5/user/month. The customer support is free and friendly, and it is in English and Spanish. They also don’t have setup, base, and cancellation fees, no credit card is required, nor making a long term contract.
Harvest is a very popular agency time tracking software tool used by thousands of agencies as their time tracking software solution. Its functionality covers everything from timesheets, invoicing, expenses, project budgeting, budget tracking, and reporting.
Harvest is popular because it’s easy to use and it’s been very well designed with a beautiful and intuitive interface that works across desktop and mobile. Harvest covers time tracking with clients, projects and task tracking which power some powerful reporting so you can easily analyze your data including billable and non-billable time for specific staff, tasks, clients, and projects.
Helpfully, for complete budget tracking solution, Harvest supports expense tracking, invoicing and timesheet approval; it’s a fully baked product covering the essential time tracking software tool functionality and stacks more. Harvest also has a sister product, Harvest Forecast, which has resourcing management features so you can schedule a team on projects, know who’s working on what and when and then easily compare estimates vs actuals and know exactly when a project hit its budget.
Harvest really excels at its integrations, offering more than 70+ integrations across project management with Jira, Asana, and Basecamp, accounting with Quickbooks, Xero and Stripe as well as many others across issue tracking, CRM, productivity, communication, contracts and proposals, developer tools, and analytics and reporting. If you’re using industry-standard tools, you’re very likely to be able to plug in the Harvest add-ons to track time across your project workflow.
Harvest offers a 30-day trial and is a free time tracking software tool, although paid versions cost from $12/user/month.
If you’re looking for a simple and free time tracking software, Toggl is a great place to start. It’s beautifully designed and incredibly easy to use. If you’re looking for a solution to get started today and to simply track time against different projects and clients, then Toggl is great.
Toggl allows you to create projects, tasks and track hours using your browser, Chrome extension, mobile or desktop apps. While it allows tracking of accruals, there’s no way to set budgets and track against them. If you want to track against an estimate or create an invoice, you’d need to use a 3rd party tool.
Toggl has some good functionality to support helping people do their time tracking properly with automated reminders to keep people on track, and you can create required fields for time entries, so ensure people always add comments or tags to their timesheet entries. You can also enable auditing tools where you can trigger alerts for suspicious-looking timesheet entries, like if someone claims to have worked 10 hrs straight on a single task!
Toggl has some good out the box, which make it one of the best free time tracking software options available with integrations for Jira, Asana, Basecamp, Freshbooks, GitHub, and Teamweek among many others. So even though it’s lacking in some of the budget trackings and invoicing functionality, you can easily tie it in with other tools that specialize in reporting and invoicing.
Toggl is a free time tracking software tool although paid versions cost from $9/user/month.
Other time tracking software tools worth considering:
None of the above work for you? Check out the list below for additional time tracking software tools:
What Do You Think?
What do you think we’re missing? What other time tracking software tools or timesheets software have you found that we don’t know about? We’d love to hear if you’ve got any suggestions, tips or thoughts on using this kind of software – why not share them using the comments below?