I suddenly got a job as a contract worker. Previously I had been paid a salary. I was now my own boss and had to charge the client by the minute. What a change in mind set for me! Everything I do takes on a different meaning. Time is now money for me. I needed a method of recording my time and generating the bills to the clients. I found a nice small book at Staples. It measures 7in tall, 4in wide and has a sewn binding. It is called “dollar and cent memo book” and is Stapes item #182022. Each page has room for a page heading at the top. Then one narrow first or left column, wide second column and two narrow right column going close to the bottom but the bottom has a small white space which I do not use. Here is the way I set the book up:
Each page is a different day. The date is written at the top of the page. One page is for one day only. Some times I need more than one page if there is a long list of tasks that I perform. This book stays at home. I never take it with my to job sites.
- Column far left (hour rate).
- Wide second column: task description.
- Third narrow column is the hours I worked.
- Last and far right column is the minutes I worked.
I do not charge a fixed rate but tier my charges depending upon a number of factors. Here is my rate card (each amount is by the hour):
Client contact and meetings $40 (I love it when they jaw bone in meetings and I thus get paid more.)
- Phone calls $20
- E-mail $20
- Research $40
- Design $80
- Other non billable $0
- Repair $80
- Maintenance $80
- Travel portal to portal second call, same day. $20
- Generate purchase order $40
- Documentation, create or modify $20
- Strategic planning $50 (This category is used for small purchased items and my liaison individual at the business is ok with this).
- Other billable $30
This rate card listed above is very important when you use a computer billing program and your rate per hour differs by task.
I already had a digital watch and use the stopwatch function for timing my on the job work. I start charging the client when I step out of my vehicle. There is a very good reason for this. Some parking lots are long distances from the work site. I figure I should not be penalized for this and thus charge the client for the walking time. If I can not find a parking spot within a reasonable time, I start the watch anyway as I look for a parking location. If I have to get a parking pass I start charging from the time I step out of the car at the parking office and I do not stop the watch until I get back into my car after the job is completed. I charge all parking fees to the client including parking tickets. If I get called back a second time to the work site and I deem this due to poor planning on the clients end, why should I suffer for my time, wear and tear on my vehicle, and gas because some numb scull failed to plan properly. I charge portal to portal travel rate and I let the client know this before I get into my car.
I am a Mac computer person because I value my time and the Windows computers are dreadful and time wasters. The software I use to record my time and generate my bills to the client is called Office Time. It is simple to use and has features that simply make my task recording very easy. I have been using this software for months now and I can not think of any improvement, it is that close to perfection for me.
Some Office Time features:
Each task category allows you to bill at a different rate.
The program includes real time stop watch recording of your time or you can input the task later. You can pause, stop and restart the stopwatch if your working at your computer. If you do not use your computer for any reasonable length of time a splash screen pops up asking you if you want to continue the stopwatch timer or take time off. I have walked away from my computer to get a mug of tea and the computer program knows I had walked away because if failed to detect any mouse and key strokes.
On the top of my Mac screen is a number of program icons. One icon is for Office Time. I use Spaces a LOT and do research and phone calls using my laptop. I can be on another screen away from Office Time but its icon on the top of my computer screen can call up the stop watch.
The invoices are created in simple text format. The program does a pretty good job of itemizing all the tasks by date. I added a logo for my business into the billing document, quite easy to do.