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How to Track & Bill Your Time
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Welcome to our Work at Home Newsletter. Here you will find helpful articles, tips and advise on working from home as a Virtual Assistant. Plus some work at home job leads too!
Starting Your Own Virtual Assistant Business
How to Track and Bill Your Time
By Cindy Coulter 

As a virtual assistant (VA) no longer punching a time clock or working 9-to-5 for a set salary, you must assume the role of business owner.  This involves monitoring the productivity of your staff (you).  Time is money, and the only way to make your time earn you money is by tracking your efforts to accurately bill for your services.
How Do I Gauge My Productivity and Profitability?

As an example, if you charge a fixed fee for your services, it is important to know how much time is spent on each client or project.  Do you spend 20 hours each week on a project that generates only $50 in monthly revenues?  Has a client requested significantly more of your time?  If your workload is disproportionate to your fees, it may be time to renegotiate your contract.
If you charge an hourly rate, you should have an idea of how much time each task takes in order to monitor your profitability.  If a recurring task is estimated at two hours but continually takes four, you may need to take another look at your fee schedule or find a way to perform this task more efficiently.
Expenses should be tracked along with your time.  Linking expenses to individual projects will provide documentation for invoicing as well as clear records for tax preparation.
What Information Should I Track?
Depending on your specific VA services, the method you use to track and bill your time may vary, but there is some general data that should be captured regardless of your system.  At a minimum, this information should include, but is not limited to:
*  Client name and billing address
*  Project or task description
*  Hourly or fixed rate amount
*  Estimated and actual time to complete project or task
*  Payment due date and confirmation of payment received
Where Do I Find a Time Tracking Application? offers a free trial download of a time tracking application (located in the Members Only, Cool Tools area), and there are many other applications available online. An internet search of "time tracking" will reveal thousands of results of both free and paid time tracking and billing packages. Take time to review several of these packages and determine if one is a fit for your services.
Useful features to look for in a time tracking application include:

*  A timer to provide an exact accounting of the time spent on a task
*  The ability to pause the timer for interruptions, i.e. phone calls
*  Automatic invoice creation
*  Reporting function to gauge productivity and profitability
*  Fields for notes and related expenses
Can I Track My Time On My Own?

For some virtual assistants, a simple Excel spreadsheet may be sufficient for time tracking and billing purposes.
Set up a file with a separate worksheet (tab) for each client, designate a column for each of the categories of information listed above, and update regularly. Create invoices as necessary.
How Do I Bill for My Time?

Based on the terms agreed to in the contract, invoices may be monthly or per-project, on letterhead or via email.  Just remember these key points when creating an invoice.
*  The word "Invoice" should appear at or near the top of the document (or subject line of email), to elicit prompt attention.

*  The body of the invoice should provide as much detail as necessary to clearly distinguish the project or task being billed.
*  Payment terms (as agreed to in your contract) typically appear at the bottom of an invoice, i.e., "due on receipt," "net 30 days," etc.
Set up a time tracking system and use it diligently.  It will result in a more productive workday and, ideally, a more profitable virtual assistant business.
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