Consultant Timesheet Reporting: 5 Essential Tips for Success
Whether they’re improving business processes or giving advice on IT systems, the vast bulk of consultants are usually paid by the hour. Even if you work on fixed fee projects, spending your time in the right way is paramount. That makes tracking and reporting time an important and inevitable part of many a consultant’s workflow.
With a rise in demand for top consultants, accurate billing and timesheet reporting are essential for securing continued work with cost-conscious corporate clients.
In this guide, we’ll take you through some of the essential elements of successful time tracking and consultant timesheet reporting, to help you maximize your profits and skyrocket your efficiency:
1. Understand Your Client’s Invoicing Policies
Many medium to large sized companies are used to working with consultants and freelancers on a regular basis. That means most of them will have billing guidelines either in the contract, or in certain cases, as part of an induction pack or even within the NDA paperwork.
In these billing guidelines, you’ll quickly be able to ascertain exactly what you can and can’t charge for, as well as the types of expenses you’re able to claim back, and any company resources you’re able to utilize.
If you don’t carefully scrutinizing these billing guidelines, you may get a nasty shock come invoicing time, when you realize a large chunk of your fastidious consultant timesheet reporting isn’t actually billable.
Even on fixed fee projects you also need to know how time is spent, so that you can see if a project makes financial sense for you.
2. Be Completely Transparent
Try to be authentic and open when doing your consultant timesheet reporting, and help the client to understand exactly what you’ve been up to and how long it took.
Don’t group lots of disparate tasks together into a single entry, not only is this not correct, it will quickly be spotted by business professionals. Grouping minor and often pointless tasks together to create more billable hours not only makes you look inefficient, it’s also deceptive.
Keep everything accurate and transparent in your time reporting, and over time, you’ll increase efficiency and land higher-paying clients.
3. Always Invoice Fairly
Even if your client hasn’t included billing guidelines in the contract, it’s extremely important to understand billable and non-billable hours. Always check back through your time tracking software and ensure that you haven’t been billing for activities that should have been taken care of in your own time.
Likewise with expenses: It’s completely acceptable to bill clients for travel costs and other items, but there’s a fine line between fair billing and penny pinching!
4. Get a Decent Consultant Timesheet Reporting Tool
If the extent of your time reporting is a pen and notepad, it’s time to up your game!
There are literally dozens of apps and cloud-based software solutions to manage your timesheet reporting and billable hours, but it’s always best to start with a tool that’s easy to use and integrates well into your current workflow.
On that theme, probably the easiest consultant timesheet reporting solution to get you started is an “Add-In” style integration for Microsoft Outlook. These kinds of software integrations expand the ubiquitous Outlook calendar with extra features that allow you to log time, expenses and billable hourly rates right into your main calendar entries when you’re planning your day. There’s no challenging IT to implement, and all of your devices will sync effortlessly.
Once you’re used to the software, time tracking will become something that you rarely ever think about, but come billing time, you’ll have an extremely accurate and efficient tool at your disposal.
5. Analyze Your Results
After you’ve been entering detailed time, cost and expenses data into your Outlook calendar time tracking solution for a longer period of time, you’ll be able to export the results into powerful data sets, including spreadsheets and graphs. That information can be vital to analyze and improve your workflows and time management.
Many less experienced consultants fall into the trap of presuming that an 8hour working day is equivalent to eight hours of billable time. A cursory look through the data will often show that non-billable activities and poorly managed time are massively cutting into the working day and leaving money on the table.
For consultants that charge both by the hour or on a per-project basis, accurate timesheet reporting is vital for ongoing success and healthy profits. With a simple Add-In for Microsoft Outlook, it’s easier than ever to log, track and analyze your time and keep your clients happy, and your bank balance healthy!