To Track Time or Not?

To Track Time or Not?

Virtual Assistants need to have an effective and accurate time tracking system in place. It’s easy, but it can get out of control if you let it.

‘Losing time’ can not only set your schedule behind, lead to disorganization and late night catch-up, but it can also impact your revenue if you forget to bill for work done.

Here are a few answers to those questions you have about time tracking:

Why should I track my time?

First of all, because you need to know how you are spending your day. How much of your time is being spent on billable work? Non billable work? Wasted time? Things you dislike doing?

If you write it all down, it will be easier to assess where you can make adjustments to make your business more profitable .. and more fun too!

Also, as you start to get busier, the day can disappear right before your eyes. You want to be sure you are not losing out on billable time simply because you didn’t write it down.

When should I track my time?clock

Every day, every minute.

There are resources (see a few below) that can help you do this by using stopwatch to stop and start a timeclock, or you can do it the old fashioned way by writing it down.

I use a spiral notebook and record every task I do every day (even breaks, lunch, and my own business stuff). By using a spiral notebook, I have a record for every day. I transfer my written notes into my time tracking program for billing.

How should I record tasks?

In whatever way makes the most sense to you … whatever is easiest for you.

If you choose a complicated system or one that confuses you, you will run into trouble more than once.

My system is simple … I write my clients’ initials at the beginning of each line, and I record the task item I took care of for them beside it. I indicate the time I worked during the day. I record one task per line in my book for easy reference, and for easy transition to my time tracking program.

In my time tracking program, I have each client set up with their rate and I also have individual tasks set up for all of the things I do. I enter each client’s name and their task and the length of time I worked on it.

At the end of the month, I run my reports and can provide the detail if the client wants it.

I charge my clients on retainer (or by project rate) – I don’t need to track my time, do I?

Of course you do! What if your client goes over your budgeted time… or is way under? Even if you are working with someone on a project rate, it’s important to keep track of the hours you are putting in.

When you decide to revisit your rate package (which you should do often!) you will have an exact measure of how long projects are taking you to do.

If you are working with someone on retainer, it’s good to be able to keep a detailed list of what you worked on for them at the end of their retainer term.

Recording your time is helpful in both of these situations.

Any of these questions are easily answered just by developing a great system to keep track of how you are spending your time.

There are all kinds of resources out there (some free, some paid) that can help you manage this part of your business.

Myhours.com has a free level … it’s what I have used for years. Paymo.biz and Toggl.com are very reasonable and popular with VAs.

Freshbooks.com is a paid solution but also allows you to invoice your clients and track expenses. I use it in my business!

There are many other services and systems that you can use to track your time (just Google ‘time tracking software’ and you’ll see!). No matter which system you decide to go with, be sure that it works for you, and above all … use it! Your business, your client and your bank account will thank you!

If you need help to get your procedures in place, ask your colleagues what works best for them, or consider getting some help with yours.

And of course check out Your VA Mentor's free Time Tracking training session here!

Common Questions About Setting Rates

Are you having trouble setting the rates for your VA services? It can be one of the most challenging decisions you have to make. In fact, many aspiring VAs struggle with this decision on an ongoing basis. Let’s take a look at some of the more common rate setting questions. The answers may help you finalize your decision.

What’s the Going Rate for the Task?

Before you can begin setting your own rates, you might want to look at what others are charging. This is by no means the only determining factor. As you’ll see there are other considerations that are more important. However, knowing what your competition is charging is useful information. With a little research, you’ll be able to better position your business and your services.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

A better question may be how much do you want to make per hour? This is a fantastic starting point. You can then take a look at how long it takes you to complete a task and set a rate. For example, your goal might be to make fifty dollars an hour. If it takes you two hours to transcribe an hour audio file then you know to charge a $1.60 per audio minute.

How Are You Going To Charge?

You essentially have two choices. You can charge by the project or by the hour. Charging by the hour ensures you don’t accidentally underestimate the project. Sometimes it takes longer to complete a task than you might have intended.

However, when you charge by the hour most clients will want an estimate. They’ll want to know how long the project will take. You can quote a range. For example, tell them it’ll take two to four hours. If it looks like it’s going to go over, make sure they’re okay with it before you proceed.

To set an hourly rate, take a look both at your experience and your specialization. You can charge a higher hourly rate if you’re offering a specialty service. You can also charge a higher hourly rate if you’re experienced or skilled with the service you’re providing.

Your Rates Aren’t Set In Stone.

Note, you can also charge differently based on the task you’re managing. For example, if you’re setting up a Facebook Fan Page for a client then charge by the project. If you’re managing social networking then charge by the hour.

You can also change your rates as your needs change. If you want to gain a lot of clients quickly then set your rates a little below market rate. You can then raise them in six months to a year.

To position your business as an exclusive provider, you might set your rates above market value. Take a look at your goals. Evaluate your niche. And consider the type of clients you want to work with. Consider your business vision. Then you can begin to set the rates for your services.

Software for Professional Billing

As a business owner, you will need to send invoices to your clients in order to get paid. Sending a professional-looking invoice not only creates a good image for your business, but it also helps you get paid on time.

Clients will treat you in a more professional manner if you treat your business professionally. Also, as a business owner it is imperative that you are able to manage invoicing and billing in an organized manner to keep your business running smoothly.

One way to manage invoicing is to use invoicing software. Today there are a variety of different invoicing software options available that you can use to manage your invoicing in a professional, organized way. There are both free and paid options around. Here are a few that you can consider.

FreshBooks

This is cloud-based professional invoicing software that allows you to send professional-looking invoices no matter how your client likes them - by email, in the mail, or even directly to their Freshbooks account. It also allows you to track time and manage expenses on each project so that you can track profitability of everything that you do. FreshBooks syncs with a variety of other systems such as Outright.org, Basecamp.com and Zendesk.com to help you manage your entire business.

QuickBooks

Available both as cloud-based software and as local software on your computer, QuickBooks offers advanced invoicing options. If you often send estimates first to your clients, you can convert your estimated invoice to a regular invoice automatically. You can also schedule automatic invoices to be created and sent to clients on a particular date. You simply keep track of all the work you do for that client and the system will grab it and make the invoice for you.

Wave

This is a free unlimited invoicing software that allows you to create professional-looking invoices. You can customize your invoices by altering the template with your own logo and colors. You can even add a pay now button to your email invoices that allows your customers who use credit cards to pay your invoice automatically. This free software is also totally mobile ready and completely in the cloud. Here is a great review of Wave App by Cloudwards: https://www.cloudwards.net/wave-accounting-review/ 

PayPal Invoicing

Many people don't realize it, but you can also use PayPal's free invoicing tool to send professional invoices via email to all your clients. If you have a business account, you simply go to "Request Money" then choose Create an Invoice. You can save invoices and client information so that each time you create them you don't have to re-enter all their information. You can't customize them as much as the other offerings but you can add your logo to them. They are free and a lot of people like them.

No matter which software you choose to use, you'll be sure to look more professional if you use a professional program for invoicing. Not only that, you'll be more organized because you'll know who owes you and who has paid you at a glance.

References:

FreshBooks
http://www.freshbooks.com/

QuickBooks
http://quickbooks.intuit.com/invoicing/

Wave
https://www.waveapps.com/invoicing/

PayPal Invoicing
https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/invoicing-bensteps

Elements of Financial Planning

by Sharon Alderson, CFP, FDS

Your chances of success are heightened by clearly defined objectives and a strategy for reaching your goals. So to get the most for your money, you need a plan. But how should you go about formulating an investment plan?  The following steps will get you started

Establish goals: Consider why you want to build investment wealth.  Is it to accumulate money for retirement, to buy a house, to start a business, or for some other purpose? Determine how much money you need to realize those goals. Above all, make sure your expectations are realistic and specific.

Decide how much risk you can take: In the investment world, as a general rule, the higher the risk, the higher the potential return.  If you can tolerate risk, you could potentially experience greater investment growth – but you also increase your chances of fluctuations in the value of your investment.  Consider whether you have the psychological makeup to tolerate ups and downs in the financial markets.  If market movements are going to keep you up at night, that much risk is not a good thing for you and comfort is a very important aspect of any investment plan.

You also need to consider your age: You don’t want to take extra risk with money as you approach retirement.  At this time you should consider concentrating on capital preservation through more conservative investment strategies. Fixed income investments such as Government and Corporate Bonds, or Real Estate and mortgage funds fluctuate less than equities, and Guaranteed Investment Certificates and Segregated Funds offer a guarantee, but remember no or low risk equals lower returns. You should always maintain some equities investments to provide protection against inflation.

Establish your portfolio: Mutual funds are an excellent way to diversify among the three basic asset classes – cash, fixed income and equity.  As a rule, your portfolio should have a high proportion of equity investments to build wealth while you’re young; as it has been proven volatility is reduced over the long term.  No matter what your age or investment experience, make diversification, geographically as well as over the asset classes, a part of your investment plans.

Regularly review your plan: Once your strategy is in place, your plan should be  reviewed at least once a year, or more often as required by significant developments in financial  Once your strategy is in place, your plan should be  reviewed at least once a year, or more often as required by significant developments in financial markets or major lifestyle changes.  A good financial plan allows for the unexpected by utilizing an emergency fund and protecting your income and assets.  Making adjustments and re-balancing your portfolio back to its original asset allocation will greatly improve returns while keeping within your comfort level.

“Most Plans Fail Because Most People Fail to Plan”

Sharon Alderson CFP, FDS Investors Group Visit Sharon’s Blog at: http://sharonalderson.terapad.com