Tips from the Experts on Freelance Time Tracking


    Why should you track your time as a freelancer? 

    Freelance medical writers and editors are often juggling multiple projects for multiple clients. Whether you are getting paid per project or per hour, tracking the time you spend on each client’s work is essential for making sure you and the client are meeting expectations. If you don’t track your time, you can’t bill for it.

    Time tracking allows you to understand how many hours you are logging on particular projects and to manage your time efficiently and effectively. Knowing how long it takes you to do something is a vital piece of information you need to capture. Not only does time tracking tell you how profitable a project was, it also gives you a history you can refer to and learn from when similar projects arise.

    Today’s time-tracking apps offer multiple levels of tracking, from basic to advanced, and they allow teams to collaborate and interact online. A number of the available online time-tracking apps would be suitable for medical communicators. We’ll summarize a few of the most popular and highest-rated ones, based on recent Forbes Advisor reviews and recommendations from veteran medical communicators. 

    Forbes Advisor Recommendations

    The Forbes Advisor list of “Best Time Tracking Software of 2024”  is geared toward small businesses, and not necessarily freelancers. However, they have a rigorous process for creating their reviews, which may be useful for freelancers comparing various features of time-tracking apps. Here are a few of their findings.

    • Clockify ranked as the best overall time-tracking software of 2024. It produces summaries, has an off-line feature, and allows filtering by clients, projects, tasks completed, and project status. Clockify offers a free trial, a “forever free” version, and paid plans starting at $3.99 per month.

    •  Forbes Advisor ranked QuickBooks Time as the best solution for mobile workers. It’s a cloud-based tracking system that helps track productivity and schedules. It is a subscription service with various tiers, ranging between $9 and $200 a month.

    • TimeCamp was ranked as “best for freelancers and contractors.” This cloud-based app lets you track time on your desktop, Android, or iOS device. It also monitors the apps you use and the websites you visit. The reviewers say TimeCamp “can help you identify and resolve any habits that take away from productivity and accurately measure your profitability.” Some drawbacks, according to Forbes, are that there is no invoicing on the Free and Basic plans, no phone support, and no integrations on the Free plan.

    Tips for Tracking Time from Veteran Medical Communicators

    Brian Bass is surprised that there are freelancers out there who don’t have a system for tracking their time. “I charge by the project rather than by the hour because there’s a finite amount of money clients will pay per hour,” says Bass. “But time is still money. I track my time on projects so I have a frame of reference for future estimating and to see what I actually earn per hour.” He uses the time sheet function in QuickBooks. He has QuickBooks open already, and since all the financial records pertaining to a given project are already in QuickBooks, with a click he can see just how much time he spent and what he earned.

    Lori De Milto recommends keeping track of how you spend your time—per client, per project, and on administration. “You can use time tracking or project management software to do this or do it the old fashioned way,” says De Milto. “Time tracking or project management software is more efficient but manual tracking works too. I still use a small notebook where I record the time I spend on each client each day. At the end of the day, I transfer this into a log. Mine is a paper log in a 3-ring binder, but you can also do this electronically. I have one page for each week, with rows for each day and at the bottom, the weekly total. I have columns for total hours, total billable hours, hours by client (with room to track for multiple clients), and administration.” 

    De Milto’s time-tested, technology-free method of time tracking isn’t for everyone. However, it allows you to see how you are spending your time, helps you manage and track client work, and hold yourself accountable.

    Other Apps to Consider

    Here are some other time-tracking programs to check out. Most of these companies offer free trials, so you can shop around and decide what works best for you.


    Toggl is a popular time-tracking software used by some heavy hitters such as Amazon, Uber, General Electric, and LinkedIn. Forbes Advisor named Toggl Track the “best free plan” in its “Best Time Tracking Software of 2024.


    TraxTime is a Microsoft Windows product that offers a free trial. It is a no-frills product that allows you to track the time you spend on each client’s project. The company offers a Standard edition for $39 and a fancier Manager’s edition for more. Users are giving it mixed reviews; one reviewer calls it an “effective albeit dated app that is not cross platform.”


    FreshBooks is user-friendly accounting software that also includes time-tracking features.  It has dashboards for you to keep track of each client’s work. It is a subscription-based product, starting at $17 a month, and of course, there is a free trial offer. It integrates with many other apps, such as HubSpot Marketing Hub, Constant Contact, Toggl Track, PayPal, and more.


    Harvest is another heavy hitter in the time-tracking market. Volkswagen, Conde Nast, Dell, and the ACLU all use Harvest to manage their projects and teams. You can use it on its own or import from a project management tool. It allows you to track time and get automatic reports. Harvest also makes it easy to generate invoices based on time tracked.


    Paymo is geared toward small and medium-sized businesses that handle multiple client projects. You can track your time, monitor finances, and measure profitability all on a single platform. The free version offers unlimited time tracking for 5 clients and 10 projects. Paid versions start at $5.99 a month.

    AMWA acknowledges the contributions of Cyndy Kryder, MS, MWC, for peer review in the development of this AMWA resource.


    January 29, 2024 at 9:00 AM

    American Medical Writers Association

    AMWA is the leading resource for medical communicators. The AMWA Blog is developed in partnership with community members who work every day to create clear communications that lead to better health and well-being.