Inspired by one of our favorite designers Eliza Gilbert, and struggling to allocate the time to our blog, I decided to “theme” out certain days so that coming up with inspirational contributions wouldn’t be so daunting. And one thing I never have any trouble coming up with is my enthusiasm for free services I’ve found on the internet that have helped our small business be more productive. My hats are off to these companies that charge for premium services but offer limited accounts for us “little guys”. They are betting if we are successful we will stay loyal and eventually become paying customers. It is a popular business model and if they can keep up with changing technology they might have something here. In the meantime, while I might not be a paying customer, I pay in gush money.
Now timetracking may not be fun, but an interesting exercise our business consultant Dave Richeson put us through in 2008 proved to me that we had probably been losing on average $6000 a year – simply because we were losing a few minutes here or there on our manual record-keeping. Not recording this phone call, or that email, simply because it was too “inconsequential” to bother to write down. When you have several team members on a project and the project extends weeks or months it adds up. Over a decade of being in business ‘inconsequential’ meant a loss of $60,000. And it was not a loss we could take a tax deduction on!
Without delay we started time-tracking and not only are we more confident that we are billing more accurately, but we can also review each project when it is complete as a team. Using our time reports we can see if we truly made a profit (more often than night we bid on projects and the fee is fixed) by being efficient, and if we didn’t, we can see objectively where we spun our wheels in the mud. Ideally we can correct for it and not make the same mistakes in future projects.
Paymo’s TimeTracker is quite nifty. It has a free account that lets you have two people tracking time under the same projects and you can also try their tied in invoicing system (limited to 3 a month). We don’t use that as we keep a separate invoicing system, but because all our team works as contractors, the timetracking system is perfect for us. You can set up clients, projects, task lists and tasks. What
My favorite feature is the Widget “popout window” that lets you track and assign your time in real time. Editing your time is in the same window under another tab. Easy and convenient. You can also add time in bulk to a timesheet.
In the free account you can also add your logo and feel all official and cool. Additionally it has lots of pretty bars and graphs about how I’m spending my time, which I admit I utterly ignore. They ARE pretty eye candy but take a little flash load time when first logging on. Small inconvenience.
The only other thing I find even the slightest bit annoying is being forced to have a task list and one task under it – if you delete it then your project doesn’t show up on the menu. Sometimes a project is small and I just want to put time to the project. Seeing default task list and default task everywhere initially was a bit confusing. That said, sometimes we do need that level of detail so it is good to have it.
Overall this is a great service. We give it 4 out 5 wingflaps.
I hope this has been helpful. For us it is the perfect tracker and we know we can upgrade as we need to a paying account. But every business has different needs – if you have a free (or low cost) time tracking service you like, and that would be useful to our small business followers, please comment and let us know!
I have been an avid Firefox user for several years. And I wouldn’t have even looked at Chrome (despite being a Google girl) except it seems every update of Firefox brings new problems. After the last update I ended up having to remove all my extensions just to get it to work without crashing. And then, soon after, it developed some sort of ghost that seems to render download links useless. It started with Google – everything I tried to download had a bizarre name and .part extension, and then it seemed I couldn’t download any file from any site. After some research that yielded zero results, I have just struggled with the issue losing a lot of time and growing grayer by the day. Not pretty. Whenever I needed to download something I would open up Chrome and do it there. Heinous, I know – but I just wasn’t ready to give up my familiar FF toolbar.
They fixed the Bookmark Manager (for Macs)
Besides I had tried Chrome when I first installed it – I have a Mac and several months ago the book manager was non-existent. Tonight though, while downloading a PDF, I was fooling around, and wahlah – a bookmark manager! And a very nice intuitive one as well.
So I thought, why not – lets go check Google Chrome extensions - is there anything to replace Twitbin I wondered? And while I didn’t find an exactly perfect replacement (I like the sidebar feature rather than the popup) Chowerty turned out to be a usable option. Okay, not a bad start.
As I started to look for and add other needed extensions I was quite taken by how fast you could add extension without restarting. Literally – 3-5 seconds to add an extension and start using it. When I was adding FireFox extensions I remember it was hours of research. Some things worked, some didn’t. This time within 30 minutes I had found, installed and understood how to use every extension I needed. In short. User friendly to the max.
Bonus is nothing is buggy and everything seems compatible.
Here are some of my favorites:
Google GMail Checker Plus - Now this is awesome. Not just does it tell me how many are in my inbox unread, but I can manage my mail through the popup. I expect this to be quite a timesaver. Again, it is probably available for FF, but it is the ease at which I found it, installed it, and started using it that blew me away.
Google Docs – Like in Google Mail I can actually search and find docs in the popup window. In my FF toolbar it was just a link to my Docs home.
Chrome SEO - for designers and developers – or the business owner that is avid about their site’s competitiveness, this is quite the tool. Get stats on any page you are on – how many pages are indexed by search engines, backlinks and much more. QUITE NIFTY.
Incredible Start Page - very nice organization of the home page with a custom sticky note, easy management of favorite links and just a nice interface. Fast loading, too.
Note Anywhere – sticky note any page you are on for later review. Just about the coolest thing I’ve seen in awhile. Course maybe I don’t get out much…
Webpage Screenshot – gets a screenshot of the whole page – not just the viewable area.
Webdesigners, there is even more, so be sure to check out Geekers Magazine Top 10 Best Google Chrome Extensions for Web Designers, & Graphic Alerts 15 Must Haves – or just do a Google search and you’ll find plenty of folks chiming in on their favorites.
The Best For Last – It Works
Doing some research for this post I stumbled upon two sites that had some script that killed the page load. If it had been FF I would have watched the spinning wheel for 10 minutes until I finally gave up and rebooted my computer. On Chrome within a few seconds I got a happy nonresponsive warning and it actually let me push the button to kill the page! Happy camper am I.
It’s 3 AM. You know this because you are staring wide awake at the ceiling and have been counting each digital minute for the last 60. It’s the plight of many a small business owner to have insomnia and I am no exception. Finally, enough is enough. The night still young and it’s time to cause some mischief.
Knowing that it will wake your sleeping partner if you try to stumble around, untangle the cords, and unplug your laptop in the dark, instead furtively start it up, begin tapping furiously away -and wake them anyway. Ah, the morning is starting well. Banished to the other end of the house and warmed up, you are now in a better position to generate some real mayhem.
1. Log into your project management system (or equivalent) and take screenshots and detailed notes of every quirk, no matter how minor, that has been getting under your skin for the last few weeks. Note that ‘minor’ is the keyword here. Generate 10-12 new tasks for your development team to deal with these annoyances asap. Even better, don’t actually pass on the screenshots or details, rather just make vague ramblings about how frustrated you are and how they need to be fixed yesterday. You can imagine this will help get their day off to a great start!
2. Promote your own expertise and your business by finding relevant blog posts and providing pithy commentary. This is critical because everyone knows that you are at your most witty at (now) 4 am. You will shine! And nothing is more satisfying in the wee hours than doing a little damage you just can’t make right. If you haven’t killed enough time at this point, move on to Twitter.
3. Log onto your business’s Facebook fan page and make tiny little changes here and there. Nothing obvious – just small details, tweaks really -improvements- that ultimately will make your co-administrator, who exclusively manages the page, think they’ve gone lost their mind when they find them. Alternatively, post a blog about your work so your FB administrator will spend the next day trying to figure out exactly what the h$#%% you did do. It’s like an easter egg hunt and what better way to promote team spirit than a little challenge?
Now, don’t you feel productive? Much better than staying in bed and fruitlessly trying to sleep, wasn’t it?
If you are also up in the witching hours and stumble across this post – please feel free to follow the advice of #2, join the cause, comment and add your own techniques to this list. The next time a sleepless night passes I’ll do a little queenly arbitration. Maybe I’ll approve spam, maybe I’ll approve your comment. Baaaahhrrawwww.
We spend a lot of time trying out applications. Our goal is to let you know about the pick of the litter. And we’re picky. We like free, we like stable, we like ease of use (isn’t that the Site Ducky motto?) and above all it really has to improve your business efficiency. So enough explanation. On to this month’s favorite app! Mikogo
Still using IE6? You’re not alone – the struggle to get users to upgrade has been ongoing news in developer world – last month, depending on where you get your stats (we get ours from w3schools.com) 1 out of 10 people were still using IE6. But, it is a serious security risk and there’s no good reason not to upgrade. And before you say “I’m not using it”, you might want to check. Included is a review of a few browser choices to consider and if you still find yourself needing that drag of Microsoft…4 easy steps to upgrade IE6.