On The Job: Time Tracking and Invoicing Made Easy

Dear freelancer, listen up – this is important: You need to track your time and expenses. Nowhere is the axiom “time is money” more obviously true than in the life of a freelancer. If you don’t pay enough attention, you will find money dribbling away – in unbilled hours you spend on projects, and in the extras that you could be claiming (travel and other expenses). That’s where time-tracking software becomes useful.

I freelanced for a very long time before I ever used such an application, and my experience is that having one makes life a whole lot easier: I know where I’m spending my time; I’ve calculated hourly rates that work for me, so I know which projects are worth continuing with, and which I should set aside; and I’m easily able to generate good looking, professional invoices.

There are many different applications available for Mac users, as well as some great online options. I tried a few, before settling on Marketcircle’s Billings 3, which has been my time tracking app of choice for most of the past two years. Stunt Software released On The Job 3.0 a little over a year ago, and although it’s been mentioned a few times on Mac.AppStorm, we’ve never given it a proper review. So, with no further ado, join me after the jump, and I’ll tell you why I’m switching.

Subtle, Simple Interface

On The Job’s main window is elegantly designed, its colours well-considered and easy on the eye. It’s basically a two-pane layout, with a list of your clients down the left hand side, including an indented list of jobs and invoices for each. The right hand panel changes depending on what’s selected on the left, showing either the overall details of a client or of a specific job, or a preview of the selected invoice.

The Main Interface

The Main Interface

The other aspect of the interface is a timer control in your menu bar. Click on the symbol and it drops down a menu that lets you start and stop the timer, or swap from one job to another.

The Menu Bar

The Menu Bar

When the timer’s running, you can choose from two different animations for its controller button at top-left of the main window: either a subtle pulsing or a spinning wheel of colour.

The Spinning Timer

The Spinning Timer

Day-To-Day Usage

Adding a new client is easy: just click on the ‘+’ at bottom-left, select ‘New Client’ and enter the client name in the text box that’s added to the left panel. You can then enter details for address, pay and mileage rates, specify how invoices will appear and what details they will include. If your new client is already in your Address Book, you can simply click on the address card icon at the far-right of the client name, and a panel slides down to let you search and select from your contacts.

Entering Client Details

Entering Client Details

Once your client’s details are added, you can add new jobs with that same ‘+’ icon:

Adding a Job/Folder

Adding a Job/Folder

When you’ve added a job, clicking on it brings up a new entry panel at the bottom of the window, making it easy for you to input details of this particular job, including a description, notes, or a custom hourly rate.

Entering Job Details

Entering Job Details

Every time you start the timer for a job, a new session is added. You can see details of all the timed sessions by clicking either on the ‘i’ at the start of the selected job’s title, or on the ‘Timing Sessions’ button.

Timing Sessions

Timing Sessions

You can also use the ‘Quick Add’ button to add a timing session manually – say you have a client meeting without your Mac, so the timer’s not running: just use this when you get back to your desk to add the time to the job.

That’s really all you need to know to get going with On The Job, and to start saving money by keeping a more accurate record of where you’re spending your time… But there’s more to this app.

Handling Invoices

When it comes to getting paid, it’s really easy to produce professional invoices with On The Job. Just use the ‘+’ button again and select ‘Create New Invoice’. A panel slides down to let you select details of your new invoice.

Creating an Invoice

Creating an Invoice

When you’re sure the right elements are included, click on ‘OK’, and you’ll be taken to On The Job’s invoice editor:

Editing an Invoice

Editing an Invoice

Working with the Template Editor, it’s simple to either modify one of the existing templates to meet your needs or your tastes, or to design your own template by setting a background image or PDF layout.

Templates

Templates

Making changes to a template is as simple as dragging items you want added from the list on the left into position on the page, or deleting from the page anything that you want removed.

Once you’re done editing your invoice, you can choose to send it directly to Mail (where it will be added as a PDF to a blank message), to save it to your machine as a PDF, or to print it out immediately.

Other Clever Touches

One thing that really bothered me about Billings was that it doesn’t support multiple currencies. The app takes its currency setting from your Mac’s System Preferences (the ‘Currency’ setting, under ‘Formats’ in the ‘Language & Text’ preference pane). So whenever I’ve needed to bill a client in a different currency, I’ve had to temporarily change this setting so that I could create the invoice, and then remember to change it back again. That’s a drag. With On The Job it’s much simpler: you just set up the currency in the client profile, and you can have as many different currencies as you have clients – that’s much better in a real world situation where a freelancer might do business with clients all over the globe.

I appreciate that On The Job gets out of the way very quickly. That menu bar item actually allows you to do quite a lot, so you can close the main window and just get on with whatever it is you need to do, knowing that when you change projects you can pause the timer session on the job you’ve been working on and switch to another without needing to open the app’s main window. That works well when you just want to be getting on with things with as little distraction as possible.

Generating invoices is very straightforward and flexible, and it’s easy to edit the available templates and come up with something that works very well for you. By contrast, I’ve found Billings’s invoicing more difficult to work with.

The Missing Piece

But there’s one thing missing for me: an iPhone app. Billings didn’t have one until quite recently (and I’ve not tried that yet, because it’s on the pricey end of iPhone apps). There’s been some talk on Stunt Software’s Get Satisfaction board about whether there’s going to be an iPhone app, but the discussion still looks pretty inconclusive.

If you’re on the road a lot, this might prove to be a very important consideration, leading you to think more seriously about Billings or one of the online time-tracking options, such as Harvest. But if you’re after an application to use only on the Mac desktop, then On The Job is a very good option, and well worth a try.


Summary

A professional time tracking and expenses tool, On The Job looks good, feels natural to use, and has a powerful invoicing system with full support for multiple currencies.

8
  • Maia Henderson

    I use and love TimeNet (http://www.applesource.biz). This looks good but I don’t think I’ll switch.

  • Simon Darby

    I have this software and found it excellent in many areas. One thing missing was reporting. The export of data is pretty basic and it’s a bit of work to format it into something like a report (I liek to know details on who’s paid, when and what’s due). After about a year I switched to GrandTotal, which has the reporting I needed. That said, On The Job is a nice app and easy to use. I even created my own icons to replace the silhouette client image. If they add reporting similar to GrandTotal, then it’ll be an even better app.

    • MAXp0wr

      I too use GrandTotal and love it.
      It has many more features than this app, not just reporting.

      The developer is also very quick to respond to any feedback. I found a bug with a feature in the Beta version that was relative to my country, he updated the app the same day.

      I would recommend it to anyone.

  • Mathijs

    How about small companies with 2/3 people working on projects? Will On the job be a nice fit for them as well? Lot’s of the time tracking apps I’m reading reviews about are not stating anything about multiple users.

    • Montana Flynn

      That is my thought as well, I used Billings when I was a solo freelancer, but looking for project management / invoicing for a growing team has been a challenge.

      We have been using Basecamp but it has a lot of downfalls, now we are looking at ActiveCollab.

      • Rod Vaughn

        You might want to consider OfficeTime (http://www.officetime.net/) for your multiple person office. The interface could use some improvements, but it is both Windows and Mac compatible, so I guess there are some limitations as to how elegant the interface can be. But it is designed to be able to be used in a multi-person office. I also have Billings, including the iPhone app, I thought it might replace OfficeTime, but found it more difficult to use and pretty much a one man shop application.

  • tom

    I’ve been using Freshbooks for a year now and love it. A number of times I have been with a customer and before I left generated a invoice from my iPhone and then emailed it before I left which allowed me to get paid then and there.

  • Marc

    Hmm, looks nice!

    Few questions though:
    - It seems not too much upgrading has happened last year
    - Does this application support mileage tracking?
    - Would be neat to have this stuff online!

    Right now I’m using http://www.freeagentcentral.com but sure, I will take a closer look at this application! ;)

    • Marc

      And:

      - What about tracking of expenses?

      @Maia
      TimeNet looks nice too! ;)

  • http://www.Bill4Time.com Bill4Time

    Hey everybody! Reading everyone’s comments, it looks like you guys would be interested in http://www.Bill4TIme.com. It does everything that was mentioned in the article and more. For example, there’s a Bill4Time Mobile iPhone app for free.
    @Simon – it does reporting
    @Mathijs – it can handle multiple users, clients, projects, and time/expense entries
    @Marc – there are regular system updates (all free) & you can access your account online
    @Maia – it tracks expenses too
    I encourage everyone to take a look and see for yourself. For what it’s worth, you can try it for free for 30 days.

    Just wanted to throw that out there for ya.

    • Marc

      Hmm,
      not convinced:

      - http://bit.ly/d7jvKd

      • http://www.Bill4Time.com Bill4Time

        Hey Marc,

        Thanks for looking us up. :)

        That article was written by someone who did look at our system & I give him kudos for taking a thorough look at it. However, that article was written in 2008.

        We’ve launched our newest version in Nov 2009. We’ve done a lot of system updates and added features. Some of them are actually what Travis King asked for: iCal synchronization and a cleaner layout. We’ve also beefed up our KnowledgeBase to make it easier for users to learn about how to maximize Bill4Time to their needs.

        I invite you to take a look inside the Bill4Time system and tell me what you think. It’s free and we don’t ask for your CC number to register.

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  • http://toastr.co.nz Jacob

    Recently I’ve been looking at time tracking/invoicing apps for any freelance work I do on the side, and while I really like On The Job, Billings seems to have more feature and tools which I would find useful. And knowing there’s an iPhone version is handy too (not that my work involves leaving the desk).

    It’s a shame because Stunt Software seem like such cool guys.

  • Terence

    I currently use Quickbooks on Windows. I have been considering to a time tracking mac based program, since I am terrible at keeping up with my time sheet. Mult-user support is critical to me for future business expansion, as well as expense tracking, item tracking, invoicing T&M, as well as percent of contract complete, reporting, and last but not least, multiple company accounts (I manage several partnerships). Most of the programs I have read reviews of, while nice programs, seem to be pretty basic.

  • http://blog.sugarenia.com Sugarenia

    I love Billings – it’s one of those apps that’s always running in the background at any given workday.

    The only thing I miss in Billings is that “sessions” functionality that On The Job has. It’d be totally awesome if Billings had a way to show different working sessions in the day, how much they lasted and relevant stats.

  • http://www.paymo.biz Time Tracking

    You should also check out Paymo Time Tracking & Invoicing if you would like to use a similar service but you don’t want to be stuck using a desktop app.

  • Timmeh_

    Looks really nice! But are the any profits according to http://www.subernova.com/ ?

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  • Simon Darby

    @Mathijs: Before switching to On The Job (and then GrandTotal) I used Studiometry with multiple users – Works very well, but you do need a network to run it for multi-users (works for single users too).

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  • Tora

    If you are looking for something simple and free check: http://www.e-tim.org

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  • http://www.timedoctor.com/1 ladyrizel

    For managing people working from home and also for tracking time http://www.timedoctor.com/1 is a really good application as it gives you one email every day with all your team and what they have done, plus a list of tasks they are working on.

  • http://bit.ly/bJwmma quicksilver

    To keep track of your hours worked and at the same time manage a remote team for recording hours worked http://bit.ly/bJwmma is a easy to use software. It will give you an update on your teams daily accomplishments and what each of your team members will be targeting next to accomplish.

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  • http://www.martinvaresio.com.ar Martin Varesio

    It will give you an update on your teams daily accomplishments and what each of your team members will be targeting next to accomplish.

  • http://www.hungamatime.com Online TV Channels

    Different companies policy required different changes in the environments

  • http://www.pakistan-eshop.com/ Gift to Pakistan

    Before switching to On The Job (and then GrandTotal) I used Studiometry with multiple users – Works very well,

  • mary

    how can i get the different timing sessions to appear on my invoice? otherwise it seems i have to enter a new job for every session? thanks : )

  • http://www.replicon.com/time-clock Time Clock

    Both time tracking and invoicing are a gift to working professionals. Some feel time sheets are boring, but ultimately it speaks of ones performance. Time Tracking along with project tracking makes the complete employee time clock and project management tasks easier.

  • José Reino

    No iPhone app is a serious shortcoming for me. And as mentioned in the article their costumers have been asking for it for 3 years at least. What a wasted opportunity. It also means that despite liking the application I shouldn’t have much hope of them actually doing anything about it. I am sure they are people that doesn’t need the mobile companion, as for me, sadly I have to keep looking. Pity!

  • Jeff

    All of these apps seem to focus on invoicing. However, in many instances, clients I deal with require submission of electronic bills into whatever system they use. So really, I need something that has a pretty simple set of features. I’ve just not found them in mac software:

    1. Easy to set up a project (file number, client, at a minimum)
    2. Track the time with time entry descriptions
    3. Export or click to get a report to see what I’ve done over some period of time so I (or someone) can enter it into a billing system.
    4. Mark the entry as ‘billed’ so it doesn’t get double entered.

    Seems easy enough until you start looking around.

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