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How to choose the right digital agency time tracking software

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Updated on:
March 10, 2024
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Regardless of the industry you work in, your agency has to manage multiple streams of tasks, data, and communication. Managing all this manually is virtually impossible, even with a team of dedicated administrators. Plus, you ideally want your best employees working with clients and growing your business — not stuck handling spreadsheets and paperwork. That’s where digital agency time tracking software comes in.

Time tracking and scheduling solutions help agencies take back control of their day-to-day routines. These tools streamline processes and keep everyone connected. However, you need to know that you’re investing in the right software for your firm. As an agency grows, one of the biggest challenges it can face is scaling up the tools it needs for managing an expanding client base. To address this challenge, you want to immediately invest in software that scales with you and supports your growing needs.

This article covers everything you need to know about digital agency time tracking software and how it can elevate your company’s operations.

The importance of time tracking for digital agencies

All agencies require structure and routine to do their best work. Without a clear project timeline, regular catchups, and the ability to collaborate effectively, projects will inevitably fail. Conversely, when your goals have clear deadlines and everyone knows the best time to contact their team members, agencies thrive.

For digital agencies, time management is particularly important. Digital agencies manage the many channels associated with modern marketing, advertising, and branding. They need to understand when the best time is to post blogs, social media content, videos, and web-based offers. Digital marketers also need to potentially consider time zones around the world if they support international clients or those who want to expand their reach.

With those factors in mind, a digital agency may have thousands of alerts pinging every day to remind them to do tasks. Some software platforms can help by automating posts and emails. However, without time-tracking solutions, it’s impossible to gain a holistic yet detailed overview of what’s happening across your organization. The right software should allow you to allocate tasks to the right people and track them to completion. Bonsai, for example, shows clear lists of “to-dos” and their relation to the project timeline.

A screenshot of a computerDescription automatically generated

Gone are the days of manual punch cards or painstakingly maintained timekeeping spreadsheets. Today’s time tracking solutions combine scheduling, task management, and communication to provide all-in-one solutions for growing digital agencies.

What is digital agency time tracking software?

Sourcing the right digital agency time tracking software means understanding what you should expect from it. Unlike the aforementioned old-fashioned punch card-style system, time-tracking tools do more than simply tell you when your team members are tardy. Effective solutions track exactly how much time team members are spending on a project and on each aspect of that project. You can break everything down into its components and manage each accordingly.

Using this data, you can assess whether the project has been profitable or not. From here, it’s simple to make decisions like whether you want to work with a particular client again or if you should increase your prices.

For example, your creative agency might spend a month working on a new branding pack for a customer. Your time tracking software can break that down and show who was engaged in the project and allow you to allocate costs and expenses accordingly. If you decide that certain aspects of the branding package took too long and cost too much versus what you got paid, you can either adjust your pricing or the services you offer.

The best time-tracking solutions will allow you to understand what your team members are doing and when to create an overview of the project timeline. You should also be able to drill down into individual tasks for more granular data.

As well as assessing profitability, time tracking software helps you understand the productivity of your agency. Managers can quickly see how many projects were completed or clients your agency served over a particular period. Use this data to generate reports, understand business growth, and impress stakeholders like potential investors.

Benefits of effective digital agency time tracking software

We’ve just touched on a few of the key reasons digital agencies need meaningful time management solutions. But what are the real benefits in terms of business growth? Many businesses use around 130 apps and software-based tools for daily operations. Without clear cost benefits, it’s difficult to justify the purchase of yet another tool for your finance team. However, here are just a few things digital agency time tracking software can do for your agency.

Increase productivity

Monitoring the actions of your team members helps improve productivity across your entire organization. This isn’t because you can penalize them when they’re late or take too long on a task. It’s because you can quickly recognize which tasks are posing challenges to your team and put solutions in place. You can spot when an employee is struggling and query how you can help. This may lead to you adjusting team sizes, creating a mentoring scheme, or even moving people around within the agency structure.

Improve collaboration

Understanding challenges in your teams is one aspect of time tracking software that improves collaboration. When employees can see how long things take and know to seek assistance from colleagues, this opens up dialogue. However, this isn’t the only way these tools get people working together more effectively.

Bonsai's scheduling tool, an important aspect of digital agency time tracking software.

Time tracking tools may also include scheduling software like Bonsai’s scheduling tool, shown above. Some variants of this allow users to see where their colleagues are and may even show clients when they can book meetings. When everyone can see available times on schedules and arrange their meetings and catchups effortlessly, conversations happen faster and have more impact.

Destroy data silos

When everyone is working together effectively, it becomes easier to get the data you need from anywhere in your agency. Sales and marketing teams work together instead of hoarding information that could help each other out. With the right digital agency tracking software, HR can set up meetings with team managers as easily as freelancers can log their hours. Information is readily available, empowering everyone to do more and do it better.

Maximize profits

Performing tasks better means improved results. Combine that with your already increased productivity, and you’ve got a profit-boosting formula. When you’re consistently delivering excellent work on time, you’re more likely to get repeat business. You also gain earned media in the form of positive testimonials, reviews, and client comments that you can use on your marketing materials.

Meet and exceed client expectations

In order to achieve continuous profits, agencies must build meaningful relationships with clients. The foundation of this is trust. John Assalian of creative agency Viewstream says, “Agencies need to earn the trust of clients with careful explanations of the process. Clients need to trust that the agency is on their team.” One of the best ways to achieve this two-way trust is to ensure you meet expectations, and deadlines, and even go above and beyond where possible.

Your digital agency time tracking software can be a vital building block here. Effective tools give you the ability to meet clients on their terms, let them book catchups according to their schedule, and share progress instantly.

Eliminate barriers between on-site and remote personnel

Catching up is important for colleagues, too. More than a quarter of Americans now work remotely at least some of the time. For agencies, this means finding ways to bring often highly disparate teams together. Effective time-tracking solutions help managers keep their finger on the pulse of exactly what every team member is doing.

There’s no uncertainty or fear that remote workers aren’t doing as much as other team members because it’s all clearly logged. If remote teams are working 18 hours a day to beat a deadline, time management software gives leaders the tools they need to address that.

Conversely, remote workers can see what their on-site colleagues are doing and when. This empowers them to check in at appropriate moments and arrange meetings at times that suit everyone. For all personnel, the ability to track hours worked helps achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Achieve accountability

When everyone knows what everyone else is doing, it removes “blame culture” and pivots the focus to accountability. No agency is 100% successful all the time. When things go wrong, it’s important to know who is in charge, who needs to speak to the client, and who can fix the problem.

A group of people sitting around a table with laptops, possibly using digital agency time tracking software.

However, accountability is also important when things are going right. The ability to see the details of a project and everyone’s responsibilities helps all team members focus more deeply on their own tasks. They learn to trust their colleagues as they see other tasks on the timeline checked and completed. Time tracking software helps individuals and teams home in on their own priorities and know exactly who to contact for data about other project aspects

Features every digital agency time tracking software solution should have

Now that you know why you need time tracking software, how do you go about choosing a provider? You’ve already seen a few top features such as scheduling and task management. Here are a few more advantages offered by the top time tracking solutions and why you need them.

Timesheets and reports

All time tracking tools should have the ability to log the time taken on tasks and turn those into timesheets. This allows you to see your teams’ billable hours which you can use for your own records but also to help make sense of invoices for clients. You can create itemized bills with ease and offer transparency, helping cement your reputation as a trusted partner.

Timesheets also allow you to create reports on what tasks take the longest or use the most resources. You can use this information to assess skills gaps in your teams, invest in new apps or tools, or even adjust the services you offer. Your time management tools may also allow you to attach timesheets and reports to specific projects or even client profiles.

A client portal

A screenshot of Bonsai's CRM client portal which forms a part of their digital agency time tracking software solution.

Time management software should benefit your clients as well as your employees. The ability to see projects in progress, who’s working on them, and tasks remaining helps reassure clients and head off queries. A client portal — an online login that allows clients to quickly see some of this data — answers most questions customers might have about a project. Above you can see a snapshot of information you could provide to your clients using Bonsai’s agency software.

Around 88% of American consumers expect businesses to provide a customer portal, so failing to offer this could impact the perception of your agency. Check if your business software solutions empower you to match this expectation.

A simple interface

Making things simple for clients includes ensuring they can understand the information in front of them. The same goes for your team members. If business tools are cluttered, confusing, or hard to navigate, the chances are your teams won’t use them properly. Your digital agency loses the benefits of software you potentially invested a significant chunk of your budget into.

Look for tools with clean, minimalist interfaces. Menus should be logical and not involve 20 clicks to get a single task allocated or checked off. You can read previous user reviews or testimonials to get an understanding of how user-friendly a system is.

Automatic invoicing

Another aspect of making things simpler is the level of automation your software offers. Digital agency time tracking software that can take timesheets and transform them instantly into invoices potentially saves hours of admin time. If your time management platform can also send these invoices to the right people automatically, even better.

Bonsai provides all these features plus it offers a handy catalog of invoice templates. Find the template that matches your needs, from completely blank and customizable options to pre-generated, smart forms that just need a few details. These templates are available completely free of charge and in multiple formats to suit differing needs. You can create invoices for entire projects or individual tasks as agreed with your clients.

A Bonsai invoice template, a feature of excellent digital agency time tracking software.

Customer support

If you’ve found a time management solution that can offer all of the above features, great. You might be ready to make a purchase or at least start a free trial. However, you should also check what the vendor offers in terms of service and support.

You’re investing in a product that’s going to become a core aspect of your agency’s tech stack. So, you want to know that you’ll be able to get help if you run across any hurdles. Spending hours getting assistance with a troublesome aspect of your time tracking software renders it practically useless. Find out if there’s a helpline, help center, or community forum where you can quickly get answers. Again, online reviews are a brilliant source of information on this aspect of choosing agency software. Bonsai currently holds awards on G2 and Capterra, two respected review sites trusted for business software comparisons.

Choose an all-in-one agency software solution

You’ve now got all the information you need to choose the right digital agency time tracking software for your business. Remember to check your budget and ask the vendor about pricing. Ideally, choose a provider that offers a free trial so you can see exactly how the service will benefit you before investing.

To stretch your budget further, you could choose to go with an all-in-one agency business solution. Bonsai offers all the discussed features of excellent time-tracking software. Beyond that, Bonsai is a platform that provides financial tools for agencies, including bookkeeping, payment assistance, and tax recording and reporting. It’s easy to track 1099 expenses and identify write-offs.

Bonsai also gives agencies access to customer relationship management (CRM) software that brings every aspect of the project together in a single place. Create meaningful client profiles and attach project timelines to branding, client voice data, contact details, and so much more. Enable active collaboration by hosting all assets, resources, documents, payments, and time tracking in a single destination. No more flicking from system to system — everything is instantly accessible from a dedicated platform.

Making things simpler for your clients is more important than ever. Statistics suggest that Americans will pay 5% more for providers that give them excellent experiences. Conversely, the same report states that 60% will decide to go to a competitor if their expectations aren’t met. Your time tracking software should support you in meeting client demands, delivering on time, and producing improved products and services. Further, it should help you become more productive and free up time to focus on business growth, client base expansion, and building brand recognition that lasts.

If you want more information on how business agency software enables you to achieve this, talk to Bonsai or set up a free account here.

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