Whether you’re a new freelancer or one who is trying to strategically grow your business, you’re likely always looking for new ways to get the best bang for your buck and send invoice templates worthy of your hard work. In other words, you’re searching for the best ways to measure your effort spent vs. your compensation received, even from when you draft a scope of work template or a quote template. We’re not just talking about time management secrets, but also tools that will give you insights into your actual productivity levels.
In your search, you’ve probably come up across the term ‘timesheet’. But what is a timesheet? How does it work and why should you use it? Answering all those questions and more, here are the top four things you need to know about timesheets.
Once upon a time, before the age of apps, SaaS and sophisticated product suites like Bonsai, timesheets were actual, well, sheets. Timesheets started as physical pieces of paper that businesses used to keep track of their employees’ working hours.
Though the timesheets of modern times are digitized, they are used for many of the same reasons. Timesheets essentially help businesses keep track of the time their team has spent in the workplace or working on a particular project. Team members are sometimes required to report on their timesheets when they take holidays, or when they take breaks throughout the day. That information can then be used to determine how much the employee will be paid, or to figure out how much to invoice a client at the end of the month.
Ever wondered how timesheets came to be? They were actually created in the 1950s by the American Bar Association (A.B.A.) as part of the profession’s efforts to make lawyers start selling their services in terms of hours. Timesheets were their way of tracking those hours so they could bill and invoice their clients accordingly.
Traditionally, timesheets were mostly used by HR professionals to sort out payroll. A timesheet is a useful tool to help the HR team (or a business owner if they have no HR department) figure out how to fairly compensate employees for work done - especially when they’re automated.
However, timesheets are also often used by freelancers and other self-employed people - from lawyers and accountants to designers and writers - to track their billable hours either per client or per project. In fact, more than 100,000 freelancers use Bonsai’s time tracking tool on a daily basis to better understand where their precious hours are going. After all, when you’re a freelancer, time is money.
Figuring out what is a timesheet and how to use and interpret it is a great step in learning how to manage your time properly. It can also help you better understand where your time (and thus where your money) is going, so you can make smarter business decisions and better manage your budget.
Why do freelancers and other business owners use timesheets? It turns out there are many benefits of tracking your time in a systemized way. According to the New York Times, today’s bosses are using time tracking to not only monitor their employees’ work efforts but also find better ways to help them focus and actually enjoy their work.
Here are just some reasons why you might consider using a timesheet.
Timesheets are practically essential if you’re working under an hourly contract or a retainer (as opposed to a fixed-price contract). By tracking how many hours you’re spending on a particular project, you have a crystal clear indication of how much you should bill your client at the end of the day, week or month - whatever your billing cycle is. This is especially true if you use software that allows you to automatically invoice your clients from your timesheets, like with Bonsai’s freelance invoicing component.
Chances are, clients have probably asked you to estimate the amount of time it will take you to complete a given project, either because they want an idea of how much to budget (i.e. under an hourly contract) or because they’d rather you quote them them a fixed fee.
By tracking your time, you’re better able to understand how long it takes you to complete a particular kind of project (e.g. it may take you two hours to write a blog post or three days to program a website), so you can deliver more accurate estimates and ensure you’re being adequately compensated for your work.
On a similar note, tracking your time will help you see which tasks or projects are taking up way more time than they should. Maybe you thought it only took you 10 minutes to write an email when in reality it took 20 minutes, or maybe you’ve been wasting two hours every week creating to-do lists.
On the flip side, you may be far more productive in some areas of business than you realised. Getting familiar with how you spend your typical workday is a great way to manage your time and set more realistic productivity goals for yourself.
Do you ever feel like you’re working around the clock, putting in 80+ hours a week? Or maybe you’re worried you’re not actually working hard enough and should be taking on more clients. Using a timesheet allows you to clearly understand your workload, so you can see for certain whether you’re overworking yourself or have room to take on some bigger projects.
Okay, so you now know what is a timesheet and why it’s so crucial that you use one - but how do you actually use them? You don’t live in the stone age, so chances are you’re not going to go out and buy a bunch of paper timesheet cards to help you track your time. What are some alternatives?
You could use a notebook, or build an easy timesheet template in Excel or Google Sheets. But, one of the simplest things you can do is actually to choose software that helps you easily track your time digitally and use that info to bill your clients quickly and simply.
Digital timesheets are the best solution if you’re looking for a way to track your time that doesn’t require much effort. After all, nobody wants to waste time tracking their time - it kind of defeats the purpose.
Bonsai’s time tracking features were designed specifically with freelancers in mind. Our tool allows you to track your time with a single click and uses a straight-forward, streamlined design that doesn’t complicate things. It also allows you to log hours manually or automate your timesheets, making things far easier come invoice time.
You’ll particularly want to look for an all-encompassing solution, with timesheets that integrate themselves into your existing workflow. For example, our software allows you to automatically invoice your clients straight from your timesheets, so you don’t have to waste unbilled time manually collecting, inputting and processing all your info.
From now on, whenever someone asks you “what is a timesheet”, your answer is sure to be “something that helps freelancers like me manage our time so much better.” Tracking your time in an easy-to-use digital timesheet not only saves you tons of time, and it also helps you better make sense of where your efforts are going. Better yet, it helps you communicate that to your clients.
If you’re ready to start using an integrate time tracking solution, Bonsai has you covered. Sign up for a free trial today.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?