Best Time Tracking Apps For Freelancers in 2024

Domenico Trimboli

By Domenico Trimboli | Last updated: March 2024

11 MIN READING TIME


TLDR

I have been a freelancer for 13 years. Trust me when I tell you I have tried a tool or two to grow my business (and keep my mental health in the process).

Some tools are clearly designed with larger businesses in mind. Others are useless for a freelance business. And few, very few of them, can make a huge difference for you as a freelancer. Time trackers belong to the last group.

As you can imagine, not all time tracking apps are created equal. That’s why I spent weeks testing them all so that you don’t have to.

How I tested each app

I tried and tested all the apps included in this list.

Some of them offer a free trial, which I used. When that was not possible, I paid for a month. I used each app to track my time on real projects and see how they performed, then I created an invoice for a real client and saw how easy it was to automatically transfer the time sheet. If the apps had other features, I also tried them.

My review is based on 5 key factors:

  • Time tracking: all of the apps in this list have a time-tracking feature. I evaluated how well it performed, how easy it was to edit the time sheet if anything went wrong and any additional data the app gathered.
  • Invoice generation: it goes without saying – if you create time sheets, you are probably going to use them for invoicing. I evaluated how quick/easy it is for you to do that and the customization options you have for your invoices.
  • Ease/Pleasure of use: you want a tool that helps you run your business, not one that slows you down with a 3-month learning curve, a complicated user interface or continuous bugs. I evaluated how easy it was to use the tool.
  • Additional features: I am a fan of all-in-one solution for your whole business. They allow you to save money and avoid to learn ten different tools. Most of these apps have several features, which I tested as a real freelancer.
  • Price: even the best tool would be pretty useless if it came with a price that only a Fortune 500 company could afford. I know you are running a solo business, and I kept this in mind as I did my review.

best for…

1. CRM and time tracking: Bonsai

Not everyone needs a CRM for their freelance business. But if you do, you know they can be expensive. Bonsai is a complete solution for freelancers that doesn’t cost you a fortune, and works amazingly.

Product Pros

  • Templates for everything
  • Removing their branding is cheap
  • Calendly integration

Product Cons

  • Their free trial is just 7 days
  • Expense tracking costs an extra $10 per month

I really like Bonsai as an all-in-one tool for savvy freelancers.

Bonsai is designed for solopreneurs who are not just looking for something simple, but want to turn the app they choose into a hub for their whole business. Yet, it does that without taking a month to learn.

If you are a bit obsessive like me, you will particularly like that you can remove their branding with a Professional plan ($39 per month when paying monthly, $32 with a yearly subscription).

Oh, and if your business involves plenty of calls (we do what we gotta do, right…) it integrates with Calendly so you don’t have to do anything manually.

Want to know more? Read my Bonsai review!


best for…
Freshbooks logo - Freshbook is a time tracking + invocing solution with affordable plans for freelancers

2. Time tracking and invoicing: FreshBooks

If you are looking for an all-in-one solution to streamline time tracking and invoicing, you found it. Bonus point: you can start using it in 5 minutes, and the first month is free.

Product Pros

  • Free trial
  • Lite plan starting at $19/month
  • Automatically imports your time sheets to generate invoices

Product Cons

  • Only 5 billable clients included in the Lite plan
  • Some users complain about downtime

FreshBooks offers you a simple – yet effective – time tracking and invoicing solution without a learning curve.

I’m not kidding – it took me 5 minutes to learn how to use it for invoicing, and has been saving me 4 hours per month – and a ton of accounting headaches – ever since.

FreshBooks is the best choice for you if you want to completely forget about accounting and automate your invoice generation starting from your time sheets. Plus:

  • It helps you to track expenses as well
  • Its recurrent billing is perfect for productized services

Want to know more? Read my FreshBooks review!


BEST FOR…

3. Productivity: ClickUp

Imagine an app that can help you to track your time, map out and monitor your goals, time box your days and re-organize your freelance business in a way that saves you time and helps you make more money. That’s ClickUp.

Product Pros

  • Much more than just time tracking
  • The free plan is so solid that you won’t have to switch to the paid ones unless you want to
  • The UI is so elegant and smooth that I want to keep it open all the time

Product Cons

  • Having so many features, it has a learning curve
  • Some users online complain about the Android app

Time tracking, project management, workflow creation and so much more.

I could talk about ClickUp for days and I would still be unable to share half of the things that I use it for.

If you want to change your freelance business, unlock more profits and gain better clients, simply sign up on ClickUp and take these 3 steps:

  • Create a goal and tracker
  • Time block a whole week (keep in mind your priorities)
  • Start time tracking all your projects for that week

Kinda-important note: ClickUp is much more complex than the other time tracking solutions listed here… because it’s not just a time tracking solution.

If you just need time tracking, pass to the next app. But if you feel like your freelance business could use some TLC and that a more complete time management solution might help, don’t hesitate to sign up.


Best FOR…
Clockify Time Tracker

4. Free time tracking app: Clockify

I love time trackers, and I can see several reasons to pay for one. With that said, maybe you only need a free solution for your basic needs. If that’s your case, look no further than Clockify.

Product Pros

  • Its free option is pretty great
  • Comes with customizable tracking capabilities
  • Intuitive user interface

Product Cons

  • Other freelancers have found its manual tracking a bit clunky
  • The mobile app is not as great as the desktop version

It’s not that I want to be cheap.

I think freelancers should reinvest more into their businesses, and I have regularly spent 10% of my yearly profits to buy software, courses and anything else I needed. Still, at times you may not be able to spend that much on software.

If that’s your situation, you’ll love Clockify.

It comes with a monthly subscription that adds more features to it, but you can start with the free plan and stick with it for little bit. If you are starting out as a freelancer and want a cheap option that is easy to use, Clockify is just perfect.

Find out more in my Clockify review.


BEST FOR…

5. AI integration: Timely

Timely is a simple time tracker – with a twist. They use AI so that you don’t have to do anything manually – the app does everything for you.
Extra perk: it basically tracks everything you spend time on, not just billable hours.

Product Pros

  • Their AI technology tracks everything in the background
  • Helps you to track time spent on research
  • Integrated to do list

Product Cons

  • Free trial but no free version
  • Only available in English

As much as they try to automate things, most time tracking apps still require some kind of manual intervention. If you hate the idea, Timely may be just the app for you.

And it doesn’t even end there – since the app tracks everything you spend time on, it helps you to:

  • Understand what you are wasting time on
  • Accurately bill the time you spent doing research
  • Understand if you are falling behind schedule on projects

I would recommend Timely to anyone who’s in deep sh*t when it comes to time management and wants to know what they are really spending time on during their day.


BEST FOR…

6. Freelancers on a budget: Toggl

If you are looking for a simple time tracker and don’t care too much about the additional features, Toggl offers a good solution at a good price – $10/month.

Product Pros

  • THE tracker for Pomodoro addicts
  • 30 day free trial¬†

Product Cons

  • Billable rates not available on the Free plan
  • Fixed fee projects only available with a Premium plan
  • No invoice tracking/mgmt

Maybe you are just looking for an app that allows you to create a basic time sheet at the click of a button. Or maybe you are a fan of the Pomodoro technique, and you are frustrated with the amount of manual actions you need to do to use it with your current time tracker.

In both cases, Toggl is a pretty good choice.

Don’t be fooled by their free plan, because it lacks some essential features – for a more detailed explanation, see my review. But their Starter option is priced at $10 per month, and at that price point, they offer a ton of value.


Other solid options

In addition to my favorite apps above, there are a few more which I didn’t find as great, but are common names in the space and may still be worth trying.

Other solid options

HubStaff

If you are transitioning from freelancing to agency and are currently running a small team of freelancers, HubStaff is a good option for you.

  • Perfect if you hire other freelancers
  • Solid free plan
  • The reports look pretty great

  • Expense tracking only available on the paid version
  • The free version only covers 1 user

If you are a team of one, HubStaff provides a good option for all your time tracking needs. If you are currently transitioning to an agency model and hire other freelancers from time to time, though, then HubStaff becomes an ideal solution for you and your freelance team.


To sum it all up

Most freelancers start tracking their time because they charge by the hour, but doing that is just one of the main benefits of time tracking apps for freelancers.

In fact, a great time tracking app allows you to:

  • Find out how much you are really making, per client, per type of project, or based on any kind of criteria
  • Choose what direction you should steer your freelance business in to maximize profits
  • Save unbillable time on invoicing and similar tasks, so that you can focus on what you do best
  • Create a more accurate schedule as you plan your day, week or month as a freelancer

Time tracking is the foundation of any time management strategy. If you are just starting out as a freelancer, it will help you to gain clients at a much higher pace, and if you already have a successful freelance business without tracking time, it’s the only way to free up time for marketing, unbillable tasks or even just chill, depending on your current priorities.

Happy time tracking!

Frequently Asked Questions

While most time trackers have some kind of free plan, my personal favorite is Clockify, as it offers a free plan that’s robust enough for you not to have to upgrade, unless you want to. Other options are HubStaff and ClickUp.

Yes. Clockify free plan is solid enough that you won’t feel the need to upgrade to a paid plan until you become pretty good at it – and are running a business that makes it pretty cheap.

Yes. HubStaff paid plans are a must-have for anyone running a team, even a small one. But solopreneurs can stay on a free plan without feeling limited.

If you are running a performance freelance business – meaning you want to get serious about profits – ClickUp is a formidable tool for you.

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