Billing time is hard, it is estimated that up to 40% of working time can be allocated to unbillable attendances (such as admin). Obviously the key is to minimize the unbillable attendances and maximize the billable ones, balancing giving good work and offering good value.
It really is a balancing act, as if the cost to client is too high or the work standard is not great, then you risk not having repeat clients.
To put it into perspective- you arrive at work with X hours you can make money from. Every time something distracts you from billing, you lessen the billable hours.
There are many ways to skin a cat, find what works for you.
If you are able to group your attendances to a market-related cost (such as writing a letter or building a wall), you can more easily quote, and although not always 100% accurate- you will save time on working out the actual time spent and are able to ensure that you give the right price for you and the client rather than an accurate calculation. Billing is a science!
Have regular and disciplined record taking is vital, else you are likely to forget about attendances, even though at the time you may think you will remember.
Back up your records as well! I know of a firm who lost two weeks of invoicing detail because they got hacked.
I’m old fashioned, I have a simple printed spreadsheet prepared on Excel with 3 columns. I then enter it into billing software that is backed up on the cloud. Don’t get me wrong, it takes me a good few hours to prepare invoices but I’ve found this way to be the most effective as my handwritten notes are very short and abbreviated, so its very easy to keep disciplined by spending 2-3 seconds writing down something during a rushed day.
Use dead-time well
Never use your productive time to do unprofitable work. Admin should be left for when you’ve used your good energy on making money.
Don’t let the admin build up
Admin is a necessary evil, the more it builds up the harder it is to do properly.
Cut out time wasters and annoying clients
Some clients actually cost you money, if you are constantly following up on payment or waiting for them to send you information etc that allows you to do your job, it may be better to axe them and concentrate on the profitable clients.
Balancing act here as well, if you have an annoying client who pays the bills you must decide whether the dough is enough, be careful to just boot clients because they irritate you– that’s business [often!].
Use good software or apps
There are loads of good apps which help with recording time, doing admin, billing clients, automating work.
Even if they cost- if they can maximize your time its probably worth it. You then have more time and more importantly, more energy to get ahead.
You are only 1 person, a competent assistant will let you focus on the good stuff while they take care of the rest. On the flip side, an incompetent assistant will drag you down and trap you into spending more time rectifying messes and training than doing work.
Hiring someone for $1,000 may allow you to bill $2,000. The aim is to increase your production time.
Rushing is not key
One of the only things I remember being taught in primary school was one of my teachers saying more haste, less speed. Its like carrying an egg, you can run as fast as you can but you risk breaking it and spending time remedying your mess. Go at a manageable pace which allows you to do what you need to do properly.
Be aware when engaging people who charge time, its often in their interests to bill like crazy, they may even have targets which their boss imposes on them.
Also understand though that their time is their stock, so the more you engage them, the more they’ll bill.