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OfficeTime, which records billable hours as you work and generates invoices and reports based on them, is a small business owner’s best friend.
(4.5 out of 5)
- Excellent abilities for recording billable time as you work
- Calculates per-minute cost of your time as you work
- Generates invoices
- Great customization options
- One-time purchase (no subscriptions) and very reasonably priced
- Available for Windows and Mac.
- Can’t export spreadsheets
- Some learning curve (but not steep).
Freelancers, contractors, and others in the self-employed ranks grapple with the administration and paperwork that comes with running a small business. OfficeTime ($47; available for Windows and Mac) is a small business owner’s best friend. This highly practical yet relatively simple program helps SMBs keep track of their billable hours and other expenses, as well as generating invoices for their work. OfficeTime tracks how much time you spend on various projects and tasks while you’re working, and it shows the minute-by-minute costs as they accumulate, or with numbers rounded however you choose. Slightly larger businesses can even use OfficeTime for team projects.
OfficeTime is the kind of app that pays for itself in no time—and would still do so if it cost twice as much. Nimble, inexpensive, and smartly customizable, OfficeTime belongs on every SMB’s computer.
How It Works and Features
What makes OfficeTime so beneficial for small businesses is it automates the tedious parts of keeping track of billable hours. The app starts you off with categories, projects, and line items. Each project contains line items, and each line item can be assigned to a category. You can assign projects to categories, too.
For every line item, OfficeTime gives you a record button, which you press when you’re ready to start working on that task. The app then counts the minutes and hours you spend working that task until you press stop.
When you begin recording a new task in OfficeTime, the app automatically pauses the actively recorded project, rendering it impossible for you to accidentally bill two clients or record time for two tasks simultaneously. The how-to for overriding this setting is found among OfficeTime’s daily tips (recommended reading for sure), which pop up when you launch the app.
For line items that aren’t billed by time, you can manually add a price to the entry. In fact, you can manually change any field—date, time, cost, notes—at any time for any item. Another feature I love is a simple built-in reminder that you can set to say anything and program to alert you in however many minutes you like.
To use OfficeTime effectively, you do need to spend a few minutes making sure you have a clear understanding of how your business projects are organized. Established professionals likely have this tacit knowledge at their fingertips, but in my testing (and, granted, I’m not self-employed), I puzzled through a few trial-and-error moments trying to determine how to accurately categorize my made-up work. However, OfficeTime is nimble enough to let you correct your missteps quickly as you go.
At any time, you can switch from the line item view to a more visual graph, which shows where you’ve spent your time on the project. Here is where you’ll find invoicing features as well. With the touch of a button, you can generate an invoice—with a unique job/invoice number that you create and which OfficeTime carefully tracks and helps make sure you don’t repeat—for the work performed. For duplicate entries and previously billed hours, OfficeTime has you covered. The app has a feature that can hunt down both of those problems. Need to export those reports? OfficeTime can spit out plain text files, but unfortunately not spreadsheets, which prevents you from importing data from OfficeTime to another system easily.
OfficeTime can generate team reports, too, based on the work of multiple employees, although I did not test those features for this review.
While OfficeTime looks a little old-school (remember those shades of gray and blue used on all software pre-1999?), it is actually very sensibly designed. You can open multiple windows to see various projects at once, and windows resize wonderfully to the most minimal view, letting you keep an eye on billable time while also not being distracted by its prominence.
When I first started testing OfficeTime, it took me a little while to understand how to open new windows for the projects I wanted. The command for “new window” merely duplicates the active window (confusing). To change its contents, you have to then select from a dropdown menu in the new window the project you want to see. The flow is unconventional, but the learning curve is small. Do it a few times, it you’ll forget it was ever an oddity.
SMB’s Best Friend
OfficeTime couldn’t cover the bases more thoroughly, but a few aspects really prove it has the SMB audience at heart. The one-time price of $47 is extremely reasonable, and there are no tacked on fees for extra features or subscription services. Once you buy the product, you own and locally store it and all the data it holds. OfficeTime also contains excellent customization options, letting you alter invoice templates, the order in which information displays, and any single field in any project.
OfficeTime wins an Editors’ Choice for small business software because it’s inexpensive, highly useful, and downright practical. Every small business owner needs an app this good.
By Jill Duffy, PCMag