4 Best Time Tracking Logs for Businesses & Freelancers

4 Best Time Tracking Logs for Businesses & Freelancers

Time tracking logs are great for keeping track of billable hours as a freelancer, recording how long you or your team have spent on certain tasks, tracking employee hours, and much more.

But keeping an accurate time tracking log isn’t so simple. If you’re keeping your own log, you’ll need to worry about inaccurate self-reporting. If you’re keeping a time tracking log for your employees, you want to make sure your employees are kept accountable and that the time they log is accurate.

In this post, we look at what a time tracking log is, the two types of time tracking logs, and four of the best time tracking log systems (broken down by use cases).

The Best Time Tracking Logs

  1. Buddy Punch: This is our time tracking log that we made to help businesses to create schedules, track employee hours, and much more.

  2. Toggl Track: Toggl Track is an easy-to-use tool for freelancers who want to track their hours worked. 

  3. ClickUp: ClickUp is a time tracking log and project management tool. It has a free plan for individuals, and then a paid plan if you need to add users/employees.

  4. Rize: Rize is a time tracking tool with activity monitoring software.

What is a Time Tracking Log? And the 2 Different Types

A time tracking log is a detailed record of how you spend your time, broken down by specific activities or tasks. It acts as a personal productivity and time management tool, helping you understand:

  • Your energy and productivity level: When are you most productive or focused? When are you more likely to be distracted? 
  • Your efficiency: Which tasks do you struggle with the most? How much time do you need to work on project A compared to project B? Are you quoting the right rates for a particular project given the amount of time you often spend on similar projects? How often do you procrastinate? 
  • Your employees’ attendance and accountability: You can use a time tracking system to keep a log of your employees’ clock in and clock out times, which lets you see whether someone is often late or whether there’s time theft happening. 

You can keep a manual time tracking log, like a physical notebook or by using Excel spreadsheets, or you can log your time directly through software and apps like Buddy Punch. Let’s take a closer look at each method. 

Type #1: Manual Time Tracking Logs

These are solutions that rely on pen and paper or digital spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. They are ideal for:

  • People who prefer the low-tech approach and find the act of writing things down more intuitive.
  • People who don’t need a comprehensive time tracking system, like freelancers with few clients/projects or someone who’s tracking one or two habits.
  • People who want complete control over the data recorded and how it’s categorized.

With either method, you want to create a table with columns for Date, Start Time, End Time, and Activity Description. Depending on what you’re tracking, you may also want to add a column for Total Time, Project, Client, Hourly Rates, etc. 

Say you’re a freelancer tracking your billable hours manually through Excel. Your monthly time log might look like this:

Excel time log example

For more information, check out other examples and a review of free Excel timesheet templates.

Both physical time logs and digital spreadsheets are pretty easy to set up.

Physical time logs like a small notebook are more portable but quite limited in terms of how much content you can fit within a page, while Excel/Google Sheets offers greater flexibility and customization as you can create complex formulas for time calculations, categorize activities, or filter data and create graphs to identify trends over time. If you prefer writing things down, you can always print out your spreadsheets.

However, both manual methods share several drawbacks:

  • They rely entirely on manual data entry. This can be time-consuming, prone to errors from forgetfulness, and lacks the automatic tracking capabilities often found in software designed for time tracking. 

  • They lack accountability features. This means if you use them to track employee work hours (especially for remote work), you can’t guarantee the time your employees input is 100% correct. 

To deal with these problems, you may want to consider time tracking apps or software instead.

Type #2: Time Tracking Software & Apps

These are software or apps specifically designed for logging time. They can offer a more automated and efficient solution compared to physical time tracking logs or spreadsheets, as:

  • They minimize human error. Let’s say you’re using Excel to track your employee work hours. If one of your employees worked 31.25 hours on a given week, and another worked 32.52 hours, it is easy to confuse the two and end up inputting the wrong number next to each employee’s name. A time tracking log app that automatically calculates work hours based on employees’ clock in and clock out time or an activity monitoring app that automatically tracks time in the background will eliminate manual data entry, preventing errors like these.
  • They can have accountability features. Manual time tracking doesn’t help you prevent employees from recording inaccurate time, whether intentionally or accidentally. This can include employees writing down the wrong start times (perhaps to cover up the fact they were late), forgetting to record breaks and lunches, and not clocking out. To deal with time theft problems like this, you can use a time log app with accountability features like Buddy Punch (more on this below).
  • They can offer integrations with other tools to help streamline workflows. If you use Excel to record your employee work hours, you’ll need to run payroll manually, from collecting timesheets, fixing data entry errors, to inputting all that data into your payroll provider. This whole process is tedious, inefficient, and time-consuming. Instead, you can use a time tracking app with payroll functionality or one that integrates with payroll systems.

You can use time log apps and still keep a separate time record as most of these apps let you export data as a PDF or a spreadsheet. 

Below, we list out 4 different time tracking software/apps for different use cases we think will be useful to you. Click the link to jump ahead:

  • Buddy Punch — best time tracking log for small businesses
  • Toggl Track — best time tracking app for freelancers
  • ClickUp — best project management app with a built-in time tracker
  • Rize — best time tracking & activity monitoring software

1. Buddy Punch — Best Time Tracking Log for Small Businesses

Buddy Punch Interface

Buddy Punch is employee time tracking software that allows you to track your employees’ work hours, record time off, create work schedules, and more. 

Buddy Punch is available as a web app (on both Windows and Mac) as well as a mobile app (on both Android and iOS), which means your team can use it from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. This makes Buddy Punch a perfect option for businesses of all types, including those with multiple locations, companies with freelancers and contractors, or companies with a mix of salary and hourly employees.

At a high level, Buddy Punch can help you:

  • Track and record your team members’ work hours in real-time as they punch in and punch out. Buddy Punch records time for both hourly and non-hourly (salary) employees.

  • Add, edit or delete timecards whenever you need to fix mistakes like someone forgetting to clock out after work or to clock in after lunch.

  • Keep your teams accountable — and your timesheets accurate — with advanced tracking features like GPS tracking, geofencing, IP address locking, and more.

  • Track your employees’ time off (paid and unpaid) by setting up a vacation request system, customizing vacation accruals, and more.

Real-Time Tracking

As Buddy Punch is available on both desktop and mobile, your hourly employees can clock in and out from a computer, tablet, or smartphone — and hours are logged in real-time. 

Time Card: Welcome John Smith

If they don’t have access to data, they can use our Text to Punch function — send a text to a number specified beforehand and it’ll count as a punch-in or punch-out.

For non-hourly (salary) employees, Buddy Punch lets them add their time entries as a duration for each workday:

Time Entry Add

For businesses with both salary employees and freelancers/contractors, Buddy Punch offers custom time entry options for each employee:

Time Entry Options

Buddy Punch also helps you keep track of your employees’ breaks through the Automatic Break feature. Simply set up a break rule — say, trigger an automatic break of 60 minutes for every 5 hours of work — and assign it to your employees.

Automatic Break Rule: Name, Triggers, Employees

All regular hours, time off, and overtime are automatically calculated. You can export attendance data like total hours, time off, overtime etc. as a PDF file or an Excel spreadsheet if needed.

Payroll Reports on Demand in Buddy Punch

Reminders and Notifications

You can set up Clock In and Clock Out Reminders — via email or text — to prevent employees from forgetting to punch in when they start work or punch out when they finish.

New Notifications: Alex Wizard working overtime Walker inc

You can also set up alerts so you’ll know if an employee is approaching their maximum hours or overtime. 

New Notifications: Eric Pena is working overtime

Editing Timecards

Buddy Punch’s time tracking tool also offers editing functionality so you’ll always keep accurate time reports. 

To add a time entry, first select whose timecard you want to view.

You can then choose the “Add New” option followed by “Time Entry” on your dashboard and add the shift for that employee.

Where to add a new time entry in Buddy Punch

If you need to edit or delete a time entry, click the “Edit” button (next to “Add New”).

From there, if you need to delete it, you can click the trash icon on the far right of the entry. If you simply want to edit the time, choose the “Edit” button under the “Time” column.

Where to edit a shift in Buddy Punch

Accountability Features

​​As mentioned above, one of the main challenges businesses tracking time using physical logs or spreadsheet templates face is a lack of accountability from their employees. This is why Buddy Punch built the following features to prevent time theft problems and increase employee accountability. Note that these features are optional and customizable, so you can choose to turn on just the one(s) your business actually needs.

GPS Tracking
Punch Map for Betty Schuh

This feature allows you to track your employees’ location when they clock in/out based on their mobile devices’ GPS. The location is recorded in their timecard for your review. 

Geofencing
Geofencing in Buddy Punch

With Geofencing, you create a limiting radius outside which punching in and out is impossible. This helps make sure employees are at the right location when they punch in or out. 

IP Address Locking
Edit IP Address Lock in Buddy Punch

With IP Address Locking, your employees can only clock in or out if their devices are connected to a specific IP address. You can set up this feature by accessing the Buddy Punch administrator dashboard and designate an IP Address for the lock, as pictured above.

Time Off Tracking Tool

Buddy Punch allows both you and your employees to track time off (PTO, non-PTO, sick leave, personal days, etc.) effortlessly.

Timecards > Add New > Time Off

Employees can log in to Buddy Punch from their preferred device to request time off.

For employers, the request will show up with a Pending Approval status on your administrator dashboard as shown below:

John Doe: Time Card Pending Approval

Buddy Punch also comes with an in-app time off summary, which allows employees to check their time off balance, future balance, or get a detailed history of time off taken.

Time Off Summary and History for PTO

Buddy Punch also allows you to customize time off accrual rules as well as specifying which employees adhere to which accrual rules.

PTO Accrual Rules: Set up accrual rules on how PTO is earned

You can learn more about how to set up accrual rules here.

Scheduling

Buddy Punch’s scheduling feature helps ensure there are enough people to cover every shift, and to let employees know exactly when to work.

Schedule Interface: Start Date, End Date

To add a shift, click “Schedule” in the top navigation.

Once on the schedule page, just click an open area on the schedule to populate the shift creation pop-up: 

Employee Open Shifts

You can then specify the details of the shift — who it’s for, whether break is required, whether it’s a repeated shift, etc.

Click “Add Shift” once you’ve filled out all the necessary details:

Assigning Shifts in Buddy Punch: Assign Shift to Jim Iverson

Once the shift has been added to the schedule, it will be in draft mode.

To publish, click the “Publish Shift” button in the top right-hand corner:

Publish 1 Shift example

Buddy Punch will ask you whom you want to send the schedule to and whether you want to publish it via email, push notification, or both:

"Publish this Schedule" in Buddy Punch

Read more about how to create a work schedule efficiently.

Run Payroll with Buddy Punch

You can run your payroll directly from Buddy Punch. This means you only need one platform to create work schedules, track time worked, manage PTO, and pay your team.

Running payroll with Buddy Punch is simple. After choosing “Run Payroll” from the top navigation, you can select the pay period you need, click “Run Report” to populate hours, and then click “Import Time Into Payroll”:

Easily Import Time into Payroll with Buddy Punch

You’ll have a chance to configure a custom pay rate, add additional earnings, or enter tax-free reimbursements if needed. If everything looks good, click “Continue” and then “Submit Payroll”:

Reimport Time into Payroll: Submit Payroll

If you prefer to work with your current payroll provider instead, Buddy Punch offers payroll integration support:

Payroll Integrations with Buddy Punch

Learn more about running payroll for your small business.

Customer Reviews of Buddy Punch

Buddy Punch has 967 reviews on Capterra with 4.8 stars

At the time of writing, Buddy Punch has 967 reviews on Capterra and is rated 4.8 out of 5 stars

Here are some reviews of what our customers say about Buddy Punch’s time tracking and scheduling features:

“Easy to use. Many of my employees are students with ever changing schedules. Buddy Punch is easy to use and change schedules weekly or even daily as things come up. BP tracks the time the employee is logged in so I don’t have to.”

Click here to read the full review.

“What I love most about Buddy Punch is how simple it is for employees to clock in and out, add their lunch breaks, and write notes about their shifts. I also love how easy it is for me to import it into QuickBooks and pay payroll with it! Before I used Buddy Punch I was keeping time manually with 3 employees and it drove me crazy. Now I have over a dozen employees and I do not know what I would do without this software.”

Click here to read the full review.

“Our staff was able to transition to using Buddy Punch across a wide variety of shifts, so it was easy, simple and did what we needed it to. I like that users can go back and edit as well as see reports, plus employers can review it easily and create categories.”

Click here to read the full review.

“The ease of this software helps me post schedules quickly. I have three businesses and staff that float between all. The color coding system helps me see what employee or department needs attention.”

Click here to read the full review.

If you’re interested in seeing for yourself how you can record time with Buddy Punch without compromising on employee accountability or risking human errors, sign up for a free trial here, or request a one-on-one demo.

2. Toggl Track — Best Time Tracking App For Freelancers

Toggl Track homepage hero: Time Tracking Reports

Toggl Track helps individuals and teams keep track of their work time. With Toggl Track, you can:

  • Know exactly how much time you’ve spent on tasks (both billable and non-billable hours).
  • Set hourly rates, track billable time, create and share invoices with your clients.
  • Track project hours and compare estimated vs. actual time taken to deliver the project.

Pricing: Toggl Track offers a Free plan (for up to 5 users), a Starter plan from $9/user/month, a Premium plan from $18/user/month and a custom Enterprise plan.

As of this writing, Toggl Track is rated 4.7 out of 5 stars on Capterra with 2,284 reviews.

Billing for billable hours is a lot more simple now, we used to get a lot of push back from clients on how many hours we were billing for and where the time went but had not much to show since time sheets were random excel hours, but now we can pull a report that shows exactly who worked what when, and have it show in as much or as little detail as the clients request. Much more transparent on our side.

Click here to read the full review.

3. ClickUp — Best Project Management App with a Built-In Time Tracker

ClickUp homepage hero example

ClickUp is a project and task management platform that has a time tracking feature. With ClickUp, you can:

  • Set up to-do lists and track the amount of time you need to complete specific tasks or projects.
  • Add time estimates to tasks to set up your (or your team’s) expectations.
  • Create time tracking reports as well as reports for billable time.

Pricing: ClickUp offers a Free Forever plan for personal use, an Unlimited plan from $7/user/month, a Business plan from $12/user/month and a custom Enterprise plan.

As of this writing, ClickUp is rated 4.7 out of 5 stars on Capterra with 4,058 reviews.

Although ClickUp is simple to understand for just about anyone, it has a tonne of in-depth features that make it incredibly strong and adaptable. The site can be improved in ways that are pertinent to our team thanks to their ongoing upgrades, which also serve as a beneficial feedback loop. ClickUp is simple to template when necessary and simple to customise when necessary, giving you the ideal balance of time savings and the precise project requirements. The ClickUp team is very open with their users and pays close attention to their feedback so that the platform can be continually improved.

Click here to read the full review.

4. Rize — Best Time Tracking & Activity Monitoring Software

Rize homepage hero: Maximize Your Productivity with A.I.

Rize is a smart time tracker that automatically monitors and categorizes your activities on your computer. By doing so, Rize helps you improve your productivity as it shows you when to focus, when to take breaks, and when you’re getting off track.

Some of Rize’s features include:

  • Automatic time tracking with a customizable tracking schedule and customizable categories.
  • Daily & weekly reports of your time breakdown and productivity metrics via email.
  • Productivity functionality like break notifications, focus time detector, focus score, focus music, distraction blocker, etc.

Pricing: Rize’s Free plan only includes the session timer and one day’s worth of data. Its annual plan costs $9.99/month and its monthly plan costs $16.99/month, both of which include a 7-day trial period.

At the time of writing, Rize has no reviews on Capterra.

Next Steps: Try Buddy Punch for Free

If you’re looking to create an accurate time tracking log across your business — and across multiple employees — then should try Buddy Punch.

Buddy Punch is an all in one time management tool where you can: 

  • Create schedules
  • Manage paid time off
  • Track hours worked
  • Issue payroll
  • And more

You can schedule a one-on-one demo or sign up for a free trial today.

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