We’ve all heard the quote, “Great art takes time,” but unfortunately, designers don’t always have that luxury. Since most are paid hourly, finding the best time tracking apps for designers is crucial. 

Whether you’re an in-house designer, a freelancer, or someone paying for a designer’s services, accurate billing for design work isn’t as straightforward as for other hourly professions. With this list, we hope to give you design-centric tools that ensure accurate payments that benefit both sides. 

But first, what specialized time tracking features benefit designers the most? 

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Why designers need specialized time tracking tools

“Art is never finished, only abandoned” is a quote often attributed to Leonardo Di Vinci. Leave it to the original Renaissance man to understand the primary challenge of tracking time spent on design: How does one know when it’s finished? 

For most hourly workers, the work is done when the shift is over. However, tracking time to design projects is challenging for designers because design is not an exact science. 

Those needing design services are often aware and cautious of these pitfalls. If given the opportunity, some designers will take advantage of the profession’s unpredictability and rack up hours on projects they could complete in half the time. 

That said, employers can also take advantage. Let’s examine some challenges designers face with time management. 

Challenges designers face with time management

If you’re looking to employ designers for a project or on a full-time basis, giving them the benefit of the doubt is essential. The nature of design work is one riddled with many challenges like:

  • Managing multiple projects. Whether as freelancers or in-house designers, these professionals often work on various projects at once. 
  • Finding time for independent work. As mentioned, art goes against the grain of traditional corporate culture. In-house designers are especially susceptible to meeting culture
  • Scope creep. As mentioned, it’s hard to quantify design projects and their completion dates. Scope creep can be a day-to-day challenge for designers and create a chain reaction that impacts other projects. 
  • Client revisions. A client reviews most design projects and often goes back for future drafts. It can be hard to quantify this process — especially when working with new clients. The inability to predict the amount and extent of revisions can be a challenge. 

Benefits of using time tracking tools

Time tracking apps are great for most professions, but they’re crucial for design because they level the playing field and help all parties involved ensure quality work at a fair wage by:

  • Assisting designers to create accurate timesheets
  • Providing real-time productivity insights to ensure designers are working during the time they’ve billed for  
  • Making it easier to pay an array of freelance talent across multiple platforms
  • Helping designers track time to specific projects and switch seamlessly between them

Without further adieu, let’s look at the best time tracking tools for designers. 

Best time tracking tools for designers

Hubstaff: Best workforce management for designers

Hubstaff is a premier time tracking and workforce management solution. With a versatile suite of features, it’s great for designers looking to track time to projects, create real-time timesheets, invoice clients, and more.

For those managing designers, the dashboard provides real-time visibility into work habits. You can see time tracked, hours worked, and employee earnings. You can also see and approve itemized timesheets for different projects and pay teams across various integrations.

Key features 

  • Automated time tracking. Intuitive time tracking features work seamlessly on desktop, web, and mobile devices. You can also configure idle timeout settings, create projects, and have designers track time to build automated timesheets. Plus, you can enter hours for manual time tracking.  
  • Productivity. Create a culture of trust and transparency with employee productivity features. You can also see hours worked, money earned, activity scores, and what apps your team uses in real time from the dashboard.
  • Payroll. Create and manage your global design team with versatile payroll integrations with tools like PayPal, Wise, and Deel. You can simultaneously pay freelancers, contractors, and in-house designers across various payroll apps from Hubstaff. 
  • Invoicing and expense reports. Create and deploy custom invoices right from the Hubstaff app. Add custom line items, bill rates, branding, and more. Designers can also submit expense reports for materials, travel, and other expenses. 
  • Insights add-on. Can’t get enough of our workforce analytics features? Check out Hubstaff Insights to balance meeting and focus time, see engagement scores, and get notified about suspicious activity. 
  • Hubstaff Tasks. Get organized with Agile using the Tasks add-on. Create Tasks, visualize workloads, and track time and project spend as you go. 

Reviews

  • G2: 4.4/5  
  • GetApp: 4.6/5 
  • Capterra: 4.6/5 

Pricing

Hubstaff has a free version for solo users that offers time tracking, timesheets, and limited payment features. For more features and unlimited team sizes, you can try any of the following paid plans

  • Starter: $7 per user/month
  • Grow: $9 per user/month
  • Team: $12 per user/month
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing is available upon request

Pair designer time tracking with powerful add-ons for task management, utilization rates, and more:  

  • Insights: $2 per user/month 
  • Tasks: $3 per user/month 
  • Data retention: $2 per user/month 
  • More screenshots: $3 per user/month 

You can also use a free 14-day trial to evaluate the software and determine whether it meets your needs. 

2. Harvest: Great for Graphic Designers

Harvest

Harvest is the tool of choice for companies that know design. With clients ranging from Conde Nast to Volkswagen, this sleek designer time tracker is great for designers looking to stay on top of their projects. 

Key features  

  • Time tracking. Harvest prides itself on ease of use, boasting an industry-standard timer that works across an array of devices. That’s why its page catered to designers reads, “Creativity is Your Job. Time Tracking is ours.” 
  • Invoicing. Harvest continues with its theme of focusing on the dollars and cents while you focus on design with invoicing features. The last thing you need is another design project, so let Harvest seamlessly convert your timesheet into a formal invoice. 
  • Expense tracking. Intuitive expense tracking makes it easy to bill for software, stock photography, and any other expenses a graphic designer might incur. 
  • Reporting. Creating reports is another place designers waste too much time on. Generate simple, accurate time reports for hours worked, budgeting, and more with Harvest.  

Reviews

  • G2: 4.3/5
  • GetApp: 4.6/5 
  • Capterra: 4.6/5   

Pricing

  • Harvest: Free
  • Harvest Pro: $12 per seat/month

3. Toggl: Ideal for Web and UX Designers

Toggl

You know Toggl Track is a legit designer time tracker because it’s made by a former consulting agency that needed a way to track time spent on projects. In fact, the Estonian company pivoted and became the Toggl we know today when clients were so pleased with how well they tracked and articulated their hours. 

Key features  

  • Time tracking. Intuitive one-click timers, reminders, and a sleek interface make time tracking a breeze with Toggl. 
  • Reporting. Leave it to the former agency pros to handle reporting. Toggl gives users access to intuitive, colorful reports by time, project, or client.
  • Project dashboard. Like Hubstaff, the dashboard helps agencies and designers monitor progress, manage budgets, and also control deadlines in just a few clicks.
  • Integrations. Toggl boasts over 100 integrations, which makes it a seamless addition to any tech stack. Pair it with communication tools like Slack, accounting tools like QuickBooks, and everything in between. 

Reviews

  • G2: 4.6/5
  • GetApp: 4.7/5 
  • Capterra: 4.7/5  

Pricing

  • Free
  • Starter: $10 per user/month
  • Premium: $20 per user/month
  • Enterprise: Contact Toggl’s sales team for custom pricing

4. QuickBooks Time: For Interior Designers

Quickbooks Time

If you’re an interior designer, there isn’t a time tracking tool custom-tailored to your needs. That said, the day-to-day of an interior designer is likely one that involves a hybrid work situation that balances time spent in an office (or at home) and on-site time. 

Plus, QuickBook’s versatility also makes it an excellent tool for hybrid users working in the office and from their mobile devices.  

Key features 

  • Time tracking. QuickBooks Time offers intuitive time tracking across various devices and helps interior designers switch seamlessly between in-office and on-site work without losing a second of tracked time. 
  • Geofencing. Tools like QuickBooks Time offer GPS and geofencing features, allowing hands-free time tracking data based on location. For interior designers, they can set up a job site around a home or other building. When they enter or exit the radius, time tracking features kick in or pause accordingly.  
  • Integrations. QuickBooks Time seamlessly integrates with other QuickBooks products and various payroll and accounting systems, simplifying payroll processing and enhancing overall workflow efficiency.

Reviews

  • G2: 4.5/5
  • GetApp: 4.7/5 
  • Capterra: 4.3/5  

Pricing

QuickBooks Time offers two plans:

  • Premium: $8 per user/month + $20 base fee/month
  • Elite: $10 per user/month + $40 base fee/month 

How to choose the right employee time tracking software

Choosing the right time tracking software for designers comes down to what your day-to-day looks like. For designers and managers alike, that starts with:  

  • Identifying key features to consider
  • Comparing costs and benefits
  • Considering integrations with your existing tech stack
  • Testing the software with a free trial

It’s important to remember that no time tracker is perfect and can meet every need. Often, free time tracking software will offer limited capabilities. You’ll also need to get your credit card out for unlimited projects, more seats, and better team management capabilities. 

However, you can find the one that best addresses your unique needs. Once you’ve found said tool, it’s time to implement it. 

Implementing time tracking in your design workflow

Once you’ve found the right automatic time tracking tool for your unique needs, it’s time to follow the proper steps for implementation: 

Step-by-step guide to setting up and using time tracking tools

  1. Install the tool. Follow the directions and install the tool of your choice. If you’re sticking with a web-based time tracker, skip this step. 
  2. Create an account. Next, most tools require you to create an account. Here’s where you’d set up account credentials, decide on the pricing plan you want, and also customize dashboards and other settings to your liking.  
  3. Invite team members. Once you’ve created the workspace, it’s time to start inviting team members. Add designers, freelancers, contractors, and anyone else you need to the space. 
  4. Customize settings. Next, you’ll want to help onboard users properly by assisting them to customize their settings. Before time tracking begins, ensure proper work classifications, billable rates, and other settings. 
  5. Set up integrations and payroll. What good is a time tracker if you can’t use it to pay your design team? If you plan to pay teams through the app, make sure you properly configure those settings, set up integrations, and correctly enter pay rates. 
  6. Test the tool. You’re almost ready to start tracking time! Start by testing the tool yourself to ensure that everything’s working correctly. Then, pass your tool knowledge along to other users and ensure everyone is comfortable. 
  7. Start tracking time. With the setup phase finished, it’s time to encourage designers to use the tool. Note any issues, tweaks, or changes that you’ll need to make and reiterate the process as needed. 

Case studies and success stories

If you’re still skeptical about implementing a time tracker for your design team, here are a couple of case studies you can look to for some reassurance. At Hubstaff, we’ve helped numerous businesses find their way with better time tracking and workforce management. Here are some examples of those we’ve helped in the design space: 

  • Pubsphere. Canadian trade show company Pubsphere stays ahead of the competition with help from Hubstaff. Their business spans multiple continents and job sites, so global payroll and geofencing features have been enormously helpful.
  • Rise. This Philadelphia-based web design company turned to Hubstaff to consolidate time tracking and keep track of billable hours for clients between pay periods. 

Frequently asked questions

Why is time tracking important for designers?

Time tracking helps designers (and companies employing them) manage workloads, bill more accurately, increase productivity, and keep projects in scope by meeting deadlines. The best tools also provide insight into time spent on different apps and projects to optimize workflows. 

What features should I look for in a time tracking tool?

That depends on your unique needs. First and foremost, you’d want to find an intuitive time tracker that integrates with payroll tools. This way, you can pay teams seamlessly on their preferred platform. Productivity insights may also help check in on remote employees, freelance designers, and contractors. 

How can time tracking improve my productivity?

By tracking time, designers can focus on what they do best: creating. Idle time detection, hourly limits, and other productivity features help designers stay on track and not have to shift gears to focus on timesheets and invoices. This can then help increase productivity. 

Can time tracking tools integrate with my design software?

Many time tracking tools offer integrations with accounting, payroll, and project management tools. Before making a final decision, ensure your tool integrates with your existing tech stack.

Final words

After reading this post, we hope you’re ready to identify and implement your ideal time tracking app for designers. Remember, no matter your chosen tool, you may experience growing pains. Remember not to skip any steps (especially the testing phase) and create guidelines to expedite setup in the future. 

Category: Product, Time Tracking