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If you didn’t know, I’ve always loved the idea of a home-office. I lived in the SEO Hacker headquarters for 8 months before getting married. It was one of the most awesome management times of my life. To see my team immediately after opening the doors of my bedroom gives an amazing feeling of comfort and efficiency.
I got married just last February. Things changed after that. I had to move north – an hour and a half away from my home-office. These days, I go to the SEO Hacker headquarters just every Monday. The rest of the week is spent on meetings and working from home to keep my efficiency on legwork the way it is.
It’s an arrangement that most managers will not be comfortable in. As (I believe) the best management style in a growing company is still through a face-to-face exchange of ideas. Days went by and our numbers as a team, were dwindling. I was left concerned on how to get the team back on its feet again.
So I asked around and one of my mentors relayed to me how he was doing it to his remote team.
“Skype and Hubstaff.”
I asked some volunteers from my team – who were willing to test this route. There were a small few who were willing to do so. The results of the test were positive for me and some of my teammates so we decided to implement it.
Everyone in the team became more aware of the way we spend our time – especially since Hubstaff takes random screenshots of our screens. I personally opted take screenshots of mine too so as to be transparent to my team of my activities on my computer.
The result? Less stress for me to manage remotely, and naturally, more productivity and efficiency from each of us. I immediately begin to see the people in my team who are not producing as much as they should, as well as appreciate the ones who go the extra mile. Great team players will appreciate the fact that their work is being seen – because they do great work. It’s only the players who have something to hide who will naturally not appreciate a tool such as Hubstaff.
I shot Dave Nevogt (co-founder and CMO of Hubstaff) a message, thanking him of this awesome tool and asked him if he could do a guest post here in SEO Hacker.
So without further ado, please give a round of applause to the man behind Hubstaff – Mr. Dave Nevogt!
I’ll admit it… time tracking could be one of the most un-sexy topics on the planet. Before I started my company, Hubstaff.com, I had an SEO business with several very high-end clients with annual budgets well into six figures. I also started a multi-million dollar golf instructional business fully online by the time I was 25. To the average person, those would seem like exciting businesses, but it always seemed to me like something was missing.
In building those previous businesses, I learned that it was entrepreneurship itself that was my passion. It wasn’t golf or SEO (even though I started those businesses to follow my passions), it was the process of competing on the open market and seeing something that was at some point just an idea, turned into a source of value for clients and revenue for my business.
It was like my form of a video game.
I also found out that running a team of people was extremely stressful… like “heart attack waiting to happen” stressful for me. I started searching for a solution that would help me manage my virtual team in the SEO business but failed to find anything of value. I wanted to understand how much time my employees were spending on the projects that I had assigned them, if that time was productive, and how much I could bill out to clients.
Now… I’m a business-person, so of course I was thinking about the possibility of filling that market gap. To make a long story short, four years and several hundred thousand in capital later, Hubstaff started taking clients in late 2013. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to give you three ideas on how I use time tracking every day to make my own business more profitable and how you can do the same.
Here it goes:
1. Client Transparency
If you want more clients (especially in SEO), one option is to become very transparent. One of the hardest parts about SEO is that clients almost always equate success to rankings. SEO professionals don’t get credit for the foundational-level work that is a prerequisite to the rankings. Much of the reason for this is that the client doesn’t actually “see” the work. To them, it’s like nothing has changed.
The solution to this is to create a living documentation trail of your work and letting them see over your shoulder in real time.
Hubstaff takes screenshots, and by using a time tracking software with screenshots and project tracking you are creating that documentation trail. You can send them reports with a few clicks or even provide them view only access to your Hubstaff dashboard.
Let’s look at some of the things that may happen by creating this type of transparent client relationship.
- You’ll have to answer less questions about what your team is doing and where their money is going because they can actually see it in real time.
- You become an invaluable asset for their business instead of just another contractor because they understand that you are working hard even if the results are not coming (yet)
- You’re making things easier on them, not harder because they don’t have to nag you
- They stick with your services longer because they know work is going on
- They recommend your services to others because they are more confident in the value that they are getting.
All of these items make your business not only run smoother, but some could help you pick up more clients and grow your business. I believe this is the way of the future. The faster you can grab this kind of transparency in your organization and turn it into a competitive advantage, the better.
2. Automatic Client Billing
Agencies spend A LOT of time billing and usually the systems are outdated and inadequate. If you charge on an hourly basis, there’s nothing worse than spending valuable employee and admin time with billing and invoicing. If you adopt automatic time tracking, you can easily invoice for that time at the end of the week or month with very little hassles and time spent.
It’s all about tracking automatically as you work and making this a part of your processes instead of having to make it a “to-do” item after the fact. The result is more accurate records and less hassle.
Your team just selects the project they are working on from the desktop tracker and when they track time to that project the data gets uploaded to our web-based system. Once you have the time and project captured, you can do all kinds of cool stuff like make better management decisions, invoice clients and pay your employees. This record keeping usually costs money or time. Instead of working on these admin related tasks, you can spend time on client-getting activities.
3. Employee Tracking
Even if you charge a flat rate to your clients on a monthly basis you can still get a lot a ton of benefit from time tracking in the form of maximizing profits and lowered stress. A lot of the stress in a virtual organization comes from delays in communication or total lack of communication. Relying on email can take days.
I used to have a process where I asked my employees to send me an update at the end of every day about what they had done for that day and where the various projects were at. Over time, the emails would stop coming for weeks at a time, and when they did come, they would be less and less detailed. This would cause me to have to email and follow up on a specific project via email and again, wait for a reply.
This is the old way of getting data about what projects your employees are working on and where they stand. You can now cut that entire process out because automated time tracking keeps track of this for you. You can see in real time, in a matter of seconds what was worked on.
Here are just a few of the additional benefits:
- Break down your business into business functions (customer service, linking, content development) and understand exactly how much time each employee spends on these functions. This helps you make much better adjustments in your business.
- Tell the difference between effective employees and ineffective employees in minutes
- Make sure that your employees are always being as productive as possible.
If you would like to implement a time tracking system into your business we’d love to speak to you about how we can help. You can start a free account at Hubstaff.com
Bonus: Here’s an Infographic for you from Hubstaff on the Benefits of Time Tracking. Enjoy!