When you are working from home you need to keep track of your time, your paperwork, and your expenses, not to mention your assignments so that you can bill your clients appropriately.
Although some work is usually paid by the assignment, like transcriptions, other work is normally paid by the hour, e.g. legal work.
So how do you keep track of how long it takes you to do something?
A simple way is to just have a small clock timer and press it on and off as you do the work, and then record the information in your client's file.
Another way is to use the Journal folder in Microsoft Outlook and use the timer function. It will even cross relate to other Office programs like Word and Excel so you can keep track automatically. However this feature isn't very sophisticated and requires you to remember to turn the timer on and off for each part of your assignment. So what else is available?
Time Tracking Software
With time tracking software you will be able you to track your time effectively and some will even bill your clients automatically!
Obviously if you are managing projects or employees from your home office, you will need a different type of software than if you are just a one person being paid a flat fee. You may think that in this case you don't need a sophisticated system to track your hours. But it is always a good idea to know exactly how long it takes you to do a certain type of project. You will then be able to give a proper quote when bidding for a new contract for similar work in the future.
Good software can automatically track time you spend on websites, documents, accounts and so forth and should offer a stopwatch feature so that you can record specific information. Most programs also have good reporting features so you can check how long you spend overall on phone calls, meetings and so on for a project. You should also be able to export the data into Excel, QuickBooks or similar programs.
Web Based Programs
If you move around a lot you may want to consider web-based programs so that you can access the data from any device. Like most file sharing and file sync sites these programs automatically update your data across all your computers and hand held devices. That way you won't forget to bill a client for the 5 hours that you did on your laptop while you were away on a business trip! And giving your clients detailed invoices showing exactly how long you spent on their project will help them to appreciate just how hard you are working for them and pay you appropriately.
The Next Step
Read reviews of the latest software available to see what the best type of software for you. Then take advantage of the many '30 day free trial' downloads which are offered, so that you can test the software before buying or leasing it. If you try out some of the software available, you will be able to see what features you need or don't need, and how easy it is to use.
Even if you don't think you need time tracking software at the moment, it will help you be more professional. And the more professional you are, the more successful you are likely to be in your home-based business.