Freckle


3
Feb 14

The Mini-Pulse Has A New Home

Ch-ch-ch-ch-che-che-check it out!

The mini-pulse is multiplying.  Sound like something straight out of an episode of Warehouse 13 on the SyFy channel?

Well, if it sounds like a not-so-guilty pleasure that’s fun, smart and supernatural, then you’re totally right.

The mini-pulse may not be on the SyFy channel but it is on individual team member pages in your Freckle account. :)

team member mini pulse

 

We took the best parts of the Dashboard mini-pulse, mixed it with the usefulness of your Pulse, said some magic words and poof.

No not really at all, that’s black magic people.  This is pure productivity!

Now you can easily check on the progress of everyone on your team throughout the week without needing to bug them about their time sheets.

What do you want to see on your team member pages?  We really want to hear your ideas!  Write to us at [email protected] or stop by the Freckle Lounge and chat with someone from the Freckle team.


6
Jan 14

So I’ve logged all this time into Freckle… now what?

Cannon here!

To help you start the new year right, we wanted to give you a real-world example of how you can use your Freckle data to make sense of your time and improve your business!

I have a separate Freckle account for almost everything going on in my life. Working, going to school, and investing in the future is a lot to juggle — and Freckle helps keep me on track.

As I think back on the semester, I can’t shake the feeling that I let the time get away from me. Rather than sit at my desk and guess where all my time went, I’m going to take a cold, hard look at the past few months to find the answer.

Did I take advantage of my free time?

The Freckle Pulse is great for understanding where you spend your time each month. While a report can give you the hard numbers, the Pulse gives you a “sixth-sense” about your own habits.

In order to see if I took advantage of my free time, we need to focus on the dark purple sections (that’s my “Downtime” project) over the past few months. I’m going to circle every day that there’s a lot of time logged for the “Downtime” project and see if anything pops out.

all-pulse

Not only are there days filled with Downtime, the pattern is pretty obvious as well. I tend to binge when I’ve finished the school week and at the start of the weekend, which leads to a bunch of running around on Sunday.

But wait, downtime’s good, right?

Yes, but only when it’s quality downtime. There’s a lot of downtime logged here (around 245 hours) but when I reflect on it, I really don’t feel good about it. I watched a bunch of mediocre TV, spent way too much time idly browsing the internet, and just generally being bored. There’s nothing wrong with turning off your brain (sometimes that’s exactly what you need), but this year I want to start using that time more effectively or at least have more fun when I relax. :)

Is there anything else I can do?

It felt like I was always sprinting from place to place: drive to class, work, run some errands, make dinner. Surely that’s gotta be taking up a lot of time, should I try fixing that before I focus on my free time?

In order to answer this question, I need to scan the Pulse for a “normal” week, one where I wasn’t on break or some huge deadline was looming.

normal-week-on-pulse

Let’s run a report on this week so we get some hard numbers on where my time went.

report on a normal week

I’ve added up the time spent on individual projects into broader categories so I can see what a normal week looks like:

  • Productive time (School, Client Work, Devroutes, Exercising, etc.): 42.75 hours
  • Downtime: 15.75 hours
  • Overhead (Errands, Driving, Eating, Getting Ready, etc.): 23.5 hours
  • Family time (I went home for the weekend): 5.25 hours

When I divide these by the number of hours logged for this week (87.25), I get a percentage of how much time I spent on each category:

normal week breakdown

Honestly… that’s a lot better than I was expecting. I’d really focused on “trimming the fat” in my schedule by doing things like combining trips and staying on campus in between classes — and it seems to have paid off. Sure, it still takes up a quarter of my week, but I thought it was going to be a lot worse.

So: while I could try to focus my efforts on reducing that overhead, I think it would be much easier (and much more feasible) to focus on fixing the “Downtime binging” problem. It’s something I already want to do, and I could easily get 6% of my week back. And now that I have a better understanding of how overhead eats into my time, I can make better plans down the road!

Final Thoughts

I really wanted to show you how powerful your Freckle account is. By accurately tracking your time, you’ll find all the hidden gems you’d miss in the hustle-and-bustle of daily life. That’s why we work so hard to make logging your time dead-simple.

Hopefully you’re excited to dig into your own Freckle account and find these hidden gems! Let us know how you’re using Freckle to make 2014 on Twitter or Facebook, just use the #Make2014Rock Hashtag. :)


21
Dec 13

Freckle ❤️ open source!

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 9.36.11 AM

At Freckle we’re using a lot of open source projects to provide the best possible service and the most cheerful time tracking application to you.

We also extract and share our own open source projects—here’s some of them as a gift back to the community and to you! :)

**Zepto.js**

Zepto.js is our modular drop-in replacement for jQuery, with emphasize on small file size and fast loading, especially on mobile devices. It comes with a few extras for mobile development (such as tap, long-tap and swipe detection) and works on modern desktop and mobile browsers. We use it extensively on Freckle’s mobile web site, and it’s in use by a few other companies you might have heard of, like GitHub and 37signals.

**URLcrypt**

URLcrypt is a Ruby gem for securely encoding and decoding short pieces of arbitrary binary data in URLs. We use this to include the up-to-date mini-pulse in our weekly report emails that go directly to your inbox every Monday morning. If you’re interested in the technical details, read Thomas’ blog post on how get charts into emails you send.

**Zaru**

Zaru is an other Ruby gem, for filename sanitation. This is super useful when you generate filenames for downloadable things from user input. There’s other solutions out there, but those usually not work well with characters from non-latin alphabets. Zaru does, so it only removes characters in filenames that are not acceptable across major operating systems and leaves other things intact.

**Ponymizer**

Ponymizer is yet an other Ruby gem, this time something that generates not-boring test names for people, projects and so on.

*Thank You!*

A big thank-you goes out to all the contributors to our open source projects over the years!

If you’re using one of our open source projects, _we’d love to hear from you_ (just leave a comment)!

Meanwhile, we wish you super-cheerful holidays and a healthy & successful 2014!


16
Dec 13

The Top 10 Things You Don’t Bill For But Should

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: When you under-charge, everybody loses.  You have to take on projects you don’t necessarily want to. You can’t find enough time to relax, to recharge, to learn new things, to get out there and find great work that’ll make you shine.

So what’s the cure to a freelancer’s disease? Raising your rates!

Trust us, we know that the idea of charging more is scary.  You’re not alone.  We’ve had those same nagging thoughts in the back of our heads too.

What if they leave me? I’ll be broke!

I can’t afford to lose potential business.”

Clients already push back on my hourly rate. They’ll never go for an increase in price!”

What if there was a way to get extra money, for free?  Sounds like a crazy concept.  Like we’ve had one too many “special” eggnog drinks this December.

But the truth is, you can!  Raising your rates doesn’t just mean charging a higher hourly rate.  It means charging for your expenses and charging for all of your time that you used to serve your client.

Chances are, you’re not billing for things you can and should be billing for (most people don’t).

So we’ve put together a list of the Top 10 Things You Don’t Bill For But Should to help you get the ball rolling and get those rates up.

  1. Consultation calls
  2. Contract prep
  3. Thinking up & writing proposals
  4. Travel costs (milage, parking, even time to get from point A to point B!)
  5. Mailing, faxing, copying fees
  6. “It’s perfect! Just one more thing..”
  7. PayPal fees (or other fees you incur when a client pays your invoice)
  8. Time spent answering “little” emails and “brief” phone calls
  9. Sales tax, if your state is charging you for it
  10. The time you spend having those brilliant ideas while on the toilet

We’re not saying you have to come right out and say that you’re charging for “toilet brainstorming”.  Call it what you want, but you should bill for that time. 

And all the other things.  You already spend time on contract prep, consultation calls, and drafting up proposals. Why not itemize that work  on your invoice?

Those fees that come with having clients, they’re not going to pay for themselves.  Why not work them into your new, increased hourly rate?

You may not know it, but you already have the tools to charge what you really deserve without feeling like a money-hungry dirt bag who’ll lose all their clients.

Undercharging hurts everyone (yes, even your clients). Charging for your time, and your expenses, now that’ll results in a healthier, happier, more relaxed you.

And that means better work for your clients.  That’s what we call a double whammy!


2
Dec 13

Freckle is 5!

Freckle launched on December 1, 2008!

Thank you, our awesome customers, for using Freckle!

For our the 6th year, we’ve some really cool things planned which we will reveal over the next few months! Stay tuned! :)

Slash7-Final-HiRes-11

Your Freckle Team!


22
Nov 13

5 ways to get your team to happily track time

If you run a business and bill by the hour you know how important it is to keep track of time. You want to bill on time, and all the hours that have actually been worked.

Here’s 5 things you can do to improve time tracking discipline!

**1. Have your time tracking come to your team**
It’s easy to forget to track time in the hustle and bustle of daily work. How awesome would it be if your time tracking software comes to your team members, instead of waiting for them to come to it?

Freckle sends out a weekly email report every Monday morning of your local time (Freckle detects it automatically, so you don’t have to configure anything) to your team members to remind them to review last week’s logged time. If you wish, you get a second email containing summaries for all activity on your Freckle account.

**2. Keep a stopwatch at the ready**
Time tracking should be simple, fast and easy. You don’t want to have to look up a URL, sign in, wait for the page to load, navigate to where you can track time and then possible have to configure things beforehand. “I love to configure things!”, said no one ever.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 9.55.24 AM

With Freckle, you can put the timer in a bookmarklet and always have it just one click away. The Timer stores notes (and makes sure they survive a browser crash or computer change) and you can easily switch between projects you’re working on with just one click.

**3. Empower the power-users**
Using a mouse is so 1963. For power-users and developers that are at home in the terminal nothing is more aggravating than having to switch away from the keyboard.

In Freckle, you can very easily log time without using your mouse. The quickentry box, which is available on every page in Freckle,supports entering dates, times, projects and descriptions via the keyboard, so a sequence like "11/4 3<tab>P<tab>#a<tab><return>" will log 3 hours on November 4, for the first project found that starts with a “P” and the first hashtag that starts with “a”. You can even create new projects and tags this way. Beyond that, with the Freckle API, you can happily log time from the command line, and with the Beanstalk and Github integrations you can do the same from commit messages.

**4. Remove upfront configuration**
We said it before, but it’s so important: in the heat of the moment, on the phone with a new client or in the middle of fixing that pesky bug, or when you draw that design for your new “Snapchat Killer” app—you don’t want to have to figure out how your time tracking app works. In Freckle, you can log time to a new project directly from the time entry box and configure the details, like budgets, later.

**5. Use software that strives to be friendly & cheerful**
Software doesn’t have to hurt. Or, if you’re a glass-half-full kind of person (and we are), good software is cheerful software: it behaves cheerfully, and it leaves you cheerful, too. Good software is like a good concierge: there when you need it, with what you need in hand, fading away magically into the background when you don’t need it. Time tracking is a chore for your team, but great software can help ease the pain and even make it fun! (That’s a customer quote!)

**Don’t have a Freckle account? Start your free 30-day trial today!**


31
Oct 13

Zombie Clients: are they eating your brains?!

They’re insidious. They’re hungry. They’re hard to kill.

And this Halloween, we’re going to help you with your double taps.

Bad clients are a plague. You might even feel like they’re cracking
your skull like a breakfast egg and devouring your precious, precious brains.

And no matter how many wrap-ups you do, their projects refuse to die.

That’s how you know you’re dealing with a Zombie Client.

But fear not! Whether you have an established team, or you’re just starting out, you can survive this plague.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 11.19.58 AM

Grab Freckle’s free 11-page survival guide and fend of the impending zombie client apocalypse!

Happy Halloween!


29
Oct 13

Where did the time go?

It’s the end of the month and you’re asking yourself the age-old question: “Where did the time go?”

* You know you were busy, but you can’t pinpoint exactly what you worked on
* On some days, the office was bustling with activity
* But on other days it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop

Worst of all, it seems to be impossible to plan for when those unproductive days happen.

And what about next month? Will you only be productive for the first week, then spend the rest of it dealing with administrative crap?

Or worse, you might be missing out on the chance to grow your business because you can’t see opportunities amid the flurries of activity.

This leads to one of the biggest challenges in running a business:
Your team is working, but you can’t reliably measure their performance or plan for the future.

Knowing what your team is working on and how your team works is one of the silver bullets of growing your business—it allows you to plan for the future, give tasks to the right employees, and discover the hidden gems in your business… and ultimately make more money.

Freckle to the rescue!

With other time tracking software, you would have to run a million reports, collect and cross reference data, and spend every waking hour hovering over your team’s shoulder. With the Freckle Pulse, all of this information is at your fingertips—no stalking or Excel-fu required!

Know what projects your team worked on during the month.

* You can plan your next business month with hard data, not guesstimates.
* You’ll be able to see your team’s activity patterns and reveal their most productive days

It’s not enough to simply be working—you need to know what your team is doing and plan for the future. With the activity calendar, you can see what your team’s focus was over the course of the month.

Calendar

Look out for those dreaded “vampire projects” (they suck up all your time without giving you anything in return).

Power-Freckler tip: click on any individual piechart to run a report for that day and see all the details!

Activity chart

ActivityThink of this as the “heartbeat” of your business. In a single glance, the ebb and flow of your team’s productivity is right in front of you.

Project break-down

ProjectsThere’s no need to keep a mental list of every project you worked on during the month. The pulse page includes a projects list that automatically shows you every project your team worked on during the month (and for how long).

With this towering tally of time you can find the projects that “will only take 30 minutes” until they’ve gobbled up a huge chunk of your business.

Find those unbillable time sinks

Focused on cutting down unbillable time? The Pulse can be filtered, showing you how unbillable time affects your team’s productivity.

Individual User, Unbillable Hours

The same powerful insights are available for each member of your team. All you have to do is tell the Freckle Pulse to only show a single user’s entries.

Develop a “sixth sense” about your team’s work rhythm

The next month is just around the corner. Make it a great month for your business by signing into your Freckle account now and fire up the Pulse to learn how your team works!

Don’t have a Freckle account? Sign up for a free 30-day trial, and use the Pulse to make your business more productive and profitable!

Do you have idea or feedback on how to make your business even more productive and the Pulse even better? Shoot an email to Devon, your Freckle Support Super Hero, at [email protected].


12
Oct 13

Mobile Time Tracking

Maybe you left your laptop at home but you’re getting a phone call from a client? Or you’re in a meeting and you can’t use your laptop. Or you have a great idea while you’re at dinner and want to track the time it takes to draw that great new design on the back of a napkin…

…what if you could use the Freckle Timer on the go without having to first open your laptop and open Freckle in your browser?

Now you can with Freckle’s new mobile web app! Use the timer or track time manually right from your phone! And it’s totally free with any Freckle account that uses hashtags*, and doesn’t need any extra configuration.

*If you don’t have hashtags enabled, learn how to migrate your account.

Just hit up Freckle in your phone’s browser

signing

The mobile web version of Freckle is specially formatted and optimized for the touch screen of your phone—and we’re making it super-easy to log time.

You probably want “remember me” to be on, except when you borrow a phone from a friend to log your time.

dashboardThe dashboard screen is just like you’re used to from Freckle, showing you what you’ve logged time for recently, and how much time you’ve logged each day (the mini-pulse will be added in a future update).

On the bottom you can switch between the Dashboard and the Timer. If a timer is running, you can always see the elapsed time under the timer icon.

logicTo manually log time without using the Timer, just tap “Log Time” in the top right. We’ll auto-select the last project you’ve logged time for, but you can easily change that by tapping the project name and selecting an other project.

Use the “+” and “-” buttons to quickly adjust the amount of time you want to log, or tap on the time and enter it manually.

To change the date, just tap it and a convenient date selector will pop up.

tagsWhen you type the description, we’ll autocomplete tags. You don’t need to type a “#” first, as this is awkward on mobile devices, we’ll just try to show relevant tags as you type. For example, if you type “meet”, the “#meeting” hashtag will show up (if you have one).

Just tap the tag to insert it into the description. If lots of tags are found you can scroll the tag list by swiping left and right.

Once you’re happy with the entry, just tap “Log it! ✓” and you’re done! You’ll see the new entry on your dashboard!

Meet the mobile Timer!

timerTap the “Timer” icon on the bottom to go to the mobile Timer. If a Timer is running, the elapsed time & project name will be front and center.

To start tracking time, just tap a project name and the timer will start (and pause the currently running timer, if any).

You can pause the timer by tapping the big elapsed time shown in the box with the project’s color.

When it’s time to log the timer (ha!) just tap “Log Timer” on the top right and you’ll be in business. The form shown is the same as for manually logging time, but the time from the timer will be pre-filled and rounded to the next billing increment. If you started the timer a bit late, you can add time here (or if you hit pause too late, subtract it). Note that because timers are bound to projects, you can’t change the project when you’re logging a timer.

Just as in the desktop version, while the timer is running you’ll hear the audible chime whenever an other billing increment is reached, as well as when you’re starting or unpausing the timer. Note that the chime is only audible if Freckle is the currently running application (that’s a technical limitation, which we’ll try to work around in the future).

The best thing: the timers you see on your phone are the same exact timers that you see on your desktop browser. Start a timer on your laptop, then later stop it and log the time from your phone. No extra steps required!

But, but, I need to run a report!

If you need to go to the “full” Freckle in case you want to run reports, view the pulse or look at invoices, you can tap “Settings” and then tap “Full Desktop Version”. We’ll show a bar on top of the desktop version so you can easily switch back to the phone version when you’re done!

The pulse, reports, invoices will eventually also come to the mobile web version of Freckle.

Wait, can’t I have this as an app?

You can if you are using an iPhone—you can add Freckle directly to your home screen:

add_to_homescreen

Note: this also works on Chrome for Android beta (version 31 or higher) as there’s a “Add to Home Screen” option in the menu! We don’t recommend using browser beta versions, so it’s best to hold out until this feature is available in Chrome proper (which likely is very soon!)

On other devices, just add a bookmark. Because we’re using long-lasting sessions by default, you shouldn’t have to log in every time you’re using Freckle!

It’s in beta, baby!

Freckle’s mobile web site works with iPhones (iOS 7 recommended), Android phones (Android 4+ with Chrome for Android recommended) and on Windows Phone 8. It’s a beta release, so there may be bugs and kinks—please do let us know if you find any problems or if you just have general feedback (shoot an email to [email protected]!)

As for future features, next to fixing bugs and supporting more devices (like older Android phones) we’re planning on bringing you the pulse and reports next!

Enjoy time tracking on the go!


16
Sep 13

A Support Team’s Guide to Better Emails

Have you ever had “just one of those weeks”?

When nothing seems to be going your way, and you feel a bit like you’re
chasing your own tail just trying to keep up with your day to day activities.

Well, last week was “one of those weeks” for the Freckle Team.

But thanks to some awesome advice from customer support guru Chase Clemons, we were able quickly answer your Freckle support questions, AND continue our work on some sweet new features like the next version of the Freckle API and our upcoming mobile web app for all you iPhone, Android and Windows Phone users (there’s a lot more where those features came from, but we can’t give away all of our secrets!).

Now, you’re probably wondering two things.

  1. Who is this mastermind Chase Clemons you speak of?
  2. And, How did you manage to stay on top of your Customer Support needs AND keep developing amazing features?

Chase Clemons is a support super hero—he works on the support team at 37Signals  and is the guy behind SupportOps. If you’ve never heard of it and you’re running or are on a support team, you should absolutely check it out!

We know that, like us, that many of you have small support teams of your own.

And just like us, you’ve probably experienced your eyes bulging out of your skull at the sight of an obscene number of support emails at least once or twice. It may be an influx of new customers from an article on that high profile blog, a bug that slipped through your tests, or maybe you’re just back from that vacation where you wanted to work but found the beach more appealing.

Today, we’re going to share with you a little gift SupportOps gave us that helped us through “one of those weeks” and kept us on track to getting you some cool features. :)

Here are four tips and tricks we learned from “A Brief Guide to a Better Email”, which helped us a ton during “one of those weeks”.

1.)  When you’re answering a customer’s question, be sure to explain in a way they can understand. 

  • If you’re explaining something technical stay away from complicated wording.  A phrase you’re very familiar with like, “clear your cache”, may be hard for you customer to understand.
  • Consider including steps for how to handle difficult issues on your help site.  That way you can streamline your responses by linking to the answer.

2.)  Stay away from the words like “inconvenient”.

  • If a customer is not happy with something, it’s a not inconvenient, it’s a problem.
  • It’s not an “availability event”, it’s your customer unable to see and use their own data, causing loss of money, time and nerves. Don’t use technical sounding “Serious Business English”, as you’ll sound like a douche bag.
  • No one likes getting emails from a robot. So let your customers know you’re human by being personable and understanding.

3.)  You’re definitely going to see criticism from customers—and that’s a good thing!

  • Ask what the person liked and disliked about your product/service/or whatever it is you do.
  • Getting feedback is key to understanding how your customers use your product or service and you can learn a lot from what someone didn’t like.

4.)  If you’re a small biz, like we are, your support team IS your sales team.

  • Be excited and thankful when someone tells you they’re interested in your product.  A little excitement can go a long way.
  • Let that person know all of the ways they can reach you.  Sell yourself support team, you ROCK!

We found Chase’s “A Brief Guide to a Better Email” super helpful (Thanks Chase!), and we hope you’ll take a look at it and find it just as interesting as we did!

Let us know what you think of these support tips and tricks by emailing Devon, your Freckle Support Super Hero, at [email protected]. Or stop by the Freckle Lounge to give us some feedback!