Experienced freelancers and consultants know that time is money.

Every minute spent on a non-value added activity is a moment wasted. It’s therefore wise to seek new ways to become more efficient. One way to achieve this goal is by accurately budgeting your time by client or project.

Below you’ll find a simple task duration estimation tool, which I hope helps you make the most of your billable hours.

How to Use this Task Duration Estimation Tool

Each day, I work for several different clients. I typically start my day by penciling in which clients get which hours. I first look at my calendar for hours already filled by meetings. The leftover hours represent time when I can actually get work done. As you might expect, on busy days, there may be more meetings than work time. This can lead to very strange windows of opportunity.

For example, let’s say your goal is to work 200 minutes for a particular client tomorrow. You already have a meeting with the client scheduled from 8 am until 9 am, but it will probably finish five minutes early (at 8:55 am) This means you have 145 minutes of billable work time left to allocate to the client. Your afternoon is relatively open starting at 2:45 pm. However, doing the math on 2:45 pm plus 145 minutes can make your head hurt. This tool should help alleviate the mental gymnastics often associated with such situations. Simply input your start time and estimated end time, and the tool tells you exactly how much time (in hours or minutes) it is equal to. Not right? Adjust the estimated end time until you arrive at the desired task duration.

I suppose you could also use this tool to estimate your total billable work availability for a given day, based on your start and end times (although, you’ll need to manually figure in lunch breaks, et cetera).

Let Me Know Your Thoughts

After you’ve tried this tool, please do share your feedback. I’m always interested in hearing your suggestions! What other aspects of freelancing and consulting do you struggle with?

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Note: This task duration estimation tool is provided as-is and is certainly not guaranteed to be 100% accurate. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it only works for those working day shifts (night shift calculations show negative numbers, which is preposterous). By using this tool, you agree to do so at your own discretion. If you notice a bug or a calculation issue, please contact me so that I can fix it. It’s a work in progress. Thanks!

Written by Matt Keener

Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and Entrepreneur.com.

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