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Timekeeping for hourly projects

Active Member
Dale N Member Since: Oct 23, 2018
1 of 12

I'm about to start my first hourly project.  Who has tips about what I need to do or not do?

Bojan S Moderator Member Since: Mar 9, 2018
2 of 12

Hi Dale,


On an hourly contract, you log hours and the client is automatically billed for them. The Upwork Desktop App is used for hourly contracts to track time, please this article to learn how to log time using this app. Please learn about Hourly Payment Protection and weekly billing cycle. Let us know if you need further assistance. We're here to help.




~ Bojan
Community Guru
John K Member Since: Feb 17, 2015
3 of 12

If at all possible, use time tracker, and update the memo when needed so it matches what you're currently working on. And because time tracker only records the intervals :00 to :10, :10 to :20, :20 to :30, :30 to :40, :40 to :50, and :50 to :00, try to start it near the start of each interval. For instance, rather than start it at 10:05, wait 5 minutes and start it at 10:10. Any segments you work that are less than 6 minutes in length, you might not get paid for. Finally, time tracker also monitors keyboard and mouse activity, so if a task requires you to be away from the computer, ask the client to allow manual time and don't use time tracker for those tasks. Good luck!

"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Boothe Luce
Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
4 of 12

I use hourly contracts a lot and never use the UW Time Tracker because only a portion of what I do is reflected by keyboard activity. I do use my own tracker which runs in the background whenever my computer is on, and makes it easy for me to track time spent on multiple projects, both on and off UW, and generate timesheets and other reports as I need them.
Follow Bohan's and John's advice. Beyond that, I would add that because manually logged hours are not protected the way automatically logged hours are, it's very important to be sure you are working with a client who understands how you do what you do and is comfortable trusting you. Also, be sure you establish a mutual understanding about how many hours/week are anticipated to complete the work and how the two of you will handle any unforeseen overrun. It's actually fundamental freelancing best practice but you'll be amazed to discover how many untried FLs jump into UW with both feet, without understanding the business/client management side of things.


Welcome to Upwork and good luck!

Active Member
Matt S Member Since: Oct 22, 2018
5 of 12
Hey Phyllis.
Can you explain this a bit more in depth? I had no clue that the UW Time tracker primarily tracks time by Keyboard strokes? (I am a Copy Editor / Copy Writer). Of course for Writing jobs this wouldn’t be as big of an issue.
However, editing jobs where 75% of the time is spent reviewing and making only a few key strokes, could?

What program do you use for tracking? I’ve heard of Toggl, but I feel it lacks... eh I’m not sure how to put it in words.

Thanks for any insight!

Matthew S.
Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
6 of 12

Hi, Matthew. I do a bit of writing and editing along with custom research (design, execute, analyze and report surveys). I tried the UW tracker once and found it tremendously distracting. For one thing, I use two monitors. For another, I sometimes spend time noodling around with pencil and paper or mapping things out on a whiteboard. All of that is billable and none of it is detectable by a desktop tracker.


I use ManicTime. I think there is a free version but I buy the pro version, I think it's something like $60-70/year. It runs in the background when my computer is on, so I can always reconstruct even the most fractured and hectic day. I use either my mobile phone or skype for 99% of work calls, so even when I forget to record the time, I can go back to the phone logs and tag it in MT later. I can run a timesheet any time, so it's easy to roll up project hours on a weekly basis, and to keep daily tabs on any project with a close budget or nervous client.


I don't hold with the doom-and-gloom warnings about the lack of payment protection for manual hours. It's absolutely true, but if things turn sour on a project, you may preserve the hours already worked but you have to go replace that client. And the fact is that fixed-price payments are not all that well protected. A client can decide to bail midway through a project and simply not fund remaining milestones. Yes, the FL likely keeps payment for milestones completed so far (unless the client trumps up some grievance about teh quality and holds feedback over the FL's head). But a lot of work is not easily chopped into milestones, and completing the first one may actually involve more investment of time/energy/expertise than is represented in the first phase of deliverables. Also, I think it's the case that a client can claw back an entire project payment if they act within 30 days, and the FL's only recourse is to spend close to $300 for arbitration.


At the same time, clients sometimes prefer one type of contract over another for reasons having to do with their own procurement processes, e.g. they can use their credit card to pay weekly bills for hourly work, whereas they have to do a cumbersome P.O. process for fixed-price payments. If we agree on the scope and budget, I will take the money any way they want to send it.


The only real protection a FL has against being exploited or cheated is their own ability to suss out quality clients and establish strong mutual trust. If you can't do that, then nothing UW can do will really protect you or ensure that you thrive as a freelancer.

Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
7 of 12

Use the TimeTracker app to count all your time worked o a client's contract and don't expect to be paid for any time not tracked by TimeTracker.


Until you get to know a client well, DO NOT book any manual hours for their project, even if they say it's OK. (After four or so years on Upwork, I still never book manual hours for any project.)


As you start each TimeTracker session, include a meaningful description of what you are working on for that session. Your client or Upwork may demand to understand what you were doing during a particular work session. If what you are doing isn't clearly described in your written description for that period, either of them may dispute your hours booked and not pay you.


Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
8 of 12

Alternatively, set up contracts in mutual agreement with your clients; have very clear and specific discussion about scope of work, timing of interim and final deliverables, and factors that could affect either schedule or budget; and be sure you understand what the clients expect and where their comfort levels begin and end. Communicate clearly throughout, and deliver above and beyond.


I've earned tens of thousands of dollars in manually logged hourly contracts on UW in the past year, with zero problems. Yes, there is some exposure at the very beginning of a relationship but that is also true with fixed-price contracts and, to a lesser extent, tracked hours. And it is unquestionably true in the B&M world.

Active Member
Naresh K Member Since: Sep 28, 2015
9 of 12

Good discussion and thanks for sharing tips for hourly projects.


I am just about to start working on an hourly project. Initially, I anticipate a lot of communication with the client as I move through the learning curve. This will include chats and perhaps calls with him and going through their documents and website for research.


From a FL's perspective, should the above be billed? 

Community Guru
Martina P Member Since: Jul 11, 2018
10 of 12

Naresh K wrote:

Good discussion and thanks for sharing tips for hourly projects.


I am just about to start working on an hourly project. Initially, I anticipate a lot of communication with the client as I move through the learning curve. This will include chats and perhaps calls with him and going through their documents and website for research.


From a FL's perspective, should the above be billed? 

Of course. It's your time, and you get paid for your time. 

Just make sure you discuss this ahead of time with your client and that you are on the same page. As a professional, it is your task to know what will take how much time, and you should tell the client what will happen, the one thing you want to avoid is surprising a client with more hours that he expected. That does not end well.