What is a Good Time Tracking App for a Small Business?

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 17/10/2022
small business time tracking

If you’re a  project manager or a small business owner toying with the idea of getting a time tracking app - this article is for you. We will guide you towards making an educated decision by outlining what are the key features you should seek and what to take into consideration before signing a contract. 




First of all - congratulations! Your stumbling upon this article means you have recognised the need for a solution to record time. Undoubtedly there is plenty of reasons why you came to this conclusion, but we are here to assure you it is the right one. The simple truth is that having visibility of where is your time spent is beneficial to everyone with no exception on both personal and business levels. When done right, it will reveal a bigger picture of where your strengths and weaknesses lay, allowing you to make the next steps from a more strategic standpoint. In terms of business, this may be exactly the thing that’s been holding you back from scaling.

However, we understand that the first steps are always the hardest, especially in a vast market like the one for time tracking solutions. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with different vendors competing for your business with huge feature packages. In fact, they may sometimes be so big you will start wondering if a business of your size even needs one. Let us begin by addressing this very doubt.

Myth: Small Businesses Don’t Need to Track Time

Having worked with a handful of startups and small businesses that struggle to scale, we’ve identified a common trait: they often don’t think they need to track time. The reasoning is often within the realm of thinking they don’t have enough clients, they are small tight-knit teams and they don’t want to micro-manage the staff. This very thought process is what prevents them from growing. No matter how many clients you have, you still need to bill them for your time and deliverables; inaccuracies in that regard will cost you. In the worst cases - losing a client.  

Even the closest teams can’t maintain 100% visibility of one another’s progress at all times. Giving them transparency through a time-tracking solution isn’t micro-management but rather a way of aligning them and creating smoother workflows. On top of all, it will also give you heaps of data you can then analyse to better your processes moving forward. The earlier you start tracking time, the better off you’ll be in a long run. If anything, startups and small businesses should prioritise getting a good time tracking solution in place. 

Core Time Tracking Features

Once you start the search, you will encounter multiple providers offering you generously huge service packages. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and go for a time tracking app with the biggest range of functionality for the least price. However, it is very unlikely to be the solution you truly need. So, to avoid being blown away, let’s define the very core features you need. 

Customisable Timesheets

There’s no point in getting a features-filled tool that falls short in its primary purpose: time tracking. To put it simply, all the additional functionality is added to the software to enhance the performance of time recording and therefore the timesheets will be the cornerstone of it all. If they are rigid and lack flexibility, the rest of the features such as invoicing and reporting will also have the same issue. Not to mention, if you offer differentiating rates a solution without an option to customise your timesheets will only be good to use on certain projects instead of across all your business operations. And this is simply not a good value for money. 

While it’s standard that you will be offered a couple of pre-built timesheet templates and potentially some customisation options (e.g. choosing work days), it’s not enough. You want to invest in a tool you can rely on the long term and which can scale with you. This means you should prioritise software that isn’t limiting you to its default settings and is instead enabling you to build your own process. The in-built templates should normally be used to start tracking time; the customisation or an option to build your own templates is there to help you grow. 

Quick and Easy Approval Process

While timesheets are meant to speed up payroll processes, the statistics prove that, in fact, 80% of the reviewer’s time is later wasted correcting timesheets. This bottleneck can be addressed through the use of a timesheet solution that helps you build an approval process. In the case of rejection, you will no longer have to do all the footwork. Instead, the system will notify the worker with a faulty time record their timesheet was not approved, urging them to correct the mistakes and resubmit it. Some solutions will also allow you to add a note in which you can explain the reasoning behind your decision.

At Timesheet Portal, we go the extra mile. The approvers you set will be sent an automatic notification once the timesheets are submitted. Instead of going through the motions of logging into the platform, we allow our users to review the submissions right in their inboxes. They can also both approve or reject them right there, without disrupting their ongoing workflows.

Factors to Consider

With the absolute necessities discussed, let’s look at important features you should expect a good time tracking app to have. Unlike the previously discussed ones, they are not crucial but also fall into the must-have brackets as they contribute to the efficiency and performance of the tool. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just the project manager that will be utilising the software - it’s also the executive, financial and even HR teams.

Accessibility and Usability

Since your time tracking solution will be used by people across different departments, it’s important to ensure they all have easy access to it. We recommend opting for cloud solutions as, unlike traditional software, they are not bound to devices. Instead, anyone can access the platform from anywhere in the world, as long as they can connect to the internet as such solutions are web-based. Given we live in the era of smartphones and 5G, the majority of the population is online even on the go. This makes cloud solutions great if your staff operates across different locations and isn’t computer-bound (e.g. construction industry). 

However, despite easy access for everyone it’s also important to remember that not everyone is tech-savvy. Some professions naturally attract older people that are less hands-on with new technology. At Timesheet Portal, we have addressed this issue by supplementing our software with a mobile app for both Android and Apple devices. It’s designed to be very simplified and straightforward, therefore comfortable to use for people of any age and technological prowess. Why not give it a try?

Additional Functionality

Now here comes the fun part - other features other than the basic worker time recording. Different vendors will naturally offer different functionality and the number of them; it does not make them better or worse than the next. Depending on what the are the direct needs of your business, the scale and the budget, a more compact solution might be more relevant than one packed with a variety of features.  

We, however, recommend you pay more attention to features that enhance your existing processes rather than the ones you’ll need to create new operations for. For example, if you are currently invoicing your clients manually, you should prioritise a time tracking app that offers automatic invoice generation and distribution. And, if you’re not utilising self-billing just yet but think it might be something you’ll be interested in the future, this functionality should be written off as a nice-to-have rather than something of an immediate need. Remember, good software is going to meet you where you are right now and help you progress from there.

What’s the Cost?

Now to the most important question - what is to be expected price-wise? Most small businesses have limited budgets and therefore don’t have the luxury of splurging on enterprise-level time-tracking solutions. The good news is that, first of all, you don’t need one. Secondly, the era of SaaS (software-as-a-service) only being sold as expensive service packages is ending. Today, more and more solutions offer a more budget-friendly alternative.

Pay for What You Use

While there are still plenty of companies that will intentionally hide their prices and push you to get in touch with them as measures of qualifying whether you’re truly interested, this practice is steadily coming to its end. In fact, the very model of offering pre-packaged software deals is going out of fashion. As competition for time tracking app providers grows, they are starting to focus on providing a smoother buyer experience in order to close deals quicker. And some, like Timesheet Portal, are genuinely interested in helping their clientele succeed. This is why most customer-centric timesheet software vendors will only charge you for the features you use. 

Since our platform doesn’t segregate global organisations from small businesses, we figured this approach will make Timesheet Portal useful for everyone. It won’t hinder bigger clients but it will also not be out of reach for those with smaller budgets. If anything, we believe we provide aid and easy scaling opportunities for those who are only beginning their journey into the competitive arena; and with this model, we will be able to grow along them. 


It’s a common misconception that small businesses don’t need time-tracking software, mainly because their processes aren’t as long nor do they work with huge amounts of data. However, this very belief is often what prevents them from scaling. Another challenge is that the market for timesheet solutions is huge and continues to grow, making it difficult to navigate. To avoid making poor decisions, it’s best you always prioritise the quality of core functionality: timesheet customisation and contribution to the approval process. 

It is also important to remember the solution should serve different people across your team; from executives to the back office and you should therefore make sure it’s easily accessible to all of them. As for additional features, choose ones that can smoothen your existing processes instead of ones you are only thinking of. Also, to save money and to scale easily, go for vendors that charge you per feature you use as opposed to a functionality package. If you follow these tips, you’ll acquire a solution that helps you grow and grows with you.

Need more tips?  Let us know.

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Timesheet Portal online software provided by Anfold Software Ltd, a registered company in the UK.