Well, everyone used to freelance for some time and some people freelance for their entire working life. An integral part of freelancing is interacting with customers and keeping track of projects, tasks, and services related to each customer.
A freelancer can start with Excel sheets to keep track of working hour spent on a task in a project and finally calculate how much the client should pay for the time s/he spent on the project by summing the amount of time s/he spent on each task.
At some point freelancers will find themselves in need for a better management solution to keep track of everything related to the customers, projects, services, tasks, payments, invoices and so on.
This is when the freelancer will start looking for a software to manage them. a software which we can define customer and projects and then we start adding time slices to the project and shows us how much time we spent on the project and how much cash we should ask the customer to pay.
The above solution will work for sometimes and after that a more complex management solution will be required to manage the customers, projects, services, tasks, spent time, unit of works and so on and so on. this is when we start looking for a software capable of doing all things with the smallest amount of time devoted to keeping the record of time spent for a customer.
The search for such a tool will took longer than you think because there are more than a handful of software doing the management tasks and selecting a good one will take some time.
I have been in this path and up to 3 months ago I was using eHour to manage my work with different customer on multiple projects for each customer but after some time i felt the need for a more automated software which means a more complete in term features like:
- Bill-able and non-billable tasks and services
- Multiple way of measuring the work units
- Simple accounting and invoice/ payment management
- customizable invoice templates for different customer/projects.
- Simple way of measuring the time I spent for each task/ service / project…
- easy back up restore for the database
- Cross platform with easy data migration between different platform.
All of these requirement satisfied when I start using Fanurio. The software is simple, slick and amazingly complete comparing with other software I tried during the evaluation period.
I simply start the application, it sits in the System Tray (Windows, Linux, Mac…). I click the start time, when required I pause the time and when finished I stop the time. I select which customer, which project and which service I want the time to be appended and it is finished.
As you have already guessed software is developed using Java and benefits from a very good and easy to use GUI. A feature that I learned about after about two weeks is an alternate view which shows a timer counting amount of time we spent since we started the timer.
Down to technical terms, this application uses HSQL, Swing, JGoodies Looks, Itext for PDF generation and rendering (Invoices can be generated in PDF or HTML) among other libraries. It also uses the ehcache and Hibernate in addition to using Freemarker for templates.
With all good features there is an small drawback which probably means nothing for 99% of developers. The software does not support Arabic text properly both in the GUI and in the generated PDF files. The encoding of HTML files are not correct as well (it can be viewed by changing the encoding from View menu) I think the GUI drawback is related to JGoodies Looks and the fact that generated PDF files are not in correct order is because of how developers are generating the PDF files. I am sure that this will be fixed in the next version and thanks to the auto-update feature of the software we can simply update the software with new features and bug fixes.
This software shows how good we can combine open source projects to create an actual and working piece of software. I recommend you try it before starting a witch hunt for a good freelancing management software.
You can find more information and a trial version at http://www.fanuriotimetracking.com/