When customers pay for your services, they’re really buying your knowledge of how to get the job done the best and fastest possible way. That’s why an inexperienced carpenter charges $15 an hour, whereas a master woodworker who hammers faster and straighter than a nail gun charges $80 an hour. When it comes right down to it, time is money, so you want to keep track of both with equal accuracy. Product-based companies track time, too. For example, companies that want to increase productivity often start by tracking the time that employees work and what they work on.
There are hordes of off-the-shelf and homegrown time-tracking programs out there, but if your time-tracking needs are fairly simple, you can record time directly in QuickBooks or use its companion program, QuickBooks Pro Timer, which you can provide to each person whose work hours you want to track. The advantage of tracking time in QuickBooks is that the hours you record are ready to attach to an invoice (see page 249) or use in payroll (see online Appendix D). In this chapter, you’ll learn how to record time in QuickBooks itself. Appendix F (available from this book’s Missing CD page at www.missingmanuals.com/cds) explains the ins and outs of the standalone Timer program.
Mileage is another commodity that many companies track—or should. Whether your business hinges on driving or merely requires the occasional jaunt, the IRS lets you deduct vehicle mileage, as long as you can document the miles you deduct. And you might charge customers for the miles driven in conjunction with the work you do for them. As you’ll learn in this chapter, QuickBooks can help you track the mileage of company vehicles; you can then use that info for tax deductions or to charge customers.