If you subscribe to our NAC e–zine, you’ll remember the e-mail blast about billable time. I received a few responses to my question about how appraisers track billable time.

The first step is to create your own time log. Track all of your waking hours for three days straight. No cheating! Write it all down – the good, the productive and the ugly.

You can make your own chart, or pick up any one of my manuals from my Successful Selling Secrets series. Check out http://www.valuethisradio.com/appraisersuccess/nac-products/

Once you’ve completed your time log, you’ll discover just how unproductive we all are as appraisers. You’ll see how much time you work on a job. You’ll see, that if you are a typical appraiser, many hours should have been billed, but were not.

Here are a few tips to help you capture and bill the hours you deserve.

 Create a boilerplate time tracking sheet that gets stapled to every appraisal engagement folder. That way every time you pull it out to do work you keep a record of your work. Log a start time and a stop time, every time. Document the type of work you did, even it is just a phone call.

 Use QuickBooks for tracking billable hours. When you contract the job, create an invoice for that client and add to it each time you work on that job. Open QuickBooks when you start up the office and leave it open all day. Pop up the invoice for each job and log hours as you go. Mark your first line item on the invoice “IN PROCESS” so you and your bookkeeper know it’s not a final invoice.

 Use PDA technology. There are many different time-tracking programs. Some work on your desktop – others work on your PDA. The PDA versions allow you to click on a client when you start work, click off when you are done. If you take a lunch break — click off. Click on when you’re back. Get a call from a different client while you’re on another job – click off one client – click on another.

 Have your secretary, associate, or executive assistant track your time. Assign them the job of keeping you on task. They’ll keep you ‘honest.’

You’ll see an amazing and positive difference in your work performance. You’ll have the confidence to bill for more of your time. By effectively tracking your billable time, you’ll become much more effective in estimating future jobs and engagements, which is better for your clients and better for you.

I suggest you bill for all your time. You earned it. You performed the service. You should be compensated for it. Naturally, you don’t need to bill for all your time, but you should certainly let your client know how much time you put into the job. Put it all on the invoice, then credit back some hours. If you do decide to credit back hours, DO NOT reduce your hourly rate. Credit back hours or provide a dollar amount, but not a discounted rate. We also credit hours to clients on occasion.

The only time I discount my hourly our rate is when I’m subcontracting to a fellow appraiser, or when we have an annual or term contract with a major gatekeeper client.

Don’t forget about your re-qualification. You need to prove your billable hours. Make sure you are documenting all your time, so you’ll have something to show at “requal” time.