When you’re running a small business, you need to keep track of employee time—when your team members are working, how long they’re working, and when they start and stop working.
And in order to successfully do that, you need an employee time clock.
Back in the day, employee time clocks were physical machines where employees would clock in and clock out every day. But thanks to technology, there are now digital options that eliminate the need for physical time cards or paper timesheets, which can make a business owner’s job a whole lot easier.
But why, exactly, is employee time clock software so essential for your business? What should you consider when choosing a time clock app? And what are some of the best options on the market that will make it simple to keep track of employee time—without breaking the bank?
What Is A Time Clock App—And Why Do You Need One For Your Team?
First things first—before we jump into some of the best free time clock apps available for businesses (and how to choose the right one for you and your team), let’s quickly cover what time clock apps actually do—and why they’re an absolute must for effective team management.
A time clock app is a digital application or software that keeps track of your employee hours. Your employees can clock in or clock out directly through the app, which keeps a digital record of those time entries. There are time clock apps that offer business owners additional features to better manage their team (like computer time tracking or GPS monitoring), but the digital clock in/clock out functionality is a universal function of these types of apps.
There are a few reasons why you should definitely consider a time clock app for your business, including:
- It protects your business from time theft. Time theft is a huge problem. According to research from the American Payroll Association, 75 percent of companies experience some kind of time fraud, costing businesses up to 7 percent of their total payroll each year. When you rely on paper timesheets or traditional time cards, it makes it easier for employee hours to be misrepresented and time theft to happen—and for your business to lose money. For example, “buddy punching,” is a process where one employee takes the lead in clocking in for another employee when they’re late or absent—which can throw off your employee time and attendance data and make attendance tracking harder.
- It’s more convenient. Paper timesheets are a hassle. Filling them out wastes your employees’ time—and processing them and entering them into your payroll system wastes your time. Time clock software simplifies the process; your employees can easily clock in through a desktop or mobile app—and instead of processing their timesheets manually, you’ll have real-time access to their time entries. Essentially, time clock apps make better time management possible for you and your employees.
- They offer additional features. In addition to tracking your employee clock in and clock outs, many time clock apps offer a host of other features (like attendance software, which makes it easier to stay on top of attendance tracking and deal with any employee attendance issues; or GPS tracking, which can help ensure that your employees are at the right job sites and at the right time) that allow you to more efficiently manage your business.
What To Look For When Choosing A Time Clock App
Clearly, time clock apps offer a ton of benefits to business owners. But with so many options to choose from, how do you make sure you choose the app that’s going to be the best fit for your business?
There are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself when evaluating employee time clock software, including:
- What do I need my time clock app to do? The first question to ask yourself is what you actually need from your time clock app. For example, do you just need a simple time clock app that enables your employees to clock in and out? Do you need an app that allows for shift scheduling and changes? Do you need a time clock software that integrates with your project management platform? Whatever it is you need your time clock app to do, you’ll want to define it before you choose an app.
- Do I need to clock time or track time? Time clocking and time tracking are two different things. Time clocking will let you know your employees’ work hours and when they arrive and leave each day—but time tracking will let you know how they spent that work time in between. There are apps that clock time, time tracking software that tracks time, and digital solutions that both clock and track time—so when you’re deciding on an app, it’s important to know which you need to manage your team in the most efficient way.
- What kind of on-the-go functionality does my team need? If your team works off-site, you’ll probably want to get a mobile time clock app. Generally, these apps offer GPS location tracking so you can confirm your team is where they’re supposed to be—and allows your team members to clock in through their smartphones (like an Android or iPhone), mobile devices (like an iPad), or, if they work from home, from their web browser.
- How does this app integrate with my existing payroll process? You need your time data in order to process payroll. So, when choosing a time clock app, you want to make sure it either has a payroll integration that will work with your existing payroll system or the app has its own payroll capabilities that allow you to run payroll and manage any other payroll related issues (like sick leave management or overtime).
- What kind of reporting do I need? If your time clock app does have payroll functionality, reporting features—like payroll reports for each pay period or tracking systems that produce reports on data like year-to-date paid time off (PTO) for each employee—can help you get a better picture of your overall labor costs and make better decisions on employee scheduling.
- What kind of customization options does the app offer? If your teams are working on different job sites or for different clients, being able to customize your time clock app with job codes can make for easier invoicing and budgeting.
- What’s my budget? Some time clock apps cost more than others. But, as you’ll see in a moment, many apps offer a free plan option—so even if you don’t have the budget, you can still reap the benefits of implementing a time clock app within your organization.
The Best Free Time Clock Apps For Small Businesses
You know why time clock software is a must for your company. You know the questions to ask when choosing an employee time clock app. So the last question is—what are the best free options to choose from?
Here are some of the best free time clock apps you’ll want to explore for your small business:
Hourly is an all-in-one solution that offers time clock and time tracking, payroll, and workers’ comp management—all from a simple, easy-to-use mobile app.
Hourly comes equipped with a host of time tracking features meant to make things easier for employees and employers, including automatic signed timesheets, productivity and team management features, overtime and break monitoring, and robust reporting capabilities.
Powered by real-time data, Hourly’s platform simplifies the highly complex workers’ comp process as well. It syncs your payroll data directly to your workers’ comp policy so you only pay exactly what you owe on your premiums, not an estimate. Hourly's goal is lower audit risk, faster payroll runs, and better claims and safety services for small businesses everywhere. Hourly is a licensed insurance agent with products underwritten by various insurance companies.
If you’re looking for simplicity, Clockify could be a good option to explore. This basic, simple time tracker and time clock app offers time clock and employee time tracking features. It also allows users to categorize their time by task and project, making it easier for business owners to truly understand how their employees are spending their work day and how they can increase productivity.
Clockify extends their free plan to an unlimited number of users—so even as your team grows, you won’t have to pay for the app.
In addition to basic time clock and time tracking features, the Homebase app also offers additional functionality that makes it easier to manage your team, including employee scheduling, hiring and onboarding tools, and a built-in messenger app to better communicate with your team throughout the day.
Like Clockify, Homebase also offers their free plan to an unlimited number of users. However, if you want to incorporate additional features into the app (like performance management, remote and field work, or HR capabilities), expect to pay between $14 and $70 per month for an upgraded plan.
4. Time Clock Wizard
Time Clock Wizard is another time clock app that offers a basic time tracking version—and has a host of more advanced features (including task management, employee scheduling, and payroll functionality) for an additional monthly fee.
While the basic version of Time Clock Wizard is free, if you want access to advanced features, plans range from $14.95 to $99.95 per month.
Get The Time Clock System You Need To Take Your Business to The Next Level
There’s no need to clock or track employee time manually. There’s an app for that—and now that you know some of the best options on the market, you have all the information you need to choose the best time clock app for your business.
And now, all that’s left to do? Get out there and get choosing!
1. Introducing Yourself
Your introductory email needs to pack a lot of information into a small package. Try something like this:
Text Copied to Clipboard
My name is John Doe and I work for ABC Agency, where we provide business insurance policies to many of Dallas' rockstar small businesses.
Congratulations on your new business, Jane's Bakery. Are you wondering if you have all the insurance you need? Or if your policies will really cover you in a pinch?
At ABC Agency, we pride ourselves on providing robust, comprehensive coverage options to companies like yours with flexible, pay-as-you-go plans.
Are you available this week to talk more about how we can help? I can help you find the most affordable rates and the best policies out there.
I look forward to speaking with you soon.
2. Presenting a Quote
Once you've met with your potential client, a quick reply with their quote will get the ball rolling.
Text Copied to Clipboard
Thanks so much for meeting with me this morning. I loved touring Jane's Bakery–I can still smell those delicious chocolate chip cookies baking! You have a great location, and I'm sure you're going to do great on Front St.
After reviewing my notes, I've pulled together an insurance quote for you (attached). I recommend a business owner's policy. A BOP includes several insurance products in one: liability, property insurance, and business interruption insurance. It offers robust coverage at a competitive price.
I'll call you in a few days to see what you think about this insurance plan. In the meantime, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to email me or call me at [phone number].
Again, thank you for your time today. I look forward to working with you in the future.
3. Thanks for Purchasing a Policy
Gratitude is important! It's never a bad idea to thank your clients for their business.
Text Copied to Clipboard
Thank you for choosing a business owner's policy with ABC Agency. We know it's so important to get the right coverage for your business, and we are honoured you've placed your trust in us.
We're excited to work closely with you, and our no. 1 goal is to make sure you're business is always protected.
Do you have any questions? We are here to help. Reach out whenever something comes to mind.
Thank you again for choosing ABC Agency to insure Jane's Bakery.
4. Welcome Email
A welcome email helps clients feel like you're there to help–and can softly pitch other insurance products you offer.
Text Copied to Clipboard
Welcome to the ABC family! We are thrilled to have you as a new customer and can't wait to meet all of your insurance needs.
As an independent insurance agency, we work with multiple insurance providers to find the best coverage options for all our customers. If you need any other type of insurance–like [include additional offerings unique to your agency, like life insurance, health insurance, home insurance or anything else]–we can help you too.
Do you want to discuss any of these policies?
5. Introducing a New Product
A happy client may want to expand their business with you.
Text Copied to Clipboard
I hope all is well with you and Jane's Bakery. I stopped in yesterday for a blueberry muffin and coffee, and they were delicious. I loved the hint of cinnamon in the muffin! Was that your idea?
I wanted you to be the first to know we are now offering commercial vehicle insurance to our policyholders. Auto insurance for your catering vans is super important since your personal car insurance won't cover them.
We're offering this insurance coverage solely to our current business clients at the moment and have some very competitive rates.
Would you like me to work up a quote for you?
As always, thanks so much for being a part of the ABC family.
6. Asking For Referrals
Once your relationship is established and comfortable, let your clients help you grow.
Text Copied to Clipboard
You've been a valuable member of the ABC family for two years now, and we so appreciate your business–not to mention the muffins you supply for our monthly meetings!
Because you are a valued policyholder, I wanted to ask a quick favour. I know you are active in the local Chamber of Commerce, and I'm hoping you might know some colleagues who would benefit from working with our insurance company.
Referrals are one of the most effective ways to connect with our community since people really trust their friends, family and colleagues. Is there anyone you'd recommend I speak with?
Remember that in addition to business insurance products, we offer everything from life insurance policies to pet insurance.
As a thank you for your help, we will send you an Amazon gift card of $100 when your referrals buy insurance from us.
Thanks so much for your help!
7. Policy Renewal
If your client needs to renew their policy with you, send an email like this:
Text Copied to Clipboard
I hope you're doing well! What a year it's been—from being listed as one of the top 5 bakeries in Dallas to being an official vendor for the city—you have so much to be proud of.
Just a heads up that your business owner's policy is up for renewal soon and will expire on June 15, 2023.
If you're still happy with the coverage, we can easily renew it for you.
Do you have some time to chat this week?
Looking forward to serving you again!