The freelancer I hired reports me directly on the number of hours he spent working on my project, but there is no way I can verify the actual time he spent.

The work he does includes working on a computer and talking over the phone.

How do I check the actual amount of time an employee spent on my project?

(Changing the pay type is not an option for variety reasons)

  • 11
    "How do I check the actual amount of time an employee spent on my project?" Stop thinking of him as your employee. Like you, he runs his own business. Don't hire a freelancer if you want an employee.
    – Apfelsaft
    Sep 1, 2016 at 7:40
  • 6
    Hire another person to sit by him and report how much time he worked
    – Peter MV
    Sep 1, 2016 at 10:55
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not about the scope of freelancing as given in the Help Center.
    – Xavier J
    Sep 20, 2016 at 22:33

6 Answers 6


I agree with @Apfelsaft above.

Freelancers are service providers. If you are getting the service, and you are happy with the bill, then look to other areas of your business that you can improve on.

If you are getting the service and not happy with the bill, try find compromise or else throw them overboard and replace them.

Let's say you do nit pick how they spend their time - will it include bathroom breaks? What about they deviate from business to a quick joke over the phone with one of the clients. Is that chargeable? What about you are late delivering work to them, do they get to charge while they wait on you even though they have not performed anything functional for your benefit?

Freelancers are not hire cars. Freelancers are like prostitutes. You pay them for a trick, they don't get sick, health or holiday benefits. If they deliver, they eat and live. If they don't deliver, they don't eat, they don't live. I've been in the business since 1994, been hired, and done the hiring so I like to think I know what I am talking about.

I suggest you concentrate on growing your business. Monitor and measure the work you get, by all means, but if you spend too much time monitoring your service suppliers, the business will eventually review your contribution to the bottom line and implement their own cost savings.

  • This doesn't answer the question
    – user40
    Sep 2, 2016 at 19:59
  • 1
    You pay a service provider on the results, not on the process. If you don't know if your service provider is delivering anything to you, then the problem is with you, not them.
    – fiprojects
    Sep 3, 2016 at 21:53

A continuation of my sarcastic comment.

You cannot! Period!

He can work 1h and rip you for 7, or he can work 14 and report 10. There are tools to record screenshots of this workspace and monitor number of keyboard strikes and mouse moves. But I can personally guarantee that they can trick that as well. I've been a lead of team where this tool told me they worked 14h each day 100% of time. So in 14h they did not eat, went to toilet, rest,... Should I trust this tool?

So how do we control remote or in-house workers? By their output. See if they are finalizing their tasks and if your project is progressing and if you are earning money as well. If all three is YES, then stop worrying.

Another option is to hire another person who will do task estimation. This has to be a senior person who will know how to calculate time for others and to count in their experience level. So he reports you that Task A will take 2 days. You ask your worker to estimate it as well. If he says 2.5 days, you have a good worker. If he say a week, ask for elaboration. There may be really 1 week of work (something a senior was not aware) or you have a bad worker.

  • This doesn't answer the question.
    – user40
    Sep 2, 2016 at 19:58
  • 1
    @user40 Of course it does. I told you a few options on how to verify. There is a third one as well: Let him have a web cam turned ON the whole time he works. There is a 4th one involving a magic ball, but it's sarcastic thing again.
    – Peter MV
    Sep 5, 2016 at 9:23
  • 2
    @user40 The bottom line is: why are you asking this? If you're not happy with the result, fire him. If you are happy, continue work with him or even try another contractor. If you are driven by time (money), then you will have to find a quick coder (quick is prone to errors). If you are driven with result, you will have good project that will earn money. If you are not earning money with the project, then you have a bad project. Not even the best programmer in the world can turn bad idea to good-paying one.
    – Peter MV
    Sep 5, 2016 at 9:25

When I work with freelancers I request a timesheet which includes hours worked per day and a small description of what they did. (I deliver the same to my clients).

And I think that's as good as it gets, verify the hours with the description, as long as that makes sense it's fine (i.e. number of hours worked are reasonable for the task they performed). If it doesn't, discuss with the freelancer or fire him.

Keep in mind that many countries have laws regarding the freedom a freelancer should have to be marked a freelancer. If a strong hierarchical relationship exists he/she will be considered an employee instead of freelancer.


You can't control how many hours they work (obviously), but you can protect yourself by opening up lines of communication.

I do freelance on the side, and one thing I do to protect myself and the client is log all of the hours I worked, with small descriptions of what work was accomplished in that time. I also meet with my clients over Skype ever 1 to 3 weeks (depending on milestones) to go over what has been done.

This way I know that the client is happy and I can count on getting paid, and the client can see the work that is being done. If they're unhappy after a couple milestones, they can fire me and cut their losses. If they continue to be happy, then it's money well spent!

One thing you might do is when going over the initial contract, ask what milestones and deliveries you can expect, and when, and try to get a few deliverables early on to make sure they're capable. That way, you can cut your losses early if things go wrong.


It's difficult. The best and most straight forward answer is: signed agreement with statement of work. Using boilerplate language you can create an effective contract that will hold each party accountable.

The client, you, should provide a tasklist for the project. Define where actual work tasks will be listed and tracked. Do you have Github issues? Jira project tracking? Asana? Pivotal Tracker? As a freelancer, my favored clients are the ones that are happy to agree to a set budget, with a clearly defined scope of work.

Then I track my time through Harvest and send invoices. In the line items I summarize what I was doing, usually to the hour. I bill to the 1/2 hour. My time is my most valuable asset and if you're buying some of it you better believe I want to do the best job possible because more hours == more revenue == less overall stress in my life.

I don't care if you want screenshots on the hour, a regular working schedule, or just a once-a-week checkin to verify progress. If we have a signed agreement I not only have natural incentive to do well, the client will have grounds for legal action if I breach the contract and don't complete the work agreed.

Maybe this is a bad thing but it hasn't backfired yet and 100% of the clients I've had have been happy with the way I work.


Hopefully not just parroting what others have said, imagine yourself the owner of two broken TVs in two separate homes. You call two local TV repair technicians. The first one comes in and knows that TV inside out. She recognizes the trouble immediately and has it fixed in 15 minutes, gives your TV a good overall check, and everything is up and running again in half an hour.

The second technician comes in and spends 3.5 hours isolating the problem and figuring out how to fix it. She then spends another half hour giving the TV an overall check. Her total time? Four hours.

If you are focused on making sure people put in the hours, the first technician who took much better care of you will only be paid one quarter as much as the one who had to tinker and figure things out. That would make no sense, just as focusing everything on your current freelancer's hours makes no sense.

Figure out what needs to get done, and if your freelancer is skilled enough to do it in less time, pay the bill with a smile and be grateful you have an expert who can take good care of you. Focus on the output, not the input.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.