UK SMEs spending a third of their working lives unpaid

New research carried out by FreeAgent has revealed that for every working hour that an average freelancer or small business owner bills their clients for, they will actually spend an additional 30 minutes doing work that they won’t charge for.

FreeAgent’s in-house data lab analysed information from more than 30,000 of the company’s small business customers and found that – when users recorded the time they spent on work-related projects – every 90-minute chunk of time would only include an hour of “billable” work that they invoiced their clients for.

The research was carried out to mark the launch of a brand new Time Tracking section in FreeAgent – providing small business owners with the ability to record the time they spend on projects using simple timers; easily filter their timeslips and total all of their billable, unbillable, invoiced and uninvoiced time; and create one-click timesheet reports.

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent, said: “We know that people who run small businesses work incredibly hard to make their ventures a success. But it’s still surprising to see how much of that hard work they effectively do for free.

“We found that when a small business owner works for 90 minutes on a specific project they will actually only bill their clients for an hour, which leaves a full third of their time that they won’t get paid for at all. Of course this isn’t necessarily time that’s being wasted – as many small businesses will either invest some of their own personal time into the projects they work on, or carry out important admin they haven’t agreed to bill their clients for – but it may mean that they aren’t working as profitably as they could be.

“That’s why it can be very valuable for small business owners to track their time, so they can see how long they spend working and – more importantly – which parts they actually get paid to do. We’ve revamped our Time Tracking features in FreeAgent to enable people to gather this information easily, so they can see whether they need to make any changes that could minimise their unbillable time and increase their profitability.”