Mobile Worker: Time-Based Freelancing Made Easy

I like to think of myself as a hard worker with a time-wasting problem. I don’t procrastinate. I just accidentally get caught up in tech articles, Instapaper and Twitter. I need all the help I can get to stay on track.

That’s one of the reasons I was interested when I heard about Mobile Worker, a time management app that was supposed to be perfect for freelancers and independent contractors. The app helps you stay organized and ensures efficiency. For me, I just needed a little extra kick in the pants to keep going. I downloaded the free version of the app to see if it would give me what I needed. Read on for my thoughts.

Getting Started

Mobile Worker is all about creating and managing projects. I need to clear one thing up right away: this app will not enhance your productivity with any teammates or colleagues. There’s no management system for your financial situation. You aren’t able to add expenses or a staff, and you can’t have anybody else punch in to a team account.

In other words, this is not an enterprise software app like iBE.net. This software is aimed solely at the freelance and independent worker market. I think it’s exactly what it needs, for the most part.

Getting started with Mobile Worker is easy.

Getting started with Mobile Worker is easy.

When you set up what you’re working on, you’ll initially create Projects. Each Project is given a title and a client name, and you can add subtasks to each. It boils down to personal preference as to how you’d want to set this up, but for the case of my reviewing, I wrote down that I wanted to start managing my App Review work.

This is where we run into a bit of a snag, albeit a minor one. This screen also asks for an hourly rate of pay. If you are in a professional situation where you are paid for every met objective and not based on how many hours it takes to complete it, you might find that Mobile Worker isn’t adaptable to your needs.

When you’re all done and ready to go, starting a project is as easy as hitting the Start button to activate the timer.

Flexible Solutions

This is where Mobile Worker really proves itself. It’s got a million features that really start to add up. Instead of simply punching in a client name and project title, you can add all sorts of little details: the GPS location of a place, a description, planned duration (which gives you a nice little goal to meet), and even tags for easy organization of any project.

The time management system is very robust.

The time management system is very robust.

The time management system is equally robust, thanks to its many options. Instead of just being the time you’ve spent “working,” with the tap of a button you can change your work status to “driving,” “lunch,” or “meeting.”

You can add tasks to each project, but I wish it functioned more like a bit of a task manager in that regard.

You can add tasks to each project, but I wish it functioned more like a bit of a task manager in that regard.

You can also add subtasks to any project, but not in the same sense that you add subtasks to your todos in Wunderlist. You’re not making a checklist, but instead you’re adding small items to your billable list. I actually wish it was a checklist though — not because I want another way to manage what I have to do, but because every “project” in the world is made up of a series of small and infinitely more complicated tasks. It’d be nice to track my progress in that way too.

Dropbox integration is inconsistent. You can export and back up files to Dropbox, but any files you want to add need to be in your phone's system folders.

Dropbox integration is inconsistent. You can export and back up files to Dropbox, but any files you want to add need to be in your phone’s system folders.

That being said, the real problem with Mobile Worker is that it doesn’t properly integrate with file storage on your phone. Within the Settings, there’s a really easy way to link your Dropbox (or Google Drive) account and start backing up all of your work. That’s a great tool — who wants to lose all their data? But at the same time, while you can add files to any project, you can’t add any Dropbox files. You’re limited to your system files.

This is a strange sort of inconsistency. Clearly, Mobile Worker has access to Dropbox and can get whatever file it needs. That being said, its inability to link files in my Dropbox to a work project is strange. I can’t imagine a feature like this being useful to everybody, but I do feel that fixing it would make for a more concisely communicative app.

Exporting Your Information

There’s a certain sadness to the app, because it comes so close to being tantalizingly useful. You can track all of your projects, but there’s no easy way to just collect your clients, for example. (I have yet to use an app that’s great at integrating both.)

Exporting information to Dropbox is easy enough to do, and can be done from the comprehensive Settings pane.

Exporting information to Dropbox is easy enough to do, and can be done from the comprehensive Settings pane.

One of the irritants with the app, at least to me, is that when you’re done and you’ve collected all your information, you can’t just create an invoice from there. I know that’s a high expectation on my part — that means Mobile Worker would have to take all the data from what’s essentially a visual Excel file and import it into a beautiful PDF of sorts before allowing me to fire it off in an email. But that’s what I ideally want. It’s a tall order, and one I hope that Mobile Worker considers in the future.

For now, though, I have to make due with the option to export everything I’m working on as an Excel file. This sits in my Dropbox folder — again, an odd example of the app occasionally, but inconsistently, integrating with cloud services. But even in my Dropbox folder, it’s buried in a sea of subfolders that’s a little cumbersome to navigate to. I can deal with that, though, because all of the information I need to write an invoice successfully is in the file and ready to go.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, Mobile Worker is a utilitarian app that serves its purpose and then some, mostly. It has the gamut of features with some strange omissions. I wish there was a way to add Dropbox files to a project. I wish I could create and export some simple invoices directly from the app. I’d kill for the option to manage my clientele from the app too.

But for what it is — a time management app with a million bells and whistles — Mobile Worker is very good at what it does. The design doesn’t stun me, but it says wonders that after a thousand words I feel like I could go on to describe some of the features I’ve found useful and some of the features I know my contractor and freelance friends would enjoy.

The free version of Mobile Worker comes with all the power of the paid version, but has a limit of seven projects. I’d recommend it for any freelancers, but especially those getting paid by the hour. They’ll find Mobile Worker simply invaluable.


Summary

Mobile Worker is a great app for independent freelancers, particularly those who need to maintain knowledge of billable hours. That being said, I wish that it had more options for invoicing and client management in particular.

8