This past year I quit my job and became a work-from-home freelancer. One new process that took adjusting to was keeping track of my hours in order to bill clients. Maintaining your flow and train-of-thought is challenging when you constantly have to switch back and forth between logging your starting and ending times for projects and I wished there was an easier way without using too much of my mental attention and energy.
That same year I received an Amazon Echo as a gift. Using voice-technology definitely changed my daily routine in many aspects but I could not find many voice solutions for keeping track of project hours. The only solution that was available unfortunately had a very expensive monthly subscription.
I partnered with Mike and we decided to create a solution that is both free and easy-to-use.
According to a study by the Freelancers Union, Freelancers make up 34% of the total workforce and that number is expected to rise with a more connected world. We think that this Alexa Skill can be useful not only to work-from-home freelancers, but also other professional occupations such as lawyers and consultants who are often required to bill and track on an hourly basis.
What it does
Work Clock is an Amazon Alexa Skill that helps keep track of your time without the hassle of manually clocking in or out while you are working. A great tool for freelancers, consultants, or anything that requires you to keep track of your time. Just open work clock, create a project with any name, and from there you can clock in and out of the project. If you need to record your clocked times, just ask for an email with the report, and Alexa will send it to your email!
How we built it
Our Skill was built using the Python language, while following the Alexa API provided by Amazon.
Challenges we ran into
The challenges we ran into consisted of learning a lot of new aspects that Alexa Programming allows for. We were able to venture into Account Linking, and sending email using our Alexa skill with the SES service provided by Amazon. These were two of our largest technical challenges to overcome for our Skill, and we managed to kick them out of the park.
In terms of non-technical challenges, neither of us came from a formal UX or project management background so it was initially tough to figure out how to convey what each other's vision was from the skill in terms of functionality and user flow. We eventually figured out the best way was using a user flowchart and that made communicating ideas a lot smoother.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Our accomplishment is taking this from a random idea to a full-fledged Skill. We were able to come together, two individuals with no professional experience in this space, and work together to make a Skill that is usable and useful.
What we learned
Constant communication is key. What we learned is that it is very helpful to have a process created and formal documentation done for application functionality and user flow before you get to building the project.
What's next for Work Clock
We will continue to enhance and improve on this Skill based off of user feedback. We also plan to hopefully create additional Skills for the Alexa Skill store in the coming future.