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Creative Agencies: What's Inefficient Time Management Costing You?

Many creative agencies and freelancers don't currently track their time on jobs. There a many reasons why agencies might choose not to track time – the most common being:

  • Setting up a system and training agency staff to use it is time-intensive. This is time that can be better-spent completing current projects and doing core agency work.
  • Time-tracking software is expensive. Employees can just use free tools like excel spreadsheets.
  • Staff are resistant to time tracking. They won't be consistent in their time-tracking methods, and this will lead to erroneous data.

These concerns are legitimate, especially within a growing agency where time and cashflow are already stretched. It's understandable that an agency might believe they can't afford to invest in time tracking strategies. But I want to turn this assumption on its head, and ask, "Can you afford NOT to track your time?"

Time Tracking Is Essential to a Successful Agency

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If your time management system is inefficient or, worse, non-existent, you could be opening your business up to real financial threats. A common phrase in business is "if you aren't tracking it, you can't improve it", and that's true for agencies, too.

Your bottom line is directly related to the amount of work you can produce, and the amount of time it takes to complete each project. If you aren't tracking this time, you won't understand where money is being lost along the process.

Time is the Metric that Matters

Time-tracking Saves Time

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When it comes to your compa ny's output, time is the most crucial factor. You can always raise your rates, find more backers, and take on more clients, but you still only have 24 hours in every day with which to work with. You need to ensure those hours are optimised for maximum benefit.

A time tracking system may take several hours to implement, with more hours dedicated to training employees, and perhaps even decreased productivity while employees get used to the system. But this is a one-off cost that will eventually be offset by the benefits of using data from time tracking to improve processes.

Contrast this with an inefficient or non-existent time-tracking system, where projects may frequently run overtime, workflow may not be managed correctly, and inefficiencies can't be indentified. This is an ongoing problem that will affect your agency's ability to succeed in a competitive industry. Which situation would you rather have?

You Could Be Undercharging

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Whether you charge a per-project fee or an hourly rate, if you're not accurately tracking the time spent on a job, you won't know if you're undercharging the client for the hours spent. A few hours lost here or there might not sound like anything to worry about, but it can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a year.

Time tracking allows you to optimize your fee structure to ensure every single hour is accounted for.

You Need Data

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Time tracking isn't about keeping tabs on your creative team – it's about producing data you can use to generate accurate project costing/estimations, process payroll and value work-in-progress.

The more accurate this data, the more useful it is when you need it. This is why time tracking software such as WorkflowMax is ideal for an agency – the program allows you to quickly produce reports based on the data collected, which you can then use to improve processes. A manual system, such as time tracking on excel spreadsheets, means these reports would need to be manually created – a huge cost to you that practically offsets the cost of the software package.

You Don't Know What's Working

Time tracking also allows you to see what aspects of your business are working, and to apply those same efficiencies across the board. For example, Jason Calacanis, an entrepreneur who created the companies Weblogs.inc and Mahalo.com, is a firm believer in the tangible benefits of time tracking for his business.

"Time tracking … adds about five minutes to each person’s day—max —since most folks work on fewer than 10 tasks a day. The information you can get from it can be unexpected. For example, we realized that one of our video shows was costing eight times another, with two more sitting squarely in between. When drilled down, we figured out what the more efficient shows were doing, and applied those best practices to all the other shows. Additionally, we went to our distribution partner and said, “Look, this is costing us more and here are the numbers—we need a better deal.” We got it!"

The Financial Cost of Inefficient Time Management

Time tracking is often done after a job is completed, or after an employee has finished their assigned workload for the day. Many employees see time tracking as an annoying chore, and therefore procrastinate on filling in the required information, meaning that when they do come to fill in their information, they've often forgotten important details and might not be tracking their time correctly.

Inefficient time tracking and management is almost as useless as no time tracking at all. If a team member is forgetting what they've done during the day and recording tasks inaccurately, you won't have a proper record of their workflow.

Time Tracking Can Be Beneficial For Employees

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It can be hard to get buy-in from employees for learning new time-tracking software, but it can be useful to present it as an opportunity, rather than a chore:

  • An accurate time log is a solid demonstration of their achievements throughout the year. This can lead to bonuses and raises.
  • The time tracking software helps keep them focused and on-task.
  • Time tracking can also identify areas where they may need help, leading to more professional development opportunities.

A manual system for time tracking will not be as accurate and therefore won't provide the same benefits.

So Why Aren't You Time Tracking?

Time tracking within your agency saves time, and time is money. An accurate time tracking system such as WorkflowMax can be the difference between a profitable job and one that doesn't even exceed overheads. Time tracking helps you to measure what you've done and plan for the future – so what are you waiting for? Get tracking!

How has time tracking affected your agency's bottom line?