Avoid spending over 40% of their time on internal, non-revenue-generating work
If you’ve ever attempted to implement time tracking with your creative team, you’ve heard the objections”
- “We’re just charging a flat rate / we don’t bill internal clients so it’s a waste of time.”
- “It’s just management trying to spy on the team so they can cut resources”
- “It takes more time and effort to track our time than to just do our jobs.”
These are objections that can easily be overcome, and need to be overcome, because the truth is, time tracking helps the creative team, and in most cases, time tracking reveals not how much time the team is wasting, but how much time the team spends working.
I remember my first creative job in an advertising agency. Billable hours meant everything. My Creative Director once told me, “if you are thinking about the client in the shower, that’s billable hours.” And I also remember how horrible it was to fill out that time sheet once a week. Nobody ever did it in real time as we were instructed, so by the end of the day on Friday when the sheets were due, it was a struggle to try and piece together the hours we’d spent on each client.
Later in my career, I joined an in-house creative agency that didn’t bill their internal clients. What a relief! No time tracking required! The problem was, there was also no way to determine how long each job took for resource assignment. No way to prove that we needed additional staff. And no clear-cut formula for determining the impact of client revisions on the workflow.
So, when I became an Operations Director, I did the unthinkable. I implemented time tracking for the creative team. Wow, what a buzz-kill I was. Everyone complained. People whispered when I walked by. I sat alone at the lunch table in our cafe. Until one day the team began to see the results. When I was able to use the data gathered from all those months of time tracking to determine proper staffing needs, the team was excited. When each person was assigned the proper amount of jobs per week, based on the estimated time it should take to do the work, folks were working less overtime, and the workflow was more evenly allocated.
Management was excited about this information as well. Not because they wanted to see how much everyone was working, but because the numbers helped us determine where we were spending our time. And because we could actually plan ahead for vacation coverage and determine which types of jobs would take longer when setting timelines with clients.
In one organization, we discovered with time tracking that our creative team was spending over 40% of their time on internal, non-revenue-generating work. T-shirts for the Accounting team. Hallway posters for the company meetings. PowerPoint templates for team leads and sales. That was primarily because the approval times and the feedback loop was so lengthy. These nonessential tasks were taking a toll on our team’s productivity. We leveraged that data from time tracking to restructure the team to create a separate internal, junior level team to work on the internal tasks, and reallocated those higher level resources to our more high profile, revenue generating jobs. It was a win/win.
Now, some methods of time tracking are big time wasters, and I understand that having to take time out from your already busy day to track hours isn’t desirable. The good news is some workflow solutions have time tracking built into the task dashboard. Simply click the “start” button when you begin working on a task, and “end” when you stop. It’s that simple.
Here Are Five Solid Reasons to Time Track Your Creative Work
- Make sure you are charging enough. Even if your creative agency charges a flat fee for jobs, wouldn’t it be good to know for sure that you’re charging enough? If what you assume takes 2 hours really takes 4, that could mean thousands of dollars each year never being realized.
- Determine Proper Staffing Levels. Many in-house creative teams feel understaffed but having the numbers to back up that intuition is crucial when it comes time to make the case to management.
- Plan for Vacations and Holidays. Knowing how many hours each type of job generally takes really helps when you are in a busy vacation season. You can plan ahead and hire contract help, knowing the estimated budget you’ll need to get the work done.
- Allocate Resources Based on Ability. The data you can glean from time tracking reports will enable you to see who excels where, and who might be your best picks to assign certain tasks to. Get your team working smarter, not harder.
- More Accurately Scope Future Work. There’s nothing like time tracking data to better scope out your future work. You’ll see rapid improvement in accurate milestone setting and put yourself in a position to exceed client expectations.
Getting the Team Onboard
In order to sell time tracking to the Creative team and get them to actually spend the time to do it right, you need to be upfront and honest about why you’re asking them to do it. Also, showing them how time tracking can benefit them will help you secure their buy-in.
If you want your team to take the time tracking effort seriously, take the time to discuss the goals and objectives of time tracking upfront. Show them how a little extra effort to track time on their end can have huge benefits for them individually and for the team as a whole.
Okay, time starts…NOW.