Repeat after me. Unicorns are NOT real. Unicorns are mythical creatures.
It’s a well-worn cliché that creative and design agencies are full of artsy, hip, nonconforming individuals who fiercely protect their independence and bohemian work ethic. Many of them are known to prefer working late into the night. Their creativity finds outlet in their painstaking dedication to their art, and the thought of working regular hours like the 9 to 5 corporate workforce is almost inconceivable to them.
As the proprietor or manager of a creative agency, you have to balance the needs of your talent against the necessity to turn a profit and grow your business. Knowing how much time your employees are spending on every project, and being able to estimate project completion time and billing rates, while keeping customers current with the status of their project, can lead to much success. Without such visibility, your agency’s ability to grow can be crippled.
The Challenges of Time Tracking for Creatives
Every creative agency needs to take into account factors such as billable hours, timely execution of projects, accountability, workload assignments, and the availability of creative talent to handle projects in the pipeline. Administrators are more likely to have fixed schedules, while creative staffers are more likely to prefer flexibility in their work hours, or even work from home at times. Implementing a time tracking software system that is easy-to-use from day one, and ensures employee participation in the process, can be a real challenge.
Creative agency workers generally have their individual styles of working, and may consider a time tracking system to be an unwarranted intrusion by management that affects their workflow, and may even result in penalties if work takes longer than anticipated. Another concern that agencies may have is that their employees will require training to learn to use the system. If a system is difficult to use, it can lead to uneven adoption, which defeats its entire purpose.
One more reservation that creative agencies may have with time tracking systems is whether they will accurately capture actual hours worked per project, rather than being used as generic time and attendance clocks. Managers would always prefer to have systems that provide insight and empower them with real-time data to make their decisions on project time and cost estimates, staffing requirements, payroll costs and billing data sent to clients.
The Benefits of Time Tracking For Creatives
Since creative workers are generally regarded as having liberal time management practices, adopting an automated way to record the types of work-related activities they perform can lead to insights such as how much time is devoted to brainstorming and production, and how much time is spent on non-billable work, breaks, meetings, or other routine tasks. This way, when a new project comes up, management can better estimate the resources and time required, and charge clients appropriately for their work. When there are seasonal fluctuations in workload, time tracking data can help managers decide when to hire temporary staff or even outsource some work to meet deadlines and keep clients happy.
Another important advantage of automated time tracking data is that it helps maintain a sense of fairness among employees, with reports showing who spent time on which project, and saving employees that may be overwhelmed. With this system, everyone gets to pull their own weight and no one can slack off. This transparency in itself is vital in leveling the playing field and making every worker responsible and compliant within the system.
Recommended Next Steps
Creative agencies, design houses and game development companies would be well advised to forgo outdated and cumbersome on-premise time and project tracking systems and go with a cloud-based solution. These solutions can be implemented within just a few days and don’t require a large investment in hardware, software or technically-skilled staff to maintain them. Modern cloud-based solutions such as Replicon’s TimeAttend and TimeBill eliminate the hassle associated with testing and deploying software, because they are seamlessly updated and deployed with a guaranteed 99.5% uptime.
The easier it is for a project tracking solution to be implemented, the fewer obstacles there will be for creative workers to start using and adopting such a system. You’ll be able to let the creativity flow and the business grow!