Top 5 Reasons Creative Projects Go Over Budget

It’s true: sometimes, it’s really not your fault. A dog bit your designer, someone set the printer’s office on fire, and your client’s going to eat your firstborn unless you comply with his sudden, unreasonable demands. Most of the time, though, when you overrun your agency budget, the cause is under your control. Here are the 5 budget derailers I see most often:

Bad Briefs

The brief, as my colleague Karen so eloquently put it, “is the seedling from which all advertising and marketing campaigns spring to life.” In many cases, it’s a creative team’s only source of information about a project. If the brief is incomplete or unclear, they’ll create something other than what the client wants, which means having to re-do it. A good brief means getting it right the first time, which means you’re more likely to stick to your estimate, which leads me to budget derailer #2.

Erroneous Estimates

If your agency estimate downplays the amount of work a project will actually take, you’re flushing your budget down the toilet. Unless you do a crappy job, you’ll work more hours than you’ve committed to. In that case, if you bill based on actual hours worked, you’ll have some explaining to do, and if you bill based on the amount you’ve estimated, your profits will suffer. It pays to make a timeline for your work and stick to it. Schedules keep your people on task, so they’re not always picking things up, putting them down again, and wasting time reviewing stuff when they resume.

Multitasking, as I’ve mentioned before, is a serious productivity killer. A good schedule discourages it, so that every hour you spend on a project moves it forward.

Wonky Workload

If you don’t assign tasks to people who actually have time to do them, your staff will burn out. When people burn out, they take sick days, they quit, their brains jam up, and cost overruns result.

Tardy Timesheets

What’s worse than going over budget? Going over budget and not knowing it. Time tracking tells you how the actual value of your work compares to the budgeted amount. If you’re lackadaisical about it, you can’t make informed decisions about whether to wrap things up, revise your estimate, or eat the additional cost. Accurate time tracking means entering timesheets right after performing a task, or, even better, running a clock while you’re working. When your timesheets are (ahem) timely, even if your current job goes haywire, you can refer to your actuals in order to create better estimates in the future, thereby dodging budget derailer number #2. Cost overruns are stressful, frustrating, and damaging to client relationships. At times, they might seem unavoidable, but if you fix your workflow, the numbers fall into place. A well-written brief begets an accurate estimate and pitch-perfect creative. A well-planned schedule and carefully allocated tasks keep everyone on track. And if you diligently track your time, you’ll know exactly where you stand.

This article was contributed by former Function Point employee, Amanda Truscott.

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