Getting staff buy-in to time-tracking for creative agency management.

Working with creative agencies of all types (be it new media / digital, advertising, branding, marketing strategy, design etc.) we often come across the fear that proper planning and time-tracking will kill a culture of creativity (or at least make it seem like that’s what management is trying to do).

“We sell our expertise and the final product, not the amount of time that it takes us to produce it” is a standard argument that we get as we work with our clients to help build repeatable workflows and increase agency profitability. Nobody wants to feel like “big-brother” is watching, but without proper tracking of work in progress and planning of future work, it is easy to either bring on too much or simply loose money on certain clients and/or types of work.

Getting into the habit of tracking time and using this information to plan future projects should be about teamwork and building your agency to be as efficient as possible and driving you to focus to your core competencies (i.e. what are you best at, what do you enjoy doing, and what types of work are most profitable for your agency).

1. Tracking time can focus on client work and does not have to equal payroll hours.

Although many agencies do track all employee “billable” and “non-billable” time, think of simply tracking your client work if that doesn’t fit with your company’s culture. If you don’t know how much time you’re spending on one job vs. another you’ll never know who your profitable clients are or what type of work you are best at – and these are the keys to long-term success.

2. Planning and tasking does not have to mean micro-management. Make it clear to your staff that tasks are meant to ensure they have the time to be creative.

Creating project or job timelines and tasking work means giving your agency resources (i.e. staff) enough time to do their job well. It is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that people have enough time in the day to focus on their deliverables.

3. Focus on the quality of work that your staff does and not on the amount of time it took.

Think of time-tracking as a way to analyze whether you’re charging your clients enough. Use past data to determine the value of future work, what types of jobs you want to take on and what you need to charge to run a successful (profitable) business.

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