Timesheets done right boils down to: do it everyday and do it right. That’s easy in theory. Employees turn in timesheets of how long they worked with notes of what work they did. From there, managers create accurate budgets. The agency has profit and success.
In reality, agencies fail to maximize their profits every year, and employees burn out from working harder and longer than their timesheets indicate.
If the theory is so simple, why does it rarely work?
Most agencies operate on an invoice centered model for time tracking. Employees track time so their agency can invoice clients and make payroll. This isn’t motivating for employees. They want to spend their time doing creative work. They don’t want to feel like cogs making money for the machine.
Even worse, the agency tends to “adjust” timesheets to meet estimates. This leads to habitual under-budgeting.
“Doing it right” means learning from timesheets today, so that you don’t under-budget in the future. Timesheets shouldn’t be daily headaches that never match up with budgets. Instead, they should bolster your agency’s success.
Timesheets should have two purposes. First is comparing timesheets to project plans. This allows you to conduct data-driven project postmortems, and create more accurate project plans in the future. Second is invoicing clients and making payroll.
The second is separate, and contingent upon the first. Achieving the first purpose requires a data-centered time tracking policy. This means that time tracking is centered around collecting data, not invoicing and billing. With this method you use last month’s timesheets to estimate how long projects of certain scopes take, and create a budget for the next month based on that estimate.
Keep your timesheet data accurate. Comparing timesheets to project plans is how you learn if projects are estimated properly. You lose the ability to compare timesheets to project plans if they are adjusted so invoices are closer to estimates. Adjust your invoice outside of the system. This creates more transparency between owners and employees, and more reliability for the clients.
Creative professionals have confidence in their creative process to get their work done well. For creative agency owners and administrators, confidence in the process of time tracking and budgeting also means success, but on a larger scale. Make the switch to a data-centered time tracking policy and increase the profit and success of your agency.
A methodologically sound time tracking policy is important for any business.
If a girl starts a business taking care of horses, at first her administrative work is miniscule. She drives to the stables every day, logs her hours with the horses, and drives home. She bills the horse owners her hours, and the day is over.
If her business grows, she has to hire more hands and keep track of more and more hours. Her administrative work doubles with each person she hires, but she doesn’t have a system in place to analyze the hours and create accurate budgets. Sprinting to catch up, her business risks failure.
At first, there is a small amount of inefficiency in her business, but as it grows, the inefficiency in her system turns into a problem she doesn’t have time to grasp.
Creative agencies run into the same obstacle. With few employees, keeping track of the work doesn’t seem important as long as projects are finished every week. As the company grows, the administrative tasks are akin to the complexity orchestrating a concert.
Be it brushing horses or designing webpages, managing a business with a data-centered time tracking policy takes away precious time from billable hours.
If a data-centered method is necessary for success, but sucks away time, where is the perfect balance?
Bric is a data-centered time tracking system that actually gives you time to focus on creative work.
On Bric’s Dashboard, employees clock-in by selecting their current project. Bric tracks time for them, and uses this data to create an accurate project plans. In addition, Bric makes it easy to know if you are over or under budget for that week. It is right on the homepage. You can see the plan for the next 6 weeks, how many projects people are working on, and your team’s billable utilization rate. You will know if employees are one or under budget for the week, and in fact for the next 6 weeks.
No only does Bric present your agency’s budget neatly and accurately, but it does the administrative work for you. Bric is your time tracking policy. Bric consolidates your administrative work by keeping track of your employee’s hours and calculating budgets for you.
You and your creative team can get back to what you joined the profession for: the good stuff, the creative work, the billable hours.
Go ahead and grow. Bric can handle it.