If you didn’t log the hours, it never happened
When you are good at something (like design) or fast at delivering that skill, it creates the illusion for some clients that your work requires less effort. That myth is the curse of the artist because many people tend to take advantage of creative talent, rather than valuing it.
The best way to command respect for your time is to bill for it. Nothing sobers up a client’s perception of reality than an honest, time-itemized invoice. Discount it (if you choose) so that they can see your generosity. If you don’t show a discount when you choose to give one – it’s as though it never happened. The only thing you will accomplish is establishing a lower price that will be challenging to increase.
Commit to an hourly rate, then stick to it. Use a timer to capture what you put into these projects. Stop the timer when you stop working. Start it again when you return. It sounds simple but if you forget to, you risk the possibility of losing money.
Break it down descriptively
Everyone has a different system. What has worked for me is splitting hours into quarters.
.25 = 15 minutes .5 = Half an hour .75 = 45 minutes 1 = 1 hour
I round that time to the closest 15 minutes and as a rule, I usually do it in my client’s favour. It makes it easy to keep track of where your day goes.
Record your time honestly
Honesty plays a key role in this system. Clients are trusting you to record your time properly. Be patient. This pays off.
RESPECT, LIKE MONEY, EARNS INTEREST OVER TIME
Timesheets are conversations
Don’t just record time. Use that time to earn trust. Make your clients feel like they are getting great value for their investment in you. Challenge yourself to over-deliver.
Working long hours does not automatically equal a big pay cheque. Harvesting hours honestly over time, does.
Earn a reputation, one invoice at a time
Reliable designers are rare. Be one of those. Be someone that clients can count on. Over time, that detail you put into your time sheets will translate into more trust with more projects. It will also make it easier for you to justify an increase when the time comes.
Your talent does not create money.
Your ability to capture an honest accounting of hours in an invoice does.
It’s a sobering reality to discover that the key to successful growth as a creative professional lies in how you run your business.
Good business practices can be a problem for many artists who simply are not initially wired for tasks like general office administration. That does not mean that creative people are incapable of acquiring those skills. It just takes time and discipline. You’ll be happy to know that I’m still working on mine after 27 years.
Creative thinkers often have to switch from one task to another. Drawings lead to designs that are complimented with language and then have to be presented. There is a process to it. Accounting is the same. Bookkeeping is just another hat to wear. When you look at it as an added extension of your creative jack knife, it becomes less intimidating. Just one more thing to learn and learn well.
Don’t just record your time,
become a poet with your time sheets
Tell a story that starts with Once upon a client request and ends with a Happily every after project complete. Everything in between defines your financial success and your ability to acquire another project to repeat the process again.
Recommended for designers
For over 10 years, Vectorvault has been with Freshbooks. In that time, we have learned how to turn on the other side of our artistic brain. The one that deals with numbers. Freshbooks has helped us along the way. They offer helpful Canadian-based support as well as extra guidance for small businesses and sole proprietors. As a designer myself, it has proven to be a big part of our success. Any designer can make an invoice. Collecting on that invoice requires creativity, honesty and strategy.