I can already sense the inaudible moans when I mention ‘timesheets’. From extra work for office managers and administrators, to badgering your employees to get them completed, timesheets are often seen as an unnecessary evil.
But with easily accessible technology, timesheets don’t need to be a series of incomplete, badly formatted Excel spreadsheets – and if your timesheets are like that, it’s time to make a change. Automation is key when it comes to tracking and recording employees’ time; having projects and tasks already set up makes it easier to track – and having a time management system that connects with all your other software, such as accounting, helps you match and compare time spent on a project against the amount billed.
So let’s take a look at why timesheets are important for smaller marketing agencies, and not just for the global players.
Knowing how much time you’ve spent on a single project is important, as well as pitches and proposals too. Investment time is essential for smaller agencies when it comes to winning work – but how much time is too much time when putting together a pitch? Tracking time spent on new business is important, as this can be measured against actual project or retainer time.
If you’re spending 50 hours on research, presentation design, the actual pitch, and follow ups, for a 10 hour a month retainer, you’re going to be spending five months trying to get that time back. Although it’s important to put the leg work in when it comes to winning work, smaller agencies can get caught up with making a lot of effort for little gain, so tracking new business time can help you see where you’re perhaps wasting time.
Don’t just track project or retainer time either. It’s important to see how much time employees spend on admin tasks (such as filling in their timesheets…). If a certain task is taking an inordinate amount of time for every employee, then it might be time to create a new process for it. Timesheets shouldn’t be put in place to try and catch employees out, but should help you see which projects are profitable, which ones need work, and what tasks are taking up too much time.
Interruptions are also a big part of our working day. From being asked if we want a brew, to using the toilet, to ‘can I just grab you for a quick chat’, it can be difficult to be as productive as we’d like to be sometimes. A great way to overcome this is to allocate your employees some ‘interruption time’ on their timesheets – which then gives you the chance to address those interruptions.
You may need to dedicate someone to answering calls, rather than everyone in the whole office, or perhaps you have a lot of deliveries that arrive throughout the day – that might be a task you give to one person one week etc.
Help your employees with their workloads
Don’t forget, timesheets should be used to help your employees – not to find out who’s slacking off. Keep an eye out for timesheets that have lots of small tasks, or seem to jump from project to project. This may mean they have too much work on or are trying to multitask to get everything completed on time.
The good, the bad, and the ugly clients
There’s no denying it – some clients should come with a warning label. Tracking account management time, including calls and communication, is essential to see whether a client is haemorrhaging their own budget. If a client is on a 20 hour a month retainer, but nine hours of that are spent on calls, unnecessary meetings, and general administrative work, that’s almost half their budget gone – without any actual work being completed.
This either means your team over services the client, using more hours than they should to get the work done, or the work isn’t completed and results aren’t produced. Tracking time against a client can not only help you see where things might be amiss, but also allows you to address things head on with a client. Don’t be afraid to show them the amount of time you’re spending on comms, rather than the actual work. If they’re not willing to budge, maybe it’s time to review your relationship with them…
And let’s not forget under-servicing. If you can see a trend each month with a particular client, where hours are missed and there’s always time left over, review with your team about why this might be. If you’re still achieving results on fewer hours, then bring this up with the client. A great way to pitch it is that you’re managing to bank a few extra hours for them, which can be used for one off projects (which you’ve come up with ideas for) or they can reduce their retainer. They’ll appreciate your honesty.
Make invoicing easier
Some clients like to see a breakdown of the work completed each month – and some agencies like to include this in monthly reports. Having timesheets that link with your invoicing software helps you to easily document this. Instead of trawling through spreadsheets and finding client codes, you can simply select the project and have a task list completed, ready to go.
If you have overspent, particularly on a project, rather than a retained client, timesheets which link to your invoices can help your case when it comes to getting that time back. If the client has been demanding or added extra work outside of the service level agreement, having the backing of tasks completed via timesheets, allows you to show what work was done. Time will automatically be worked out in cost.
There’s plenty of time tracking software out there – some accountancy software even has it built in, such as FreeAgent. Time management software, such as Asana, allows you to set up projects and assign tasks, as well as block out employees’ time, so interruptions are limited.
Talk to us today about implementing a robust invoicing and timesheet system to help you manage your workloads.