June 2016 Tasks

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 8.48.02 AMSummer has arrived, in spirit if not in actuality, and this month, our clocks slow down as the mercury rises. We’re slowly approaching the longest day of the year, and yet, there never seem to be enough hours of daylight to accomplish all we want to do. Especially if all we want to do is sip something cool and enjoy the breeze.

 

Conundrum.

 

Last month, we talked all about pricing* and this month we’ll focus on time, especially since the longer daylight hours trick our bodies into thinking we have more of it. (Psst… We don’t.)

 

Why not use this month to track your time? I’ve been playing around with different methods of time tracking lately trying to decide which one I like the best. (I haven’t decided.) The Passion Planner connects lots of ideas I love (taking time to focus, setting goals) to time management, but its teeny tiny spaces don’t give me nearly enough room to summarize my time. (That could be my own editing problem, though.) My tried-and-true Excel method still works best for me, but during the summer months I’m less and less motivated to use a computer, and more and more motivated to use pen and paper instead.

 

Toggl and Timely are both apps that come highly recommended, but I always find it feels a little silly to track personal time on an app. Applying a professional tool to my personal life feels counterintuitive, if not a little silly.

 

But what do I know? The definition of “professional” is fluid at best, especially in creative professions where the use of time and the use of brains for creative purposes never cease. So as we’re tracking our time this month, let’s not forget to set aside hours for “nothing.” Hours to think, hours to ponder, hours to read, or hours to wander. And let’s forgive ourselves for tracking that time. We track things we value, and we should value nothing more than our creative time. Even if there isn’t a default category for “thinking time.”

 

Just like with our time tracking systems, we’ll never know what feels right without trying a few things that feel wrong. (And believe me, I’ve found plenty that feel wrong to me.) The endless hours of June give us a perfect excuse to try something new, without any pressure or expectations.

 

We can save those pressures and expectations for September, when the real work begins again. This month, let’s think about our time. Let’s use it well. And let’s embrace exploration, both in our business models and in our creativity.

 

*Did you miss all our pricing notes from last month? Start with “More Than Math” and go from there…

 

May 2016 Tasks

Dublin, Ohio May 2016

Dublin, Ohio
May 2016

What Are You Worth?

 

This month, we’re talking pricing. How do you price your time? How do you price your work? More importantly, how do you describe your value to those around you? There’s a math way (which is incomplete) and a non-math way (which is hard to quantify), and the secret to figuring out the “right” answer (as though there is such a thing) is to use a little of both.

 

Track Your Time

If you haven’t yet adopted some sort of time tracking system, this month is the month to adopt it. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be perfect. (Psst… It won’t be either.) Start with whatever you’re comfortable with. If it is a calendar and a pen, great. If it is a stack of scraps of paper next to your computer, fine. If it is an app like Toggl or Hours, or QuickBooks or Fresh Books, or even Evernote or just the “Notes” app on your home screen, fantastic.

 

But start tracking your time.

 

Because unless you have a very clear idea of how you spend your time and which portions of that are “monetizable” neither the math way nor the non-math way will help.

 

Track Your Expenses

Ditto for your expenses. What does it cost to run your creative practice? What does it cost you to run your creative practice in the way you really want to run it (boot strapping aside)? What does it cost you to exist as a human? What other sources of income do you regularly rely on?

 

If you can’t yet answer those questions quickly, you need more data.

 

Because it is only after you have reliable, accurate information that you can have informed, honest conversations with clients, customers, colleagues, and friends. Without the data, you’re just guessing. And that feels neither honest nor authentic.

 

Then What?

With a bit of math, you can figure out how much you “have” to charge during each of your billable hours to cover your expenses (plus some savings, plus your taxes).

 

With a bit of critical thinking, you can analyze your competitive landscape, you can assess your target customers, and you can quantify your competencies.

 

With a painful 15-minute session with a friend, you can figure out how to describe your value in a way that doesn’t feel icky or sound staged.

 

And then it becomes much easier. But you don’t have to figure this out on your own simply by guessing or by asking what other people do. You have the capability to analyze your own practice and share your own story.

 

And that is a true way to assess your own worth.

 

P.S. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of our series, “More Than Math.” And if you missed, Part 1, feel free to catch up now.