Phillip Sunderland Director, Streamtime

Creative people aren’t always so keen to organise their lives and keep up with the paperwork – but a golden one-stop solution is at hand to get it all back on track

Let’s talk some truth here. You have a business that sells ideas: a skill some clients treat like a commodity. You know it’s not, but the way some of your competitors act, you start to understand why some people may think that. Why is it that others in the industry seem to discount their entire added value as if it were baked beans in the supermarket? It seems there are too many people willing to sacrifice today’s fee, especially in these uncertain times, in the hope that the client will pay a more realistic rate tomorrow.

What is an hourly rate? A client can get a loose creative strategy or idea from you over a coffee. Do you charge those 30 minutes at just half your hourly rate? The client would say, ‘That only took you 30 minutes.’ Your answer would be, ‘Actually, that took me 30 years.’

Ideas are not things pulled randomly off shelves. They do not ship them in boxes across the world and they cannot be manufactured in China. They are wonderfully unique to you. You are indispensable on that level. If they replace you, or go somewhere else, they will never find your creative mind or way of problem-solving in anyone else. Your ability and talent today is a collection of genetics, social conditioning, inspiration, accumulated knowledge, perseverance and that little X-factor that enables you to look at a problem in a different way.

GET BILLING:

Some clients think creatives charge like lawyers. Of course they do. Lawyers, accountants, mechanics, architects, art directors, copywriters, designers and most tradespeople charge for their time. The simple fact is that lawyers and accountants are just better at capturing and billing it than creative people.

Creatives are very philanthropic. They would love to be paid for their work; who wouldn’t? But for them, the thrill of a blank canvas (or LCD screen or paper or whiteboard) is enough for them to give their ideas away just to see them become reality. They see the world as inherently flawed. So much of it could be done better. Why does this appliance not work as it should? Why does that look so ugly? Why am I uninspired when I use this thing? Surely there must be a better way of doing this chore.

TIME SLIPPING BY:

And when they solve it, they just want to see it materialise. The creative never captured all the real time it took to solve the design problem. Truthfully speaking, their timesheets were filled in at the end of the month, and all those incidentals – like office supplies and photocopies – were too numerous and too frustrating to keep tabs on. Besides, surely the account manager quoted with enough buffer not to have to write down every bloody photocopy.

Which leads us to the problem – creative people trying to be administrators, do invoicing, keep track of all the detail any project contains. That’s like expecting the Government to make tax and paperwork easy to understand, or their partners to understand why they are still working at two o’clock in the morning.

Imagine a utopia: a well-oiled machine, able to deliver everything the clients are asking of us, able to help us make the most of any financial downturn. Not just ideas, but the job on budget, on time, with a healthy profit at the end – and no one needed to work really late nights or weekends.

ACQUIRE THE TOOLS:

Sounds too good to be true? Thankfully, it’s not. Designers also design for other designers. There are great tools now on the market to tame the creative studio. Streamtime is for facts and figures what Photoshop is for images. Job-tracking, production scheduling and time capture has finally come of age. Making a strong, healthy profit and knowing which client that came from is instantly achievable. Knowing which staff are your greatest assets is only a keystroke away. Streamtime has answered the questions most creative companies are asking.

BEYOND THE POST-IT:

The irony has been that creatives use some of the most advanced computer hardware and software available in the world, and yet they scribble their time on a piece of paper. They can render objects in 3D in an afternoon, but have Post-it notes stuck all over their desks and screens to remind them of important dates and phone numbers. They have a slimline LCD screen and the funky office in a trendy district, but a great big diary from somewhere out of 1982 to book meetings with.

Why all these archaic tools for such cutting-edge companies? One reason is that most solutions remind them of Bill Gates or big grey dividers in a soulless office space filled with people using pocket protectors. The solutions in the past have been designed (loose use of that word) by programmers who sit in dark spaces writing code in between their next online Dungeons & Dragons session with someone located in the Ukraine. Don’t get us wrong – they have talent. We are simply meaning that the products have never felt intuitive to the creative mind. So they avoided them. And then came Streamtime. A program that sits comfortably in a creative environment, alongside your iPhone or designer chair, a programme that both Macs and PCs love. Harmony can now be achieved.

In times like this, creatives can’t rest on great ideas. The company needs to be strong. Owners need to know their business inside and out. Planning for tomorrow relies on your ability to decipher yesterday and today. The seat of your pants is no longer an appropriate way to fly…

Sponsored by Streamtime Software Limited

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