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Creativity Under Pressure: Sharpen Your Estimation Skills to Raise Your Value

Danny Greer

Accurately estimate a project’s commitment to maximize your time & increase your profits.

Time is Money

Time management and creativity don’t usually go hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately though, creative work devoid of time constraints becomes a financial matter.  It simply isn’t profitable.  Making a living as a creative professional obviously has a lot to do with skill and talent – but to be most successful you must also be productive and work well under the rigors of financial pressures and time constraints.  In this post, we offer up a few tips to follow when budgeting your time for creative projects.

Sharpen Your Estimation Skills

The quickest way to degrade your value is poor project estimation from the get-go.  Not only does over-promising the speed of a job mean you won’t be properly compensated for your time, but it also sets unrealistic client expectations.  If you underestimate just to win work, you’re already taking a loss.

Time Management

Instead, attempt to get the most information possible about a project from the onset.  Whether you’re a video editor, photographer or designer, make sure your client provides great detail about their expectations and project timeline.  Insure that you’re on the same page about the revisions process – a client that expects an infinite number of revisions will be a huge drain on your time.

Once you land a project create a thorough schedule, outlining the completion of each stage of the process.   Graphic designers and video editors will want to note when a first cut (or draft) should be completed, when a fine cut is due, allocate time for revisions and create a deadline for final client delivery (whew!).  Photographers can benefit from breaking down their editing process – when favorites should be pulled, when pictures need to be edited and the date they should be uploaded or delivered.

Even if you’re working on a project basis (as opposed to hourly) you need to break your time down into set increments.  This way you have a roadmap, encouraging you to keep moving forward and not micro-focusing.  Each hour invested represents a dollar amount – whether you’re paid hourly or not.

Simple Time Estimation Trick

Simple TIme Estimation Trick

The best way to create such a schedule is by basing your time estimates on past projects.  For every project you work on record how long it takes you to complete certain tasks.  Includes notes on the project – how much video was cut, how many shots were taken – and then notate what you did and how long it took to complete.  Even though every project is different, you can make a more informed estimate and can say, “I think this new project will take X amount of hours, because a similar one I did in the past took about that long.”

Does this sound like overkill?  It might – but the minimal amount of time it takes to implement (throw it all in a spreadsheet) is well worth your ability to more accurately estimate jobs in the future.

Don’t dilute your value by working more for less.  If you can estimate a project most accurately you’ll be better compensated for your time – and your clients will likely be more satisfied to boot.

How do you keep your time in check?
We want to hear your suggestions and tips in the comments!