Productivity

Openhour's TimeTracker winner of a Visual Studio Magazine 2015 Reader's Choice Award

Openhour's TimeTracker winner of a Visual Studio Magazine 2015 Reader's Choice Award

Visual Studio Magazine announced the winners of its 22nd annual Reader’s Choice Awards. The 2015 winners are chosen by the readers of Visual Studio Magazine and honor the best Visual Studio-related tools and services in 31 categories.

Easy calendar integration, with TimeTracker

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At Openhour, improving productivity is top-of-mind in every feature we build and launch. We're always striving to find ways to make time tracking easier, and our calendar integration is just one way we're meeting that goal. TimeTracker saves you time by automatically tracking activities on your computer and phone, then matching your activity with project codes.

Calendar coordination, with TimeTracker. The effort required to compare the content of one’s calendars, timesheets, and daily activities demands time that could be better focused elsewhere. TimeTracker saves users time by including scheduled meetings and other activities, removing the need to compare and contrast information across platforms.

By simply inserting #TT into the meeting description on Microsoft Exchange, Google, or iCal calendar, TimeTracker automatically transfers each tagged meeting to your timesheet. And TimeTracker assigns the correct billing code to all meeting participants, saving both you and your colleagues the need to individually enter that time.

Like everything else in Openhour’s TimeTracker solution, you have control and can decide to add/edit/remove any items before submitting.


For those already using TimeTracker, directions to get you started:

  • Microsoft Exchange Calendar: Your Administrator can enable TimeTracker for your organization. Once enabled, you can opt-in or -out via the TimeTracker Account Settings. See upper right pull-down in the TimeTracker browser.
  • Google Calendar: You can easily configure TimeTracker to retrieve your meetings. You can see instructions here at this Google Calendar blog post.
  • iCal Calendar: If you use iCal, here are simple instructions for associating an iCal calendar with a Google Calendar, which TimeTracker can access.

TimeTracker now integrates with Microsoft Visual Studio 2015

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TimeTracker integrates with an array of tools offered by Adobe, Apple, Google, Intuit, and Microsoft, and we are continually expanding the capacity of Openhour's premier productivity-focused platform. Today, we are pleased to announce the integration of TimeTracker with Microsoft Visual Studio 2015.

With TimeTracker automatically capturing time for those building within the Visual Studio Development Environment (IDE), we can help document and understand how developers spend their productive time, and eventually provide thoughtful analytics to guide professional endeavors and improve developers' overall workday experience.

"Together, Openhour and Microsoft provide a solution that helps developers focus on what matters most," explains Openhour CEO, Mark Hirsch.

We anticipate further integrations with Microsoft services to better serve Openhour customers – providing fitting solutions for businesses, large and small, and across industries.

Be the first to get TimeTracker for Microsoft Visual Studio 2015. Register here.

TimeTracker announces integration with QuickBooks

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TimeTracker integrates fluidly with tools available in Microsoft Office, Google Apps, and Adobe Creative Cloud, as well as productivity applications by Apple, among others. Today, we are thrilled to highlight our integration of TimeTracker with Intuit QuickBooks. With TimeTracker automatically capturing time, it is now even easier to submit time to QuickBooks, providing a streamlined process for submitting completed projects to clients.

Together, TimeTracker and QuickBooks provide a solution that lets professionals focus on what matters most.

We are encouraged by the partnership with Intuit, and look to continue integrating with Intuit's other business and financial management solutions for small businesses, consumers and accounting professionals.

Be the first to get TimeTracker for QuickBooks. Simply register here and then in your Account Settings (Preferences section), simply click the "Connect to QuickBooks" button.

Connect to QuickBooks Button

Organize your time: Past, present, and future with TimeTracker

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For those professionally invested in client services – from a digital creative agency crafting developing applications, to a legal firm verbalizing the respective positions of clientele – it’s likely your day-to-day workplace endeavors are in a constant flux; from new clients to fresh projects, each day invites something different – often requiring a different focus. TimeTracker is built to adapt with you, to make sure tracking your time remains as effortless as possible.

Your project efforts, captured with ease.

With TimeTracker, you can add, edit, or hide projects in your Projects List at any time. Click the gear icon of the Projects section on the right side of the Calendar View.

If you have an individual account, you'll be able to Add/Create projects in the same location. If you have a TimeTracker Team or Enterprise account, you'll be able to Add projects to your list from the organization's list. Just double-click on a Project to move it into your list.

Cross-platform syncing.

Your Project List will be visible in all of TimeTracker interfaces – browser, desktop application, and the Adobe Creative Cloud extension. Make a change in one place, and all interfaces will sync.

Within the Edit Projects panel, you make Hide/Unhide a Project by clicking the Eye Icon. This can be particularly useful if your company has numerous ongoing projects. Simply Hide them when you're done, and Unhide them when they're needed once more.

We are continually looking for new ways to improve the TimeTracker experience – if you have feedback and a moment to spare, please contact our team at feedback@openhour.com.

The market for analytics: Openhour is making data meaningful

With a mass of headlines and marketing campaigns highlighting the importance of Big Data, it may seem somewhat obvious to assert that data is big. Especially now. Over the past decade our capacity to capture and assess massive swaths of data has increased significantly; analysis that would have once commanded hours of processing now requires mere seconds. And we’re only recently beginning to envision how best this newfound ability can be harnessed.

Those of us at Openhour are thrilled to be playing a part in this shared venture by making data meaningful, starting with TimeTracker.

Making data meaningful.

TimeTracker provides you with the personal intelligence needed to continually improve your expenditure of time, from the simplest on-time timesheet preparation, to offering analytical insights to help users understand where the minutes and hours of every day are being spent.

With weighty companies like Microsoft identifying unique ways to integrate data in users’ day-to-day, via platforms like Office Delve and their recent acquisition of VoloMetrix, we’re excited by the market validation, knowing that Openhour’s patent-pending efforts can extract unique productivity analytics from the myriad of data-centric apps and user applications.

Moving forward, with TimeTracker.

As we continue building TimeTracker (and beyond), we’ll offer updates on features, feature benefits, and insights from Openhour’s ever-growing data bank.

Quantified Performance: Your professional efforts, by the numbers

In support of our leading goal to help users improve productivity, we’ve built the most sophisticated behavioral analytics platform for professionals; with TimeTracker and beyond, we want to benefit businesses by capturing productivity data and providing actionable, reliable analytics.

"You can’t manage what you can’t measure," explains Openhour CEO, Mark Hirsch.

TimeTracker provides you with the personal intelligence necessary to continually improve your expenditure of time, from the simplest on-time submissions to offering analytical guidance to help users understand where the minutes and hours of every day are being spent.

Have you ever wondered where the day went? Ever considered that you might be faster at responding to emails in the morning? Ever left a meeting and questioned what was accomplished, truly? A holistic view of how you are spending your time can help prioritize time in the future.

Quantify your performance.

Quantified Performance will continue to be a focus for Openhour, and we have a collection of data-driven features intended to assist those dedicated to improving their personal and professional productivity.

We know you can’t get your time back, but we hope that TimeTracker can get close.

Cross-device, cross-platform integrations.

TimeTracker is taking a step closer to aggregating time across busy lifestyles and multiple mediums. Future phases of Openhour include phone, fitness trackers, and Internet-of-Things integrations, to make tracking time as effortless as possible, using the devices and platforms that are already a part of your life.

And of course, we will place updates to the Openhour Blog as we continue developing and launching new integrations for TimeTracker.

Openhour customer benefits: Our transition to Microsoft Azure

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When choosing a cloud computing platform, a number of details are likely to drive the decision. For many companies, database breadth and ease of integration lead the selection process, though for those with a consumer-facing product, performance metrics may trump all other measures.

"Performance impacts the customer in both obvious and not-so-evident ways. At Openhour, the experience of our customers inspires every innovation," explains CEO Mark Hirsch.

With our recent transition to Azure, the Openhour engineering team identified a notable improvement in the customer experience of TimeTracker; with faster, more consistent service, our platform will be more responsive to customers’ individual needs, and ultimately, more engaging as a whole.

And these gains in performance positively impact our engineering team, too.

Openhour engineers note Azure’s extended global database network and flexibility among operating systems, programming languages, databases and devices, offer a superior overall engineering experience – encouraging faster, more resolute builds by the team. Coupled with Microsoft’s strong customer service, our Azure engagement has been little short of flawless.

As we continue our transition to Azure – expected to release in-full over the coming week – we will provide platform-specific updates and tips from our engineers to yours.

Transparency and individual privacy: Where does your company stand?

Companies now have access to tools capable of providing meaningful data regarding the collective production and rumblings of employees; figures outlining time spent and items addressed, including details on staff involved and their whereabouts throughout. And sometimes, more. But in seeking transparency, where does individual privacy stand in the workplace? As David Streitfeld questions in his New York Times piece on the new role of "data-crunching" in corporate time management, "How much can bosses ratchet up intensity?"

And if the desired result is a stronger company – an environment where both the corporate community and its outputs are in support of improved productivity – perhaps we should instead ask, "How can executives run their companies most effectively while preserving individual privacy and company culture?"

At Openhour, we believe the activity of individual employees should be disclosed only by choice. Full stop.

Additionally, we've found executives can better assess and understand the workings of their organization leveraging aggregate data that preserves employee privacy. The best of both worlds.

Our productivity management platform, TimeTracker, permits users to automatically capture their daily professional efforts, producing a fully editable timesheet and associated productivity analytics that can only be accessed and submitted by the individual user; only following user timesheet submission can management review an individual's timesheet.

With Openhour's approach in TimeTracker, we've proven the value in anonymized, aggregate data. Management staff are able to view analytics at a high-level across the organization using Openhour's platform, providing clarity to project progress and overall productivity, while maintaining morale among staff who might otherwise feel overwhelmed by unnecessary oversight.

As we begin to contemplate the bounds of "intensity" in the workplace, we hope people consider the impact of privacy infringement. With Openhour, organizations can effectively monitor time spent and tasks completed, while ensuring staff are respected.

5 Unexpected Lessons From Tracking Your Time - FastCompany.com

Unexpected lessons from tracking your time FastCompany.com published this insightful article about what you can learn if you track you time for just a week. We've summarized our favorite lessons from Fast Company's list here:

1. THERE’S A REASON YOU’RE LATE TO WORK How long does it take you to get ready in the morning, at a comfortable pace? Rushing out the door in the morning can set a bad tone for your whole day. The only way to avoid rushing is to measure your morning routine, and allow enough time.

2. YOU MAY WORK LESS THAN YOU THINK Working longer hours doesn't mean that you are getting more done. If you track your time, you might find that those 60+ hour weeks are that long because you are spending too much time on non-productive tasks like meetings, admin, or web browsing.

3. YOUR RATES ARE TOO LOW Most people set their hourly rate based on an guess about what their colleagues charge. A much better way is to track your time for a few weeks, understand what portion of your time is billable work, and then work back from the monthly paycheck you need to live comfortably.

4. BREAKS ARE WORTHWHILE As we've discussed in past blog posts "productive procrastination" can make you much more effective, if you are mindful about how you spend your breaks. Take the time to step away from your work and think about your broader goals, then come back to your work with a fresh perspective.

5. SOME MULTI-TASKING WORKS BETTER THAN OTHERS Are you sure you work better with music, podcasts or news playing in the background? Only one way to find out - track your time with and without your media playing.

CreativeWorx TimeTracker can be an invaluable tool for understanding how you work, and how to be more effective & productive. Just run TimeTracker in the background, and with almost zero effort you'll get a visualization of exactly how you spend your time.

Get TimeTracker Free

6 Ways To Be More Productive At Work - Forbes.com

gtd We'd all like to be more productive at work, but like anything worthwhile, improving your productivity takes effort and requires constant tweaking of your approach. Forbes.com suggests ways to hone your productivity - here are some points from the Forbes article that struck home for us:

1. Understand Your Body's Timetable

As a culture, we've arbitrarily decided that most work should happen between 9am and 5pm, with a break at noon. However, our bodies all have their own natural rhythms. Some of us can identify as "morning people", and for others, the best hours are in the lead up to heading home, or after the sun goes down. Its important to understand your own body's timetable, and make sure you plan the toughest tasks for when your energy levels are at their best, and leave the easy tasks for when you're feeling less energized and motivated.

2. Prioritize Prioritizing

Don't leave your productivity to chance. Put together a prioritized todo list so you know where to focus. There are so many great todo list tools available to help you get control of your productivity, and access your todo list on all your devices. It helps to sort your todo list into logical categories like "admin" and "project work", or by difficulty/effort so you can attack each task at the most appropriate time for your body's timetable. It also helps to create a separate list or tag for "Waiting" or "Blocked" tasks, when you have to wait for someone else to finish their task before you can start.

3. Take Breaks

Your brain wasn't made for relentless laser-focus. To stay at your most productive, you should take a break at least once an hour to give your brain time to refresh and refocus on the bigger picture. If you work on a computer all day, try to step away from your desk and socialize, or get some different scenery. If you're under fluorescent lighting all day, step outside and get some natural light. Give your eyes time to refresh too - try not to spend your breaks staring into your Facebook feed.

4. Don't Multi-Task

Have you noticed that people who say they are "great multitaskers" are often the productivity bottlenecks in your company? The human brain is great at focusing on one thing at a time. Best to understand this, and avoid trying to be super-human. Focus on one todo list item at a time, and move onto the next when its completely finished.

5. Create A Five-Minute List

Set up a list of tasks that would take you under five minutes, and power through these before you dive into the meaty stuff. Some productivity methodologies like Getting Things Done (GTD) recommend that any task that takes under five minutes should be done immediately. Such tasks can be a productive way to take a break from the bigger brain bending tasks.

This one wasn't on Forbes' list, but we think its critical...

6. Understand how you spend your time

With very little effort, you can get TimeTracker to automatically track your activities over the course of your work week. Do you know how much time you spent in meetings this week? Or how much time you spent browsing the web, versus working in your creative applications? TimeTracker can tell you all this and more.

Get TimeTracker Free

7 Reasons Why Your Time Estimates Are Wrong

Wrong-landscape Estimating time/effort is a difficult, error prone, yet essential part of working on any project. Whether you are a graphic designer, video editor, software developer or any other kind of creative worker, chances are you routinely underestimate the amount of time it takes to do something. You are not alone... incorrect estimates are endemic in the creative world, resulting in deadline and cost overruns, and the mistrust of your boss and colleagues. Here are some reasons why you (and everyone else) sucks at estimating time:

1. You want to impress our boss and co-workers with your stunning productivity

We've all been there... You are asked how long a task will take you, and you answer based on what you think your boss and co-workers want to hear, rather than thinking about how long it will actually take you. Then you end up working nights and weekends trying to make yourself right.

2. You think you're more efficient than you are

We all like to think we're highly effective multi-taskers who can slam through any task, no problems. The truth is that nobody really is. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to have a less-than-heroic level of productivity.

3. You don't allow for the x-factor

Its easy to get caught in the trap of estimating time based on a perfect world scenario where there are no distractions, no difficult-to-solve problems, and no issues that might come up that need your urgent attention.

4. You don't allow for breaks and productive procrastination

You are not a robot. You need to take breaks. Not only is it normal to take breaks and procrastinate... it is essential to your productivity.

5. You don't allow for dependancies on your co-workers

Nobody works in a vacuum. If you work on a team, you rely on our workmates to get their job done so you can do your part. Make sure you take their time into account, allowing for their individual leves of time-estimate wrongness.

6. You don't understand how you actually spend your time

The only way to understand how efficient you truly are is to track your time. Do you know how much time you need for email every day? Do you know how much time you spend in meetings vs productive work? Or do you take wild guesses based on gut feelings?

7. You rely on memory rather than hard data

The most effective way to estimate time is to base your estimates on similar tasks and projects you've done in the past. But relying on your memory instead of hard data is a fools paradise. You can hone your estimates by accurately measuring and recording your activities over an extended period, building intelligence about your own unique patterns of productivity. TimeTracker can do this for you automatically.

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10 Ways To Make Your Creative Professionals Hate You

10 Ways To Make Your Creative Professionals Hate You

Creative professionals are a unique breed. Whether they are graphic designers, video editors, musicians or writers, creative pros see the world through the lens of style, beauty, and effectiveness. Their brains are wired to pay attention to details that we mere mortals disregard. They have spent a large portion of their life dedicated to making things look, sound, and feel great. While we may believe in our own sense of taste and style, creative pros have made it their sole focus. To get the best out of them, you need to acknowledge that you can't match their creativity and aesthetic sense. To get the worst out of them, just follow these simple steps:

1. Give them vague design specs What you think you are giving them: Creative Freedom. What they hear: You are going to run them through multiple frustrating iterations after the first version is delivered.

2. Give them extremely specific design specs What you think you are giving them: Clear, detailed specifications and guidance. What they hear: You don’t trust their creative insights, and trust your own a little too much. You are probably going to micro manage the life out of the project, resulting in sub-par design folly.

3. Tell them to come in by 9am To a creative pro, 9am is the crack of dawn. While you were up at 6am doing pilates or feeding your kids, creative pro were in the middle of a deep, restorative, REM sleep. If you insist on them coming in at 9am, expect crankiness, sullenness, and phoned-in creative work.

4. Tell them to wear business casual Creative Pros see business wear as a tool of oppression, quashing individuality and creative expression. Khakis and pale-blue plaid button-downs are what Satan wears in creative hell.

5. Make them sit in long meetings There are oodles of studies showing that long meetings hurt productivity, and cause deep resentment. Nothing erodes morale and productivity like listening to middle management play buzzword bingo for hours on end. If you force your creative pro to sit through such meetings, expect them to lead a covert war of verbal discontent.

6. Use fancy creative terminology Do you want your creative pros to laugh behind your back? Then go ahead and use words like “anchor point”, “negative space”, and “saturation”. You aren’t as expert in such things as you think you are.

7. Change your mind a lot It might look simple to you, but the design comp, mockup, or preview you are looking at took a lot of work, and a lifetime of focus on creative disciplines. Every time you throw their creative work in the fire on a whim, know that you are also burning your creative pro’s motivation.

8. Disregard their creative expertise Face it… you are not a design, editing, or writing expert. You might think you have good taste and a clear sense of style. But you just aren't as good as your creative pros. You hired a creative pro. Let them do their job.

9. Spy on them So you walk through the office and see your creative pros online watching videos, scrolling through Facebook and Pinterest, or perusing FastDesign.co. Let them be. True creativity is an intense, organic process that doesn’t happen evenly over time. It happens in spurts. Let your creative pros nurture their creative juices by browsing the web for inspiration, or by taking a break from the intensity of creative work.

10. Expect accurate timesheets in arcane tools A reality of being a creative pro is that you have to track your time. Most creative teams still use arcane, inaccurate methods for tracking time. Shockingly, many still use paper timesheets. Why waste your creative pros' valuable time on boring admin taste like writing timesheets when it can be done automatically?

Get TimeTracker Free

26 Tools To Increase Productivity Within Creative Teams:

26 Tools To Increase The Productivity Within Creative Teams

As if running an agency wasn’t difficult enough, figuring out how to increase the efficiency within your creative marketing teams is a seemingly impossible task. There’s a new tool sprouting up every day that claims to improve your team’s performance in a key functional area and a never-ending list of resources

While there’s a lot of great resources on improving the agility of marketing teams and tools to help grow your business, there’s even more noise out there, which is why we created this list of tools to increase the productivity within creative marketing teams.

COLLABORATION: The underlying, core component of any successful team is the ability to collaborate seamlessly. Having your team work asynchronously anywhere, anytime far outweighs the cost and behavioral changes any of these products may require.

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Asana: Asana, co-founded by Dustin Moskovitz, is an incredibly powerful project management tool that allows teams to monitor each individual's current and completed tasks without relying on inefficient meetings, calls or emails.

ProofHQ: A common theme among marketing teams and agencies is the constant back and forth while reviewing content that ends up in long email threads or meetings. ProofHQ allows teams to review and approve content in one centralized platform.

TIME TRACKING: We all want to be more productive, but in an agency environment where time is money, productivity is everything. Time tracking and measuring how much real work you accomplish is the only non-biased way agencies can execute more efficiently and properly charge clients.

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TimeTracker: We acknowledge our bias here, but CreativeWorx TimeTracker is honestly the best time tracking solution on the market. Rather than manually inputting the time you’ve spent working on each project, TimeTracker records this as you work and figures out the proper billing code, even when you switch between apps, documents and meetings. There’s no need to hit record or stop, and if you decide to mix in some personal events during work-time, you can delete those events without anyone ever knowing.

RescueTime: If you’re like most of us, we can (at times) become distracted by the internet and then wonder where our time went. RescueTime is a personal tracker that sits in the background and collects data on what we do, indicating where we’re being distracted. A great way to look for improvements in our personal and work lives.

CONTENT: Investing in quality content and content amplification is a phenomenal marketing strategy that more and more companies are looking towards. The problem is, it’s a long-term play and it requires really great content over a consistent period to pay off in dividends, which is why these marketplaces and tools are worth looking into.

scriptedScripted - Scripted is a marketplace of vetted writers for hire. Based on specific details, you can find quality writers with specific expertise to help your business grow through content while managing everything via a dashboard where you can review, edit and approve content.

WritersAccess - If you’re looking to source writers based on quality and length of post, WritersAccess has a superb platform for doing so. They qualify writers based on their skill-set and then price their work accordingly.

SumoMe - SumoMe is every blogger and content marketers’ dream; it’s a free suite of tools that help you grow your audience by increasing social shares, email subscribers, heatmap tracking and more.

ANALYTICS: The oft-cited Peter Drucker cliche “what gets measured, gets managed” is as true as ever in marketing departments nowadays. Properly installed and closely monitored analytics systems is incredibly crucial to the success of any marketing team, making it worth its own category of tools.

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KISSMetrics: SaaS, Mobile and Ecommerce companies can benefit greatly from having an analytics platform such as KISSMetrics in their marketing mix. Chances are you’re already using Google Analytics to measure traffic, goals and conversions, which is great, but it only shows you numbers at a macro-level. KISSMetrics goes several layers deeper and allows to to track specific people rather than just tracking overall numbers.

Chartbeat: Chartbeat, a BetaWorks product, is the premiere real-time analytics solution for digital media companies.  It allows you to monitor across engagement rates, traffic sources, and social. Just as measuring these sources is important internally, it also allows you to track key metrics so you can leverage these insights while selling ad inventory.

Mixpanel: Mixpanel provides an amazing solution for mobile-first and web companies alike. Measuring beyond traffic and click-throughs, Mixpanel allows you to setup and track funnels from initial visit to completed conversion, all while being able to segment visitors and track specific people.

Heap: Unlike other analytics platforms, Heap Analytics doesn’t require any code at all required to fully implement, which is highly attractive to non-tech companies and companies that want to keep their tech team focused on current priorities. Beyond implementation, setting up events & goals is just as easy as a drag-and-drop tool. Heap is a very, very user-friendly tool that provides insights into traffic and funnel analysis.

CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION: If you run a web or mobile-based business, or even simply have a website, conversion optimization should always be considered to improve your messaging.

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Optimizely: Running A/B tests is difficult because it normally requires engineering resources to be pulled away from their core duties to help run tests that may or may not work to better optimize a site or product. That being said, Optimizely allows for (mostly) non-tech based people to run and track A/B tests at ease, without having to bring your engineering buddies over every day to to make sure tests are properly set up.

Qualaroo: While setting up and tracking A/B tests used to be the most challenging aspect of running conversion optimization initiatives before softwares such as Optimizely came around, now the attention has turned to what tests should be run and why? While gathering data-driven details is extremely important, talking to your customers should not be forgotten. Qualaroo allows you to insert a non-obtrusive side popup asking site and mobile visitors questions that help direct future conversion tests and messaging.

UserTesting: Sometimes the the biggest problems are the least obvious to you and your team members, but extremely obvious to your customers. UserTesting allows you to pay people from your demographic to record their observations of your site in a video, helping you visualize where customers see bottlenecks and how they navigate the site.

EMAIL: Email has been, and remains to be, one of the core marketing channels for almost every company doing any kind of web marketing at all. While it’s been around since the early days of the web, its capabilities have evolved immensely.

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MailChimp: If you’re looking for a simple, clean and elegant email solution, MC is about as close as you’ll get. It’s free to get started and plans scale as your business grows. In addition to their core email management offering, MailChimp has a number of other products focused on helping you send better email.

Litmus: Before you send off a massive email campaign without testing how it will appear across browsers and devices, take a test run with Litmus, which allows you to test just that, including scanning emails to make sure they’ll end up in your readers’ inboxes rather than their spam boxes.

Intercom: Finding the right time and right message to send to your users is incredibly challenging. Thankfully, Intercom allows for targeted messaging by showing you in real-time who’s using your product and how. This takes an incredibly time-consuming task that’s nearly impossible to measure and turns it into an easily leverageable asset that benefits you and your customers.

Vero: Vero allows companies to send behavioral, trigger-based emails based on your customers’ and visitors’ actions. Whether it’s by sending helpful integration and education emails to your prospective customers before they integrate your solutions, or sending tips on how to get the most of your product once they’ve already become customers, Vero takes out the difficult communication and educational component so many companies have while onboarding new users and improving existing ones.

Sendwithus: Transactional emails are just as important as email marketing campaigns, so being able to A/B test and manage these emails is often an overlooked branding and marketing opportunity. Sendwithus makes this process so easy that it would be crazy to not optimize your transactional emails due to lack of bandwidth.

 

SPONSORSHIP: Sponsoring celebrities and micro-influencers can be an extremely effective form of advertising, but the main problem this presents is the time-consuming nature of finding willing influencers and then negotiating deals. However, there are several marketplaces and tools that streamline this process for both sides, allowing for sponsorships at scale.

famebit200 Famebit: Famebit is a marketplace that connects YouTube influencers with brands. Its platform allows for seamless pricing and sponsorship options, taking away the pain of sourcing and negotiating with several influencers.

Izea: Izea is a social sponsorship marketplace that enables brands to connect with bloggers and social media influencers to sponsor content.

Promoted: Created and operated by the team at BuySellAds, Promoted allows everyone from bloggers to large media companies to create contextualized promoted posts that are optimized for the reader, published and advertiser because it’s a sponsored piece that acts like a normal post.

Sumpto: If you’re looking to reach millennials, Sumpto connects brands with college students who’ve built up social clout to promote brands in exchange for goods and products.

 

BRAND MANAGEMENT: Building a brand is still the most important feat any marketer can accomplish. That being said, maintaining your brand image is just as crucial, and these tools help marketers do just that.

Xink - Email has been around since the early days on the internet, but the email signature still seems to be overlooked by companies looking for additional branding opportunities. Xink allows you to manage and track email signatures throughout your company, creating a consistent brand image and an additional marketing channel.

Mention: Ever wonder what your customers really think? Mention allows you to monitor social media for your brand to react quickly and engage with people chatting about you in real-time.

SproutSocial - Running social media accounts for one company is a challenge in itself, but when you’re agency managing several different clients’ social accounts, things only become more chaotic. SproutSocial allows you to manage and monitor brand mentions across all social platforms on one dashboard.

Takeaway

Improving productivity within agencies is absolutely critical; clients have demanding timelines and high expectations, and your ability to execute hinges on your productivity level. So, while there will always be work to be done, implementing tools into your day that make you more efficient is a major cost saver in the short and long run.

As an agency, your biggest asset is your team, so even making small, incremental improvements can drive better results for your clients while improving your bottom line.

What other tools do you rely on to increase productivity within your creative team?

 

4 Ways to Increase Billable Hours

What makes an attorney, a public accountant, an agency designer and a freelance writer all cringe?Billable hours with 15-minute increments!

Keeping track of billable time is a mundane task that every freelance professional must complete because customers demand accountability. Self-employed professionals get paid for his or her time spent on billable client activities and must keep detailed records. Client invoices are then constructed from billable hours which then become the basis of a service professional’s earned income and profitability.

While the process seems quite simple, professionals soon discover keeping track of billable time is a part-time job in and of itself.

Service professionals are not unlike every other worker, they have bills to pay and ends to meet. A professional’s time is finite and can only be filled with so many activities. The difference between a freelancer’s billed income and business expenses equals her or his profitability. The goal is increasing billable income while decreasing business expenses. So here are a few ways professionals can impact billable hour profitability:

Utilize Technology

  • Freelance professionals who invest in technology will achieve the greatest billable hour profitability. Weather, family commitments, and daily commutes all provide unforeseen lost time. The ability to complete billable client hours outside of a static office environment allows profitability to skyrocket.


Delegate

  • Outsource or hire an employee to complete non-billable tasks. While hiring a person, either directly or through an agency, potentially allows the freelancer to bill more hours, becoming an employer is not always pleasant. Professionals may find themselves dealing with a new set of mundane tasks like human resources and payroll.
  • Delegating non-billable tasks to support staff is also costly and detracts from the professional’s goal of decreasing business expenses. The freelancer must decide if the increase of billable hours outweighs the cost of hiring. If it does not, the freelancer has become less profitable with his or her decision to hire.


Work More

  • A freelancer can physically increase daily hours available for work or even add a day to her or his work week. More hours available to work equals more hours available to bill for client activities. The consequences of physically working more include increased stress level due to less free time and increased relationship problems with loved ones.


Increase efficiency

  • A professional must stay on task. Efficiency requires professionals to accomplish a specified job in the least amount of time. A professional can hypothetically work 24/7 but if he or she plays solitaire on the computer for 50% of that work time, there will be zero positive effect on earned income.

While the demands of running a professional freelance business are great, reducing the time spent on non-billable tasks will increase profitability and allow freelancers to focus on other billable tasks. One of the largest allies freelancers have today is technology. Software and digital applications allow professionals to become mobile but also to automate processes, decrease daily distractions and increase business development efforts. The results of increased efficiency coupled with increased profitability will lead to long-term freelance growth and work/life balance.