Intuit Recognizes CreativeWorx TimeTracker as having Best Functional Integration with QuickBooks

CreativeWorx & Quickbooks This past weekend, CreativeWorx was recognized by Intuit with a Special Achievement award at the Startup Weekend competition in New York City.

"CreativeWorx achieved an amazing feat of completing a production quality integration with Quickbooks Online in just 2 days," commented Tony Chang, Product Manager, Intuit Platform Services. "Their time tracking solution is very innovative and I look forward to seeing this in the hands of our customers soon."

CreativeWorx TimeTracker solves the problems of late and inaccurate timesheets by automatically capturing how time is spent at work and generating an accurate timesheet for easy review, adjustment and submission.

"We are thrilled to be highlighted by Intuit for the integration of TimeTracker and QuickBooks," said Mark Hirsch, CreativeWorx CEO. "With so many professionals struggling with timesheets, the combination of QuickBooks and TimeTracker finally offers a solution that lets professionals focus on what matters most."

Used in over 100 countries, TimeTracker has already taken the world by storm, by automatically capturing time spent in tools like Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, Apple Productivity Tools, browsers and more. The integration with the QuickBooks accounting platform was an obvious next step.

The release of the TimeTracker Add-on for QuickBooks is expected in a few weeks, and CreativeWorx is allowing people to signup for early access.

Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities. There were events held simultaneously this weekend at multiple cities around the globe. Attendance of the NYC event reached maximum capacity, and the teams were praised by the venture capitalists and other industry notables who judged the event.

About CreativeWorx

CreativeWorx is a New York-based technology company redefining personal productivity, especially in the enterprise. The CreativeWorx platform provides sophisticated behavioral analytics that helps professionals run their businesses with accurate, reliable, and actionable productivity data.

TimeTracker Overview video: http://vimeo.com/90387965

About Intuit Inc.

Intuit Inc. creates business and financial management solutions that simplify the business of life for small businesses, consumers and accounting professionals.

Its flagship products and services include QuickBooks®, Quicken® and TurboTax®, which make it easier to manage small businesses and payroll processing, personal finance, and tax preparation and filing. Mint.com provides a fresh, easy and intelligent way for people to manage their money, while Demandforce® offers marketing and communication tools for small businesses. ProSeries® and Lacerte® are Intuit's leading tax preparation offerings for professional accountants.

Founded in 1983, Intuit had revenue of $4.5 billion in its fiscal year 2014. The company has approximately 8,000 employees with major offices in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, India and other locations. - See more at: http://www.free-press-release.com/news-intuit-recognizes-creativeworx-timetracker-as-having-best-functional-integration-with-quickbooks-1432108942.html#sthash.n9JITurl.dpuf

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Timesheets Don't Suck. Yours Do

(This blog post was originally posted on Medium.com in response to Rick Webb's blog post. Rick is the co-Founder of ad agency The Barbarian Group) Rick — This is a very enjoyable read, and I look forward to buying your book. With all due respect though, you make several bold, yet incorrect, statements that are based on your experiences from twenty years ago!

Technology has come a long way, and the bottom line for anyone complaining about timesheets is simple:

Timesheets don’t suck. Yours do

Technology has made the professional world more efficient and more competitive. People tasked with running businesses need operational metrics to run those businesses effectively. Presuming that executives care about shareholder value and helping grow their companies, it’s inadequate to limit profitability reporting to the client-level. Companies need to know their strengths and weaknesses to make the strategic decisions that will improve their faults. Companies will succeed by responding to their own performance analytics. They can’t fix what they don’t measure.

As margins shrink and procurement departments demand best practices, it is incumbent on the agencies to adopt tools and technologies that can improve their performance. Those who resist change will continue to see the erosion of margins, productivity and ultimately client satisfaction. In multiple blogs and speaking events, ad industry veteran Michael Farmer continues to describe how the industry is spiraling downward by not respecting important business metrics.

Manual timesheets are the problem

Anyone who has ever had to report their time will acknowledge the impossibility of being productive while also capturing their activity with accurate billing codes. The work day simply has too many interruptions to do this manually. Asking busy professionals to remember to hit start and stop buttons is ludicrous and ineffective.

As Rick writes in his upcoming book Agency: Starting a Creative Firm in the Age of Digital Marketing, billable employees learned to avoid submitting timesheets for 2–3 months. That irresponsible behavior only exacerbates the problem by undermining the accuracy of the timesheet data and therefore impeding the ability of executives to make informed strategic decisions. It also provides a false justification that timesheets are ineffective.

People are working long hours, multitasking and getting interrupted. No manual process will ever be effective, and Rick's suggestion that “At the end of the project, the producer fills out a simple one-page form” is fantasy. That suggestion only masks the problem and provides incorrect data that continues to undermine resource planning and allocations, budgeting, and ultimately profitability.

Numerous studies have highlighted that timesheet accuracy diminishes significantly when employees don’t capture their time immediately. So there’s a dilemma: Be productive or be accurate.

Technology has provided a solution

TimeTracker is gorgeous!

The good news is that the problems of late and inaccurate timesheets have been solved. TimeTracker by Openhour (www.openhour.com) is a plug-in solution that automatically captures work activity, intelligently assigns proper billing codes, and generates real-time timesheets for easy clean-up and submission to virtually any financial workflow. With a global footprint, TimeTracker is answering the global problem that Rick highlights.

Executives must implement the solution

So the truth is out: manual timesheets are ineffective and impossible to do; accurate timesheet data is critical for agency survival; and a true solution exists. Executives can no longer demand that employees do the impossible without giving them the tools to get their job done.

To suggest that “[timesheets] are an outright lie” and that electronic capture tools cannot work indicates a contempt for the process without research of the existing technology. For example, Openhour TimeTracker has empowered many agencies and creative professionals around the globe to understand their company’s metrics and improve their productivity, profitability and employee job satisfaction.

Timesheets can build a better culture

For timesheets to be effective, they must respect personal privacy first and foremost. This process must be 100% about informing peers to help them get their work done. It must not even hint of being a surveillance tool. If you cannot achieve personal privacy, stop and start again.

The process must be dead-simple…preferably automatic…and highly accurate. An effective timesheet process must allow the billable employee to adjust the timesheet before submitting it. There are simply too many scenarios where the data needs to be altered, not the least of which is the recording of personal activity, such as when employees work at home in between personal activities.

Once a tool empowers more fluid communication between departments…with less effort and tension, benefits become obvious and pervasive. Timesheets don’t kill creativity. Bad processes kill creativity. When the process gets out of the way, people perform better and the company grows.

Efficiency and productivity yield better informed client teams and enable billable employees to focus on their work (instead of timesheet admin). That’s a win-win-win that pleases employees, executives and most importantly clients.

———————————-

Mark Hirsch is the CEO and Founder of Openhour a cloud-based productivity platform focused on the professional services industry. The initial product, Time Tracker, automates the time and activity reporting process by integrating with the world’s most popular software and tools (including Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, calendars, phones, and more).

In addition to freeing up employee and management time, the result is highly accurate, data-driven insights that help individuals and organizations capture more revenue, reduce costs, streamline processes and have better visibility into their operations. Real-time data for On Demand business.

M&C Saatchi Deploys TimeTracker to Improve Profitability and Client Transparency

M&C Saatchi(New York, NY) M&C Saatchi implements CreativeWorx’s automatic time capture platform to improve financial performance, employee job satisfaction and client reporting. By solving the timesheet problems that still plague other advertising agencies, M&C Saatchi is streamlining their operations so they can focus on client work. Living their fundamental philosophy “Brutal Simplicity of Thought”, M&C Saatchi has integrated CreativeWorx TimeTracker to simplify employee timesheet preparation and submission. TimeTracker turns a painful and time-consuming process into a quick, easy process…with higher compliance and data accuracy.

“We recognize that completing timesheets accurately is a frustrating and time-consuming process,” said Rich Pacheco, Director of Finance & Operations, M&C Saatchi NY. “CreativeWorx TimeTracker solves this problem with elegant simplicity. Their automated solution provides more accurate billing data, improves resource planning, and gives our employees more time for client work.”

TimeTracker relieves billable employees from estimating their work effort by automatically capturing how they spend their time and intelligently assigning the correct billing codes. The system privately captures employees’ activity in desktop applications, such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite, plus browsers, calendars, phones and more. Employees no longer have to guess how they spent their time.

TimeTracker is effectively a plug-in for existing timesheet workflows and financial systems, making adoption easy. Though it can work standalone, TimeTracker was designed to integrate with systems including NetSuite, Advantage, MediaOcean, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Deltek/Maconomy and more.

“TimeTracker lets advertising agencies be more competitive with less effort,” said Mark Hirsch, CEO of CreativeWorx. “The automation is magical and makes the process almost trivial. Executives can finally have accurate & timely financial metrics…all while fully respecting employees’ privacy.”

Used in over 100 countries, TimeTracker has solved one of the biggest pain points for professional services organizations, including ad agencies, legal firms, government agencies, consulting firms and individual freelance contractors. Better data improves a company’s existing processes for Resource Planning, Forecasting, Client Reporting, and ensuring that ongoing projects stay on-course. In this data-driven world, companies need smarter systems to compete more effectively. TimeTracker delivers.

About M&C Saatchi M&C Saatchi Group consists of specialist agencies in advertising, customer communications, mobile, PR, research & insight, social marketing and sponsorship. For more information on M&C Saatchi, please visit http://www.mcsaatchi.com/

About CreativeWorx CreativeWorx is a software company whose unique data-mining platform automatically helps companies improve productivity and helps people get more from their lives. Focusing initially on the professional services industries, notably advertising agencies, CreativeWorx has solved the challenges of timesheet compliance and accuracy. CreativeWorx is based in New York, NY and is privately funded. For more information on CreativeWorx, please visit http://www.creativeworx.com or follow us at @CreativeWorxCo

KBS first major agency to fully deploy CreativeWorx TimeTracker

KBS Deploys TimeTracker to Improve Timesheets, Profitability and Client Transparency kbs+(Dec 8, 2014) Today, CreativeWorx announced the deployment of an innovative time capture platform to improve financial performance, employee job satisfaction and client reporting for award-winning advertising agency KBS. KBS has integrated CreativeWorx TimeTracker with its existing MediaOcean system to simplify employee timesheet preparation and submission.

TimeTracker turns a painful and time-consuming process into a quick, easy process…with higher compliance and data accuracy.

“Since KBS began using TimeTracker, we’ve seen a significant decline in the amount of time our employees are spending on timesheet administration along with improved accuracy,” said Chris Mozolewski, CFO, KBS. “The technology is truly a benefit to our agency and the industry at large.”

TimeTracker is an activity-tracking platform that significantly improves the performance of a company’s existing timesheet and financial workflow. TimeTracker is designed as a plug-in to integrate with other systems including NetSuite, Advantage, MediaOcean, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Deltek/Maconomy and more.

“TimeTracker is unique in three ways,” said Mark Hirsch, CEO of CreativeWorx. “First, it automatically captures how people spend their time and intelligently assigns the correct billing codes. Second, it enhances existing timesheet and financial systems. Third, and perhaps most important, TimeTracker fully respects employees’ privacy while automatically preparing a timesheet draft for them.”

Used in over 100 countries, TimeTracker has solved one of the biggest pain points for professional services organizations, including ad agencies, legal firms, government agencies, consulting firms and individual freelance contractors.

Accurate and timely timesheet submission lets executives finally run their companies competitively by leveraging near real-time analytics. Better data improves a company’s existing processes for Resource Planning, Forecasting, Client Reporting, and ensuring that ongoing projects stay on-course. TimeTracker helps companies compete more effectively in this data-driven world.

About KBS (kirshenbaum bond senecal + partners) KBS (kirshenbaum bond senecal + partners) is the brand agency for an inventive world. We are an integrated creative, advertising and marketing agency committed to inventing the highest value ideas for our clients and for ourselves. Our team of passionate inventors and creative entrepreneurs is dedicated to doing things that matter and making things that matter. Today KBS serves a diverse roster of clients that includes American Express, BMW, Harman, HomeGoods, Simmons Bedding Company, William Grant & Sons, Boar’s Head and Vanguard. For more information on KBS a member of the MDC Partners Network, please visit http://www.kbsp.com

About CreativeWorx CreativeWorx is a software company whose unique data-mining platform automatically helps companies improve productivity and helps people get more from their lives. Focusing initially on the professional services industries, notably advertising agencies, CreativeWorx has solved the challenges of timesheet compliance and accuracy. CreativeWorx is based in New York, NY and is privately funded. For more information on CreativeWorx, please visit http://www.creativeworx.com or follow us at @CreativeWorxCo

5 Ways To Improve Your Client Proposals

Creating client proposals to win new business can feel like a major drag and just another distraction from your main objective: delivering exceptional value for your clients. Even worse is investing extraordinary time and resources to create a presentation showcasing your services, agency team, experiences and proposed plans...only to have the prospective client disregard it because the proposal doesn’t speak directly to them or align with their expectations. To help you create an effective proposal that highlights your agency’s strength and conveys an aligned message with the brand you’re pitching, we featured a few tips below on how to create proposals that win the right kind of business.

  Align Your Proposal With Your Prospective Clients’ Goals & Brand

Brands see pitches from freelancers and agencies on a daily basis, and in many cases they are generic templates with a few tweaks here and there. In such a competitive industry, it is essential that take time to personalize your pitch to align with your prospective clients’ overall brand and strategy?

To truly partner with a brand, show why your team is the right team for them to choose. A more personalized connection between your business and your prospective clients’ business is extremely powerful.

Here are simple steps to do this:

  • Reference a recent campaign they did, and how you could build off of it
  • Show that you understand the company history
  • Display how your work culture and goals mesh with theirs
  • Cite specific reasons why your agency can help them with their problem, rather than just showing them what you have and can create

  Focus First on Building A Relationship

Ultimately, business decisions come down to two things: do they want to work with a particular agency, and can they deliver?

While it’s tempting, and rational, to begin proposals with objective data, case studies and awards won, it’s actually more effective to connect on a human-level. Establish a rapport first, and then back up your people-skills with a plan and track record that will support your pitch and show you can in fact deliver exceptional results.

Your goal is for the prospective client to understand the vision and feel comfortable working with you. If you engaged immediately with data, you’ll likely bypass the opportunity to build genuine engagement and the prospective client will view you as a commodity, rather than a partner.

  Focus On the Problem You’re Solving

Far too often agencies lose their focus, and unintentionally become overwhelming, making their pitch extremely difficult to understand. In your initial pitch, your goal should be to focus on the most difficult problem at hand that you and your team can solve, and clearly show how you can achieve this.

As time progresses and the relationship is strengthened, then you can explore other areas to work with your client, but pitching everything upfront will only dilute your pitch.

It’s also worth noting that while referencing awards and accolades can help in terms of social proof, it does not replace a fixation on the clients’ problem. It's essential that you highlight your firm's competitive advantage, and how that will help you and your agency address your client's primary issue. The client simply wants their problem solved in an easy-to-understand process.

  Work Together During the Proposal Process

The best way to ensure you’re tailoring your proposal to a business that you’ve identified to be a great match is to ask them for input on your proposal. Rather than basing your entire proposal on the basic information provided to all competing agencies, work directly with the prospective client to show them your collaboration skills while test-driving the relationship.

The best results come when you treat your clients as partners. By working together on a small sample project before agreeing to a long term engagement, both parties will understand each other much better. You will also get a better sense if this particular engagement is poised for success, before investing a significant amount of resources into it.

(If their process forbids collaboration, you can engage with vendors and third-party influencers who already work with them. There's a lot be learned from third-parties, and this can be very easy to accomplish. LinkedIn and other social media tools make it easy to find common links...so reach out and build your network at the same time.)

  Incorporate Your Skills & Creativity into the Proposal

Don’t be fooled thinking your proposal needs to look or feel a certain way. Think outside of the box. As an agency trying to showcase your work through past experiences and vision, nothing can match actually doing some upfront work to prove your worth and standout from a flood of proposals that may all essentially look the same.

For instance, if you’re a package design agency, create a thoughtful, physical package to ship along with your proposal, even if your proposal is all done online. If you’re a web dev shop, why not turn your proposal into a mini-site? Creative agencies could build a scaled down version of their campaign vision and blend in the proposal that way.

These companies you’re pitching don’t want to be sold to, they want to be blown away by your creativity and ability to execute, so do just that. You’re only limited by your creativity, and quite frankly, that’s what you’re selling. So, the more creative and effective you are in the overall experience of your pitch, the greater the chance is that you’ll win more business and cut through the noise.

  Takeaway

Client proposals aren’t necessarily your first point of contact with interested companies (as they’ve likely already seen some of your work, your site and potentially had prior engagements with you), but it is your first point of direct contact with them to solve a specific problem. This is why it is crucial that you take the extra time to develop an experience that will capture their attention. Case studies and jargon can only go so far, but where others don’t want to go or cannot go due to their lack of creative resources, is exactly why you have an opportunity to win business by investing upfront and creating a personal connection before the engagement is even discusses. So, go out there and outdo the competition not just in the marketplace through your work, but also in the boardroom as you pitch potential clients. If done correctly, you’ll see a major impact on your agency’s growth.

5 Steps for Creative Agencies to Drive Profits

In the agency world, things move fast, and just keeping up with your clients’ demands is a full-time job, but that doesn’t mean you should only focus on in-bound requests. Your clients would benefit significantly if you shifted some focus on your internal processes. Streamlining operations can improve your client/agency relationship while increasing agency profitability, employee job satisfaction and the quality of your firm's work. When you only think in terms of client to client, rather than building an overarching strategy for your agency, issues are often overlooked, such as: (1) inefficient internal processes that become increasingly more inefficient as the business scales, and (2) judging employee effectiveness on input rather than output.

However you slice it, the success of an agency relies on building the right team, over-delivering on services and working with the right clients. None of that is possible if you have faulty internal processes in place. Listed below are the most important steps to grow your agency, your workforce’s productivity and your clients’ satisfaction.

  • Proper Agency-Client Communication

No matter how great your offering is, if it’s not exactly what the client was hoping for, you’ll ultimately fail. This goes far beyond just setting high-level expectations on goals and how creative should look; these discussions should be a deep-dive into proper budgeting, frequent cadences to monitor and tweak performance, and an intense focus on creating iterations throughout, rather than taking a waterfall approach where your team spends weeks or months preparing a campaign before the client gleans any insight into the progress.

In an effort to set up regular, productive cadences to ensure a solid relationships are built, agencies and clients should:

  • Make sure milestones are in place, and being met
  • Create and stick to an agenda during each call or visit
  • Take notes on every key point, reference, objective and action items
  • Follow-up religiously to avoid confusion

At the very least, those four processes should be mandatory with every meeting to ensure projects are not only done on time, but within the scope of the budget and within the scope of the clients’ expectations.

  • Improve & Automate Timetracking Behaviors

We’re all familiar with the pain-points that arise when employees are required to manually track their time. From disruptive weekly timesheet reports to continual interruptions of triggering time tracking software on and off in between client work, preparations and other duties, the timesheet process can be incredibly counterproductive. Do you understand just how disruptive a manual time tracking system can be to your organization?

Because employees are focused on billable work, they are often reluctant or unable to interrupt themselves to manually enter their data. While all agencies that bill for hourly work (or that want to understand job-level profitability) must utilize a time tracking system, it doesn’t have to be an invasive solution as we’ve relied on in the past. These older systems capture everything employees do, with screenshots, and will effectively destroy the agency's internal culture by making employees uncomfortable, paranoid and feeling guilty about taking a few minutes to take care of personal matters. Nobody likes a work environment that references George Orwell and "Big Brother".

If you’ve built the right team, empower them to do their best by giving them the best tools and creating the best work environment. An automatic time capture solution such as CreativeWorx TimeTracker, with total respective for personal privacy, will go a long way to improve overall employee happiness and productivity, which is something the agency world could use more of, apparently.

  • Measure Everything

Nothing proves your worth more than objective data. In modern day marketing, there’s very little room for excuses on not measuring specific objectives within a campaign to show clients where you’re hitting your targets, and where you’re not on other targets (and how to fix that).

Look at Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic and you'll see scores of analytics software ranging from Web & Mobile Analytics to Business Intelligence to Marketing Analytics:

[one_third]Web and Mobile Analytics[/one_third][one_third]Business Intelligence[/one_third][one_third_last]Marketing Analytics[/one_third_last]

As you can see, there’s no shortage of software for SMBs and Enterprise companies to track, measure and visualize data to stay on track and iterate based on objective data, rather than gut feeling.

  • Constantly Over-Deliver (Especially) For The First 100 Days

James Altucher, who’s an investor, entrepreneur and a blogger, talks a lot about over-delivering all the time with clients, but especially within the first 100 days. James formerly founded and sold a web development agency called Reset, and he’s mentioned numerous times how he’d land a client then immediately hand that client off to a project manager while he’d go after the next client, which in the end would often cause unnecessary friction. As many of us already know, the best clients are your current clients because you can grow with them and retain business. It’s important to invest in the relationships that will allow you to earn more trust and responsibility, rather than always doing one-off projects with a bunch of different clients where you increase your turnover and can never fully focus on the project at hand.

So, how do you do this?

Go beyond what’s expected.

If you’re hired for web development, throw in extra features and offer advice on how to build better site navigation to boost conversions. If you’re a content writer, make introductions to journalists on behalf of your client for PR purposes. Maybe you could even offer to help them outside of their business, too. The possibilities are endless, and anyone who brings more value upfront will almost certainly be rewarded in one form or the other.

  • Put Your Employees First

There’s a lot of talk about how to build company culture, but the problem is, company culture is measured in a lot of different ways. Some define it as benefits and office perks, others say it’s team chemistry and camaraderie, and others will tell you it's about personal respect and independence. However you define it, all great company cultures start at the top, and are built on trust and appreciation.

This appreciation could be in the form of giving each employee $1,500 toward a vacation, by having an amazing office, by implementing or eliminating systems to improve the process. The bottom line is for any business, especially an agency which is build on human-powered talent, fostering a group of talented and engaged individuals into a creative force is the greatest investment an agency can make.

Whichever direction you choose to go, you should start by:

  • Regularly reinforcing core values
  • Giving responsibility and acknowledge accomplishments
  • Including all team members on major decisions (where appropriate) such as office layouts, perks, key hires and more.
  • Leading by example (perhaps the most important)

Overall, a solid foundation within a company can be your greatest asset, as it improves every other functional area of the business. Without it, you’ll struggle to hire and retain top talent while experiencing many inefficiencies that will considerably slow the business. As a leader, investing in the right team members, technology and processes will determine the entire structure and future of your business.

 

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.

asana-logo

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.

creativeworx

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.

kissmetrics-logo

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.

optimizely_logo

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.

mailchimp_logo (1)

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?

 

TimeTracker Feature: "Project Nicknames"

FEATURE 4: PERSONAL PROJECT NICKNAMESHave you ever found yourself staring at a list of project names and billing codes, trying to determine which one is valid...despite having used that same code for weeks?!! Well, you're not alone. It's a common occurrence, but it doesn't have to be that way!

We've heard you loud and clear on this issue, and we're thrilled to announce TimeTracker Nicknames.

Nicknames are a simple concept: You provide alternative names that replace your project names in the TimeTracker interface. The original names are not lost, they're simply replaced in the user interface. However, your real-time searches are automatically processed against both the company name and your personal nickname.

Nicknames

Defining your Project Nicknames is an easy task. Simply click the Edit Project icon and then click the pencil to edit the Project. When the window appears, you'll find a field for Personal Nickname. Enter the desired personal nickname and hit Save. That's It! (You may need to "refresh" your project lists from the Creative Suite extension and the TimeTracker Desktop application.)

Go enjoy it!

TimeTracker Feature: "Google Calendar Sync"

FEATURE 3: GOOGLE CALENDAR SYNCHow cool would it be if you could invite a few colleagues to a Google or Exchange meeting and have that meeting AUTOMATICALLY APPEAR on their private TimeTracker timesheets, with the correct billing code?!! It's not only possible...it's easy!

TimeTracker can automatically sync with your Google Calendar so that specific activities will automatically appear in TimeTracker. It's super convenient...and automatic! And remember that since TimeTracker is 100% private, no one else will see this meeting information...unless you choose to include it on your submitted timesheets. You must share this with your team! It will make everyone's life so much easier!

Here's how to configure Google Calendar

1. Go to your TimeTracker Account Settings (upper right pulldown in the browser). Next to "Google Calendar" there is a button that says "Authorize." Push that button and Google will guide you through the simple authorization process. When you are done, the button will be replaced by the word "Authorized."

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 2.39.17 PM

2. In your Google Calendar, simple put the characters "#TT" (without the quotes) in the Description of any Google Calendar activity...and save that activity. Note: If you want to include the project information, you would simply append "#TT" with a dash and the TimeTracker JobID as shown in the picture below. #TT-JobID

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 2.54.01 PM

 

By the way, did you see the previous blog posts about selected TimeTracker features? Here are some quick links. Enjoy!

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.

TimeTracker Feature: "Details View"

In my last blog, I started a series to focus on TimeTracker features to help users understand the full power of the TimeTracker platform. The first feature highlighted was Folder Tagging, where TimeTracker can assign a job code to time spent simply by saving a document to (or opening from) a certain folder. It's a powerful feature that yields incredible timesheet data accuracy while actually reducing the user's effort. FEATURE 2: DETAILS VIEW The second feature to highlight is TimeTracker's Details View. The Details View is a private dashboard that shows the documents you actively touched on any given day. Click at the top of any day in the Calendar View, and the calendar will spread apart to reveal Activity Details. (See below)

Details View

Every document you actively touched that day will have a column in the Activity Details. For each fifteen minute segment, TimeTracker will indicate which document(s) you touched. Moving your mouse over an activity will reveal details including: document name, application, and project, if assigned.

In the screenshot above, the fifth column shows two fifteen-minute segments when the user worked on the Photoshop document "Smuckers-Squeeze.psd". Note that there is a fifteen minute gap of inactivity between the two segments. At this time, the document may have been open, but it was not worked on.

The Details View provides tremendous value when you were unable (or forgot) to associate projects with your documents. As long as you were logged into TimeTracker, the supported applications and filenames will be captured automatically. Being able to see this information provides invaluable insight as to how you spent your time.

There's no need to ever worry about a timesheet again!

TimeTracker Feature: "Folder Tagging"

I had the pleasure today of conducting user experience interviews with TimeTracker users. It was rewarding to hear them praise TimeTracker, and make comments like how it "changed their life". Before TimeTracker, they HATED timesheets and the billing process. Now, it's a trivial matter for them. However, I was quite surprised when we got to a discussion of wish-list items. It was disturbing to hear user after user request features that were already in TimeTracker! That spoke volumes: Either we were hiding some great features...providing poor training...or both. As a result, I've decide to use this blog to highlight awesome features of TimeTracker.

FEATURE 1: FOLDER TAGGING The inaugural TimeTracker feature is something we call "Folder Tagging." Folder tagging allows a user to automatically associate billing codes with a document simply by saving it to a particular folder.

By example: Imagine you are working in Adobe Photoshop on a document that you haven't yet associated ("tagged") with a project/billing code. Simply by saving that document into a folder that you previously identified with a billing code, that document will immediately be tagged with that billing code. It's all seamless and automatic.

Configuring Folder Tagging Setting up Folder Tagging is a very simple process with two requirements: (1) You need an open document in the application running TimeTracker; and (2) You need a Project associated with that document. {In the TimeTracker extension panel, you will see "In Progress."}

Simply save the document to the desired folder. Then, select “Assign Project to Folder”. That's it! That action will assign the currently selected Project to the currently saved Folder.

Assign Projects to Folder

To use Folder Tagging Save a document to a tagged folder. You can also Open a document from a tagged folder, provided there is no project association on the document. This feature will do nothing if the document already has a Project assigned.

Appreciating the Creative Process

Not too long ago, I visited the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) National Design Center, which is just a few blocks from the CreativeWorx office in New York City’s famed Flatiron District. I was reminded of what a treasure the AIGA gallery is when I stepped through its doors to see the exhibition, Estrada: Sailing Through Design. For those who love and appreciate design, this exhibition was an inspiring treat - a rare opportunity to see the trajectory of the creative process for an international design icon, Manuel Estrada. Manuel EstradaI was inspired by the journey, paging through some of the hundreds of facsimile sketchbooks that lined one wall of the exhibit and then experiencing how the wondrous ideas contained in these were refined and distilled to the powerful designs that appeared on the banners that hung from the ceiling.

What struck me immediately was the volume of ideas that were created and ultimately discarded. It was impressive to see the massive undertaking of the artist determined to impress the client and his fellow team members, while aligning with the brief to achieve agreed-upon business goals and ultimately satisfying his creative voice. An amazing balancing act.

This process is often under-appreciated, because so much of the effort is in the artist’s mind and cannot be seen. Worse, because the creative process often requires breaks to allow time for ideas to incubate, artists are frequently misunderstood when they do not appear to be actively working. They are not goofing off. The reality is this is an essential part of the creative process. That moment of illumination does not come without great effort.

Manuel Estrada’s exhibit accentuates the internal pressure Creatives face after committing to deliver an inspirational idea with exceptional execution by a certain date. Having worked side-by-side with creative professionals for much of my career, I continue to be impressed when a designer delivers extraordinary work despite a tight deadline, shifting needs and often arbitrary (not to mention conflicting) feedback. The process can be truly magical.

Estrada: Sailing Through Design

Compelled to Invest: How a Real-time Solution to an Age-old Problem Drew Me to CreativeWorx

Joe BurtonI recently took an investment in CreativeWorx. The company’s first product, TimeTracker, automates the time reporting process. Boring, right? Don’t feel bad; “time reporting” generally draws yawns across any organization. But something pretty amazing is going on here.

Having spent 20+ years managing professional services businesses, I found TimeTracker to be incredibly simple and absolutely game changing. Mark Hirsch and team come out of product development at Adobe, Apple, etc. Their platform links to the tools that employees use most (Microsoft Office, email, Adobe’s Creative Suite, cellphones, etc.). It automatically populates a calendar and timesheet based on how employees spend their time using actual activity and file names.

I’ve been using the product for six months. My personal experience is that the average person can go from 1-3 hours a week filling out a timesheet (depending on complexity of their schedule) to 1-3 minutes reviewing and approving the time on an automatically generated timesheet.

During my career, I had the good fortune of managing some of the largest marketing service firms in the world. While working in a creative environment was a wonderful experience, the lack of technology and tools made the administrative side of things suck on almost every level.

The usual time reporting routine is for employees to capture their time manually on a weekly basis. Fifty to eighty percent are late, usually depending on their department. They get encouraged, cajoled, threatened. Staff submit late, often making it up because it’s hard to remember several weeks of your life. They check the calendar. Look through emails. Check the budget. Then submit to budget. Finance rolls up the data, fills in the holes and reconciles for client reporting on a quarterly basis. The end result is bad data, coming too late to influence decision-making. Important decision-making that directly influences resource management, productivity and agency profitability. My back hurts just thinking about it.

I recently met with 20 colleagues who manage more than $40 billion in the industry. They all confirmed the same pain. It’s hard to believe this process is still being used to run major global businesses. Imagine rolling up 2,500+ employees in 40+ countries around the world (FTEs!) in support of one global client. Then imagine doing that for a hundred clients headquartered in different markets around the world. Manually. In Excel. On a quarterly lag.

The domino effect includes an inability to manage the bottom line, poor support in negotiating client deals and a finance org that reports the news three months after the fact. Forget about operational excellence when you spend 70% of your time managing a manual nightmare. Bad news for the CFO, COO and CEO.

Service businesses of every size are routinely being managed “directionally” with data everyone knows to be fairly crap in a process that no one likes. The market is big. And it’s desperate for something new. The CreativeWorx roadmap includes leveraging the automated timesheet data from TimeTracker to automate cost accounting in the future and then staff management. That’s a powerful combination with two more processes that are equally antiquated and inefficient as time reporting.

At the same time, we live in a world where big companies are focusing on “resiliency” solutions (stuff that enables employees to cope with work/life stress). They could have called the space “suck it up”, but resiliency sounds so much better. No matter what you call TimeTracker, I loved the idea of getting 50-150 hours of my life back every year. The tens of thousands of downloads of the free TimeTracker product seem to agree. The curse of the timesheets has been lifted.

The primary reason I took a look at CreativeWorx and TimeTracker was memories of needless pain. If you have a time reporting pain in your life, you should too.

Joe Burton is a c-level marketing & technology executive and currently serves as President of Headspace. Before that, he was an entrepreneur in the social & digital media space and global COO of two of the largest agency networks in the world. Joe has managed agencies & technology firms across all nine marketing disciplines.

TimeTracker Earns Kudos

Those who know us know we're passionate...passionate that TimeTracker is a must-have tool for creative professionals who want to focus on their craft. The good news is that people don't need to just take our word for it. They can hear it from two respected publications catering to creatives: Photoshop User and Communication Arts. logo PhotoshopUser

PHOTOSHOP USER reviewed TimeTracker in its October issue and, we’re proud to say, awarded us a Four Diamond rating. According to reviewer Jay Nelson, “Designed by creatives for creatives, TimeTracker strikes the perfect balance between control, functionality, and usability, which means you’re more likely to use it!” TimeTracker eliminates the time capture and timesheet challenges facing creative professionals, especially users of the Adobe Creative Suite: including Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator.

logo Communication ArtsCOMMUNICATION ARTS, the premier publication covering all aspects of visual communication and dedicated to 'showcasing the current best', featured TimeTracker in its Resources section. CA focused on TimeTracker’s integration with the tools creatives use day in and day out – including the Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office – as well as set-up “as simple as a couple of button clicks” to enable automatic tracking of billable hours. With TimeTracker operating in the background, creative professionals feel like they have, as the CA headline says, “Time on your side.” We couldn’t have said it better!