A lot of agencies bill by the hour. It’s straightforward, conventional, and it feels safe. But what you measure is what you value, and if you look underneath the T&M (Time and Materials) model, you’ll see it actually breeds inefficiency and can be detrimental to the quality of the end product.
When we bill based on time, we’re focusing on the wrong thing. First, it punishes efficiency and rewards slowness. If a senior designer can create something in half the time a junior designer can, why would we charge more for the junior designer’s work of lesser quality?
Creative work is most often not a literal sequence of events to arrive at a narrowly pre-determined solution. There’s always a period of creative exploration in which a smart solution can come together quickly, or sometimes you really have to wade through different directions and concepts to evolve a solid idea and execute it properly. You never really know before you start.
How much time you spend in this process is irrelevant to the final outcome.
Don’t let a hyper-focus on time distract you from the outcome you’re really seeking.
I love what Ben Jenkins from One Fast Buffalo says: When clients ask me how long I spent on a project, what they’re looking for is an answer like 15 hours or a week or whatever. The real answer, though, is that I’ve been working on this for the past 15 years. That’s how long I’ve been working to master my craft and execute at this caliber.
The focus should be on the value of the end product. Because design is a means to a greater end, center on your business objectives that need to be met. How will we meet them? How will this project grow your business or increase profitability? Once we set our sights on the right target, focus on exactly that and let everything else become blurry in the peripheral.
The cost of a project should be based on the value it creates for the client. When both parties can agree to this, lasting progress can be made — no matter how many hours it might take.
Agree? Disagree? Additional thoughts? Let’s dialogue.