Tracking your jobs

This lesson is aimed to small design departments and freelance graphic designers. If you work for an advertising agency you should already have some sort of tracking. You don't? What are you waiting for. In this lesson, where I explain the benefits of tracking, is a free to download spreadsheet included to get you started in minutes.

Why you should track your jobs

The first thing that will come to mind are the invoices - you need to know how much to charge your clients and you need a record for taxes and all the accounting. But if you do your tracking with just the money in your mind you may miss some important points. Setting the tracking up the right way will help you (just to name a few):

  • Find open and closed projects
  • Do better cost estimates and do better proposals
  • Help you get a coherent file-naming and file-structure
  • know how much time you spend on project

Don't do too much

If you are not used to track you jobs you may think that it will consume to much time. But you don't need to start with a full blown project management suite. In fact it is one of the biggest errors you can do, to start with a too complex system. As a graphic designer you didn't start with a corporate design for an international firm, you started with small projects. You need to begin with only a few key values. To update this values does not impact your performance as they will take no more than 5 minutes a day.

An easy Spreadsheet to start

To give you a Headstart I've made a small spreadsheet. It contains the most basic information you need in my opinion. One covers some general information about your costs (I will get into details about this part next week) and one simple table. Here the contents of the columns:

  • ID - This should be a unique ID-Number for your project. It can be just a number or a combination of year-number. This number will help you to find your project easily in your file structure for example, as you can use it in the naming of files.
  • Client - Enter the client name or a shortcode for the client. You can use this column to filter the projects and find out (in combination with start- and end-date) how many projects you do for a client and how long they usually take
  • Startdate, Enddate, Projectname - are straight forward :-)
  • Hours - Update this field every time you work on the project. You will be surprised how many hours you actually spend.
  • Cost - Is the calculated value depending on your input on the "General"-Table and the hours you worked on the project. More about this next week
  • Archive - You should have an archive of your project work. It's recommended that you collect the projects in "baskets" the size of a DVD-R for example (even if you do your backup or archiving on harddisks). If you have to look up an archived project this field will lead you the way.

[cta_button link=""]Download the free project tracking example spreadsheet[/cta_button]

You will see that even with this basic spreadsheet you will be able to speed up your work and get some interesting data. In the next lesson I will show you what type of insights over your work you can get by reading the data you collected.