Rethinking time and materials

As a creative person, you need to start getting away from time and materials. It’s killing you.

Time & materials, with respect to the creative industries, is a widely used agency adage that bills a client for exactly what you did – I worked x hours and used y materials.

The concept of time and materials was conceived in an age when everything was being industrialized – the 20th century. The problem with grouping “time” with “materials” is that only certain uses of time can be measured, (ie manufacturing) where as materials is pretty straightforward.  Creative thought, like anything organic, can’t really be industrialized. It happens at odd hours, in washrooms, bus stops and 12 hour airplane rides. But 5 minutes of inspiration could spawn the next big idea.

Here’s my plan for escaping the shackles of time & materials.

1) Work somewhere you like working. The key is finding a group you enjoy working with. From my experience, working at a job you enjoy is more important than getting into the industry or job type you’re ultimately seeking.

2) Embrace ideas at any hour. Creativity rarely strikes you between the hours of 9 and 5. Unless you’re in the toilet, or taking the long way back from a coffee break. Embrace 3am insomnia, or the monotonous treadmill run. These are where the forward moving ideas happen. If you like your job, then these ideas will feel natural.

3) Rate yourself. Tell your boss what you’re going to achieve and do it. Very few companies are equipped to usefully rate creative people – teach them how by rating yourself. Build trust around delivering the goods.

4) Establish the ability to work remotely. This is a technique that can really help you zero in on the most important tasks at hand. There’s lots of good articles here and here that sell the merits of remote work.

Need a starting point? Float the idea of working with a cloud based project management tool. Something like this or this syncs beautifully everywhere (with an internet connection). Once you have buy in with this way of working, start with a half day here and there and prove it can be done. When you’re out of the office – be visible. Stay logged into your work chat software. Be responsive to emails. Be active in updating your tasks and data in whichever cloud based software you’re using. Once you’ve established a good rhythm with remote working, consider a working vacation.