Time tracking is a vital practice to ensure your event business can be profitable while maintaining a functional work-life balance. Event pros, and event planners, in particular, struggle with always being available to clients. And there’s still the uncertain nature of task completion, unforeseen issues, and managing last-minute changes.
That’s what you signed up for, right? Event planning is stressful yet rewarding. But time tracking is a habit that helps you get paid appropriately for your hard work, creativity, and expertise. And that’s only the start.
What Is Time Tracking?
Time tracking is the practice of measuring the amount of time spent on tasks.
Many people think time tracking is when a freelancer charges a client an hourly rate. Then, they track the amount of time spent on the project and invoice their client. And yes, that’s one way to look at it. But when you get paid a fixed rate for planning and managing an event, why bother tracking your time?
Why Time Tracking Matters For Event Planners
I’m going to answer this with a few questions.
- Are you charging your clients enough?
- Are you overworking for a particular client?
- What services should you stop offering to clients?
- Are specific event tasks taking you too long?
Keeping an eye on the amount of time you spend doing your work allows you to answer all of these questions and more. Let’s look at each one as an example.
Are you charging your clients enough?
Measuring the amount of time you spend on your tasks and events as a whole lets you answer this pretty important question. Let’s walk through a specific case.
A client has hired you to plan their event, and you’ve agreed to a $10,000 fee. You have six months to plan the event, so you get to work immediately. At the end of the six months, the client might have paid $15 per hour or $150 per hour. Do you know which? The client doesn’t care, but you do, right?
If you worked 667 hours on their event – full time over 5 months – you’re only making $15 an hour. If you only worked on their event full time for two weeks, you’re making about $150 per hour. Here’s the calculation:
Event fee / hours worked = $ per hour for that event.
So, $10,000 / 240 hours = $42 per hour. That’s roughly 10 hours per week over the 6 months. That’s not bad, especially because it leaves you time for family, other clients, and growing your business.
Are you overworking for a particular client?
Some clients need more of your time than others. It’s a fact of business life. But by tracking your time spent doing the same tasks for different clients, you can learn whether a specific client is getting more value from your work than they’re paying for.
If you spent 20 hours with a client sourcing a photographer, but it usually takes you 10 hours, well, maybe you need to set some boundaries with them.
What services should you stop offering to clients?
Perhaps you offer vendor sourcing as a specific service or floral design. Some event planners do graphic design as part of their event packages. Tracking the time you spend on these particular tasks will help you understand whether they’re profitable for you or not. At the very least, you can make informed decisions about what to include in a package and what to charge extra for.
Are specific tasks taking you too long?
No, this isn’t about dropping a task from your service offering. Instead, if you know a specific event task is taking you too long and is bringing down your hourly rate, you can look at optimizing your process.
Let’s talk vendor sourcing. If you spend hours finding the perfect photographer for each client, you could instead create a preferred vendor list and let your client decide. Or you could make an excel spreadsheet with detailed notes to help you narrow down the right person quicker. Or include detailed notes in your ThymeBase contact list. Time tracking will help you discover the event tasks you should be doing more efficiently.
How To Track Your Time
There are several time-tracking software options out there, but to start, keep it simple. Keep a daily spreadsheet with the tasks you do and how much time you spend on them. I did this process with a Sydney wedding planner. She simply wrote down each task as it began and the time started and completed. We quickly found that she was spending way too much time responding to emails from her client about vendors. The solution? A preferred vendor list was added to the client portal so the client could go through the best options in her own time.
Once this process becomes a habit and you’re actually using it to make business decisions, it might be worth purchasing specific time tracking software. I thought Clockify looked pretty cool and has a decent free option. But if you already use someone, let me know, and I’ll add them here.
What You Should Be Time Tracking
You could jump straight into time tracking like a boss and closely measure each aspect of your workday. But that’s a little like running a marathon when you’ve bought your first pair of New Balance. To start, maybe time track the work you do for a specific client. Or perhaps only one day a week. In other words, keep it simple, small, and easy – at least until you build the time-tracking habit.
You could choose to track time by:
- Time spent at work by Day/Week/Month or even year
It’s easiest if you start tracking time by work done on each event. Then you can compare the margins on event types.
What To Do With This Information
I’ve already mentioned some thoughts on what time tracking means for your business, but let’s get into actionable insights. Here’s a basic one.
Let’s say you discover that planning weddings nets you $25 per hour, but the day of coordination is about $150 per hour. You might keep planning weddings and prioritize your marketing and referral requests to highlight your work as a day-of coordinator. I know many event pros who do just this.
Or maybe you find that conferences and weddings pay you the same, but you spend 25% less time planning the conferences. That makes the conference clients 25% more profitable for you. This information helps you plan your website copy to attract your ideal clients.
Here’s a crazy idea. Maybe you find you get bogged down in replying to potential clients via vendor listing sites. Understanding that it costs you $45 per hour to spend on those tasks might make hiring a virtual assistant an attractive step. You could pay the VA $18 per hour and gain back the time.
Check-In With Yourself
One of the most valuable benefits of time-tracking is checking in with yourself and understanding whether all that stress, effort, and awesomeness is worth it. If you feel like you’re working all the time, but your bank balance doesn’t reflect the effort, you might be wrong. Time tracking will give you a clear answer.
So consider monitoring your time, even if it’s only periodically. It’s a meaningful way to make sure your event business stays fun, profitable, and, well, worth it.