Monday, November 18, 2013

The Thing They Forgot to Teach in Art School

My art school, the Academy of Art University, was an extremely practical and business-oriented school. However, one thing my professors never mentioned, but I've found to be very important, is keeping track of your time.

In AAU's Facebook group, there is a regular steam of students asking, "a client wants me to draw ____ for them. How much should I charge? How about $100? Does $100 sound good?"

The short answer is, estimate how many hours it would take to complete, then multiply that by your hourly rate. The problem is, most students don't know how many hours it would take.

In order to judge whether a price is high or low, you must know how much time a project will take.

Recently I started using a free program called Toggl in order to keep track of my time. Toggl is basically just a computer stopwatch. The cool thing about it is that I can label my time under different projects, so at the end of a day, week or month I can see how much time I spent total on each project. Divide that time by how much I was paid, and I can see how much I'm making per hour. Simple.

I've also started keeping a spreadsheet of all my projects and how much time they took. I list them in categories, such as "book covers" or "spot illustrations", and average the amount of time in each category.

For freelancers, time is money. Start keeping track of your time today.

(This post was not sponsored by Toggl.)


  1. This is very true! I tried to use time-tracking programmes for a while, but they generally didn't work well for me (I mean, when I know I've just solidly working for three hours, I'm confused when it says I spent 21 minutes...), so eventually I just started putting everything into my ical calendar – green for work, itemised by my invoice reference, blue for anything that isn't work. I charge to the nearest 15 minutes, so that works well for me, and I can easily keep track of what I've been doing in a visual way as well.

    You do have to do a number of projects before you can accurately work out how long something is likely to take you, though, and I usually add a proviso to my quote saying that if the client decides to change direction halfway through, the cost will rise according to the time I have to spend redoing things. If they're not happy with this, I'm wary of them as a client. =P

    1. Makes sense, Alene! Ah yes, revisions are always tricky to deal with.

  2. thanks for that I think Toggi will be useful to me - best ashar


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