Why timesheets are worth your time

– by Isabell Howden

So, you’ve just landed your dream job in advertising (well, most likely it’s a low-paying, entry-level job, but still, it’s a job in advertising) and on your first day you rock up all bright and shiny, brimming with enthusiasm, wearing your best jeans and ironic t-shirt, and as part of the induction process you’re told in passing that you have to fill out a timesheet every day.

By the end of your first week, timesheets have become the bane of your life and you simply HATE having to fill out a timesheet every, single, day. “I’m too busy to do timesheets,” you learn to say from your equally timesheet-jaded colleagues. But think again, the fact that you’re “too busy” to do timesheets is EXACTLY why you should do timesheets, and here’s why…

Reason Number 1:
In a perfect world where the amount of time it takes to create an ad, website, event, video, whatever, matches precisely the amount of time you thought it would take when you carefully prepared an estimate for the job, then sure, you could get away with never tracking time spent on a job. But clients can sometimes be tricky creatures and once you start work on whatever they signed off on, they may want to make changes – add this; make that bigger; I don’t really like this bit here; move that to the next page; we can’t actually say that after all… and suddenly you’ve spent days on a job that was meant to be knocked off in a few hours.

If the agency wants to charge for any additional work beyond the original scope (and the reality is, to stay in business, it certainly needs to), it will need a measure of how much extra work was done. Now if only there was a way to find out how much time everyone spent on a job… Oh wait, yes, let’s run a timesheet report for that job. Oops, nobody seems to have worked on it.

Reason Number 2:
Going back to your, “I’m too busy to do timesheets” defence, it’s a little tricky to whinge and complain about how hard you’ve been working for the last few months if there is no documented evidence of this work. Yes, people have seen you at your desk late into the night, but maybe that’s only because your wi-fi at home has been disconnected and you don’t want to max out your data-usage limit on your phone.

And when it comes to performance review time and timesheet reports show little or no time entered against billable jobs, again, it’s hard to demonstrate the extent of your efforts and lay claim for any sort of recognition (not to mention a possible much-needed salary bump) based on hearsay.

If you are working 10+ hours a day with only the occasional ping-pong break, filling in your timesheet is the only way to make sure the right people know.

Reason Number 3:
Making sure an agency has the right number and mix of staff to properly service its clients is vital. And when everyone is pushed and working flat out and another big, juicy, piece of business is won (yay!) it’s not long before people are demanding more staff to help with the load. Yet, when we look at those trusty timesheet reports by department, and they show studio staff are averaging only four hours a day of billable time and account service even less, the only conclusion management can arrive at is that there is spare capacity with the existing staff numbers and everyone can take on more work.

If everyone is working flat out, timesheets need to reflect this.

I could go on, but you get the drift. Everyone benefits from accurate timesheet reporting – the agency, the client and most importantly, you, as you shimmy your way up the advertising totem pole. And once you’re MD of your own agency, maybe then you can avoid doing timesheets, but I guarantee that is the only time you’ll get away with it!


  • Anne Mellino on March 18, 2014 7:50 am Reply

    Great article! Timesheets aren’t fun, particularly when you need to track your time against multiple jobs (and not just that you started at 9 and finished at 6). Good idea to explain the reason why they are important to the timesheeter as well as to management (and the accountant): saves you nagging everyone all the time!

  • Anne Miles on March 23, 2014 11:35 am Reply

    Time sheets help show when you need new staff, when you’re ready for a raise, when you’re doing certain tasks often enough to justify some help, to show how much overtime you’re doing. Not just about ensuring you’re paying your way or changes are billed to the client when they’re out of scope. I hate doing them too but I think they do say a lot.

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