Monday, February 11, 2013

PMC Time -- The Six P's

by Kris A. Kramer

Some people are big-picture people and some are detail oriented. Which are you?

I tend toward being a detail person and must continuously challenge myself to take a step back and gain perspective from the large picture. Being able to shift focus back and forth, from zooming out for the big picture and zooming in on details is incredibly useful. Leaders and idea-people live in big pictures; achievers and doers live in the details. The most resourceful individuals are adept at both.

Keeping track of PMC-related hours is a good venue in which to practice shifting your viewpoint. Recording hours is a detailed task and one best maintained by a habitual practice. Understanding the resulting information, the big picture, is useful and makes the task worth the work.

When I began a studio log, I kept track of total hours. As I built my art business, its usefulness became apparent. I began categorizing my time into creative time and other times, such as tracking inventory, maintaining the web site, ordering supplies, teaching, and more. Along came the realization that the log gave me essential data needed for some business-related endeavors. In addition, my log prompted contemplation:  I stepped into the big picture and felt better about making choices regarding how to spend my time. I had achieved deliberate living!

Simply put, here are Six P’s - reasons for keeping track of your PMC-related hours and minutes. I’ve labeled them Detail Oriented or Big Picture Oriented, but these labels are disputable.
  • Pricing (Detail Oriented)
When I write about pricing and how to price an item, you will want to know how much time it took you to make it. So, yes, keep track of time for individual items.
  • Progress (Big-Picture Oriented)
There will be some point at which you look at the accumulation of your hours and will feel rewarded by how you have progressed in your work. You’ll see evidence of your improved efficiency in your art process. Efficiency translates to skill, and positive reward is a great motivator.
  • Planning (Detail Oriented)
If you know how much of your time is spent on art-related activities, then you can more easily balance these with other day-to-day life activities in your mind and on your calendar. Also, one day you may have a work calendar on which you will schedule retail and wholesale orders. You’ll know your own turn-around-time.
  • Production (Detail Oriented)
Production, which is the act of making products in a product line from raw materials, is usually an undesirable concept to PMC artists. PMCer’s love one-of-a-kind, totally creative pieces; furthermore, to create something more than once seems to negate artistic freedom for some. If you want to gain monetary rewards for your work, then you may want to come to terms with production. If you enter the world of production, you might need to farm out some of your work. For example, I dream of hiring someone to do my bookkeeping, mail out orders, and maintain my inventory. Knowing how much time I spend on these activities will help me take this step.
  • Practicality Check (Big-Picture Oriented)
A hard-business concept is called the break-even analysis. This is simply the number of pieces you would have to sell of a certain item or collection of items in order to break even on cost of materials (metal clay, gems, findings, etc.) and labor (time it took you to make the piece).

For example, in order to recoup your time-and-material dollars for one item, you may conclude that you need to make and sell 76 in a year. And because you’ve kept your studio log, you know that you are able to make 50 items in a year. Oops -- not practical.  It’s back to the pricing or feasibility drawing board.

  • Pride (Big-Picture Oriented)
When once asked how often I get into my studio I said, “I average about 120 hours a month,” and was surprised by feeling a sense of pride. Pride is the validation of personal achievement, yours or another’s. (Contrast pride with vanity, which is the broadcasting of your achievements to others.)

Back to details . . . .  Find a log or a system that works for you and stick with it long enough to make it a habit. Here is an Excel file, if you are so inclined --  Studio Log One Year.  I leave you with some basic instructions.
  • Enter the time either in hour : minutes with an “am” or “pm” after or military time, such as 22:00 for 10:00 pm.  
  • There are numerous fields on one line to enter lots of times for one day because this is the nature of our work. I do not count kiln time or tumble hours while I do household chores or go play.
  • There are color-coded, time-category tabs at the bottom of the page.  If you cannot see them, click the tiny + in the upper corner. Then, there are left and right arrows to the left of the tabs.
  • Formulas abound in this Excel file, so be careful when deleting.
  • If you get stuck, ask your questions in Comments.

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