31/250 The Question of Time

Scheduling for Creatives

For non-creative businesses, scheduling isn’t much of an issue. Consultants still have to write reports; trainers still have to develop training; availability of staff for BD work is still a thing.

But creatives are manufacturers.

Instead of spending $500,000 on plant and overheads on real estate, they fight a daily battle for use of their attention (which, by the way, they don’t value correctly).

Instead of booking their time in the half-hour increments that Corporate Diaries tell us is Normal, they absolutely must work in chunks of at least 4 hours.

Realising that Brutal Pixie is a manufacturing business was game-changing for me. I couldn’t tell you when it happened, but it was a long time after discovering Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule.

As a creative, you have the same tendency to chase new work as everybody else. But if you want to work “business hours”, you’re faced with the sometimes extreme challenge of low availability.

‘Goodness me, you must be busy!’ people exclaim. ‘I can’t find a meeting time with you for two weeks!’

Huh, two weeks, I would think. If two weeks is a long time for you, then we operate on completely different planes of reality.

That’s how I grew to loathe the word ‘busy’. So much so that when, on LinkedIn, a new connection replied to my question about what’s exciting for her with, ‘Really busy. You look really busy too?"', I said to her, ‘I’m allergic to the word busy. It looks like you’re not in control of your time’.

Oooh, harsh.

At Brutal Pixie we’re about to double-down on blocking time for repeat clients. It’s going to reduce availability for calls and meetings by almost 1/3 of a month.

That trade-off sounds (feels) insane, until you realise that not blocking out that time reduces the capability of the business to deliver. And for a brand whose experience is just shy of luxury (think Chanel), not delivering and not being available for clients is one of the greatest sins.

There’s a positive flip-side to this.

In 2017-18, I almost bled the company dry by prematurely bringing in talent in 2018 without doing the legwork to replace my own salary in new sales. Thus, as someone doing 100% of the work right now, the reduced availability means I am forced to be creative and focused about sales.

That’s how I’ve got a mailing list that has begun growing steadily—not fast, 1 person a day is a long way from fast— which I sell to, aggressively.

That’s how I spent my time learning negotiation skills.

That’s how I developed a new LinkedIn outreach strategy that has yielded loads of positive outcomes and higher visibility.

That’s how I spent 1.5 hours in the company of Dorie Clark today, refining my ideas about outreach.

As an entrepreneur with sales targets, the very idea of locking out days for specific clients is horrifyingly scary. But as a Creative Manufacturer, not doing it will jeopardise the entire business.

And as you’d know if you’ve read anything that Mike Michalowicz has written in the past few years, getting distracted from the core of what you do is what will kill your business faster than anything else.

Scheduling isn’t easy for creatives. It’s hard to frame, hard to develop, hard to implement, and (sometimes) hard to be disciplined about.

Ironically, it’s also the one thing that guarantees your success.