Anyone who has had the pleasure of working a job where hours are either billed to a client, or bucketed out on a timecard to different project codes will have already had some experience with daily tracking of time. But for the rest of us, it’s a new tool in the box for being able to calculate good pricing.
I manage it by keeping a Project Tally Sheet with each project I work on. It’s a simple grid of paper that gets started with each project, and filed when the project is finished. Not only does it allow me to keep track of things during the making of a specific quilt, the history in the files allows me to make an educated guess on what kind of time certain tasks take should I need to prepare an estimate for a prospective client. For instance, I know I can make a bias binding and machine sew it onto a quilt in about an hour. And I hand sew binding at about 120 inches per hour.
I have a couple of extra spaces on the sheet to keep track of the consumable goods that I use during a project as well. Machine needles (usually at least one per project), rotary blades, spray starch or spray baste, spools of thread, stabilizers and fusibles, batting and so on. Yes, all of this matters when you price out a quilt!
Here’s a free PDF of the worksheet I use: HDS Project Tally Worksheet - feel free to use it and modify to suit how you do your work!
This sheet isn’t where the complicated math happens – that’s on the Invoice Templates at the bottom of this page (and psst… the math really isn’t that hard over there either!) This sheet is for capturing the progress of the project as I go along, and I use it because I’m likely to forget that I spent an hour ironing things in front of the TV, or a couple of hours sewing on a binding over at a friend’s house over a cuppa. ALL of the time you devote to a project is countable – and then it’s up to you how you want to charge for it.
When do I fill it out? Always at the end of a work day. As I’ve talked about before in studio process posts, I take a few minutes at the end of a day to shut down the studio, turn off the machine, empty the iron and clean up my workspace. It takes but a minute to scribble in a few notes on the worksheet. The worksheet stays with the project (I use big zippy bags) until it turns into a finished quilt, so it will be there in the morning if I didn’t get a chance to fill it out the night before. I find as long as I write it down within a day or two of doing the work, the information is accurate enough. Any longer than that and I will forget important detail (if not my name!)
Next time you start a project, give it a try. Even if you aren’t selling your quilts, you’ll find out what it really takes to do the work you do. Then if someone surprises you with an offer to buy something you made, you’ll have some good data to use for the pricing.