Time is the most valued asset to manage no matter what industry you are in. There is no escaping time and no escaping the reality that every facet of your life needs to have time management to run an effective shop and business.
As a business owner, big or small, you are going to wear a lot of hats. Marketing, production, accounting, and customer service are just a few of the roles you will take on. A lot of printers start screen-printing as a side hustle and take on the roles mentioned above all while holding down a 9-5 job and normal life activities like family, friends, etc. Each role, inside and outside of the shop, has its own set of responsibilities and time commitments.
We can’t tell you how to run your life, but we can offer some advice that has helped us in our own screen-printing shops. This article can be applicable to both side gig printers and full-time printers.
- Log how much time each task takes – We believe this is the best place to start. Each task requires different amounts of time to complete. By timing each task a few times, you will begin to develop a better picture at what tasks eat up time and which tasks can be completed quickly. This can help you to later organize your tasks according to what time you have. It will also help you gauge timelines for projects and offer your customers a realistic timeline for project delivery.
- Prioritize each day – Either you rule the day, or the day rules you. By setting clear goals and tasks that need to be accomplished before the day begins you can control time instead of just tackling the next item in front of you. While knocking out tasks at hand seems to be productive, it can steer you off course from your original goals. Have a couple of days ever gone by and you wonder where the time went? Nothing you needed to be done is done? You didn’t prioritize the important tasks and let time run you. Customers will not be happy if you don’t meet the deadlines you promised. Start your day or even the previous night with the items that must be accomplished. Keep this list short, if you make it too long you may find yourself overwhelmed and feeling like it’s impossible to accomplish.
- Organize your schedule and timelines (and make this information shareable if working with a team) – Is your printing schedule written down or is it stored in your head? Writing down clear timelines and timeslots will keep you working on the right task at hand and help your team stay on task as well. If you have a steady production flow for you or your employees to follow, there will never be a question as to which project should be in progress that day and hour. This helps for preparing screens, ordering products, and helps each day move forward swiftly. Make sure everyone has access to this production/ printing schedule and can find it at any time, this will save you time answering questions about the schedule.
- Stock Up – Nothing is worse than going to complete a job and not having the right materials on hand. This delays timelines and adds unneeded stress to complete the job; have your essentials always stocked up. When accepting new jobs, audit your inventory right away and see if you need to order anything before promising the customer a deadline. Yes, there are awesome expedited shipping options to get supplies to you quickly, however, carriers aren’t perfect and deliver late all the time. A great tool we have used to stay stocked up is subscriptions, get all your regular use products delivered to you on a monthly or bi-monthly schedule. Screen Print Direct offers this service, please see the product you are interested in for details.
- Organize and keep your shop clean – Keeping a clean workspace is crucial to productivity. You should be able to find all your supplies with little effort. There are some awesome ways to organize your shop so supplies like ink spatulas and screen printing squeegees are always on deck and ready to use, little things like this can easily be lost if not stored properly. By keeping your shop clean you will avoid getting unwanted ink or chemicals on customer merchandise.
- Set a Customer Service Strategy – Customer service can be used as an amazing marketing and communication tool, however, it can also turn into a complete time suck. Just like any task you have set for the day, schedule out your customer service, if you don’t have an employee dedicated to this. Emailing back and forth for hours can happen, we are guilty of it too but is this time well spent? You could email for an hour or so in the morning and then set an hour aside at the end of the day to complete inquiries. By setting this time aside you are still keeping great contact with your customers (under 12-hour response time) and you can get to other tasks at hand.
- Outsource or Hire – Is there any part of the job you can have completed by someone else to save time? Is it time to hire a new employee, maybe a printer for production or someone for customer service? You can also outsource jobs. Customer service is another task that can be outsourced easily but you need to be comfortable with another person speaking with your clients. Design/art prep work is another job you can outsource to a freelancer.
- Set realistic timelines with your customers – Don’t overpromise delivery times. You are going to stress yourself out and make your customer mad. You are now losing your mind and repeat business. Look at your current production schedule and give an honest delivery date. If you are feeling up to the hustle you can also charge a rush fee and squeeze in another job. If you do this, make sure your other print jobs will still be completed on time.
We would love to hear other printers' time management tips and advice. If you have any questions regarding time management or screen printing in general, please leave a comment below.
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