Time Allocation Formula for Creating a Viable Business

Written by on Jan 30 2013

Looking back over the past six years of being in business and creating multiple revenue streams (LessFilms, LessConf, LessMoney Workshops, LessEverything Consulting, ebooks and LessAccounting), here’s how Steve and I have allocated our time. This is our formula, this wasn’t planned but this is the pattern looking back.

5% Running the Company

If you have employees you’ll spend time making sure they’re on task, making sure payroll is run and the bills are paid. Making sure you get paid (chasing checks). I’d probably lump “sales” in this group as well. The more people you hire, the more time you’ll spend managing them.

40% Doing Work that Pays

You must pay your bills but fight back the urge to allow this portion of your workload to steal more time than it should. In the early stages of your business you might take projects you really don’t enjoy just to pay the bills, but do not get stuck in a rut. Doing these projects is a means to an end, and you must escape this trap. Do not allow these golden handcuffs to enslave you.

20% Learning New Things

This time segment is another trap. It’s great to learn new things, but I know many highly talented people that are constantly learning but never propelling themselves into better projects. Learn new things, improve, but never at the cost of marketing yourself. (See below.)

5% Getting Inspired

As a creative, I must get myself inspired. As an interface designer, I sign up for dozens of apps per day to see what they’re doing. Much like a chef refines their palate, a designer needs to visually digest experiences and designs to get inspired enough to create something amazing. Do not allow yourself to get sucked into this time segment either, creating things and releasing them (marketing) is more important than “feeling inspired.”

“Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work.” —Chuck Close

30% Marketing

I think Marketing is the most important part of creating/running/building a viable company. Let’s be clear, the goal of marketing is to gain notoriety and/or respect. Notice I said “and/or”?

If you’re building a consultancy marketing yourself makes the sales process easier because you’re a known “expert”. Also Hiring is easier because people want to work with fun, interesting companies that do great work.

Marketing can mean many, many things. It may include “free” work, which means you might approach a company and do free work for them if it allows you to stretch your creative muscles. Marketing might be contributing to open source projects, it might be blogging or speaking or traveling. It might mean posting work on Dribbble, or CodePen, or guest blogging. The goal of “marketing” is getting your name out, and putting out “work” that people talk about.

Travel and Meeting People

I didn’t know if I should actually include this in marketing, but getting out and meeting people is important. Steve and I find affordable ways to attend events, often times grouping several events together or traveling to multiple cities, setting up dinners with friends along the way. We tend to “get out” and travel about eight times per year.

In Summary

If you break down the hours you spend at your computer each week, here’s how you should allocate your time.

  • 5% Running the Company = 2 Hours
  • 40% Doing work that pays = 16 Hours
  • 20% Learning new things = 8 Hours
  • 5% Getting Inspired = 2 Hours
  • 30% Marketing = 12 Hours
  1. Are you spending at least 12 hours per weeks on marketing yourself? Probably not.
  2. Can you live on 16 hours of paid work a week? If not, time to change things. (higher hourly rate or cut your living expenses down.)

The wrinkle

The above formula is for people who want to build a service-based business. Now if you’re bootstrapping like we did and build a service-based business and a Saas product at the same time, here are additional metrics to guide you.

15% Building the Product

You must allocate time to create this product.

5% Marketing the Product

Yes, this is another venture to market/promote.

Where does this “surplus” time come from?

You decide…less sleep, less family time, less time for friends? Less time spent on other areas of your business? Realize if you attempting to build TWO businesses at the same time something will suffer, be aware of your choices.


Hi I'm Allan,

I wrote the article you're reading... I'm one of the co-founders of LessEverything. I love my family more than breathing and I love creating videos about our family adventures.

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