Why working on day rate might be costing you more than you think…

NB: Boring graph. Interesting topic.

Controversial topic alert! But please bear with me!

There seems to be two main ways to price work in the decorating trade. Day rate and price per metre. And pricing by day rate might well be costing you time and money.

I’ll be clear from the start, there are likely thousands of different factors which will determine the best way to price work in the decorating trade.

The following is just something I read about recently and think it is worth every self-employed decorator at least considering.

Parkinson’s law:

The adage that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion

To put this into layman’s terms. If my partner asks me to sort the garden out on a Saturday, I will likely have a bit of a lie in, have a leisurely breakfast / lunch, then think about opening the garage up and getting the mower out.

I’ll doss about in the garage for a while before deciding I should probably do some weeding before I mow the lawn.

I’ll then spend half an hour on social media or something similar and before I know it, the time is 4pm and I think to myself I better get a move on. I mow the lawn, spend a further 30 minutes tidying up at a very casual pace and call it a day.

Sound familiar?

This is Parkinson’s law.

I was given a time frame of ‘all day’ so it took me ‘all day’.

Now, if she would have said can you do the garden before we go out, and we are leaving at 10am, I could have quite easily completed to that deadline and to the same standard.

So, let us think about this in a professional capacity.

When you price for a job on day rate, you’ll estimate how long you think it will take you and quote accordingly. Now, you’re probably thinking I’m incredibly accurate with estimating my time because I have years of experience and I never miss a deadline.

But could that possibly be too good to be true?

As good as you are, isn’t it amazingly convenient that you always finish right on time? Or that you always manage to time your jobs so that you finish at lunchtime on a Friday?

What if Parkinson’s law is actually a factor and your work is expanding to fit your quote?

Think about your last few jobs, did you finish bang on time?

Even though you spent 10 minutes on social media every couple of hours? Even though you had to go to the merchants to pick up an extra few bits? And when you were there you spent half an hour chatting with the manager and having a coffee?

Now I might not work on day rate, but Parkinson’s law still affects me. Before COVID-19 forced me into lock down I used to run this website alongside a full time job. Granted, I’m posting more often now, but to be honest, the other day I uttered the words ‘I don’t know how I found time to go to work’. I was joking, but as they say… ‘many a true word is said in jest’

This is a classic case of Parkinson’s law. When I broke it down, I realised that since being on furlough I’m getting out of bed later, I’m having far more social media breaks and I’m generally working at a much more leisurely pace.

So how can you determine if this is something affecting you and your business?

When you are next at work, set yourself some targets. Decide how long each task or job is going to take and the set yourself the deadline of completing it in half the time.

Yes, HALF!

If you manage to finish it in half the time without compromising the quality, you’ll need to reduce the time again for the next project, until you have recalibrated your ideas of how long things actually take when you are fully focused.

If you don’t finish in half the time, then good news. You’re estimating is not too far out.

However, I can almost guarantee that anyone who takes this seriously will save time on what they first estimated.

I mean, let’s be honest, 90% of us could save at least an hour a day just by not checking social media constantly.

Side note: Latest statistics suggest the average amount of time a person spends on social media each day is 2 hours 23 minutes.

So even if we save an hour a day, that’s 5 hours a week…

So instead of ‘conveniently’ finishing at lunchtime on a Friday ready for the pub…maybe we could be finishing on Thursday…

…and if we’re finishing on a Thursday, that’s 4 days a month saved…48 days a year (if you take 4 weeks holiday)

That’s over 2 months of 5-day work weeks saved each year.

Imagine what you could do if your year was 2 months longer! It’s either massive growth for your business, more family time or perhaps both!

Certainly worth trying if you ask me…


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