Update - Week 01-02 - 2022
This is a combined weekly report - with some heavy performance audit musing! Many lessons learned. I can't say my past 2 years are a success.
February 12, 2022
Weekly Sprint Stats:
Points Velocity per day
This weekfirst week of the year was focused mainly on doing video edits for my holidaysand the beginning of the audit. I had to wrap my head around a lot of theprocess of auditing, so I didn't get too far. I also had only 2 days of work tobe precise - because technically my holiday was not over! I had a long weekendto continue to fullfill my full 10 days of no computer. It was glorious.
Duringthe second week, work was short, but it was technically my first of the year.It was extremely hard to get back to the comptuer and get back to working, butthis feeling quickly faded as I started to get a feeling for work again. But Istill did hit the ground running - ready to apply my "Sunny Rain" effect to use - and also finish re-baking some rocks to fix some terriblenormals that rendered my previous bakes of December useless.
On a sidenote, my audit was begun and investigation started. I will start talking about it here, because thinking about it has wracked my brain. It's long, dense and... to me, interesting.
Audit 2019 vs 2020
I have finally finished the audit enough to get a general overview of what I'm doing right and wrong. The obvious answer is this: my value increased with my confidence but my strategies and execution is abysmal.
The method of my audit was relatively quick to do - I could just take my metrics I've tracked throughout 2019 and 2020 which was done through a weekly sprint, tracked hours vs points per task per project. Everything from the quarter hour has been meticulously recorded in a large Gsheet log system over the past two years. From there I could run the numbers, points (predicted hours per task)and hours (tracked labour time) per project, tally them up and get some comparison and metrics. With this I can target what I need to know to improve my vision, life quality and business - and step closer to the vision.
My criteria for the audit is this:
- Production Performance (points vs hours)
- Net Earnings
- Value per hour
- Per Project performance vs Costs (hours and labour costs)
- Profit Metrics
- Team Management Costs and Strategies
So let's run the numbers:
This means in 2019, I did 14 projects, and in 2020, I did 15 projects. A single client can have multiple projects - I consider this per labour contract and invoice cycle. This is about my capacity - with some improvement in efficiency. Business as usual - but per the metrics below, this is not always good news and will be evident I have to change drastically.
Wages p/hr Increase
This increase is not marginal, but somewhat good. The reason the increase is so low is because general labour hours increased throughout my team - meaning… though I scaled the team by 33%, labour increased substantially and with that their costs. For me, this means my savings are nearly null at the present day, as my wages needed to be a lot higher to live life comfortably and be able to help others live in a similar way. Ideally this should always double per year, as I am by far not earning a lot per hour. This is the first symptom.
Though, despite this metric, in general I got a lot more capital from sales in 2020!What a year! My best in history! So many new great clients! Mostly international this time. This is very very very good news. I thought I would be doubling my income per my strategy to invest in double efforts with sales since2018 - but the facts show I have nearly quintupled my value! 2020 was an eyeopener for me, mainly because - due to the quarantine - I got more into social groups on Discord and many potential clients moved to digital strategies, there was a market boom. I also met many professionals and they shared numbers and also told me something as simple as "you're good". This blew my mind. I was drastically underbidding myself all these years. I decided to start bidding a lot higher near the end of 2020, and sure enough some international clients bit the bait. This increased my overall capital by a large sum, and I have a feeling this can quintuple even more - I'm still undervaluing myself today, but if I keep my options open and embrace international trade, I can, for sure, make a new business and lifestyle for myself and a team - but not this year. This year is about valuing myself - as they say "because I am worth it".
Total Expected (Planned) Points
A "point" is basically a labour hour - either per person or per project. I use these points as a gamified system to plan and help track tasks. It helps draw a line to know what are my realistic expectations and reality to execute certain types of tasks or entire projects.
Based on this metric, I have cutback on my quote based expectations a little. This is not a good thing, I should be increasing this in my quotes and project planning since my predictions are still way off - but I'm still too hopeful with wishful thinking to "land a sale". I have since updated my project log calculators and hopefully any future quotes in 2023 will be more accurate. This helps me understand that I still need to learn to double my expectations, quote accordingly, win bids though I have more quoted clients with a higher price filter that result in less yet higher paying clients instead of focusing on quantity and "competitive" pricing - which is shooting myself in the foot. These past two years it seems I'm still not learning fast enough. I really could get away with one or two really well paying clients and laugh in my sleep instead of slaving away for 8 of them, which I did one month in 2019 (record 115 hours week) and worked mostly 5-6 active clients for 8 months of 2020.
Total Completed Points
With the mention of all the work.. In general this is good, I increased general task completion in my planning by a considerable amount. This may be correlated to hiring more people - but then total hours contradicts this with my stats. I have worked my ass off to be more productive, and in general I have been - I can be proud of this number. Though my completed projects remains similar, the quality of my projects has increased. Quality is directly correlated with time and experience. But this has come at a very high price…
Total Hours Completed
This metric shows I worked double the studio hours from the previous year… DOUBLE. This is not great - I doubled actual labour costs even though I only hired 33% more people from the previous year to help me - my own labour hours on the computer would mean it's up by more than 60%!!!! The idea here is to do more points with less hours - in this case I have increased my hours for that extra completed points in an inverse fashion, and it was expensive. I increased my labour costs drastically, and this is why my value per hour hardly increased at all though I made better sales - I have increased my outsourced costs working with others, I have decreased my point to hour ration.. And with that I did more work and earned less - I also did a lot of unnecessary or poorly planned work. Hiring more people didn't solve anything - and though I earned a lot more this year, I have little to show for it due to this: more complex work, poor management and higher expectations for quality and scope really blew the labour costs out of the water, I bit off more than I could chew. I am not happy to see this, but I have to swallow the pill - and make some decisions to change for the better. This year, though fun and interesting - has shown a really big flaw in how I value and view my own work.
Points left in Backlog
During this process, I must have panicked and tried to plan better due to knowing this in the back of my mind, so I must have tried to micro-manage better, delegate more - but this strategy has backfired. Last years backlog of 2019, though cleared early 2020 - left this past year with more than double and a half more planned work that never was completed. This shows that though I took on more work, more people, more planning, and higher paying quality work - I still could not execute this well with the team. I am considering this a big oops. A huge error in my judgement. I am glad I tracked absolutely every single hour of my time, and in general my teams time too. The limited success in sales really masks this detail - I am technically doing more, but not really improving anything. Only overworking. I can't help many studios that do "crunch" has this same illusion. The numbers don't lie, time is money.. And here I am failing.
This means I hired 4 more talent from the previous year. I also had - in another metric study - delegated a lot more of the work, but efficiency wasn't as close as expected. Let me put it this way: out of the 3949 hours of labour in the studio that year, I worked 2644 hours of it - and everyone else only worked 1304 hours of labour. Meaning though I hired 12 people, together they only put half of my own productivity into the objectives of the studio. Some of them did an excellent job, a few did more than what I paid for - others did a lot less than I was expecting - but ultimately every person was different in skill and discipline, and productivity was hard to predict. I will have to be more granular with my team management to project better efficiency, quality and consistency (and not micro-mange too much) - I need to do more research to see why, with new conclusions based on my data. But this definitely tells me to not hire people this year. I have no idea how to clone myself into others. I am starting to see that I may have to work a business model where intership, training and serious testing must be invested in the team for the pipeline to be as effective as me - or be more strict with an already established pipeline. If 2/3 of the work depends on me, even with a team of 10 people, then something is clearly wrong with my management skills. I have A LOT to learn, but I have to first dig myself out of my current overworked hole - get out of burning myself out over the past two years - get a new computer to do more with less, and then and only then should I work on finding a better way to onboard talent and work together.
303% the ideal
As a pre-warning to my bad strategies, I have a metric that tells me my weekly sprint requirements to stay on delivery before I fill the weekly sprint with tasks from the backlog. I have been mostly 3 times over my capacity from last year, now many years in a row. I am dead to this warning - but I should listen to this more often. This is a terrible sign, as this is the red warning bell to say "don't take on more work!" - mainly terrifying because that means "Don't eat because you can't afford it!" due to my limited self worth and projections. I have already started this year with a new strategy and have one client to finish, and one golden client to cherish - and no new clients lined up for the foreseeable future. It's scary, but I am fortunate for my favorite project, client and work: the painterly commission. Thank you for commissioning me. Also, thank you patrons, the 4 of you! You also shine hope there.
782% the ideal
I can trywork more hours per day, get more points done - but the body is limited, finances for delegation limited - and ultimately I worked nearly 8 times under capacity to catch up anyway! Madness! This is a terrible sign, meaning I need to find a golden goose to cover my bills and costs and opt to not work on anything more for a while till my weekly capacity is back to reasonable levels. I am currently overworking to get money to pay for my bills because...Ultimately I am not valuing my talent enough, my own worth - and not quoting nor getting the contracts and clients that can keep me afloat for the time to art ratio. This audit has proven, yet again - what I already knew - but with math… I really should be "expensive" and sell accordingly.
Time Error Margin concerning Predicted (planned) Points vs Tracked Labour Hours
But on a good note, my time error margin is better by 21% more or less, which is substantial considering my past years. There was a time I had an error margin in 2018 of 160%. This error margin tells me that I am underbidding myself considerably concerning labour predictions and planning - and thus price and cost - it helps me predict how far off I am from expectations with my next client. I am still nearly 50%off still, but I am slowly improving. This means I'm slowly learning to be more realistic with predicting how long a project will take and how much work it will take - and charge accordingly. This means.. Project prices are only going up. I should really listen to this secondary warning sign more often…
Though, all this is not bad news. The daily and weekly point loads have improved the overall loads by 22% per week and 59% per day, meaning I have been working more efficiently in general. Always working faster, better quality - now it's just getting remunerated for the efforts!
- Don't take on more projects where possible, and empty the backlog during 2023
- Prize the one client that can help you stay afloat, maybe two for backup - but don't take on more - strictly!!!
- Unfortunately, this means local projects are slowly but surely impossible to accept at the quality and price I like to work - and I can only accept international clients due to inflation and the power international currencies have locally. This means either being outsourced or employed overseas, or even resort to international sales of digital products.
- Capacity with 2 active clients is still around 50% over capacity, so keep working on being more productive (do more with less time) - but this means I will have to always have one priority client exclusively to not overwork myself.
- Quote at least 50% more time and price - at least! Meaning I should bump my metrics by that amount in the quote system I have - also bump and adjust the updated project metrics in production time, price and extra time.
- Don't hire people till I have someone I can really trust with the established pipeline (proven skill and performance, dedication, proof of pipeline know-how and skill transferal either by internship or training). I am not ready to scale the team yet - maybe in 2024 or 2025.
- I have been shooting myself in the foot by being "humble". Every hour I have on a computer is worth it's weight in gold, and I should be paid accordingly. Of all the talent out there, I am skilled at what I do, and I am rare. Few people work like me, with little supply and high demand increases my value - and thus I should be priced accordingly.
- My next gig will have to be exclusively priced this way: international day rates, Dollars/Euros per hours - and no more Colombian Pesos. Yes, local clients and 80% of the national average salary wants to pay me half what I earned this past year - but this is not the way if I want to train, work and create with the talented artists of this country Colombia, or even with the continents of Central and South America. I need capital, I need a business model that has an ability to transfer skills and productivity to other artists - and then and only then can we really work together and prosper. I need to prosper as an individual first. I have to focus on this first and foremost, keep the teamwork for later.
- Micro-management is not always good, working with skilled team players can be - well that's the hope. BUT, my management skills can begood, at least I know how to improve.
- 3D animation is a long drawn out process that requires an incredible amount of investment and trust from clients with capital. Good animation takes time - so I have to measure my life and hours for a limited set of projects - because sooner than later I will be old and tired. Best find the most capital or return for my work sooner than later, and finish this years production capacity from back to zero and reset - to be able to open doors to working with a team scaling correctly and productively after developing a "trained onboarding" business model.
- I need a new computer and to make more pipeline tools to save time.
- I can rely on the team if I have a good budget and management system with an established pipeline. Project delegation is not a good idea by itself, but parts of the pipeline can be a good idea to delegate work. There is no denying that more people helps production, but by far it's no as exponential as you'd expect unless you have established tested pipelines and management. Right now, I'm not ready yet. I should cut back those expectations and sort my own career out first.
I'm going to combine these two weeks performance together. You can tell I started in a relaxed manner this year, averaging really half days of work. But I was still productive. I will ramp up and warm up again soon. Reason I combined these two weeks and averaged the performance was because of the 2 day week in week 1. The fact that I could comb through the data and get some of these ideas for later was a huge sucess - and get my thorns in my side tackled. Oh, and I'm also starting a new physical routine to stay healthier. Over 2020 I have gained the most weight I've had in my lifetime. Time to get buff again. This week was also very exploratory, which I am starting to see requires a lot of unquantifiable time and planning. You can't say "in 3 hours I will solve this problem". This is where my sprint based task prediction when it comes to investigation is only a back-facing metric instead of a forward facing metric. I will have to quantify the "experimental" aspect and budget time for this in some other way...
The Painterly Project
A long with the painterly "shower door" effect, proving that 3Dpost-processing with the brush strokes as particles in 3D was working - I also improved the blend of the animation. I also did some tests. Basically I made anode group (that you can get here on Gumroad for $2, a quick setup to help blend textures - also works with procedurals!)
That uses pinpong techniques to blend between two snapping and randomized offsets of the underlaying textures - meaning I could implement smoother living paint effects. I didn't want jittered paint with incoherent time based strokes (flickering) tosimulate motion - I wanted something more alive - as if you were dreaming inpaint. So this technique turned out useful and I started to implement that throughout the entire project.
The good thing about this project is that I have a select few master materials, and each object has their own material settings - meaning compile once, update once -deploy everywhere. I think I will use this technique often.
So.. Got my thought out theory working - now to iron out the kinks and make it production ready - oh and the added bonus of living paint animated techniques and tests.
My other client work under NDA also is back on track like a rock and a bouldercolliding. I have started to rebake and work the normals - spending a lot of mytime trying to figure out what's wrong. I also updated the snow and mosscontrols, the age and humidity controls. So.. You can finetune your materialinstances in Unreal Engine 4 to get snow and moss and age and humidity all in the same rock. It pushes the draw calls of the rocks to dark gree, but it'sborderline ok. It looks great though. I still have some weird normals though……
If you made it this far, reading a lot about my audit - thank you again. You mean alot. Feel free to drop me a line to my email listed in the contact info or jointhe Discord server here: