Do you know what your time is worth?

Stop your scattergun approach to industry events and reap real value instead

by Kia Abdullah

I have a terribly busy week. You likely have one too. After all, isn’t being busy the defining status symbol of the decade?

Where multi-millionaires were once content lazing aloft yachts sipping martinis, they now run companies or run for office or run with CEOs, all the while tweeting about how insanely busy they are.

Sadly, busyness is contagious. When a founder says they have one release to ship, two conferences to attend and three events to book this week, it signals to us that we should be doing the same to secure startup success.

In reality, a churning busyness is bad for business and for personal health. To use your time effectively, you must have a clear idea of what it’s worth. Here’s where to start.

Work out your base rate

First, set a base rate for what an hour is worth to you.

Business hours: For a large proportion of working professionals, this will be as simple as dividing a monthly salary by the number of hours worked. Others (founders, freelancers) may have to use external sources to set this rate. Check freelance rates published by the main union or authority in your field. Review salary information on Glassdoor or, if you’re in tech, examine crowdsourced data on related roles.

Leisure hours: Use Clear Thinking’s time calculator to examine your attitude to time and to review potential areas for improvement. For example, you might find that you are willing to queue for a maximum of 20 minutes to redeem a voucher worth $100, but would pay only $80 for someone to run a three-hour errand in your place. The first values your hour at $300 while the second values it at $27.

Setting a base rate will help you approach potential time saps more logically.

Actively measure return on investment

Knowledge is the lifeblood of the startup ecosystem: knowledge of the right people, the right products, the right data at the right time. It’s this pursuit — and the fear of missing something important — that has founders attending every industry event, conference, meetup and hackathon.

It is absolutely important to network but a scattergun approach is unhealthy and unproductive. Instead of attending events because you feel you have to, be discerning and actively measure return on investment.

Measure how many hours you spent researching, booking, travelling to 
and attending an event versus the outcome. 
Did it help you increase user growth? 
Did you pick up a valuable piece of advice? 
Did you get introduced to someone important?

If you’re not receiving value, then stop wasting your time (and money). Instead, consider a hyper-targeted approach like Thirtymin which allows you to book 30-minute meetings with experienced professionals that can offer knowledge and advice specific to your field.

Know your #1 priority

Alex Schultz, VP of Growth at Facebook, calls it the ‘North Star’. This is your guiding metric; your number one priority.

In business, your North Star may be user growth, user retention, monthly active users, revenue, profit or one of the hundred different metrics measured by today’s startups.

By defining your North Star, you can think more clearly about whether any given event or activity is important in helping you get there. This will encourage you to be more discerning in how you spend your time.

Be flexible

Be flexible about your rate where sensible. Use your base rate as a guide to make sure you’re not repeatedly giving away your time but be open to value in other ways.

Years ago, I was asked to write for a trade magazine for free. In return, they would plug my book at the end of the piece. I politely declined. With several years of experience behind me, I no longer wrote for free and felt it would be compromising my value.

In truth, the magazine’s circulation of 50,000 would have brought me value in other ways but I was too wedded to my base rate to accept this.

Opportunity won’t come neatly packaged in a box labelled ‘North Star’, so keep an open mind.

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